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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 52

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today, appropriately enough, we look at Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Keith Giffen’s 52!

Enjoy!

One of the most notable aspects of 52 was JG Jones’ beautiful covers – this was basically all he did for 2006 and 2007, but in the long run, it was probably worth it, just to have an artist this good committed to the covers of each issue of 52.

Another major part of the series was the addition of Keith Giffen to the project as the lay-out artist for the majority of the series (he also worked as a sort of co-plotter) – Giffen’s a very good storyteller, artistically, so having him as the foundation for the various artists who worked on the project was an important addition.

The biggest part of the project, though, was, naturally, the quartet of writers who worked on the year-long weekly project – Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid all plotted the series together (Steve Wacker was the initial editor) and each man more or less took a story or two as “their” baby (like Rucka was the main writer for the Renee Montoya story), so as a result, you basically got seven year-long stories by four of the best writers in comics – all in one comic book!

Reading the comics in their original format (at the time), the comic had a bit of a slow start, but when you read the collected work, wow, it goes by pretty quickly, and when it gets to the END of the series? Wow! It becomes a roller coaster ride of excitement!

The main characters (and plots) of the series (whose selling point was a year’s worth of stories with no Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman to be the leads) were:

Booster Gold and Supernova
Steel versus Lex Luthor
Animal Man, Starfire and Adam Strange’s Excellent Space Adventure
Elongated Man’s attempts to bring his wife back to life (or WAS he?)
Renee Montoya becoming the new Question (I think Batwoman’s introduction is folded into this story, but if you want to count her as her own story, then fair enough)
Will Magnus being trapped along with a Who’s Who of mad sceintists
Black Adam trying to form a “Black Adam Family,” and it not going so well

The stories were all handled impressively well, considering that they had to share space with each other.

One of the intended goals of the series that never actually happened was that this project would explain what happened in the “missing year” after Infinite Crisis (all the DC books picked up “One Year Later” in their plots), and while it DID explain somethings, for the most part it just told the above seven stories (DC even had a mini-series towards the end that tied in with 52 where some others writers had to quickly work in all the changes that had not been addressed yet – as you might imagine, it didn’t really work all that well), but I can’t really begrudge them – the format they came up with was a lot more interesting.

The whole project is collected into four trades – it is worthwhile read.

23 Comments

I think I may give this a try, especially knowing now that it DIDN’T focus on a bunch of niggling DC plot details (like powerless Superman, or who was watching Gotham while the Bat-boys were on their trek, or what Aquaman’s deal was). Because I like two of the writers, and I know it does tell, more or less, its own story.

(Also the whole thing’s at the library, so it’s not a financial investment.)

That said: is World War III actually required reading for the story? (If, let’s say, you don’t care that much about the Black Adam plot?)

That said: is World War III actually required reading for the story? (If, let’s say, you don’t care that much about the Black Adam plot?)

No. That’s what I was referring to when I mentioned they had a tie-in that just explained away a bunch of changes.

I love 52. It felt like I was watching a DC television show, except in comic form.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

February 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

I lurv 52, and find it to be quite clever and moving in all of its various plotlines. The book may represent the last time DC really managed a balance between the depiction of intense consequences to violence and the overall spirit of fun and regeneration that a heroic story usually provides. For one thing, it never takes itself seriously except when something narratively consequential happens; on the other, death doesn’t come cheap in the series, but has genuine consequences and causes. (This is also part of the inessentiality of the Black Adam/WWIII specials, which lose this sense of narrative care in favor of Stuff Blowing Up and People Getting Splattered.)

That said, I always found the space storyline a bit of an odd duck. Maybe it suffers for being the arc that really is trying to follow up on some of the loopier and more pointlessly gory events of Infinite Crisis — did anyone really need eyeless Adam Strange? — and maybe it’s just that it’s the arc that doesn’t clearly tie in with the rest of the narrative threads. Oolong Island, the Question/Batwoman and the Religion of Crime, and even the Booster Gold in Metropolis plots tie together. Even the Luthor/Steel stuff playing as a counterweight to Booster’s story, with Luthor’s powers-for-sale not only intersecting the Supernova stuff in Booster’s plotline but also showing us pre-fab supers that really are as amoral as Booster seems at first.

