Is anyone else finding this just a little hard to believe?
Like many of you, I’ve already read through two issues of this alleged “weekly” serial 52, and despite all indications…this really can’t be what it looks like. I mean, yes, DC has just released solicits for weeks 13-17, and if one can trust the rumor mill, the completed scripts are nearing the halfway point. Still. Clearly, the idea is on one hand insane, and on the other, highly improbable, for a variety of reasons, that I’m confident I don’t even have to get into, considering that many of you are even better than me at this whole logic thing. Something like 52 just isn’t done, because of the sheer scale of it. A nearly 1200 page story, serialized in weekly 22 page chapters, written by 4 of comics’ most talented writers, breakdowns provided by 1 man, and covers delivered by another, in the hopes of maintaining some degree of storytelling consistency. Because there will be a LOT of artists turning in pages. Good ones from all indications, but a lot of them. And when all of this is added together, the intent is to create “appointment television” in comic form.
Which instantly brings to mind Fox’s wildly successful, and highly entertaining 24, whose real-time narrative just had to be on the mind of whoever originally suggested this event. But it’s all good, cause Hollywood has made several careers out of adopting comic-based storytelling, and it doesn’t take much of a leap to view 24 as a very intelligent and well-choreographed comic anyway. Perhaps my sensibilities are showing a bit, but you watch that show for 5 years, and tell me Jack Bauer isn’t some strange amalgamation of Wolverine and Captain America. Dude saved the world this year with nothing more than a gun and a bad attitude, dressed in a hoodie, and carrying a bag filled with ammunition and the dopest PDA anyone has ever seen. That doesn’t sound like a superhero to you?
But I’m drifting, and you get the point. 52 shares a very workable parallel with one of my favorite shows, and because of that, I’m more than willing to play along for a while. So, I’m lookin’ at the first two issues of this as a 2-hour season premiere of sorts, and operating from that position, expecting them to make an excellent first impression, and set the tone and focus for the remainder of the season.
From jump, I’m lovin’ the series logo, and how it’s fully incorporated into the cover image. The design of it actually brings to mind that really tight New X-Men logo from Morrison’s run, and the small teaser along the bottom is another nice touch. Having J.G. Jones on covers is also a fairly magnificent choice, as there are few artists in the game better than he is, and this first piece proves it. The central image could’ve worked just as well printed on a stark white background, and thematically, it sums up the whole concept of the series. And hell, it just looks really cool, right?
Far as the issue’s actual content, most of the scenes and character beats are world building stuff, but fortunately, most of it is well executed. I was hoping for more of an explosive intro to kick things off, but I suppose Infinite Crisis served as the loud, somewhat insane catalyst for this. Initially, the first sequence felt overly compressed, too many characters, panels, and narratives crashing into each other, but I found the rhythm of it on the second read-through. Meltzer’s Identity Crisis gave me an increased appreciation for Ralph Dibny, one of that series’ main strengths, and I loved Gotham Central, so the Montoya situation is something I’m pretty invested in. The Booster Gold sequence that follows tells me I’ll probably spend half my time figuring out which writer is scripting which section. Some of the dialogue from Booster’s droid has a very Morrison cadence to it, and if I get real serious about it, I think I can spot Johns’ and Rucka’s work, by the dialogue inflections. I think.
Only main guy that comes off a little flat is Black Adam, but that’s probably from a lack of familiarity. Definite highlight is the closing scene, where The Question makes a really nice entrance, and essentially calls out Montoya, who is too drunk to even notice. I’m hoping with her prominent role here, DC is going to continue pumping out the GC trades, which sets the stage for her fall, and details the relationship with former detective Crispus Allen, who, you know, just happens to be the new Spectre. And whose death helped spark Montoya’s perpetually foul mood. Figure anything that preserves the work Rucka, Brubaker, and Lark did on that title is a good deal. So, she’s already my favorite element of 52, and the last couple pages are a few baby steps toward gettin’ her mind right.
Last cool bit is the “next in 52” panel, with an overlapping series of images from the next issue, which really preserves that whole weekly serial thing. Overall a good start here, so let’s head into the second half of the “premiere.”
The quality here experiences a noticeable bump, and the character moments are more profound, likely because there are less of them. The mystery at Sue Dibny’s grave kicks things off, and naturally, we don’t learn the full measure of it until the last page. In between, more Booster stuff, and another indication that his “official” record of the future is becoming less so, with every passing day. The conversation with Will Magnus and Professor Morrow is really, really tight, the respective geniuses just talkin’ shop, with the dialogue snapping back and forth. I want to attribute this one to Morrison, because of some of the phrasing like “machine war one,” and “the dawning of synthetic courage” sounding a lot like him, but the actual culprit is a bit irrelevant. Great scene, and the reveal that someone’s rounding up DC’s mad scientists is well done, as is Morrow’s final suggestion to Magnus.
