The first collection of 52 works especially well as a trade paperback. In part because the weekly book offered only twenty pages instead of the standard twenty-two, the writers pack each chapter full of short scenes with plenty of information — sometimes, multiple plotlines are forwarded in separate panels on the same page. This makes an already sizable trade paperback feel even longer.
Though the authors knew they had fifty-two weeks with which to tell their story, there's no sense of decompression here, nor does any issue seem rushed. The pacing of the book only becomes uncomfortable, actually, in the rare points when it seems the authors tried to write against the book's type — an extended fight scene between Steel and his niece, for instance. Even here, however, the change in pacing functions to give the scene emotional resonance.
In using chracters with similar emotional conflicts, the writers give the disparate plotlines a cohesive feel. Renee Montoya has turned self destructive in the aftermath of her partner's death and her failure to take revenge, and the story opens with Ralph Dibney suicidal over the death of his wife, while Black Adam turns his anger over his family's death outward against the nations of the world. Steel struggles to be a true hero in a more dangerous world, while Booster Gold practices heroics for his own personal gain. Booster's materialism, however, may hide true altruism, while Lex Luthor's professed altruism is certainly a cover for something darker. At the end of the book, Montoya leaves for Kahndaq, undoubtedly to meet Black Adam. I imagine the emotional similarities will generate interesting dynamics when all the characters, Seven Soldiers style, finally meet.
52 offers a very representative slice of what life is like on DC's post-Infinite Crisis "New Earth." The final issue in Volume One offers a team-up of Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Metamorpho, and Zauriel, coming together to help out Elongated Man; earlier in the story, Steel joins Dr. Mid-Nite at a hospital set up specifically for meta-humans, and Alan Scott makes a military-like courtesy call to the wife of the missing Animal Man. I'm not sure we would have seen such camaraderie among the heroes just a few years ago.