52 was a yearlong series published by DC Comics from May 2006 to May 2007. As the name suggests it consisted of an issue every week for an entire year, a Herculean task made easier by having four writers (Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid), one breakdown artist (Keith Giffen), and a veritable army of pencilers, inkers, colorists, and letterers. The story takes place between the events of Infinite Crisis and the One Year Later storylines of Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman.While Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman appear occasionally throughout the story, the main focus is on the rest of the DC Universe as it functions without its iconic heroes, devoting most of its panel time to second and third string characters, including some who had been all but abandoned at the end of The Silver Age of Comic Books. Because of the sheer number of characters to keep track of and all the continuity and decades old story lines used as the backbone of the story, 52 could be accused of veering into Continuity Porn. This is alleviated to a certain degree by the collected volumes of the series, which included creators' notes at the end of each week that tended to illuminate various parts of that week's chapter (including some of the more obscure references). DC also produced a companion book to the series that reprinted some classic issues featuring some of the major characters of the series that are not as well known (Rip Hunter, for example, had been pretty much been out of DC Comics since the 1960s, but becomes pretty important as 52 presses on), as well as more recent issues that set-up the characters for their individual stories.While plot lines and various characters flow in and out of each other as the year goes on, there are seven main plot threads that the entire series can be boiled down to for simplicity's sake (minor spoilers ahead):
Ralph Dibny, still reeling from the events of Identity Crisis, begins to investigate a Kryptonian cult devoted to resurrection (most importantly, the resurrection of the recently deceasedConner Kent) that appears to have an interest in his dead wife, Sue. After busting up one of its rituals, Ralph begins his own journey to resurrect Sue with the help of the Helm of Nabu.
The strained relationship between John Henry Irons (Steel) and his niece Natasha eventually drives her to join Lex Luthor's Everyman Project, a program that promises to awake latent metahuman genes at whatever price Luthor deems fit. However, Irons soon discovers that the artificial metagenes come at a serious price, and Lex's paranoia of Supernova has led him to try to get the treatment himself...
Renee Montoya, vacillating between alcohol and hook-ups to ease the pain over the death of her partner Crispus Allen, is recruited by The Question to investigate the expanding activities of Intergang. Their journey together becomes just as much about saving her from herself as it does the rest of the world from the newly founded Religion of Crime.
As Black Adam continues to rule over the nation of Kahndaq he begins a new war against crime by publicly executing any super criminal that comes within his borders. His call for a new brand of superhuman justice is answered by other nations tired of American heroes running rampant across their borders, including China and its government sanctioned superhumans The Great Ten. Things begin to change though as Black Adam begins to build his own Marvel family, who convince him to follow a less bloody path.
Doctor Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, finds himself abducted to Oolong Island and forced to participate with mad super scientists to create weapons of mass destruction for Intergang and its global ambitions. His resistance to the idea is severely hampered when his psych meds are confiscated.
The major consequences of the series on The DCU as a whole is proving that the DC Multiverse still exists as well as setting up some of the future storylines of some of its major characters. It also set the standard for weekly yearlong series published by DC, which has yet to be equaled by any of the other series that have followed.Not to be confused with Action 52.This series provides examples of:
Abnormal Ammo: Will Magnus eventually starts actually shooting miniature versions of his Metal Men out of a homemade gun.
Aborted Arc: The original Booster Gold/Skeets arc involved the duo fixing the time-stream after it had been damaged during the Infinite Crisis. However, several issues into the series, after Skeets had already noticed several discrepancies between events as they happened and as they were recorded in the future, the writers decided that this plot had been used too often by other time-travel heroes and was too generic, so they switched to an actual malevolent threat that intended to manipulate time and reality for its own gain.
Action Girl: Renee Montoya, Kate Kane, Starfire (once they get past Devilance), Adrianna Tomaz (Isis), Natasha Irons, and a slew of action girls from other DCU titles that appear as minor and background characters throughout the series. Mercy Graves, a character created for the Superman cartoonthat was introduced into the comics, appears with Lex Luthor in almost all his appearances, but only gets one opportunity to do anything.
In the aftermath of the Infinite Crisis, the cosmic event that shattered existence, Alan Scott has to deal with the realization that his daughter died in the crisis, and no parent should ever have to outlive their children.
The Question has terminal lung cancer exacerbated by a lengthy smoking addiction, gradually wasting away and losing both his mental and physical faculties. Despite his history of fighting alien menaces and international conspiracies, there is nothing he can do to stop his cancer from metastasizing.
