52 Week 52
“A Year in the Life”
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils:Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe & Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci & Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron & Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.50 US/$2.99 CAN
DC’s power quartet of writers resurrects the past in this cosmic finale while maintaining the status quo that had replaced it, and I’m honestly not sure how to feel about it. The nostalgic super-hero fan in me is thrilled to see the return of DC’s multiverse concept, and the writers have tweaked it somewhat so that it’s more manageable than the one that came before it. This is big, flashy genre fun, but it relies on a number of plot devices and supposed twists that make it a bit difficult to follow at times, let alone to swallow. Some character-driven elements are thrown in to balance the larger-than-life, science-fiction concepts thrown about in the story, but it succeeds only to a mild degree. There’s really no dramatic tension here because there have been so many cues — not the least of which is the title of the series itself — that the heroes will triumph. As I review the book and my reactions, it seems clear to me that the greatest strengths of this fitting finale stem from the references to super-hero stories of yesteryear. I was entertained, but given the nostalgia factor, I was the target audience. I wonder if many of the title’s other regular readers will be similarly amused or simply confused.
Rip Hunter and Booster Gold travel through time and space in a desperate bid to save reality from the continuum-devouring power of the monster that was once the mind-controlling worm named Mr. Mind. Rip explains to Booster that the Infinite Crisis created a new multiverse of 52 dimensions, each identical to the other. The monster’s manipulations have altered those realities, though, and unless it’s stopped, they will be eradicated. Booster is tasked with stealing items from other times in order to trap the creature, and he and Rip and aided by an unexpected ally: Supernova. But it was Booster behind the Supernova mask, so who’s wearing it now?
This oversized issue (at no extra cost, a plus) requires the participating of several art teams, only some of which contributed to previous issues of the series. The strongest segment from a visual standpoint is the opening scene, illustrated by Mike McKone and Andy Lanning. McKone’s slick, clean lines suit the cosmic elements of the story quite well. Justiniano’s more exaggerated style follows, and is pales in comparison. He handles supernatural stuff quite well, but this sci-fi subject matter just doesn’t play to his strengths.
Barrows’s work looks a bit loose and rushed as well (which is to be expected at times with a project such as this). Batista’s and Olliffe’s clean lines suit the story well, especially the more realistic leanings in the former’s art. Darick Robertson’s harsher style is also appropos, given the dark, supernatural tone of the scene he handles.
When I saw the cover for this final issue, I was immediately struck by the effectiveness of the image. Harkening back to the cover image for the first issue, artist J.G. Jones has provided cues that the story has come full circle as well as how the various plotlines have affected the B- and C-list players. The haziness of the colors for the various heroes standing in the background of the wraparound cover brings a certain gravitas and reverence to the book (mind you, one won’t find that tone inside the book itself).
Despite the lack of any real suspense of tension, the plotting is nevertheless entertaining. It’s fun to see how the disparate pieces of the puzzle fit together, how characters from seemingly unrelated plotlines end up playing small but key roles in the ultimate conclusion of the epic. It’s interesting to note that despite the fact that Booster and Rip Hunter are the stars of this concluding issue, elements from the Shazam! corner of the DC Universe factor in significantly. With the prominence of the Black Adam plotline and the incorporation of Mr. Mind and the Sivana family in this final issue, it seems to me that 52 was a Marvel Family story at heart.
Though most have been renamed, it’s a pleasure to see such classic comics settings as Earth-2, Earth-X and Earth-S return to the DC Universe. The publisher eliminated its multiverse concept with Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 as a means to streamline its properties and eliminate confusion for new readers. When I discovered DC’s comics in the late 1970s, I had no problem delving into the parallel Earth concept, and I quickly became fascinated by the “divergent” Earth-2 (home to the Golden Age incarnations of DC’s icons). While I don’t think today’s audience will have a problem following the renewed multiverse direction, I think the significance of the divergent realities will be lost on new readers. Mind you, they can discover that significance by reading the various reprints of DC’s Silver Age material, which becomes more and more widely available with each passing month. Maybe that was one of the points of 52 all along — as a marketing tool for DC’s trade-paperback program.
What 52 should be remembered for above all else aren’t the strengths or weaknesses of the format, the radical character changes that occurred or its setup for DC’s Next Big Event. What should be celebrated about the book is its sheer ambition. I don’t think anyone thought DC would be able to pull off 52 weekly issues without missing a shipping date or there. Hell, my local comic shop held a contest to see who could guess what week would be the first to miss shipping (the customers who opted for “never” won). Given the strong sales, enjoyable moments and new approach to episodic, comic-book storytelling, 52 as a whole can only be seen as a tremendous success. 6/10