As the new self-appointed defender of The Books That People With Internet Connections Poop On, I will now take address the rapid abandonment of “52.”
And when I say “rapid,” sure, the book has been around for 5 issues already, but it’s only been 5 weeks, and less than 1/10th of its full story run.
And sure, the book can be defended on its editorial merit. When so many comics fail to come out on their predetermined monthly or bi-monthly schedules, putting out a book on a weekly basis is quite a feat.
But I think the comic is actually good, for several reasons.
1. It’s an introductory point for new readers.
I know one of the things that kept me out of reading DC Comics for the longest time was the huge number of characters I knew nothing about. Everyone has a grasp on Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but there were all these people like Elongated Man and Captain Atom and Booster Gold, and the midcard was just too big and too intimidating for me to get into.
52, by nature of the Crisis aftermath, makes the midcard the central part of the story, and it does it in a way that re-introduces the characters. You join them in their already-established character lives, yet the story handles them in a way that you can quickly understand who they are and what they’re about.
The history of the DC Universe backup story, which has also been heavily ridiculed, has done a fine job of re-telling the pre-1986 version of the DC Universe through the context of 2006’s revised timelines. Critics of this have argued that it’s boring and there’s nothing new. I don’t even know where to start on the criticism that a history offers nothing new.
That said, in issue 5, we’re still just getting through Crisis on Infinite Earths. I am actually looking forward to where this goes from here. Yeah, I know this stuff so far, but as someone who has only been reading DC since 2005, I’d much rather read this as a backup story than on a wikipedia page or something. And it’s such an unintimidating format for new readers.
2. It’s a fleshing-out point for old readers
Most of this point was already covered above, but rare is the comics reader who has bought every issue of every comic since 1940. I knew who Steel, the Question and Booster Gold were, but for the most part, I’d only witnessed them in cameo roles. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. And while some of these characters might be second or third tier because of their nuances and limitations, I love that DC is using this opportunity to elevate them in the eyes of readers who’d previously only seen them marginalized.
3. It’s more than just a real-time story
DC could have just done a real-time “Here’s what happened in the last year” story. And a lot of it is probably going to be just that. But they’ve done a nice job of leaving hints that 52 is much more than just the number of issues or weeks in a year.
The first hint I caught was in “Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes” #17 from a month or so ago. Those angry aliens are out in space, and the 1-page side story closes with the lines “Existence is a loop. Time is a circle. And hate is eternal. Remember the fifffffdee-tu.”
Then this week’s issue of 52 included Red Tornado’s last words before being destroyed in space during the Crisis: “It’s coming! 52! 52!”
Using the logic that the aliens in the future were not referring to DC’s comic book series as the source of their hate, and that Red Tornado was not fearing the editorial challenge of putting out a weekly comic book on time for a year, The 52 is something big that’s going to happen that’s going to mean something.
It was a way for DC to build in something to the series that they really didn’t have to. 52 could have worked as a serial anthology.
I don’t know if Jean-Claude stopped his weekly review after issue 3 because he’s given up, but I guess I can say I’ve got more than enough faith in DC to get me past 5 issues.