Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Superhero Invasion part II: 52

Continuing my journey as a newbie trying to get into the world of superhero comics, I take a look at the DC Comics limited series '52'. A direct follow up to 'Infinite Crisis', '52' is made of of 52 issues, published weekly for one year. After the cataclysmic events of 'Infinite Crisis', the "Big 3" of superheros, Batman, Wonderwoman, and Superman, go missing. In the absence of these most prolific superhero leaders, it is up to some lesser known heroes to fill their void and keep the peace.

The structure of this series is easy to understand, and a far cry from the chaotic and confusing Infinite Crisis. Instead of a bungled mess of P.O.V.'s that jump all over the place, each issue or "week" has much more focus and a clear point of view. It's interesting that DC deviated from the usual, monthly serialization for this year long weekly serialization. Chapters are labeled as "weeks" and though it is lost on new readers, the initial serialization played out in real time. While not necessary, knowledge of the events in Infinite Crisis may help to understand some things going on. Fortunately, Infinite Crisis is well summarized at the beginning of the series.

This series features and is told from the point of view of some lesser known characters. I wouldn't say it did a great job at introducing these characters to new readers though. But as you follow their stories, you do get to know them more and more. Batman, Superman, and Wonderwoman are missing, and this is a good thing in my opinion. Even as a new comic book reader, I think these characters are played out(maybe not so much Wonderwoman). Batman and Superman are both iconic enough to have reached the mainstream. Even non-comicbook readers know of them. It also doesn't help that Superman is kind of overpowered. With them gone, this leaves a lot of room for lesser known characters to shine, and they really did in this book.

The characters were this series strong point in my opinion. One of my favorite characters was Booster Gold. Being from the 25th century, it's no surprise that his plot line is heavy with time travel, and I'm kind of a sucker for time travel stories, though not many of them are good in my opinion. They can get really messy and confusing fast. Paradoxes and what not. Though this is one of the better ones I have come across and it launched Booster Gold to the top of my favorite characters list. It really had some good twists that I wasn't expecting. 

Another main character that I really liked was Renee Montoya. She probably the most human and relatable character and her developing relationship with Charles Victor Ssasz was a highlight of the series.

While not my favorite characters because their story line felt detached from the rest. I really liked the group dynamic of Starfire, Animal Man, and Adam Strange. They didn't always get along, but through thick and thin, they fought their way through space trying to get back home. It also didn't hurt that they teamed up with Lobo, a crazy, space bounty hunter turned archbishop of the Three Fish God, who has a pet space dolphin. He added a good amount of unpredictable fun to the mix.

One of the most prominent and dynamic characters featured is Black Adam. As I understand it, Black Adam used to be a recurring, super villain antagonist to the Marvel Family, but in this incarnation of the character, he is depicted as a man on the path of redemption. After falling in love with Isis, she has a great influence on him and he starts to change for the better. He probably has the most profound and obvious character development in this series. And though he has changed a lot, he is no goody-two-shoes. He's a pretty brutal guy. The opposite of the sometimes corny Captain Marvel, even when he is trying to do good. For that reason, I kind of took a liking to him.

Probably the one character that I didn't care too much for was John Henry Irons AKA "Steel". The whole time I just couldn't help but think of the bad Shaquille O'Neil movie based on the character. Really though, it's mostly because I wasn't very interested in his plot line. The main part of his story is kind of cliche and is bogged down by his annoying niece, but despite that, Steel does turn out to be kind of badass. 

Like I said in my first Superhero Invasion post, the generic comic book art is starting to wear on me. The colors dull details and it lacks emotion. When certain characters died, I didn't feel anything for them, and I think the art is to blame, because I actually liked those characters, but the art didn't convey the emotion of those scenes well at all. The art is never stunning and it doesn't contribute to the appeal. It's just there, and it works to tell the story, but it leaves me wanting more. The special features of the collected editions include the original pencil drawn and inked pages. While I understand that the single toned inked pages would be hard on the eyes to tell what is going on, these pages illustrate just how much detail coloring takes away. No offense to the colorists, but I kind of feel like they ruin the art. Also, several different artists work together to complete this comic. That includes several different pencilers, inkers, and colorists all taking turns doing the same characters. Most of the time, the difference in the art is barely distinguishable and not a bother, but sometimes, the same characters are drawn so different than they were earlier in the comic, that it takes a second to even realize who they are. It's kind of annoying. Quality and style inconsistency is something that I am not getting used to.

As I mentioned, after each weekly issue, there is an extra feature section with concept art and creator commentary. I especially appreciated the creator commentary. Sometimes it really helps to understand a work when the writer straight up explains them to you. This helped quell a lot of the confusion I had as a new reader. The commentary also gives insight into the industry and comic making process. We learn interesting stuff like last minute editorial changes and easter eggs are pointed out. For me, these extra features really increased my enjoyment of this comic.

The story started to get a little crazy toward the end. From my few experiences with these DC crossover events, the writers seem to let their imagination get away from them. Fortunately, they kept things pretty reigned in for the most part. '52' was a whole lot of fun for me to read. Where 'Final Crisis' kind of pushed me away from superhero comics, '52' pulled me right back in.  As far as superhero comics go, this is the best I've read so far, and I highly recommend it to new and old comic readers alike.

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