Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Week 50: As Safe as Safe Can Be

Everybody's talking 'bout World War III, I see. But really: doesn't this look more exciting? Or this? Or this?

On reflection, it doesn't even make sense why Black Adam is doing what he's doing for the better part of this issue. Having destroyed Bialya while the rest of the world twiddled their thumbs, he finds out that the Horsemen were built on Oolong Island under orders from the Chinese government. (This leaves open the question of why the Chinese government would want to piss him off.) So, of course... he smashes up Sydney, Pisa, Paris and Cairo before he gets around to heading toward China. This from the guy who lectures Father Time about having not violated the borders of the U.S. (immediately before ripping his face off). Then the Chinese government not only refuses aid from the international superhero community, but threatens to launch nukes at the home countries of anyone who provides assistance. Not even Pyongyang is that crazy.

Finally, the heroes come in over the Great Wall, and as nice as it is to see three of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers--the Manhattan Guardian? For that matter, Green Arrow and Arsenal? Not that they're not good in a fight, but... not this kind of fight. Back at the Rock of Eternity, we find out that the Egyptian gods are dicks, and that Zatara, despite having had a statue dropped on him on day 5 and requiring "urgent medical attention," is hanging out with other magic types, looking just fine.

At least you can sort of hear the "1812 Overture" in the background of this issue--there's a dramatic arc to it. The WWIII specials, on the other hand, feel thoroughly superfluous, and obviously tacked onto 52 after the fact--as far as I can tell, the Aquaman plot in particular makes no pretense of being attached to the Black Adam storyline at all, it just kind of happens over the course of a few pages, and the J'onn J'onzz material (he sits around and angsts; then his head changes shape) totally fails to proceed from his appearance in Week 24.

For those who didn't read the WWIII specials, here's the stuff with bearing on 52: Firestorm and Cyborg got un-merged because Prof. Stein used a JLA transporter to separate them; the Spectre's sitting this one out; and Amanda Waller's plan to send a lot of Very Bad People to fight Adam seems to have gone by the wayside as she's recruiting the likes of the Bronze Tiger, who of course killed the previous Batwoman and AH CRAP MY HEAD HURTS AGAIN. Casualties of the war include Terra and Young Frankenstein. That's it. Plus a lot of unnamed bystanders, of course. The fourth issue ends as I suspect a lot of DC stories that don't have a dramatically satisfying ending are going to for the next year or so: with the Monitors standing around looking very serious.

The fundamental problem with the specials is that WWIII, outside of 52, isn't really a story. It ties into part of the climactic action of 52, but it doesn't even resolve very much that has to do with the mother series: add four more issues of Adam dismembering people and smashing famous architecture between pages 1 and 22, or delete everything from the Bialya massacre until Billy uses the wisdom of Solomon to come up with his "admin password override" routine, and it would have exactly the same effect. (The big fight doesn't seem to relate at all to the other threads of 52, the Booster/Steel/Natasha cameo aside.) The WWIII specials are palpably desperate to get their One Year Later exposition out of the way. And I believe it's already been strongly hinted that nobody but the heroes even remembers the war, which kind of lessens its dramatic impact as a setup for future stories.

In the IC-to-OYL timeline department: this week's Nightwing Annual, besides having more dick jokes than that infamous Joker-boner story, implies that there's at least a month, and I'd guess significantly more, between the final fight in Infinite Crisis and the scene where Bruce, Dick and Tim head off on their ocean trip. And neither that issue nor the WWIII specials make it clear whether the Nightwing we've seen in 52 is Dick or Jason; perhaps the next Batman will clear things up a little.

Giffen Layout Watch: Holding steady at Week 39.

More notes:

Pg. 1: Well, good riddance to the Great Pyramid--I hear Vandal Savage ordered that thing to be built anyway.

Pg. 3: You can tell Adam's not in his right mind, because he's got no eyeballs.

