The Good: Consistently decent artwork, Commentary pages, Moments of engaging plot
The Bad: The story is way too broad, so each character group gets neglected
The Basics: So thoroughly plot-based, to lead to the neglect of actual character growth, 52 – Volume 2 continues the events of the lost year in the DC Universe.
I have a lot of patience for complicated stories. I honestly do. But, I want my complicated stories to make sense and make me care, well before the end. In the DC Universe, the last story that was like that where I found myself invested early and glad with the payoff was Justice League: Generation Lost (volume 1 is reviewed here!). Unfortunately, as I go back now, I am finding myself much less wowed by the massive DC Universe crossover event 52. With 52 – Volume 2, the saga begins to truly reveal its cracks and the fundamental issue with the concept of the story.
For those unfamiliar with it, Infinite Crisis (reviewed here!) led to a schism in the ranks of the major superheroes. The Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) opted to take a year off and other major heroes had abandoned Earth or were lost (Green Lantern and the Flash) during or after the Crisis. So, the year the big players were out of commission led to minor characters in the DC Universe having their chance to shine and that was a great concept. Unfortunately, the DC Universe is a pretty broad place with a shitton of secondary characters to service. Coming off the many threads begun in 52 – Volume 1 (reviewed here!), 52 – Volume 2 goes off in a slew of directions. The fundamental problem with this is that few of the plotlines are actually serviced well. In 52 – Volume 2, the only plot that is genuinely developed completely within the volume is the Black Adam/The Question plotline that involves the rising menace in Kahndaq.
52 – Volume 2 is intriguing because it takes a villain from out of the mainstream and uses love to reform them. Black Adam has plagued the Marvel Family for years and in 52 – Volume 2, his love for the new Isis leads him to a new sensibility. Over the fifteen weeks encapsulated in 52 – Volume 2, the most solid plotline focuses on Renee Montoya, Charlie (The Question), Black Adam, and Isis. Renee Montoya and Charlie arrive in Kahndaq, under Black Adam’s rule, following a trail of evidence that suggests that the weapons from Intergang found in Gotham City came from Kahndaq. In Kahndaq, Renee and The Question find the evidence they need, but not before they are captured as traitors. After breaking out, they arrive at the wedding of Adam and Isis where Renee is forced to save lives by shooting a suicide bomber, who happens to be a child. This puts Renee in a dark place, but saves her and Charlie’s lives and puts Black Adam and his growing Black Marvel family on the side of the heroes who would stop Intergang. While Renee wrestles with having killed a child, their team liberates Isis’s brother, Amon, who is empowered with a portion of Black Adam’s power to become the new Osiris. In tracking down Intergang, Black Adam’s team discovers a possible link to another thread in the story.
Unfortunately, all of the other threads are spread quite thin in 52 – Volume 2. Booster Gold is almost entirely discredited at the outset of this volume, so in his despair, he does one final heroic act which results in his heroic death in Metropolis. This sends Skeets on a mission that has the robot realizing what Booster Gold did not live long enough to learn. Professor Magnus is stymied when Dr. Morrow goes missing and he is soon abducted away to an island where all the mad scientists have ended up working for an unknown purpose. The group of heroes trapped in outer space are facing death in the middle of an asteroid field when they are rescued by Lobo, who has become an archbishop and runs his own religion now.
Back on Earth, Lex Luthor’s metagene therapy project continues to grow, though more people outside John Henry Irons seem to realize that Luthor has an agenda surrounding it that he has not told anyone. Irons, still desperate to get his niece out of the program, realizes that Luthor has the ability to turn the gene back off, which allows him to control the participants (and leads to one death). Ralph Dibny’s plotline is neglected most of the book. He pops up in the company of a slew of magicusers, apparently on a quest to find the next Dr. Fate. As something of an afterthought, Supernova continues to do heroic works in Metropolis . . . occasionally.
52 – Volume 2 illustrates what a wide net authors Greg Rucka, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, and Mark Waid were forced to cast in writing an epic about the DC Universe. Unfortunately, 52 – Volume 2 serves mostly to illustrate that their reach exceeded their grasp. Wondergirl, who was integral to Volume 1, has about four panels in this entire book and Ralph Dibny’s character arc seems mostly done as well. While killing off Booster Gold early frees up space for other characters’ stories, the survivors of the Justice Society (like the gigantic Hawkwoman seen in Volume 1) do not make even a token appearance in 52 – Volume 2.
Despite all of its problems – and, for a change, Lobo appearing in the book is not a huge detraction! - 52 – Volume 2 does a good job with the one main storyline. Gotham City is shown going to hell without Renee there, but the search for the origins of Intergang and its weapons is well-executed. As someone who had absolutely no emotional investment in Black Adam, that this story could get me invested in the murderous despot is a sign of pretty strong writing. Adam’s temper is tempered by Isis and they make an intriguing pair. Having not read the rest of 52 yet, I can only theorize on the impending tragedy that must make Black Adam back into a villain, but I am enjoying this unlikely storyline so far.
As well, the artwork in 52 – Volume 2 is homogenously good. With vivid coloring and a decent sense of movement, 52 – Volume 2 is presented in a visually interesting way. There are, however, a few places where there are abrupt transitions between panels, but the characters rendered in this book are good enough to be recognizable whenever they come up.
Ultimately, though, as a single volume, 52 – Volume 2 tries to take on too much and given that only one sliver of it tells an engaging-enough story to recommend, it becomes impossible to eagerly endorse this book.
For other major DC Universe crossover events, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
The OMAC Project
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Brightest Day, Volume 1
For other book reviews, check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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