Also, The Question sneaks into Montoya’s apartment, and dangles a pair of panties over her head, which isn’t nearly as bizarre as it sounds. Again, the interaction of these two, however brief, remains a major strength, and the “no-face man” seems determined to put Montoya back together, which is a role Rucka had him play with The Huntress a couple years back. Cassie’s grief over Superboy’s death takes a somewhat strange turn, but it doesn’t take much of a leap to suppose that in the wake of the young hero’s death, his memory would evolve to a new level of hero worship, and Gail Simone touched on a notion very similar in a recent Birds storyline. Fairly sure she isn’t responsible for what Dibny thinks she is, but if you’re using only one word to serve as cliffhanger, there are far worse choices than “resurrection.”
Overall though, 52 is off to an impressive start, and their biggest hurdle seems to have been easily cleared, finding a way to interest and engage you with characters that aren’t occupying the DCU A-list. Sustaining that for an entire year will be no simple task, but you gotta give ’em credit for even attempting it, so I’m definitely down for a few more issues, of this very weekly series…hard as that is to believe.
And now, let’s move onto some other business…
Big personal goal for the next several weeks is to find a publisher for the Miranda Mercury project. After a few months of false starts and delays, Lee Ferguson and I finally got down to business, and got the pitch out the door. Easily the most “complete” proposal I’ve ever worked up, and now comes the really hard part, sitting around and hoping a company sees enough potential there to get behind it. Naturally, we’re more than a bit biased, and can’t see any conceivable reason why it’d have a terrible time finding a stable home, but I have been wrong about these things before. I mean, can’t remember when exactly, but sure it’s in the index somewhere. On the real though, hopefully we’ll be hearing some good news soon, that we’ll subsequently be barred from revealing for a couple months.
Keeping idle hands busy by plotting out the next God Complex script, even though I just finished one couple weeks back. This chapter just happens to be the massive fight between Damon Cross and the big villain of the first arc, so it’s a really fun thing to choreograph. Very minimal dialogue, profoundly violent, an issue long release from all of the relationship stuff in the first three scripts, combining bits from the outline I did ages ago, and more current notes jotted in the margins of the notebook. Even with the major actions mapped out, I came up with a pretty nice plot twist that further complicates the histories of the two guys tryin’ to kick each other’s brains out. It was sitting there the entire time, but I just saw it last week. Gives the scene an emotional component that it was missing, and that’s always cool.
Other major thing involves donning my prose hat again, after abandoning it in recent years, to contribute a short story to a Phantom anthology Moonstone Books has planned for the fall. Can’t say too much about it, but I’ll be using the only female to ever inherit the mantle, and it’ll be fun to brush up on those skills, since I was convinced until halfway through high school, I’d end up writing action/adventure novels.
More details as they’re available of course, and I just might start runnin’ some of the Miranda pages here in the coming weeks. That pic above is what we used as the proposal’s cover page, just the logo, designed by Matty Ryan, and an enlarged panel from an interior page. Kinda cool, right?
Finishing the one volume edition of Jeff Smith’s Bone has been another main assignment, and I’m thinkin’ I’ll have it done by month’s end. It’s been sitting on the shelf for months and months, and last week, I just stopped being afraid of it, and decided it was time to get it done. Bone is probably the first b/w book I ever read, discovering it sometime in the mid 90s, can’t remember how, but I do recall gettin’ my hands on the first issue, off the racks of Tenth Planet, my preferred spot at the time. It wasn’t anywhere near the first printing of it, but I liked it immediately, scooped up the trades, and later followed the title monthly when it moved over to Image for a while. Lost track of it in the Dragonslayer arc, and it was one of those things I told myself I’d catch up with in the near future.
That actually turned into several years, but I ordered the complete 1300 page epic with no hesitation, and after making my way through a third of the book, I’m hit again by how fantastic it was. Quantifying the book is difficult, because saying it’s a humor book undersells it, the same way billing it exclusively as a fantasy book does. Maybe I’m projecting, but I see a very prominent Lord of the Rings influence, along with a dash here and there of Star Wars. But right now, it’s equally funny, dramatic, and thrilling, so maybe when I get closer to the end, it’ll become easier to define. Great book though, and I’m not sure it’s still available, but gettin’ the entire story for 40 bucks is one of the best deals I think the industry will ever see. Find one, if you haven’t already.
That’s all for a couple weeks folks. Sorry about the skip week, but I wanted LeSean’s piece to get some extra space, as there was an unexpected delay in the availability of his sketchbook. Think it’s all sorted out by now though, and thanks to all the people that offered kind words about the interview. Sure it won’t be the last time we do somethin’ here.
Civil War will probably get its own column in a few weeks, want to collect up a few of the tie-in books, before I give it the treatment. So far, so good though, it’s smart, and it’s pretty, and will likely get better with the second issue, and some of the background stuff, that fleshes out some things the main title doesn’t have the page count for.
Really good time to be reading comics, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Until next time. Take care.