Pg. 4: The Leaning Tower of Pisa gave Superman trouble here and again here, it's also prominent in the aforementioned Joker-boner story, and there must be half a dozen Mort Weisinger-era covers that feature it, but I can't call any to mind.

Pg. 5: I appreciate Thundermind paraphrasing the Shadow, but to paraphrase Kevitch, karma isn't fruit-bearing, is it?

Pg. 8: The Shaolin Robot's talking in hexagrams, as in the I Ching, which is a nice touch; the lines are usually horizontal, though. Reading right-to-left as top-to-bottom, I get, respectively, hexagram 38, "Opposition/Mirroring"; hexagram 6, "Conflict"; and hexagram 23, "Splitting Apart," all of which are formally appropriate here. And apparently the Great Ten are behind the yeti medallion shenanigans we saw back in Week 32, although if a powerless Ralph can take the yeti down, it's hard to imagine what good August General, Director of G.R.E.A.T.T.E.N., thinks it's going to do against Adam.

Pg. 9: Viz.

Pg. 14: Hooray for expository dialogue!

Pg. 20: And he's been caught by the hand of... somebody with giant hands. Again with the giant hands!

Pg. 22: Best scene this issue... and it'd be a lot more powerful if the same idea hadn't already been done here and a couple of months ago here.

Pg. 23: I see Prof. Morrow was able to take delivery on his auction purchase in spite of everything.


At 3:44 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I thought Steel/Natasha was followed up (albeit forced) with the scene with Booster stealing the Giant Gun that took Steel less time to build because he worked with Nat.

Oh well. It wasn't going to work anyway.

At 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the giant hands were Atom Smasher.

I thought all the interjections of Booster were interesting...especially riding on the wing of Wonder Woman's invisible plane....

At 5:06 AM, Blogger webrunner said...

It's obvious that Gotham Nightwing is Jason, and that Cruise Nightwing is Dick. I think that's rather clear by the lethal force being exhibited on the robbers.

At 5:21 AM, Blogger Will Staples said...

I'm not even going to try to figure out which Nightwing is which. It's obvious that DC wasn't thinking that hard about it, so why should I.

Anyway. I thoroughly enjoyed this week's issue of 52, but the whole experience was marred by the WWIII mini. I regret shelling out ten bucks for it.

Gar Logan wouldn't leave a man behind like that. I'm just sayin'.

(And why did it have to be Young Frankenstein? He had the coolest name.)

At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the giant hands are definitely Atom Smasher - they're wearing the same sort of bracers, and he's the only person still cutting Black Adam some slack.

At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not buying the World War III minis and I'm feeling all the better for it.

The editorial(?)decision to shift focus from the whole of the DCU to the main characters about halfway through 52 has inevitably left One Year Later holes, but as filby quite rightly points out, if DC can't be bothered, why should we.

The whole thing reeks of "let's tie up 52 as quickly as possible so we can plough into Countdown". The comments Didio has made recently seems downright disrespectful to the 52 Team. Whatever it's flaws, it's been a phenomenal achievement, written with little or no precedent, and the fact that every issue has hit the stands on time and the narrative has some kind of cohesive flow is testament to the commitment and organisation of a lot of talented people. And their achievements deserves more respect, rather than being smothered with "Here comes Countdown" nonsense.

Ah, well. Posterity will be kinder, I hope.

At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just a little disappointed to see Black Adam neutered by a gag that had been used identically back in Futurama (and probably wasn't all that original then).

Now whenever I see Adam, I'll think of Bender.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger David C said...

This is the first I've seen of the "Young Frankenstein" character, but...

All I'm sayin' is, if you don't expect to occasionally be "dead" and have body parts ripped off, don't be taking that name....

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a lot to be desired in the WW3 issues, but the part that made the least sense was why J'onn spend the whole week in angst without acting. Adam deciding to destroy random cities made almost no sense, but for J'onn, who normally is quick to action, to simply sit in space for a week and think...that's really bizarre.

