Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I've got 52 problems... (Volume 4)

On Friday, I picked up 52 volume 4, so I've now read the entire series and, yeah, um, hey look at that, I've read the entire series.

This final volume is a strange beast as the writers seem to devote entire issues to wrapping up or pushing storylines in a more obvious way. Here's a breakdown:

#40--All Steel except for 2 pages of Black Adam
#41--Space heroes, Ralph, Montoya (okay, this issue balanced things a little, shut up)
#42--Ralph with 2 pages of Montoya
#43--Black Adam except for 5 pages of Animal Man/Lady Styx
#44--Black Adam with 4 pages of Montoya that tie into the Black Adam stuff
#45--All Black Adam with an appearance from Montoya and tying into the mad scientests
#46--Black Adam/mad scientists except 4 pages of Steel/Luthor
#47--A little bit of everything
#48--All Montoya with 1 page of Black Adam
#49--Black Adam/mad scientists
#50--World War III
#51--Animal Man/DCU/lead-in to end of the series
#52--Mostly Booster Gold, plus a page or two for the other stories as a wrap-up

Only two issues that really had more than two stories for a significant amount. Granted, stories converged as things went on, but ignoring certain stories doesn't work at times because this is supposed to be a book taking place in real time. Like, why do we see Animal Man in #47 viewing his wife and then not actually joining her until #51 even though it's the exact same scene? Why the six week gap between Steel taking down Luthor and Luthor getting taken into custody? Little stuff like that bothers the fuck out of me--I know, I know, I'm being picky.

Another thing that had me scratching my head: Wonder Woman's scene with Montoya--I didn't know that was Wonder Woman until I read Greg Rucka's commentary for the issue. Maybe I'm just a blind reader who should have figured it out, but why would I even think of Wonder Woman? The only clues are her appearance and the reference to killing someone--except the appearance isn't singular enough nor is the killing of someone. In retrospect, I see how it works, but at the time, it fell flat.

I did enjoy the resolution of Animal Man and Ralph's stories, though. Both were handled well.

Still couldn't muster up interest in Montoya or the crime religion whatever the fuck they are story.

Black Adam's story was decent, but mostly mediocre.

The ending of the series left me just as cold as when I read it the first time--mostly because it was a lot at once and I had totally forgotten about Booster Gold by that point. As well, I stand by my assessment that the whole 52 worlds is an unnecessary gimmick because of Hypertime, which was a much better tool. The new status quo is just a smaller, more limited version of Hypertime that seems to be servicing a story ("Countdown") that most people consider really fucking abysmal. Also, something about a Kingdom Come Earth bothers me.

The art in this volume was solid.

Still disappointed that there's no commentary by Grant Morrison in these trades. Also, I really wish they would have included the Newsarama interviews conducted with the creators after the conclusion of the series. It's not unprecedented and would have been a fantastic complement to the commentary.

52 has been a worthwhile read in that it lays out a pretty good model for what works and what doesn't in a weekly, real time series. I think it would have worked better with a smaller amount of stories (maybe three at most), more awareness of how things would unfold time-wise, and even a few more "real life" moments that I don't think we saw enough of because of the amount of story that had to be told. Part of the charm behind a series like this is seeing some mundane bits--that day where nothing really happens. Or even what happens between plot points--which would have definitely made the gaps between them seem less annoying. They were smart to focus on some of the "lesser" characters, but, really, there were just too many of them. Having the stories cross over helped that, at times, but not enough.

And that's that. Maybe someday, I'll sit down and read the whole thing in one sitting, see how it reads that way.