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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

52: Week Twenty One

52: Week Twenty One

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 30, 2006

Cover date: August 30, 2006

Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Penciller: Keith Giffen (breakdowns), Joe Bennett
Inker: Jack Jadson

"Teambuilding Exercises"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Week 21, day 1:

Lex Luthor interviews with Natasha, who pleads to bring her friend Eliza back on the team after her outburst. Luthor agrees, bringing Eliza, a huge fan of the speedsters, back to the fray.

Week 21, day 2:

A bearded Ralph Dibny attempts to enter an underworld in a magic realm, having used his stretching serum to tie the guardian up. He threatens to let the power wear off as his bones break if the guardian doesn't let him in. Ralph proceeds.

Week 21, day 3:

At a central facility, Luthor and Mercy prepare a run for their new superhero team against someone called Blockbuster, a shirtless villain who looks like a cross between the Incredible Hulk and what Superman looked like in 1994 (93?) when he was amped up with power from the sun and growing larger and mongoloid.

They debut as Infinity, Inc., taking the monster down with some difficulty.

The Teen Titans show, asking to take custody of the monster. They discuss the status of the Titans and Infinity, Inc. Zatara quits the team, leaving the ramshackle Teen Titans in disarray.

Luthor frees Blockbuster from afar, and the heroes react. Eliza rushes in with her speed. Luthor turns the powers off, and Blockbuster kills her before being subdued.

Week 21, day 6:

Luthor profits from Eliza's death in image for his team, and across the world, papers and other heroes mourn her sacrifice.

John Henry tries again to speak with Natasha, who, overwhelmed with grief, largely ignores him and storms off. Garth from the Teen Titans offers to help.

Week 21, day 7:

In Australia, Johnny Warrawa works on a project in his garage in secret. It appears to be a ramshackle version of Red Tornado...

5Main Story - 5: No contradictions, no plotholes, great story, great character. Still chugging along strongly. If you had asked me a few months back, even knowing all of these writers, if this would happen, I'd have said no. Mostly this has been hit. A few misses, yes, and even a few I've managed to review, but honestly, this is still a pretty darned strong event.

If event is the word.

I've been trying to categorize this, for the whole shebang. Is this a miniseries gone mad? Is it a series? Is there a climax? What are the five acts?

I looked to Greg Rucka for clarification, when he was cool enough to come up to a shop near where I live, and I asked him in the Q and A just what it is I should expect, what I should rate on.

He said (and this is paraphrased and from memory, so don't crucify him if I get it wrong and you don't like it) not to look at it like one story. Or six sets of stories that meet in the middle, even if they coincide. Not to see it as X character's story. Or even, heck, to see it as linear.

The idea is that this is a year of a universe, and this is the stuff we're gonna check out.

This begs the criticism, well, then why aren't we watching the big guys? Why aren't we watching Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. I still retain that, but honestly, I think the idea is that for this year, they're away.

That comment helped me put this series into a better context, which is why I'm sharing it, because to critique something that's never been done as it's being done is not only difficult, it's prone to failure. My criticisms this week fail the next, and overall, it's like walking a tightrope. Kind of like making this series probably is.

This issue, for what it is, is a very tight character drama. It involves Luthor at his best (or worst), which is always a cake review for me. You get Luthor right, that's insta-five. No "space drama," which I'm digging less, so bonus points. Ralph's story is neatly touched upon, as is the changes in Teen Titans I care about. Nat is being manipulated, Luthor's being a magnificent ba*#$rd.

It's a bit of a stock idea, an excuse to form a new team and explain what happened with the Titans, but thanks to the backdrop and the way the teams interact, and what it causes, it plays, and plays well. Unlike, say, a blatant and unnecessary guest-star issue, which the company is not above doing, for sure. Here the Titans would come to this situation logically, because it's a bunch of teenagers on the loose, and the Titans are fractured at this point.

Great work.

I miss the origin a bit, but honestly, not much. I know they're returning, but it makes the read and the review a little easier. I mean, if you want to do an origin thing, or a "History of the DCU" thing, go ahead. Put it out in its own book. It'll sell like hotcakes. But 52 is one story, those others seem ancillary, if related. It'd be like if they put Day of Vengeance in serial form in the back of The OMAC Project. Yeah, they're related, but both are sufficient entities.

5Art - 5: Giffen is going to collapse of a heart attack, I'm sure. And Joe does a great job with his breakdown.

When his heart fails, this'll still be a masterwork. There's little flash, which most will underestimate for not being great. But every panel pops, you're never pulled out of the story, and the detail for a weekly is INSANE. This is great work, folks.

3Cover Art - 3: Very good dynamically. The only problem that I have is that nobody on the cover is very distinctive. It's harder to tell who's who, and with a tertiary team, that can be deadly for the quality of the cover. Still, neat coloring, great poses, it's not horrible, just not great.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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