And the OYL plot holes being plugged were too quick to be satisfying. Hawkgirl? One line mention that Dr Midnight (which was misspelled in my copy as "Docotr Midnight" btw, and even if that was right, isn't he usually "Dr."?). Same with Firestorm. And J'onn's new look. And the supergirl one makes zero sense, although it clears up some confusion.

Very unsatisfying week. I really hoped for more.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Douglas Wolk said...

Webrunner: Obviously the Nightwing in WWIII is Jason, but since Dick left the round-the-world trip shortly before we saw the Nightwing who's been working with Montoya/Batwoman, it's an open question who that one is.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Keith said...

I was disappointed as well. We've already seen this scenario in Infinite Crisis and there's nothing really new here. At least Black Adam didn't die.

The minis promised everything but delivered nothing. The Newsarama article about character changes between #50 and OYL was more readable, shorter, and said pretty much the same thing.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Scott said...

I never saw a reason given why Captain Marvel by himself wasn't able to counter Black Adam, or why the combination of the entire Marvel Family plus a few more powerhouses wasn't enough. For it to take a whole army of heroes to take him down, and even then only with a deus ex machina of sorts in that lightning bolt ploy at the end, seems excessive.

Heck, Ystin's sword alone is probably capable of decapitating Adam, if need be.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger acespot said...

EH. I really don't see how you can get a World War out of this. It's basically a many on one fight. No countries are involved, no enemy superheroes, just everybody on Black Adam. And the art is extremely confusing. I still can't make heads or tails of the panels where they're supposed to be manoeuvering Adam into position for the lightning strike. And who caught him? And how in the world could Billy change his magic word? The explanation given here is ridiculous, that all magic flows through him. And what's with the white streak in his hair? And when are all the events that were alluded to in the OYL books going to occur? Ugh. Forget it, I changed my mind, this is AWFUL. However....Booster Gold does reappear in this issue, as does Rip Hunter, and it seems that next issue we'll finally learn the significance of 52, and this issue features the only satisfying plot resolution of the entire series, so, huh, I don't know. Okay, I've made my decision. AWFUL. Seriously, bringing Green Arrow and Arsenal along to take down Black Adam? Are you insane? Why didn't it just start and end with the Marvel family? The rest of the big fight is superfluous nonsense, made for the specific purposes of having a few "character" moments. AWFUL.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger acespot said...

I'm more looking forward to The Hulk ripping the stupid Marvel Universe apart in World War Hulk.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

for some reason, all the links are currently going to a wicked Richie Rich cover where RR busts through a snowman leaving a silhouette of a dollar sign. Even after the first three linked to that image, i continued clicking through, because it was fun and loony.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Paul I said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Paul I said...

I thought the Booster cameo this week was a very nice touch.

I get the feeling these last six or so issues might be better read in a massive clump, rather than a week at a time.

Also, coming out the same week as Spirit and B&TB really didn't help 52.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said...

See, I got that when Nightwing in WWIII dropped the Red Hood helmet on the ground, it was to signify that this was when he first adopted the Nightwing guise. His later comment, that this vigilantism thing has its upside, would further suggest that he's new to the costume.

I seem to recall it being said both in interviews and by Tim in a previous issue that Dick has been the only Nightwing up to this point.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger T Campbell... said...

"This leaves open the question of why the Chinese government would want to piss him off..."

I thought the previous issue made it pretty clear that Adam was supposed to die along with Isis and Osiris.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wait...WHAT?! Aquaman already started his transformation back in week 39 - OR DID SUPERBOY PUNCH THE UNIVERSE AND CHANGE THAT TOO? It's like they weren't even trying with the WWIII mini...

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Atom Smasher was the one who caught Black Adam because 1) Giant hands! and 2) He was the one who gave the excuse that BA had disappeared in all the confusion, all the while he was probably in his hand. Suggests to me that Atom Smasher's arc from JSA ends here as he sets him free to avoid trial.

