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52 #20

Posted: Monday, September 25, 2006
By: Thom Young



Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid
Artists: Chris Batista (p), Ruy Jose (i), Alex Sinclair (colors), and Keith Giffen (layouts)

Publisher: DC Comics


Well, 52 Week Twenty is out, which means the series is five-sixteenths of the way through. Thus, in honor of the series being 38.46 percent completed, I thought I would take the opportunity to review this landmark issue.

Part of my point with that first paragraph is the absurdity of reviewing an issue of a limited series or a multi-part story arc. Itís as if I were to say, ďHere, let me jump in and review for you chapter ninety-eight of Moby Dick (which has 135 chapters plus a prologue and an epilogue, in case youíre wondering).

Of course, novels were serialized in weekly magazines during the 18th and 19th centuries, so Iím sure there must have been reviews of individual chapters back in the day. However, due to the nature of 52, the idea of reviewing an installment becomes even more absurd since these weekly issues really bear less resemblance to weekly chapters of a novel than they do to ďepisodesĒ of a daytime soap opera.

Daytime soaps are on for an hour each day, five days a week (it used to be a half-hour each day back when I was in elementary school). They have multiple on-going plots along with multiple writers who are assigned to the various plots. 52 is very much like a soap in its mechanics: in both the way the story is being covered per installment and in the way that the ongoing plots are divided up among the writers.

Reviewing each episode of a soap opera is even more absurd than reviewing each weekly installment of an 19th century British novel. Imagine someone reviewing each episode of One Life to Live or The Guiding Light. There is no way the reviewer could provide any meaningful observations on how the story as a whole is shaping up since the focus would be on each individual installment. Oh, sure, the writer could refer to an earlier episode, but the focus would still be on the latest daily episode.

What you would end up with are reviews that state what a reviewer liked and didnít like about each episodeóalong with, perhaps, what the reviewer wants to see in upcoming episodes (or wanted to see in the latest episode). Additionally, the reviewer could state what he or she considered to be the best lines of dialogue in each episode.

Would that type of review be useful to anyone other than to fans of the soap opera who want their own feelings about each episode validated by an authoritative reviewer?

Anyway, letís get back to my review of Week Twenty of 52. After last weekís intriguing and mystifying issue in which we learned that Skeets is to blame for something (presumably, problems in the time stream), the 52 team falls off their game and heads down hallways of unrelenting . . . wait for it . . . disappointment with this latest issue.

You see, I was disappointed because I lost interest in the outer space adventures of Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange after the disappointing installment with Devilance the Pursuer several weeks ago (they handled this New God too easily). Additionally, I canít stand Lobo. I never have liked that character, and never will. However, despite not liking the particular elements that appeared in the Week Twenty issue, Iím enjoying the series as a whole, and thatís my real point in this review.

For the most part, Iíve not been a fan of the work of Geoff Johns (though there are a few things of his that Iíve enjoyed), and I have long been a fan of the work of Grant Morrison (though there are a few things of his that I havenít enjoyed). Thus, whenever I read a new issue of 52, Iím on the lookout for something that will allow me to exclaim, ďAh ha! Geoff Johns wrote that terrible bit!Ē or ďGrant Morrison wrote that wonderful bit!Ē

However, with the exception of an occasional line of dialogue that may have been written by Johns, or an occasional postmodern concept that might have been generated by Morrison, I have found the writing on this series to be fairly homogenous (which, I suppose, is a good thing in a series that uses the mechanics of soap operas).

Now, I ask you, are my previous four paragraphs useful to anyone? Perhaps they are . . . to people who feel the way I do about the outer space adventures of Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange (along with people who also donít care for Lobo or the writing of Geoff Johns). However, to be honest, they are of absolutely no use to anyone trying to decide whether to buy the latest issue of 52, though I doubt anyone is consulting reviews in order to decide whether to pick up an issue that marks the five-sixteenth point of a limited series.