The Alcoholic: When the story starts, Renee Montoya can be easily located in the bottom of any bottle found near her apartment. She is busy trying to forget all that she has gone through, and creator commentary implies that she is not just on a brief bender after the death of her partner and driving off her girlfriend, but that she is actually a complete drunk. One panel, which showed her taking a pair of aspirin, was specifically drawn to give the impression that she was chewing the pills instead of just swallowing them, which turns out to be "an old drunks' trick."
Black Adam, who slowly begins to deviate from his extreme policies after the growth of his Marvel Family.
Dr. T.O. Morrow, an unapologetic supervillain who never even tries to redeem himself, is nonetheless lonely and depressed due to the lack of recognition, or even friendship, he gets while his student, William Magnus, is celebrated and heralded.
Ascended Fangirl: Eliza Harmon, who idolized the Teen Titans and all things speed. When she became Trajectory and a member of Luthor's new Infinity, Inc., she never stopped hoping to eventually join the Titans, and dreamed of eventually becoming the new Kid Flash.
Asteroid Thicket: Turned Up to Eleven; apparently the thicket that Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire are stuck in has a diameter measured in parsecs. This is handwaved with the explanation that it is not a natural asteroid field, but that comes nowhere close to explaining the sheer amount of mass that is present.
Author Appeal: The collected volumes make it clear which characters the writers loved most of all. Even Dan DiDio, Editor in Chief of DC, got in on this; while Dan stayed out of much of the writing of 52 (his words, not mine), he did insist that Ralph Dibny die as both "...a Hero and a husband." and had the end of the Ralph Dibny storyline rewritten. See the page quote for the results.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Batwoman outfit comes complete with high-heels, which would make even running a difficult challenge, let alone combat and leaping from the rooftops. The writers actually recognized this and, in her later appearances in Detective Comics, her father explains that those were the only boots that could be found in the proper color, and her new footwear is considerably more practical.
Badass Bookworm: Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. He has a respectable level of combat ability due to his stretching powers, but what really puts him above and beyond is his inquisitive and intellectual nature, which Hal Jordan has said is more rational than any man he has ever met, even moreso than Batman and Barry Allen.
Badass Normal: Renee Montoya and the Question especially, but almost every Badass Normal in the DC Universe pops up at some point. It even introduces a few new ones, including the new Batwoman.
Batman Gambit: Ralph Dibny's plan to defeat Felix Faust and Neron.
Battle Discretion Shot: The climax of the Everyman storyline ends with Natasha Irons managing to deactivate Luthor's new superpowers during his fight with Steel. The next panel, after Luthor's realization, is a wide shot of the building and the sounds of smackdown echoing across Metropolis. It is unspeakablysatisfying. The creator commentary included in the trade paperback reveals that, originally, we were supposed to actually see the end of the fight, but the writers realized that nothing they could draw could possibly look as amazing as what the readers' own minds would fill in.
Beard of Sorrow: Over the series, Ralph Dibny comes closer and closer to outright despair and insanity and, as he does so, his personal hygiene falls by the wayside. It starts as a thin brush after the Cult of Conner fiasco, but over the weeks his beard becomes thicker and longer until the final climax of his story. Here, where he asserts control and reveals his plan, he appears clean-shaven and properly dressed for the first time in weeks.
Black Adam and Adrianna begin their courtship the same way, and the commentary in the trade-paperback recognizes that "you just know it's gonna be love when Andrea spits in Black Adam's face and lives to tell the tale."
Big Bad Ensemble: Mister Mind, Lady Styx, Lex Luthor, Chang-Tzu, Bruno Mannheim, and Neron
Break Her Heart To Save Her: After asking her for help, Renee rudely tells Kate that this affair has nothing to do with her and that she (Renee) does not owe her anything. Kate is obviously crushed, but Renee's narration reveals that, if the Question's theories are correct and Intergang is behind everything, it is not just themselves who are in trouble, but all their friends and loved ones as well. Renee does not want to drag Kate into this.
Booster Gold, after nearly reaching the very top of the superhero world, crashes down in ruins as Supernova steals all his glory, and his last staged heroism is exposed when the supervillain he hired exposes him when his check bounced.
Natasha Irons is not quite as ready for the responsibility of being a hero as she believes she is, and struggles to deal with the realization.