There was a cover mixup and my store got #3 with #1's cover. I didn't know when I read it so I was very confused. That might've colored my opinion of the minis.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger Rich D said...

Maybe I read my copy too fast, but I was under the impression that the Chinese government was going to drop a nuke on their own soil where the heroes were fighting BA and that the US wouldn't retaliate for killing everyone.

On the whole, I think I'm a little disappointed with the WWIII tie-ins. They felt more like the Cliffs Notes to a big event rather than a big event themselves.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger R.Nav said...

I also read it as China was going to nuke their own soil. And the US decided, they weren't going to Nuke China for killing Stargirl. Oh, and a buncha other heroes too, but mostly Stargirl.

I enjoyed 52 #50. I wish there was a reason WHY he was fighting in all those countries, like.. say, finding out that Intergang also had a say in all this so he decides to wipe out as much of the network as he finds out about, saving China and his sweet sweet revenge for last. Of course, he's not giving a crap abotu collateral damage or innocents getting in the way, which is why the heroes are trying to stop him.

That's how I would have written it. And it would have been what, only a few changes in word bubbles.

The WWIII miniseries was awful. I'm close to demanding my $10 back as it was in my subscription bin when I had not specifically asked for it :/

At 4:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The more I think about it, the more the World War III storyline sours my experience of reading 52.

It's not so much the discrepancies between such a cataclysmic event and the start of the OYL storylines. I fully expect the next to issues to resolve this in a "it was all a dream/dimensional rift/effect of Superboy's punch" way, and given the writers involved I'm expecting it to be a cute and inventive resolution.

Nor am I concerned that there's too much to resolve in too little time. I feel that every time I read a Grant Morrison series and he generally pulls it off.

There are two things that really bug me.

First of all, the title.

World War III implies a few things to us, not least Morrison's dramatic conclusion to his JLA run. Now, I know this was never specifically referred to as such other than in the title, and strictly speaking this was "Mageddon". But it still felt way more cataclysmic than the one in 52. If you're going to use the title "World War III" you're also eluding to Wars I and II. These, less we forget, were real wars where real people sacrificed their lives for pointless imperialist gains and liberating Europe from fascism respectively. Invoking these world-changing events for such a contrived punch-up (Sydney? WTF?) seems disrespectful to the memories of the war dead.

Before anyone points out to me that it's just the funny papers, my argument is that the JLA Mageddon storyline felt epic, and it addressed the origins of violence and aggression, with a conclusion that saw the human race embracing their inner strength and evolving to combat a destructive force. It was a story that showed imagination could resolve conflict, and felt like a true successor to the previous wars, both as they existed in reality and as we have re-imagined them since. This Black Adam vs. the JSA just doesn’t compare. A battle between Adam and the Marvels, with the Great Ten and the JSA politicking on the sidelines would have felt more appropriate, suitably climatic but at the same time modest enough to fit within a story that, after all still has two issues and a lot of plot still to go.

Which brings me to the second gripe, the utterly redundant extra four issues. It does nothing to move forward or expand on the #50 narrative, and who really cares about Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Nightwing, Supergirl etc., outside of those already reading their respective titles. And if their respective titles can’t be bothered to explain their OYL changes, why should we be bothered to read about them now? And was anyone actually concerned with Father Time’s appearance? A terrible example of continuity obsessed fanboy pandering at its worst.

It also grates that Harvey Dent’s Batman stand in role is only picked up now, when the whole Question/Montoya/Batwoman storyline revolved around Intergang moving into Gotham in its protector’s absence. Too much for Dent to handle? Fair enough, but this couldn’t be commented on in a couple of panels earlier on? Given the amount of shoehorned exposition in these issues I can’t help feeling the early decision to shift perspective in favour of 52’s leads was the wrong one.

