52 Week Thirty-Seven
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Drew Geraci
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: J.G. Jones
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.50 US/$3.50 CAN
DC’s weekly series, exploring the DC Universe and some of its second-tier characters, has been an interesting and unique entity in super-hero comics. Usually entertaining and sometimes frustrating, the 52 experiment is finally starting to yield results, and it’s this issue is where the payoff begins. This action-packed issue not only surprised me with its big revelation, but it impresses with how the writers demonstrate that they’ve used the readers’ expectations of super-hero genre conventions and tricks to pull the wool over our eyes. Furthermore, this particular issue is illustrated by the one recurring art team whose style has stood out as unique and well suited to the tone of the project. If this book has one major flaw, it’s the cover, which sadly spoils the big surprise to which the series has been building for months.
Skeets has finally tracked down Rip Hunter, Time Master, who’s been hiding in the Kryptonian bottle city of Kandor deep in the recesses of Superman’s buried and forgotten Fortress of Solitude. As Rip scrambles to assemble a weapon to stave off the killer computer’s attack, he sends Supernova out of the miniaturized alien cityscape to keep Skeets busy. Actually, he sends Booster Gold, the hero who’s been hiding behind the Supernova identity. Gold’s resurrection serves as quite a distraction, as Skeets demands to learn how he managed to survive his apparent death. Meanwhile, in deep space, Starfire and Adam Strange bid farewell to a fallen comrade.
The quartet of 52 writers spend some time in this issue addressing the “lost time” between the events of Infinite Crisis and DC’s “One Year Later” theme that ran through the majority of the publisher’s super-hero titles. We see the seeds planted for now-resolved storylines from Birds of Prey, Green Arrow and Green Lantern. While these scenes will please continuity buffs, we really learn nothing new about these characters or storylines. It feels superfluous and distracts from the far more interesting main plotlines of the series.
I’ve enjoyed Pat Olliffe’s work since I first saw it in the mid 1990s on Kurt Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man. There’s a lighter, simpler tone to his pencils that is in keeping with the traditional super-hero storytelling of this series, but there’s a hint of a slightly more mature tone that works well with the greyer shades and more refined elements of this ambitious series. Also worthy of mention for his visual contribution to the storytelling is Travis Lanham. His emphasis of backwards spelling of words and depiction of sped-up speech in Rip Hunter’s dialogue really bring the weird, science-fiction qualities of this new incarnation of the character to life.
The two-page origin summary for the new Firestorm — presented by Waid, penciller Jamal Igle and inker Keith Champagne — tells the reader everything s/he needs to know about the character and what’s going on in his title. Furthermore, Jamal Igle’s detailed, dynamic art shows off his strengths as a super-hero artist succinctly, and it’s not easy, as the script is pretty wordy and intrudes on the art a lot. I do find it odd, though, that DC would present this origin story (a) so many issues after Firestorm’s appearance in this title, and (b) the same week that DC announces it’s cancelling the ongoing Firestorm title.
What I most enjoyed about this issue is how the writers reveal how they tricked us, how they duped the readers into buying that they resorted to “dramatic” but unnecessary heroic deaths to sell the story. A lighter, more hopeful tone reveals itself in this issue, as we see that the lost hero and his tragic death were never what they appeared to be. I was rather disappointed with the previous issue, in which such a manipulative death seemingly put an end to a classic character. That disappointment was dispelled with this issue, especially when I saw that Silver Age elements and fun, traditional super-heroics came into play in this otherwise complex and unusual story. This is far from the best super-hero comic I’ve read in recent memory, but it’s definitely the best issue of this series so far. 7/10