Many years ago, maybe more than a decade ago, I was in the trade paperback section of a bookstore and there were some collected volumes of 52 that were not vacuum packed. I listlessly picked up one or two and browsed through the pages in that waiting-till-its-time-to-go-to-the-movie-theatre way that we all do. I noted that the art was very much to my liking, clean and detailed, and then it was time to go to the movie theatre and that was that.
Fast forward years later and I’m browsing Comixology’s Sale section as is my habit and some 52 trades were on sale. So I picked up the first collected trade comprising 13 issues. Since one issue of 52 corresponded to a week, I pretty much picked up the first 13 weeks of a series that covered a year in the DC universe.
Ok, let’s placed 52. 52 means fifty-two weeks or one year. The year being right after the events of and surrounding Infinite Crisis.
Infinite Crisis is a DC event clearly – and justifiably – exploiting its shared DNA with another DC event, the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Just like CoIE, Infinite Crisis is meant to change the ground rules for the DCU. CoIE destroyed the DC multiverse to create one universe, Infinite Crisis does the reverse, it destroys the universe to bring back the multiverse. A limited multiverse, fifty-two universes max.
Crisis on Infinite Earths will probably be my all-time favorite event across all comicbook imprints mainly because George Perez did the most awesome feat of comicbook artistry across those twelve issues.
Infinite Crisis impresses me for a totally different reason. When the main storyline ‘Infinite Crisis’ came out it came out with four other prequel story lines: The Ran-Thanagar War, Villains United, Day of Vengeance, and O.M.A.C (I don’t think this was the exact title, now you know which is my least favorite). Anyway these supporting storylines are all equally amazing. Essentially the Infinite Crisis event had four precursor events. You can bet that the fanboy in me was just bowing in thanks to the DC gods.
It’s not a surprise that an event with ‘crisis’ in the title destroyed a lot of things. Lots of damage, lots of dead heroes and villains, and DC’s big three temporarily in the sidelines. And this post Infinite Crisis world is where 52 begins.
It walks us through one year after, one week per issue. Fifty-two issues in all. You can have the entire set with the four trade paperback collections or the two paperback trade collections. What I bought was the first of the four trade paperback collections. It has the thirteen weeks and, after each week, we have bonus material in the form of commentaries from the creators, sketch samples, behind the scenes trivia, and the like. I love the look of the thing- and yes, one is able to appreciate the packaging even in digital format.
Let’s look at the creative team. Fifty two is written by four writers. Rucka, Morrison, Waid and Johns. Several artists do the finishings but the series is given coherence by Giffen doing the layouts for the entire thing.
The writers did not divide the issues between themselves. They collaborated on each issue. And each of these writers? If this was boxing. They’d all be heavyweights.
Geoff Johns saved Hal Jordan from the ignominious fate of ending his DC career as Parallax. He crafted an excellent return for one of my favorite DC heroes for which I will forever be grateful to him. Along the way he also created a awesome Lantern universe. Last time I looked he was DC’s core writer.
Grant Morrison is in a class by himself. Wait, no, there are two of the classroom. The other one is Alan Moore. ‘Nuff said.
Waid is celebrated for his strong runs with Flash and some others, none of which I’ve read. The fact that I’ve never read him but his rep is known tome says a lot about him.
Rucka did Gotham Central. He did a lot of other things but to me that is more than enough.
These are writing gods and the art layout guy to work with these gods? Why he’s a member of the pantheon himself. In my book Keith Giffen will always be on of those responsible (the other one is Len Wein) for what I consider to be the golden age of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Giffen does the layout for the entire 52 series, giving us a base as artists flit in and out.
The finished art here is by Joe Bennett. Not quite as legendary as the other creatives at this point but if he keeps drawing this way he will become a legend. Talent can be seen in the linework and Bennett is a natural. Art is clean and detailed. Some panels are shaky but Bennett does a two page spread here of heroes arriving in a memorial for those who perished in the Crisis and that spread silences all my criticisms – it is jaw-dropping beautiful.
52 week one follows several characters two of whom are in the midst of a personal Crisis.
Ralph Dibny is one of those blessed with a marriage he doesn’t regret and a wife he dearly loves. Sue Dibny was one of the Crisis casualties. Ralph cannot accept that, to put it mildly. Ralph is right on the edge here, right on the edge.
Renee Montoya is familiar to me from the Gotham Central series. I thought she was a comicbook original but the bonus material reveals that she was originally introduced in Batman the animated series. Renee is shown chugging an alarming level of alcohol this issue. She’s lost both work partners and life partners.
Steel is featured here also. John Henry Steel comes to us from the storylines coming after the Death of Superman event. He’s a genius, a Tony Stark and here he is representative of the heroes helping the rebuilding effort.
The last character in focus Booster Gold. He’s a ray of sunshine in a dour landscape. You know Booster. Making money doing the ads. Skeets in tow. Everybody else’s story is being setup this issue but not Booster’s. His story move on enough to get the next plot point. It’s an issue highlight really. It is what happens when a company’s business model collapses. That is essentially what happens to Booster. He has this idea, he has invested in it, he is banking on it (literally) and the rug gets pulled out from under him. How do you think Booster reacts to that one? You guessed right.
So looking at this starting issue overall. What is going on? There is a very real sense of rebuilding from the ruins. The actual rebuilding of damaged cities, yes, and the rebuilding of disturbed lives focused on the heroes and also the larger rebuilding of the DC universe.
The best thing about Week One is it makes me want to see what Week Two is like.