Reading the whole series back there is a flabby feel to most of the storylines around the middle, particularly, to me, the Steel and Heroes in Space storylines. Surely there was space for the World War III add-ons to be filtered through the larger 52 picture. It would have taken up space and sharpened the main storylines, establishing a pace that might have left the closing issues seem less rushed. Characters like Green Arrow popped up regularly, approaching the narrative at interesting tangents that seemed connected to both 52 and the DC Universe as a whole. Imagine what a couple of Jason Todd or Aquaman cameos might have done to the story. Ralph’s quest could easily have incorporated a little more aquatic action and the frisson of the “is it Jason or Dick?” encounters with Batwoman could have been pulled out a little (God knows the speculation at the time showed readers would have followed it). And imagine an issue of the Martian Manhunter mini that dealt with his version of 52, manipulating and observing behind the scenes at crucial moments. It could have been like that Doctor Strange issue that replayed an old Fantastic Four story from his astral perspective.

Of course, the “wouldn’t it be great if we concentrated on the lead characters” is just so much editorial spin. The truth feels closer to “We made such a balls up of our OYL titles that we completely lost faith in 52, and decided to ring fence that turkey and hope everyone forgot all about it. Until half way through when we realised it was actually a success and desperately tried to reorganise”. No wonder Steve Whacker left. Kudos to the four architects though. Their absence from the four add-ons speaks volumes.

Sorry. I’ll shut up now.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger acespot said...

Black Adam doesn't go right to China, but instead proceeds to attack nearly every other nation on Earth first. Italy, Greece, Egypt, USA, Australia. Why? Uh, that's not ever really explained. AWFUL.

And don't even get me started on the actual WWIII issues. Again, how stupid is that? Calling it WWIII? First of all, the DCU already had a WWIII, and that one was much more deserving of the appellation, being that it was partially characterised by many nations taking arms against each other simultaneously. So, this would be WWIV. But what kind of World War features not a single nation fighting any other? Um, none that I've ever heard of. And what's with the WWIII issues pretending that every single thing that happened between Infinite Crisis and One Year Later happened during this exact week? Donna taking Wonder Woman's armor, Themiscyra disappearing, Deathstroke recruiting Batgirl, Hawkgirl being shrunk back to normal size, Firestorm getting unmerged, Supergirl reappearing, Crispus deciding whether or not he'll choose to be the new Spectre, J'onn finding a new form, Aquaman becoming the Dweller, the plight of Sub Diego (which, by the way, makes zero sense in light of the pre-crisis issues of Aquaman - did the writers of WWIII even read any of those books? Riiiight, the Western coast of San Diego is raised by - wait for it - magic. Wha huh? What, is Rick Veitch writing Aquaman again?), that's so ridiculous. And Zatara falls in action, but then he's back again at the rock of Eternity, as if nothing happened? Are the writers even communicating with each other? Plus, the dialogue by Martian Manhunter is so hackneyed. Even the art is bad, since, for example, apparently the Bronze Tiger has red skin. Seriously, at first, I thought he was Brick. And what the hell is all this about Rick Flag? And truthfully, it's been soooo long since Infinite Crisis that I barely remember what was happening pre-Crisis, let alone One Year Later. And amidst the final gathering of heroes, don't you think that someone would have noticed that Hal was missing? And then possibly tracked him using some sort of satellite? How can plastic man bleed? How can his costume be ripped, his goggles cracked? That makes no sense! He doesn't have blood, and the costume is merely a manifestation of his shapeshifting ability! Also, isn't the great wall of China actually inside China's sovereign borders? If so, then how could the heroes wait there? And never have I seen J'onn so useless in a fight.
These books deserve a rating of ASS - and in fact, due to the inability of the myriad writers of 52 to provide any sort of allusion to any of these events in any of the preceding 49 weeks, the entire series of 52, as a whole, deserves an ASS too. Because really, they had how many months to plan all of this out, and they still couldn't pull it off? Ugh.

Conclusion: DC really dropped the ball on this one.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Medraut said...

