June 28, 2009

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52 Volume 2

Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid
Helped by Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Illustrated by a bunch of people including Phil Jimenez and Patrick Olliffe
DC

Oh, DC and its crazy spolierific trade paperback covers! On the other hand, it does let me talk about some things without it really harming anything.

As mentioned earlier, DC keeps up its weekly run of the back-of the roster characters goings, with the main Montoya, Black Adam, Steel, and Ralph plots driving things. But we also have a new wrinkle, Supernova, added in, and those little vignettes with Doc Magnus start to bear fruit (including my favorite retcon of the whole series).

It's in this trade where we start to see that the different stories in 52 are either linked or going to be linked with one exception that makes that plot stand out even more as the weak sister of 52. Supernova winds his or her way into the Ralph story as well as the Steel plot (because Lex, in my favorite panel in the whole trade, is quite convinced he's you-know-who). Montoya and the ailing Question end up on the wrong side (then the right side, then the wrong side, then the right side...) of Black Adam. And there's other things that will tie in later, but I can't mention those right now.

This is where you see four quality writers (and a 5th, Giffen, helping out here and there) really start to show their chops. While a lot of writers can do an arc or two, these are men quite capbable of writing multi-year runs on titles (Green Lantern, Batman, Justice League, Superman, Fantastic Four, the Flash. Doom Patrol, the X-Men, just to name a few--some of the twice between the group). As a result, they know how to add sublte clues that won't pay off for several issues later.

You also get the writers finding ways to show us they do know these characters which again calls back to the depth of their careers. Watch as Clark Kent winces while Booster makes mistakes (and wishes he could help...) while the dialog calls back to Booster's history as a comedic character. Note in a little tweak to Bill Willingham that Detective Chimp's a Republican. See mad scientists from all over DC's many, many years of existance with a boss that I'm sure will leave you shell-shocked. These guys know their stuff, and they do it very, very well.

As far as the main storylines go, Renee and Black Adam's stories are meshed for a bit, and that works better than you'd think as long as you roll with the comic book logic that Black Adam didn't have them immediately killed. Intergang is after all an international crime cartel and it makes sense that they'd try to get into a place known for being corrupt. It also keeps humanizing Black Adam, a point that lies underneath his entire arc.

Ralph probably has the least to do as they set him up as a magical detective sent on a quest through DC's supernatural stuff, from the House of Mystery to the underworld, where we see an old foe defeated.

Steel and his niece continue to angst a lot with the Teen Titans thrown in for good measure, because we are dealing with Geoff Johns. Luther ends up playing mind games with both Steel AND the JSA, which I think is a particularly good touch. Luther is more of a maniacal bastard here and we get his true motivation, which makes this arc a bit better.

What continues to hurt the 52 stories, though, is the Lost in Space gang. Perhaps sensing that it was lagging, we have a new player added, one that Giffen actually would have preferred to keep out of the mix. Yup, it's the Main Man himself, but written primarily by none other than Grant Morrison. Grant promptly takes everything you're used to seeing about Lobo and turns it on its ear for great effect, but I still just can't get interested in what's going on with Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire.

My opinion of 52 really picked up after reading this volume, once I got into the idea that we're looking long-term reather than shorter stories. I've gotten so used to the latter that I'd forgotten how good the fomer can be. Definitely good stuff, and looking foward to more.