52: Week One


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52: Week One


  • Words: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid
  • Art: Keith Giffen and Joe Bennett
  • Inks: Ruy Jose
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: Golden Lads and Lasses Must?
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.50
  • Release Date: May 10, 2006

DC Comics’ ambitious weekly series begins its chronicle of a changing universe. Does it live up to the hype?

Designed to span the gap between the world-shaking Infinite Crisis and the current "One Year Later" stories, 52 tells the tale of a year in the DC Universe without Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. Our focus for this weekly saga is a sextet of lesser known characters: Booster Gold, Ralph Dibny (the former Elongated Man), Black Adam, Steel, Detective Renee Montoya, and The Question. Each will face significant challenges in the weeks to come. In this first installment, Booster learns firsthand the danger of tampering with the timestream, Ralph and Renee continue their downward spirals of despair following the deaths of loved ones, Adam faces civil unrest in his homeland of Kahndaq, Steel has a talk with his irresponsible niece, and The Question takes on new duties in Gotham City.

The real treat of 52 (and the acid test for whether this storytelling experiment actually works) is the blending of the styles and sensibilities of its co-writers. As one might expect from a "jam session" of four of the more popular names in mainstream comics, Week One is a mix of solid character moments, gathering mysteries, references to past history, and a healthy dose of action and humor. Realizing that this series is largely targeted at the die-hard DC fans, as well as readers lured in by the Crisis, the creators don’t dwell long on exposition save for the most basic recap of recent events (to wit: World is in crisis. Heroes face their greatest battle. World gets better…mostly). The crux of the issue is simply character introductions and setup but the writers handle these with aplomb, jumping back and forth between the narrative threads in the style of a television drama. Certain elements may lose more casual readers, but on the whole, this rather bold project seems off to a good beginning.

There is, however, an aspect of 52’s approach that could prove a millstone to a certain extent. With this story being published simultaneously with "One Year Later," some readers consider it irrelevant due to many elements of its outcome already being known. Likewise, "One Year Later" itself is somewhat hampered by what has or hasn’t been revealed yet in 52, resulting in other readers being frustrated with the lack of actual significant change in some series. Time will tell if the creative team can overcome this awkward symbiosis of the two series and time periods. I remain hopeful that they can, as there is a lot of talent collaborating on this book and good stories are often as much about the journey as the actual destination.

Artistically, Keith Giffen’s breakdowns and Joe Bennett’s pencils, while not mind-blowing, are solidly crafted superhero illustration. Bennett has always contributed a good combination of detailed realism and comic book stylings and he handles the already burgeoning cast of characters admirably. Inker Ruy Jose nicely tightens up and complements Bennett’s art and Alex Sinclair, one of the better colorists in the business in my opinion, sets the appropriate mood for each scene, be it heavy and brooding, vaguely mysterious, or bright and eye-catching heroism.

Will it live up to the hype? Who can say? Hype tends to set expectations extraordinarily high and the possibility of backfire is always there. Judging by Week One however, 52 seems poised to tell some great character drama, give the second stringers a moment in the spotlight, and keep readers talking and coming back to the comic shops every week.

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