June 28, 2009

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52 Volume 3

Written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid
Helped by Breakdowns by Keith Giffen
Illustrated by a lot of people including Phil Jimenez, Dan Jurgens, and Pat Olliffe

52 starts on its home stretch as plotlines start reaching their big reveals, making this tricky for a reviewer who tries hard not to ruin crucial details.

Suffice it to say that Ralph Dibny, Renee Montoya, Steel's niece, and most of the others we've seen so far end up heading for resolutions to their many Trinity-less problems, even if the answers to the questions they seek aren't what they hoped. Battles are joined, others are ended, and there's a fair amount of questions still left to be answered as there's still quite a bit of villany left on the table, both human and otherwise, be it in deep space or the heart of Metropolis. Can Intergang be stopped by those who aren't Batman? Will Luthor trump a JLA-less world to be more powerful than he ever was as President? Are there any more Keith Giffen characters who still need cameos? Is it okay to end this paragraph with a Question?

The writers have all mentioned how they felt like a team by this point, and it shows. There's a lot less awkward moments, a lot more easter eggs (Plastic Man's son, a certain crime fighter's penchant for red-haired women, Lobo being, well, Lobo-ish, just to name three that won't ruin much for anyone else besides me coming at these pretty clear of spoilers), and a lot more concentration on making sure that the reader feels like he or she is getting their money's worth out of each major storyline. All of the stories feel like they are progressing to endings that make sense (even if in some cases, there may not have been as many clues as I'd have liked. Your milage may vary.)

As we wind down, there is a bit of a feeling that any pretense of lightness must be written out, because this is DC and their comics require being dark and gritty, despite Rucka stating he wanted it to be otherwise. (Hard to do that when your comic relief bits start oozing blood, guys.) It seems that every conclusion to a plot must make it darker, which is honestly a shame.

We also start to see some of the Trinity slipping into the pages, here and there, which was kinda neat and probably needed. (There's a sequence in there with Clark Kent that may be one of my top five Superman moments.) It's been an interesting ride hanging with the B, C, and D-list folks in the DC Universe, but Luthor versus John Henry Irons just doesn't stir my blood as much as the usual pairing.

In addition, I do think this series was entirely too free of Batman villains. Montoya is not really a replacement for Batman, and Ralph ends up with the magic folks, so he's not really taking the Darknight Detective role, either. What were the Joker, Riddler, and company doing, anyway?

There's also one other problem in this trade, which was the "montage to explain everything we didn't get to." I get that there's not enough time to cover everything, but it just felt thrown in to me. Better, I think, to just leave it out and leave it to another writer, another time.

But, regardless of my feelings that DC is too quick to be violent and far too quick to kill things off left and right, and far, far too desirous to destroy past characterizations, this series so far has been quite enjoyable. I may not agree with some of the decisions, particularly in the case of DC's lighter characters, but within the context of the story, I'm hooked. That's why this Fantastic Four (plus honorary member Giffen) are so highly regarded in the comic book world--more often than not, they can take something a person may not agree with, and win them over.

I'll be curious to see how this one ends.