August General in Iron, who fervently believed that China's superheroes were strong on their own, was forced to allow outside help to stop Black Adam's rampage.
The Heroes in the Everyman Project acted like stuck up snobs saying their better than the JSA, but when Black Adam starts rampaging across the world, and Alan Scott asked for their help, they chickened out.
Ambush Bug: Hello, room service? Send up a plot and three pages of dialogue right away! The weekly grind is tearin' me apart! Fifty-two!!!
Brought Down to Normal: Superman recently lost all of his powers and is spending the year simply as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, learning to do things as we humans do them (including shaving and picking up scalding hot pots). Both he and Lois are taking the entire affair in rather good order, content to be only human, but according to Perry White his work has really suffered as of late (since he is not used to actually having to look for news) and he is on the edge of termination. He does, however, pull off a few Brought Down to Badass stunts, like jumping out a window to snag an interview with the new superhero on the block.
Buffy Speak: "It's been three weeks since I saw Mister cryptic-I-have-no-face-but-plenty-of-attitude."
Chekhov's Gun: At the Black Adam/Isis wedding in Week Sixteen, the Intergang bomber quotes from the Crime Bible that serves as the foundation of the Religion of Crime. The bible itself and the religion as a whole would not be featured or even named until Week Twenty-Three, when the Question and Renee Montoya infiltrate one of their occult meetings.
Child Soldiers: Intergang recruits and brainwashes young children to serve as foot soldiers and bombers against their enemies.
Comes Great Responsibility: The underlying theme of the John Henry/Natasha Irons subplot is the responsibility of those with power and the worthiness of those same people to deserve their power.
Continuity Nod: The series refers heavily to the immediate history of the DCU and the pasts of its characters, which set up the various plots for this series. This includes (for the different storylines):
Damsel in Distress: Despite Adam Strange's speech that she is a true Warrior Princess and gender equality is a fact of life out in space, the first plot-worthy event to befall the Space Heroes is when Starfire is taken prisoner by Devilance the Pursuer and the two men need to come rescue her.
Darker and Edgier: Classic villain Egg Fu was transformed into the horrific and monstrous Chang Tzu, who killed a henchman because he might have once called him "Egg Fu." According to the Word of God, Morrison was begging them to retain the prehensile mustache, but he was voted down.
Lampshaded by Ralph Dibny when he, Hal Jordan, Green Arrow, Metamorpho, and Zauriel are breaking up the Cult of Conner, which preaches resurrection. Ralph points out that Jordan and Arrow have both been dead before, and Ralph has actually lost track of how many times Metamorpho has been deceased in the past. With all their history, who is to say that the Cult of Conner does not have a legitimate point?
The trope is later played with by the Genre Savvy authors, who realised that past experiences would color the perspective of any readers. Booster Gold was never meant to be Killed Off for Real, it was always planned to be a deliberate trick to fool the villain, but the writers wanted to conceal that fact from the audience and they knew that comic readers would automatically view any "death" with skepticism. So, they had to find a way to actually convince readers of his death while not actually killing him, and they eventually settled on the simple and effective plan of showing his corpse. The trade paperbacks feature several rough sketches of attempts to pull this off, with panels showing his bisected body falling to the ground in several places, but this was determined to come off as hilarious instead of dramatic. The panel eventually decided upon was a half-success; fans did not actually believe Booster Gold was dead, but they did believe that he was permanently out of the series.
Death Seeker: Renee begins the series suicidal after the events of Gotham Central and, after she is forced to kill an Intergang suicide bomber that was just a child, she begs Black Adam to kill her when he finds her "drunkenly taking pleasure with one of [his] citizens."
"That's it... that's right... just do it..."
Depending on the Artist: The series retained a single breakdown artists (Keith Giffen) for all fifty-two issues to deliberately avert this trope and maintain consistent portrayals of characters throughout the series. There were minor variances over the year (the design of Natasha Irons when she first appears with Infinity, Inc. does not match either her previous or later appearances, and the changing bust size of Renee Montoya and Kate Kane got a lot of criticism from internet reviewers), but these were few and far between.
Despair Event Horizon: There are actually many of them, each taking place in one of the independent storylines where they are turning points not just in the story, but in the lives of the characters as well. Commentary released in the trade paperback reveals that some of these scenes were specifically designed to push the envelope as far as possible in a comic book and others drew from painful personal experiences of the writers.
