Wednesday , February 21 2024
In which one comics reader tries to belatedly make sense of DC’s year-long Event Series by only reading its 50th issue!

Comic Book Review: DC’s 52 #50 by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, et al.

Recently received a small review envelope from DC: inside were copies of the graphic novel God Save the Queen (review forthcoming) and issue #50 of the company's big weekly Event Series, 52. (Every time I see that title, I wanna add the term "Pick-up" to it!) Now, I haven't read any of the previous 49 issues of this book – though I have skimmed some pieces about it on Blogcritics and at comics blogger Joe McCulloch's place – so I only have the loosest grasp of what the series is about (somp'n about showing us the DC Universe sans its Big Gun Characters). My full-blown ignorance won't stop me from trying to review this ish, of course. Why should it?

"World War III Begins Here!" the cover tells me, which I presume means a passel of spin-off books are also hitting the comics shoppe shelves this month. The story (scripted by a quartet of big-name writers, with panel breakdowns by writer/artist Keith Giffen) opens on "Week 50, Day 2" (so nuthin's doin' on Day 1?) in Egypt as we see a bunch of supertypes getting knocked about. Only one I immediately recognize is Mary Marvel, but going back later from the book's last pages, I realize that the grimacing figure in the bottom panel is supposed to be Captain Marvel with his trademark costume lightning bolt obscured. Pages two and three give us a two-page spread of CM (still aren't shown the lightning bolt and his face isn't distinguishable enough — unlike the original Fred MacMurray Golden Age model version — for quick identification) and a character I quickly realize is the evil anti-CM Black Adam because we're given an unidentified voiceover in the bottom right hand corner saying, "Black Adam killed millions." Points to me for so speedily identifying the Big Bad, right?

While the fisticuffs presumably keep raging without resolution, we suddenly shift into the next day in Australia as a trio of Justice Society of America supertypes (Atom Smasher, Star and the classic car version of Green Lantern – only one I really know is GL) helpfully debate Black Adam's recent actions. ("Black Adam wouldn't hurt innocent children, Star." "He tore a man in half on television, Atom Smasher.") Two quick cuts thru two more days of fight panels, and we're in Day 6 in China with August General-in-Iron(?) and an underling telling us that "He [presumably BA] knows the part our leaders have played in his betrayal," so the villain's now apparently flying into the country peeved. (Is this why the guy’s gone into this rampage thing, I wonder – or is he just having a pissy year?) We're then introed to what I guess is the commie counterpart to the JSA: the Great Ten – Socialist Red Guardsman, Ghost Fox Killer and Seven Deadly Brothers among 'em. Apart from their names, I don't know what any of these guys kin do, but we get four pages of unclear fight scenes with 'em, anyway, while the American superfolk wait on the edge of the Chinese border. "I'm betting they'll need the Justice Society soon enough," GL sez. So this is how WWIII is gonna be fought?

Day 7, and we're provided with our second two-page dynamic splash page — complete with suitable-for-poster-repro artist signatures by Justiano & Walden Wong in the lower corner — this time of the full JSA attacking Black Adam. As is mandatory with such fight sequences, the scripters (I'm still having a tough time realizing that four guys had their hands in this) sneak in some confusing exposition ("That was a mistake. Like the world believing you turned Bialya into a graveyard."), then we flash to the Rock of Eternity where Captain Marvel (wonder what day he actually stopped duking it out with BA?) and several of the DCU's mystic types (Zatanna, Phantom Stranger, etc.) have apparently been working to get to the bottom of Black Adam's seemingly unparalleled power.

Some more fight panels, plus an amusing moment where the members of a supergroup called Infinity Inc. refuse to go up against BA (all supergroups are clearly not created equal), then the whole BA shmear gets vaguely resolved by Captain Marvel, returning from the Rock of Eternity as the new self-styled "Guardian of Magic." Cap's solution kinda almost sounds like it makes sense, but I'm not really sure how it actually works (why does Zatanna use her backwardspeak to telepathically contact both the original Flash and Green Lantern?). But the conflict seems to be over, anyhoo – at least until the book goes out on a two-page Day 7 huh? featuring Professor Morrow and two more supertypes I don't recognize telling the Prof to "get his ass in gear," coz "we're already way outta time." Okay, that was thoroughly opaque…

I go to the back of the book to see if there are any clues on what issue #51 is gonna be about. In the lower left hand-corner, I see a black-and-white version of the cover with a lotta flywheels on it and a big bald head, but that tells me zilch. I then read Senior VP-Executive Editor Dan Didio's "DC Nation" for further clues and learn that 52 has "elevated some supporting characters to A-List status," but on the basis of this issue, I just don't see it. Surely, when it comes, I think, the real World War III will be much more exciting than this – though probably not any less discombobulating…

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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