Comic Book Review: 52 #1-8

Dibny: You missed.

Green Arrow: He said, “stop, thief.” I aimed for the guy charging thirty bucks for disposable diapers in a disaster zone. (#8)

DC’s Infinite Crisis once again shook up their universe and its continuity. Their post-IC comics start one year after the mini-series’ final issue. Readers who want to know about that missing year—-when Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were out of action—-have this series, published weekly over the next year.

Title: 52 #1-8

Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Dan Jurgens.

Artists: Keith Giffen, Joe Bennett, Alex Sinclair, Dan Jurgen, Chris Batista, Andy Lanning, Norm Rapmund, Eddy Barrows, Jimmy Palmiotti, Art Thibert, et al.

Covers by J.G. Jones and Alex Sinclair.


Superman temporarily lost his power during Infinite Crisis, and Batman and Wonder Woman are off finding themselves. The rest of the world and its other superheroes spend the year dealing with the consequences of IC and of the many mini-series that surrounded it.

Fifty-two presents a week-by-week chronicle of several related narratives:

-Renee Montoya gets drunk, laid, and hired to help the Question with a case.

-Black Adam establishes himself in Kahndaq and begins making treaties with various other global powers, in a plot that may serve to explain why DC’s top heroes don’t interfere with major world events.

-Booster Gold self-promotes shamelessly, and crosses paths with a bitter Ralph Dibny, who is investigating a Kryptonian-inspired cult. Gold, meanwhile, discovers that his knowledge of future history is no longer consistently accurate, and seeks help from Rip Hunter.

-Steel faces an unexpected crisis that may change his life.

-Donna Troy learns the history of the DC Universe.

-Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire have been teleported to an Edenic planet, complete with forbidden fruit.

-Someone is collecting mad scientists.

-Lex Luthor uses the existence of the other Luthor to clear some of his legal troubles, and then in a surprise development hatches an evil plot.

High Points

Business Class Luthor is back or rather, we have a compromise between that version of Luthor and the earlier ones. I always thought the decision to return him to his earlier, battle-armored incarnation was a mistake. Here, we get the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths version again, except that he’s fighting to regain his influence, and he’s more comfortable with some of his pre-Crisis trappings.

Overall, I like the feel of the world being introduced in 52. It recalls the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths comics of the 1980s, before the darkness become excessive. “The better titles” of that era, I’ve written elsewhere, “struck a balance between the deliberately juvenile escapist appeal of the characters and their adventures, and the desire to place those characters and adventures in a more mature world.” In 52, a depressed Ralph Dibny places a gun in his mouth, but we also see the members of Shadowpact have a goofily joyful reunion. This post-Crisis era seems more at peace with some of the sillier, gee-whiz aspects of comix, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The changes have been planned better than those that followed Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Balancing act aside, the comic-noir plot involving Rene Montoya and the Question most captures my attention.

Low Points

While I like this conception of Luthor, his characterization and dialogue in #8 is awful, like a villain from a really bad melodrama.

They keep hinting, strongly, that Sue Dibny may be returning. This might be a mistake. I realize that Sue played an important role in Elongated Man’s success, and many readers understandably objected to Identity Crisis’s handling of her character. DC, however, in recent years has been spinning the Revolving Door o’ Death like a bored child. It cheapens stories and rarely serves any good purpose. Was anyone clamoring for the return of Jason Todd? Do we really need Hal Jordan resurrected, when the Earth has four other, arguably more interesting Green Lanterns, and the Universe hosts battalions of them?

Should Sue’s death, so important to the DC Universe, simply be rewritten and robbed of its impact?

The Scores

Originality: 4/6. No comic has presented its narrative in this manner before. Issues arrive weekly, and they chronicle events by the week, and sometimes, by the day. I hope they can maintain this level of quality for the full year.

Some fairly original plot developments occur, including the bureaucracy-plagued heroes from communist China. The Booster Gold plot, while interesting, resembles too closely Captain Amazing’s arc from Mystery Men. Black Adam’s plot combines elements of several famous storylines.

Superman will take some time to regain his power. The appearance of Clark Kent, Ordinary Reporter, makes a nice touch.

Artwork: 5/6. Fifty-two features some great moments; I especially like the noirish art which dominates the Montoya plot and some of Dibny’s adventures. With so many artists, however, styles can clash. This is particularly true when two different approaches appear in the same narrative thread.

The artists have included a number of fun comic-book touches that establish the geist of the DC Universe. Sivana’s hideout features the classic, cliched Mad Scientist’s lab of bygone eras. Dr Magnus works out of an implausible and entirely appropriate suburban basement lab—- though, of course, a much nicer one than Sivana’s. The space tech we see is better than what we have in real life, but not unrealistically so. Some everyday elements reflect the presence of superheroes: the Booster Gold endorsements, a Kryptonian-inspired cult, the kids’ shirts in #2, and the woman’s bathing suit in #8.

We’re left with the impression that, planet-threatening disasters aside, the DCU would be a really cool place to live.

Story: 5/6. It’s difficult to assess a narrative in progress. In order to keep turning this title out on schedule, several teams work on tiny portions of the story each week. Overall, I like the developments, and mysteries hanging over the story.

The series also reintroduces Kate Kane—unseen since the 1960s—though she has not yet made her much-hyped appearance as Batwoman.

Characterization: 4/6. Characterization, like the quality of the artwork, varies. Steel and Montoya have been handled fairly well. Booster Gold gets pushed a little too far over the top, especially when Skeets’ information becomes inaccurate.

Other characters remain comic-book wooden, and they sometimes speak dialogue for the sake of informing the reader, rather than for any reason intrinsic to the story.

Emotional response: 5/6 This story will appeal to a broad range of comic-book fans. It requires knowledge of DC comics but, unlike certain other comic mini-series (not to be uncivil), it does not require reading twenty crossovers issues each month to follow the plot.

Of course, there are four issues each month.

Flow 4/6. The writers manage to keep a fairly good flow, despite the many narrative threads.

Overall: 5/6

In total, 52 #1-8 receive a score of 32/42.

Comic Book Conundrum

In places, DC’s aforementioned balancing act doesn’t quite work.


Rene Montoya picks someone up. The Question stalks into the room at night, following the trail of discarded clothing, which includes underwear. However, both Montoya and her girlfriend are sleeping in their underwear.

1. Do women in the DCU typically wear two sets of underwear?

2. How many women sleep in bra and underpants, especially when they’re entertaining company?

3. Is the Question a Peeping Tom, or just a masked vigilante doing a thankless job?

They’ll be a catch-up of the next four issues in about a week, and then the 52 reviews will continue each month. There’s supposed to be a new icon for them, but my scanner needs repairs. It will be the sign for the 52 Pick-up bar featured in the comic. The series features many conspicuous incidents of the number 52

The Timeshredder’s reviews may be found here.