The deaths of Osiris and Isis sends Black Adam into a deep depression and homicidal rage that dramatically affects not just him, but the entire planet.
When The Question dies, Renee Montoya seems to be okay, but actually has a personal crisis of faith, identity and purpose.
Dream Team: The four writers. Some of the biggest names in comics working on a project that involves fan-favorite, and author-favorite, characters in an undocumented period of history in the DC Universe. They went wild, and the critics and fans ate it all up.
Drop the Hammer: Steel's weapon is, technological gimmicks aside, a steel-driving ground-thumping hammer.
Her partner is dead, she has driven away her girlfriend, and she has been slowly descending into violence and disassociation from everybody and everything she once held dear. When the story starts, Renee Montoya has been living inside a bottle for so long that the creator commentary implies she is a full alcoholic who might not be able to get back on her own.
After the Cult of Conner, as Ralph Dibny edges closer and closer to despair and insanity he begins to perpetually carry around a hip flask and frequently drinks, regardless of the situation. He is drinkinggingold, keeping Felix Faust off balance by giving the impression that he is getting drunk.
Eldritch Abomination: Mister Mind becomes this in the end, but in the lead-up we get the Four Horsemen of Apokolips and Lady Styx, and none of them are what we would call "nice."
Empowered Badass Normal: Natasha Irons, after a fallout with her uncle, enlists in the Lex Luthor Everyman Project and gains actual superpowers, going from a human in Powered Armor to a human capable of crushingPowered Armor. John Henry is infected with a metagene against his will and transforms into a being composed of stainless steel, capable of deflecting bullets and hurling blobs of molten metal.
Eureka Moment: After Renee and the Question storm the mysterious warehouse she was hired to investigate the trail goes cold, without any clues or leads to where the alien and lasers came from or where they were going, and she has just about given up on the entire affair. The three weeks (Or was it two?) she was paid for have passed, Captain Sawyer is correct in that she is not even really a licensed P.I. and she does not owe the Question anything. Then, just as she is about to close the mental file completely, she notices an open tabloid covering a gala that the Kane family is throwing... the Kane family...
Executive Meddling: While the writers were left alone for the most part, Dan DiDio literally pulled rank on the issue that dealt with the end of Ralph Dibny's storyline, pretty much rewriting it himself via the authors and Keith Giffen. Ralph's conclusion is regarded as one of the highlights of the series. Of course, according to one of the writers DiDio hated52 so absolutely, he would literally walk down the halls shouting it. He decided to make the next weekly series more editorially mandated to his wishes and we got Countdown to Final Crisis as a result.
Eyes Do Not Belong There: Batman encounters the Ten-Eyed Men while on his journey around the world, who have an eye at the end of each finger. They were inspired by the Ten-Eyed Man, an old villain from the Silver Age that one of the writers remembered fondly.
Face Stealer: The shapeshifter Everyman needs to eat a part of something to turn into that thing. He makes numerous mentions of hairs and nails to explain his combat forms and some shapes he uses just for fun, but this does raise some questions when he begins to change into mutant animals and Giant Enemy Crabs. Just what did he eat to turn into that?
The Black Marvel Family's decimation. Creator commentary reveals that they were deliberately pushing the envelope as far as they possibly could in a comic.
Black Adam kills Sobek by forcing his jaw open until his head is torn in half.
Fanservice: Natasha was written as wearing proper welding gear in the scene of her building her own armor, but the artist drew her without proper protection and focused on her chest when she hit an air pocket. The writers were very disappointed with the change, since it not only made Natasha less sympathetic when she gets burned, but also undercut her argument with her uncle. By recklessly forging ahead without protective gear, she shows that she really is not ready for the responsibility of wielding Power Armor, and the legitimate disagreement she has with John Henry begins to become more one-sided.
Foreshadowing: This story, along with the Seven Soldiers maxi-series, sets up important plot points for Final Crisis. The scenes showing what Batman did in his year off set up a number of points which become important during Morrison's run on Batman, and Rip Hunter's chalkboard predicts events in a whole host of future stories.
Frickin' Laser Beams: Intergang has access to Apokoliptian and Thanagarian weapons technology, and Renee Montoya steals a very handy laser pistol from one of their warehouses.