Anyway, back to my review of 52 (as a series). As long as the writing doesn't bother me, I see no reason not to sit back and see where the soap opera mechanics of 52 will lead. Iím enjoying the series as a whole because it isnít a company-wide mega-event that demands that I buy an infinite number of crossovers and tie-ins in order for me to follow the critical story.

My one concern is over whether it will have a satisfying conclusion when we finally get to the fifty-second issue. In an actual soap opera, some of the multiple plots may eventually intertwine while others will forever remain disparate. That fact of soap opera mechanics actually creates verisimilitude even if the actual plots may not. However, 52 isnít an infinite series the way daytime soap operas are meant to be. Itís a finite series that eventually needs to tie up all its plots in the end.

For instance, DCís Infinite Crisis ďeventĒ began as a collection of five or six separate mini-series that contained seemingly disparate plots that we were told would all become intertwined and resolved in the pages of the Infinite Crisis limited series. However, they really werenít.

Johns wasn't up to the task of tying all of the disparate stories together. Instead, he concocted a mess that proved that the stories were not seemingly disparate, they were actually disparate. While 52 has been entertaining thus far, my concern is whether the seemingly disparate plots will be tied together nicely by the final issue in a satisfactory manner.

It seems that Booster Gold and Skeets plot is central to the overall plot of the series. And, for the record, Week Nineteen did not indicate that Skeets is some sort of ďevil mastermindĒ behind the overall plot. It most likely indicated that Skeets made some sort of mistake at some point (probably with good intentions) that has had drastic consequences in the time stream.

Skeets has been attempting to cover up whatever problem he caused, and he is now in panic mode after finding out that Rip Hunter knows about the mistake. Skeets isnít an evil master criminal; heís a panicking robot that made a mistake and whoís now afraid that he will be shut down if he canít correct it. I love this new development that was introduced last week. It made Week Nineteen one of my favorite issues.

However, the plotline that interests me the most is the abduction of the worldís criminal genii (Sivana, Morrow, et cetera). Where are all of those mad scientists disappearing to? I half expect to find out that some insane Randian is gathering together these criminal scientists to create his or her own Atlas Shrugged plot where the genii of the world are gathered together in order to create a utopian society while turning their collective back on the hordes of humanity. Of course, the goal here will be to create a dystopian society.

Iím intrigued by how these two plotlines (Skeetsís error and the abduction of criminal genii) might tie together into the ďmystery of the fifty-two," and I believe that the subplot of ďwho is SupernovaĒ figures into all of this as well. Iím also intrigued by the possibility that the cosmic plot of Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange also ties into the mystery of the fifty-two, and that it seems to have something to do with the Dominators (based on Supergirlís introduction into the Legion of Super-Heroes).

However, I donít see how the Black Adam and Isis plot or the Montoya, Question, and Batwoman plot will tie into the mystery of the fifty-two. Iím hoping it does. I will be greatly disappointed if everything doesnít connect by the end of the series, and I mean really connect together instead of having DC tell us that it all connects together when it really doesnít (see Infinite Crisis).

We shall see. In the meantime, Iím enjoying the journey and trying not to worry too much about the destination.

And by the way, here is my review of Week Twenty:

What I liked: Supernova in the Batcave.

What I didnít like: The idea that the Emerald Eye is the actual eye from some sort of space-faring biological entity. Historically, I believe it was a piece of technology in the form of an eye. How gross is it that people (such as Starfire) are picking up this actual giant eyeball and carrying it around without losing their respective lunches?

My favorite moment: Two, actually: Supernova staring at Jason Toddís Robin costume and Supernova staring at Lex Luthorís glove.

My favorite line: Any of the ones that reference Loboís religion as the triple fish god (an obvious parody of Christianity and a ďMorrison MomentĒ for me).

My favorite character: Well, I donít really have one. Iíll just say that I wouldnít mind being Animal Manís shirt.

What I want: More of Doc Magnus, T.O. Morrow, and the DC Atlas Shrugged crew!



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