But the whole outer space arc? It stays rather remote from the Earthly stuff, apart from a few token questions raised by the Earthbound characters about the whereabouts of Adam Strange et al. It’s good on its merits, but it’s certainly the arc that means the least to me on rereading, in no small part because I know it doesn’t converge with everything else. I suppose its somewhat elliptical approach to the antagonist for the spacefarers, who’s being saved for a fuller introduction in another book, also affects its execution. Like “World War III” (and did Morrison remind no one he’d already used that?), it’s one of the few elements that’s focused on explaining the One Year Later stuff more than on telling a complete tale of its own.

Brilliant stuff. I wasn’t reading much DC at the time (in fact, none when it started) but I borrowed it from someone a dozen or so issues at a time and loved it. It made me a fan of Booster Gold, Black Adam, the Metal Men, and Renee Montoya. I can’t believe that anyone who has read it can still vilify Black Adam. What he did was wrong, but in his position I’d do exactly the same thing.

52 was a good read. I really enjoyed at the time knowing every week there would be at least one comic that I would be excited about reading.

I wasn’t at all suprised when 52 was getting towards the end and they still hadn’t answered most of the 1 Year Later stuff. I’m not a fan at all of comics doing that kind of thing. They always chance things so drastically, which considering how things never really change in most comics, is always kind of ridiculous when so much changes during the “missing” time period. And it just seems like a lazy storytelling technique to me. When you spread it out across an entire line of comics, it’s no surprise at all that a whole bunch of stuff just got swept under the rug and more or less forgotten.

So basically I’m glad 52 didn’t bother with that and just told an entertaining collection of stories.

Spoilers, kind of:

Regarding Black Adam, I always figured we were going to find out that he wasn’t actually responsible for killing all those people in that one country (whose name I can’t remember.) We never see him do it, he never admits to doing it. I figured we’d find out he was framed or something. Did that ever happen?

Nice, obvious, choice!

52 was brilliant. DC’s second (to my knowledge, anyway) experiment with a weekly comic…

This sucker was SOOOOO good that it lured me into Countdown…

I’ve only just noticed how the covers for Week 1 and Week 52 book-end the series so nicely, too!

I think I am going to have to buy al the trades now. I don’t want to bring the box down from the roof…

This is still one of my favourite comics from DC. Just brilliant!

It was an awesome reading experiend. I perticularly liked the Montoya/Question stuff. Thanks Greg Rucka!
One of my favourite Superman moments in issue 10. Loved it!
bongoes said it, it was like reading a DC tv show.

Picked up the entire series in singles in some .25 cent boxes at my LCS. Haven’t gotten around to reading them yet but this post made me look forward to it even more.

I kept hearing decent things about this, but every time I picked it up at a shop I was reminded a) that I can’t stand the work of 75% of the writing team and b) weekly comics have awful interior art.

b) weekly comics have awful interior art.

While I liked the artists on 52 well enough, yeah, the format led to good artists not exactly drawing well (due to rushing) – this was a MUCH larger concern on Countdown, which didn’t even have Giffen on breakdowns to help guide the artists.

Even better than 52 itself were Douglas Wolk’s “52 pickup”, and (I forgot whose) Dibny Diary, with hilarious comment conversations all week long, many of whose authors made extensive efforts to tie the characters they were posting as into continuity! (I was Hourman.)

I wish I could remember who was the primary author of the Diary.

“52″ was the last time I had reason to head to the comic shop weekly. It was also the first comic I read when I got home. I really enjoyed it. (The plot twist with Osiris’s pal was especially stunning, and the new year’s eve bit with Luthor was also really gripping.) I have the first three trades; I need to get the fourth and re-read it.

And YES, those J.G. Jones covers were awesome. He did so many different styles. I especially loved the Halloween cover (where one kid was using Dr. Fate’s helmet to collect candy), and the one that looked like a pulp-fiction novel cover. Jones was robbed of the Eisner that year.

