Friday, May 11, 2007

The end of 52

DC’s 52 came to a close and I couldn’t help but think it was something of a mis-guided experiment. The various stories would have been much better served by either rotating miniseries along the lines of Seven Soldiers or simply a 12-issue mini. The much-promoted “real-time” component where each issue was a week of story-time and if it was Halloween or Christmas in our world then it would also be in 52 turned out to be mostly irrelevant if not just ignored. Some issues seem to cover only a couple of hours and others just one day or two but overall there was barely any sense of an epic, year-long story. Of course this may be just because they (meaning writers, artists, editors, the whole shebang) had constant trouble creating focused stories. Now I’m by no means a believer that a story has to be linear and conflict-driven but it took weeks for any sense of storytelling to sink in and even after 52 issues the whole project is far more diffuse than it should have been. Perhaps because the stories didn’t really intersect (another argument in favor of linked minis) but also because there was a large amount of padding. Admittedly that’s some of my favorite moments—Super Chief!—but after a while I just wanted most of it over with. We already knew that Luthor’s everyman project wouldn’t last and I wasn’t remotely curious why not.

Random comments:

* The Steel story was the weakest; the Montoya/Question the strongest. The Dibny thread was mostly tedious until the payoff but I doubt that it will improve if I ever re-read this. And I never had much interest in Booster Gold until this but will pick up at least the first issue or two of his new series.

* The Chinese superheroes were a mistake. In an interview Morrison claimed to have done research into Chinese culture but he must have been using 1950s childrens books considering how cliched and unimaginative these were.

* The back-up features were unbelievably bad. Did nobody read these beforehand? The early history was deadly dull and the following two-page bios couldn’t possibly be of interest to anybody who knew enough DCU background to read 52 in the first place. Now, two pages of annotations? That’s an idea. (The closest would have been Douglas Wolk’s blog at though I only read a few of them.)

* With a weekly and various artists it’s a shame they couldn’t have allowed a bit more variety in the art. It was all fairly standard-issue stuff.

* Couldn’t help but wonder if the One Year Later jump was inspired by Alias (TV not Bendis) or even 24 (TV again not Bendis)(wait Bendis doesn’t have anything called 24 does he?)(apparently not). And of course I also can’t help but wonder how uncooly cool it would have been to have an issue based on the mid-section of To the Lighthouse that just showed various objects and places but no characters.

* I’m still mad about the whole World War III fiasco. I picked up all four issues because the clerk at the comics store said it was necessary to read them after #50 but before #51 only to discover that they’re merely an expansion of #50 and of little interest even at that. Admittedly she said she hadn’t read them and that she was only passing along info so I don’t blame the clerk. It was DC who botched this, as well as hiring the world’s dumbest marketing person to design nearly identical covers for all four issues.

* Can’t tell if it’s just that comics journalism attracts poor interviewers or the 52 crew closed ranks but nearly every interview about the project was pure fluff.

* The deliberate leak about the multiverse was a miscalculation though it did keep me wondering how it would happen. (Poorly as it turned out & I’m not the only person who could make little sense of it.) Still, this is a Good Thing if used with any brains at all. For one thing I’m all for sending the entire Marvel Family out of the regular DCU where their innocent goofiness never really fit. I had some hopes that some current OYL titles—most notably anything about the Justice Society—would turn out to have been back on Earth 2 after all this time but I guess DC decided that was a bit too much Clone Saga/Bobby-comes-out-of-the-shower undercutting of fan expectations.

* One result of the disaster that was Infinite Crisis was that I cut back the number of titles I was reading and 52 only confirms that I won’t be picking up Countdown unless there are some kind of rave reviews that make it sound like anything other than a half-baked promotional device.