Friday, April 20, 2007

52 - Love it or Hate it?

I've been reading "52" from DC Comics since its inception. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, since I had been reading "Infinite Crisis", but hadn't really cared for any of the "One Year Later" stuff. It was the creative team that tipped the scales and had me add it to my pull list, though, as Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid and Greg Rucka are all favorites of mine, and Pat Oliffe ("Untold Tales of Spider-Man") was gonna be doing some of the penciling, and I've always liked his stuff.

Since it began however, I've been very hot and cold on the book. I'm not really sure, even now after 50 issues, of how I feel about it. An issue a week for a year is great fun, and really keeps you excited, but there were so many plot lines running that even the frantic weekly schedule didn't seem fast enough. I think all that I can do is open the floor up for debate, and as I am the sole master debater on the internet, I am forced to debate my self.

So, here's why "52" is great:

"52" gathers DC's top writers to work on filling in the gap left by their "One Year Later" event, showcasing some of the DCU's b-list heroes. The writing team have formed a great unit, not succumbing to their egos, and drawing on the strengths of each to really define the DCU today.

It's always great to see cult or fan-favorite characters grab a little of the limelight. Lobo and Animal Man, Renee Montoya and the Question, Elongated Man, The Metal Men, Lex Luthor and Black Adam all shine and serve to add depth to the DCU, displaying the variety of toys that the creators have at their fingertips. Each writer leaves his fingerprints on the work, and there is a lot of fun and excitement to be had.

The weekly schedule is great. DC knows this and has another weekly title lined up for the next year ("Countdown"), and I'm sorely tempted to add it to my pull. Knowing I have at least one book every week draws me back to my shop to keep up to date, and once there, the siren song of the impulse buy is ever-present.

If you aren't reading "52", then the DCU is being redefined in every aspect and you're just being left behind.


Why Scott is so wrong, and how "52" is a lemon:

Well, I do sound pretty smart, so I won't fault you for listening to me earlier, but it's now time to listen to me.

"52" was such a big "almost great" book, spectacularly failing to really say anything. A book designed to set the ground rules for the DC Universe should actually have some interaction with it, rather than being limited to bland guest-stars making token appearances awkwardly jammed into the stories.

For "52" to really make the impact the hype said it was going to do, it had to be less isolated on the pet "b-listers" the writers chose to work with. Sure, everyone likes a little campy fun, but I just don't care about the new Infinity Inc. or Batwoman, and all the horrible things that happen to them miss touching me emotionally in any way. For that, I blame the writers.

Each of them have stated that they have all loved working with one another, but I can see in the finished product far too much compromise from each of them, preventing them from really cutting loose. Morrison's stuff isn't odd enough, Rucka doesn't get enough time to flush out his drama, Waid doesn't get through with the richness of the DCU and Johns can't get the momentum he needs to run away with his plots. Great ingredients do not always make a great soup, and there have been too many times where I was reading pages hoping to get back to something I gave a damn about.

Also, just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many plots spoil the drama. What good is a cliffhanger if it is dropped aside for so long that all sense of drama is lost. The payoff is often only given long after the tension has worn off, giving me more of a "Oh yeah, that's what was going on with that guy." sense of revelation. There were some good scenes in individual books, but characters are left on the shelf and forgotten about by the readers.

I'm terribly worried that I'm being played, and "52" is going to wrap up much in the way that "Infinite Crisis" did; with moderate ramifications for mediocre characters, and a half-hearted "oh, I guess." reaction from me.


So there you have it: "52" I love it or hate it.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

I think 52 might be a better collected read than a weekly. I'm not sure if you read the interview with one of the staffers attached to the project (I don't remember exactly who) but he did mention that they blew through all their plot lines too quick. So they had to pad it out and add more to the mix. It might be the reason it tastes a bit lemony.

Still the fact that near the end of 52... POP! World War 3 hits and Black Adam decides that a lot of people have to die. Although I've read some mixed reviews on that as well.