Loved this series, and couldn’t believe how well it worked. Never heard anything good about Countdown so haven’t picked it up, mainly because the guys from 52 were not involved. Best issue title for the series has to be “Rain of the Supermen”.

Regarding Black Adam, I always figured we were going to find out that he wasn’t actually responsible for killing all those people in that one country (whose name I can’t remember.) We never see him do it, he never admits to doing it. I figured we’d find out he was framed or something. Did that ever happen?

Yeah me too.

I still hold out hope. (and I never believed that Leslie had killed Spoiler either)

Just curious – which of the writers was the primary shepherd for which of the plots (I guess I’d probably know this if I’d read all the commentaries in the trades).

Rucka did Renee Montoya / Question
Morrison, I assume, did Will Magnus, as well as the space story?
What about the others?

What about the others?

Geoff Johns would be my guess for the Black Adam stuff.

Sadly, the novelization of this just sucked. It left out a ton of stuff, so there was literally only half the story in the book.

52 should prove beyond any shodow of doubt that all the sacrifices writers must make to the all-poweful god “continuity” are a wasted effort. The parts of 52 I enjoyed the least were those that were the closed tied to established DC continuity: namely the Adam Strange spacefaring saga, and Ralph Dibney’s search for his dead wife. The Booster Gold, Steel, Question, and Black Adam stories could have been told anytime in the last twenty years or so of DC continuity and still have been as entertaining as ever. The Question’s quest made good use of Denny O’Neil’s Question series from the 80s, but I didn’t have to have read that series to enjoy Renee Montoya’s journey of self-discovery.

The other factor that made 52 great was taking the time to focus on second-tier characters. When the three biggest, most powerful, and most heavilly marketed superheroes in the DC cannon are out of the picture, the long shadows they usually cast are removed and lesser-known characters can finally shine. If Superman were around, Black Adam’s rampage would have had no teeth. The same goes for Bruno Manhiem’s siege of Gotham City. If Batman were investigasting, this caper would have been over before it had begun. When the characters are less powerful the stakes are higher and the drama is more intense.

P.S. The novelization may have left out many of the plot threads (the novel focused entirely on the Question, Boster Gold, Batwoman, and Black Adam) but I would highly recommend the audio version of the novel. My first exposure to 52 came in the form of the audiobook, and I was spellbound by it. Granted, I had the convienience of not knowing what stories I was missing (namely Adam Strange, Ralph Dibney, Will Magnus, and Steel) but the production was incredible. Not only did the recording have a talented narrator, but every character in the story was played by a different actor or actress. The voice of Black Adam was particularly chilling. The recording also had sound effects to match the action and appropriately-placed music scores to get the blood pumping during the exciting bits. It felt like listening to a radio drama, which is a medium I love and miss dearly.

I was so excited by the 52 audiobook that I ran out to get the audiobook of Inifinte Crisis from my library a week after finishing 52. Sadly, bespite the same production team, sound effects, actors, and incidental music, the story was just awful. The slick production of these recordings made 52 shine like a freshly waxed Cadillac, but in the case of Infinite Crisis, it was polishing a turd.

The point is: 52, the audiobook comes highly recommened. Fans of the comic should definately check this one out.

Sounds good – will check it out.

J. G. Jones is pretty kickass, isn’t he?

I liked all of the artists on 52; we got to see the evolution of gems like Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Joe Bennett and Jamal Igle. We were graced by craftsmen such as Darick Robertson and Phil Jimenez, and we got the combined talents of Giffen, Waid, Morrison, Rucka and Johns, ably assisted by Wacker and then Siglain.

Didio’s “clue” in #37 should have come with a decoder ring, though.

I read the trade paperback this summer (2010) and I can honestly say that ’52′ took me back to DC. I had been a big Batman fan in the early 90s but had been reading Marvel exclusively since I returned to comic books in late 2009. Now all I read is DC.

’52′ was a very successful storyline.

And Black Adam???

AWESOME.

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