Trying to shoehorn these explanations into an "event" like World War III was a mistake. Since 52 wasn't going to explain all the OYL plot lines, they honestly should have been explained in their own books. Would Hawkgirl saying "Oh, BTW, Dr. Midnight shrunk me" in her own book have been that hard? And frankly, it would have been a lot better in many cases. I can see an entire flashback issue devoted to Aquaman's transformation. Or Firestorm being separated from Cyborg.

Of course, it didn't help that almost none of the explanations matched up with what we have seen before. Firestorm was separated from Cyborg and Stein seemed fine when they were forming the "Justice League". Aquaman was already going nuts when Ralph talked to him. I am not normally a continuity freak, but considering that they billed this as explaining the questions of OYL that 52 left unanswered, you would expect that those answers would have been better thought out.

Oh well. I still look forward to week 51

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

acespot: Black Adam doesn't go right to China, but instead proceeds to attack nearly every other nation on Earth first. Italy, Greece, Egypt, USA, Australia. Why? Uh, that's not ever really explained.

No one ever said Zehuti was good with directions.

I felt a bit cheated by the WWIII tie-in books. If you haven't bought them already, don't. You're not missing out.

Speaking of weiner references, have you seen the Alex Ross "Citizen Steel" cover for JSA yet? Schlong!

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Emmet Matheson said...

It actually kinda felt more like the WWIII specials were for people who haven't been reading 52, but needed some glimpse into what had happened. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if the specials weren't included in the 52 collected edition.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Not sure how the entire past year of 52 is ass when WWIII seems to be the problem. Comics as a periodical has a tendency to falter over time due to who-knows-what. I think andy g nailed it: there's some politicking that happened to change the course of 52 and its pacing suffered. At least it came out on time regardless.

5.2 is out at Newsarama and there is no mention of the minis. I won't be surprised if the minis are quickly "forgotten" by DC. Has there been one positive review of them?

I'm eerily curious about who Citizen Steel's model was.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about anyone wlse, but I'm still getting Kid Miracleman flashbacks. The whole thing seemed like a rerun of that storyline only in slow motion and without the humour.

The only good thing about WWIII was that you can safely ignore it as 52 makes perfect sense (well, as much as it ever makes) without it.

And it features Doctor Light, even if she never gets a word of dialogue, at least she doesn't die pointlessly like Terra, who I hadn't even realised was currently alive, and whose replacement has already appeared in Supergirl, so having her heart ripped out dramatically lost some of its edge.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Essentially, the WWIII mini seems tacked on in an effort to explain all those little bits of trivia that 52 should have explained in passing. I don't see why that would've been so hard. And personally, I would've rather had a good book that didn't come out on time than a book that came out on time, but ended disappointingly, as 52 seems to be doing.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger raphaeladidas said...

Giffen's 52 on 52-a look back

And WWIII was the worst thing that DC has published in a long while and has made me lose faith in the company as a whole (it was the straw, actually).

At 12:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I popped into my comic store yesterday. There were no World War III comics left on the shelves. After reeling at the shock that so many people in my locality had that much money to waste, I had an epiphany.

It didn't happen.

There were no World War III minis.

It was just a dream. A terrible dream.

I will hear nothing to the contrary.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Squashua said...

If you haven't yet, get this week's Legion of Super-Heroes #29.

Remember the Fiffdee-tooo!

At 4:22 PM, Blogger Will Staples said...

Mind posting some spoilers?

This week's JSA seems to hint at some alter-Earth weirdness, at least in relation to the first Crisis.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Keith said...

"Fifdee-too" is the least of the 52 tie-ins in today's LoSH.

spoilers! spoilers! alsjflk@#%@$%Booster Gold shows up to steal a time-displacing gun!@##%*lk@* end spoilers! end spoilers!

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic: I bought half of that Kirby-tech gnome (Devil Dinosaur #1) at an antique store last week for three dollars.
It was less Nextwave-esque than I expected.


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