Week 50: As Safe as Safe Can BeEverybody'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.
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.