Fridge Logic: In-universe, Skeets is listing off the future-crimes of Metropolis while Booster Gold explains why each of them does not satisfy his needs of a big, showy crime to get himself back on top of the fame and money game. When Skeets eventually gets to a nuclear submarine crash in Midtown Booster explains that that one is particularly useless, since who will even notice him underwater at night—wait, how is a submarine going to crash in Midtown?
Gambit Pileup: Ralph Dibny, Felix Faust, and Neron, as well as Booster Gold, Rip Hunter, Skeets, and even Daniel Carter.
Genius Bruiser: John Henry Irons, doctor, metallurgical engineer, government scientist, and a six foot tall wall of muscle.
Genre Savvy: The authors (See Death Is Cheap above). They have spent enough time in the comics industry to realize how the fans would react before they had even written the scene.
Halfway Plot Switch: The original plan for the Booster Gold/Skeets subplot involved fixing the time-stream, which had become broken during the recent crisis, and this is hinted at by the discrepancies in Skeets' history files starting in the first issue. However, the writers eventually decided that this plot was too generic and had been done far too often with other time traveling heroes, so they instead had Skeets possessed by Mr. Mind who planned to eat reality.
Heroes Unlimited: Infinity, Inc. seems to have a new roster of heroes every time it is seen; this is not hyperbole, until they get their official team name and uniforms there is literally a new stable of heroes in every appearance, with only Natasha present in every incarnation. The Teen Titans themselves are trying to expand during the series, and are seen holding tryouts and gaining (and losing) new members in their various appearances.
Heroes Want Redheads: Renee Montoya has a long, passionate and heartbroken history with red-headed Kate Kane, and the Question himself has delirium-induced flashbacks to his love, Myra, from his own series.
Booster Gold has a complete emotional collapse in the first issue when Skeets first begins to lapse in his historical knowledge. Not only does Martian Manhunter need to physically restrain him, but he even bloodies the nose of mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, who was there to report on the memorial service.
After the Cult of Conner ceremony, Ralph Dibny is reduced to crying beneath a highway overpass, promising to "try again."
Hollywood Hype Machine: When it was announced that Batwoman would be reintroduced to The DCU in this series, and that she would be gay with a history with Renee Montoya, the media reaction was astounding. Dan DiDio himself said that he was completely unprepared for the amount of focus and recognition, including spreading into media that is not traditionally related to or focused on comic books. With such a focus on her and her sexuality she became known as DC's most high-profile gay superhero. However, the press response was greatly out of proportion to her role in the series, which was as a supporting character spread out over fifty two issues, and after its conclusion she did not receive another starring role until her 2009 headlining of Detective Comics.
How Dare You Die on Me!: Happens in the climax of Renee's storyline, after Renee's girlfriend Kate is kidnapped and stabbed through the heart.
Human Knot: A non-comical example. Ralph Dibny knocks out a demon, pumps him full of gingold (a substance that makes a body super-elastic), then ties him up in a giant knot. By the time the demon regains consciousness, the gingold already begins to wear out (with all the nasty consequences of a regular body being tied into a knot), and Ralph offers another portion for the information he needs from the demon.
Lex Luthor. He manages to convince thousands of others to do so as well.
Natasha Irons is special, but it takes her most of the series to realize that being special does not actually make you special. Brains she was given, but she needs to earn wisdom.
In Name Only: Literally. Lex Luthor has bought the copyrights to several superhero identities and teams and has begun distributing them to the creations of his Everyman Project, giving them the names of iconic characters without any connection (personally, thematically or professionally) to their earlier incarnations. This leads to extensive friction between the new Infinity, Inc. and the Teen Titans and the Justice Society of America; the latter two teams knew, and in some instances fathered, the people behind the old identities and the members of the original Infinity, Inc., and they take Luthor's buying of their identities as a personal insult. Infinity, Inc., however, throws this right back at them; the Teen Titans are also not what they once were, they have lost so many members and been reformed so often that they are no more the original team than Infinity, Inc. is.
Renee Montoya: "You really are a bastard." The Question: "Well, I was raised in an orphanage, so you're probably right."
Intrepid Reporter: Since he lost his powers it seems that Clark Kent is actually not an example of the trope, and has actually been in such a reporting slump that Perry White is prepared to terminate him from the Daily Planet since he seems to be expecting stories to just fall into his lap. Once he understands that his job is on the line, however, he decides that he might as well go out with a bang. He steals a page from his wife's playbook and leaps from a window in order to attract the attention of Supernova, the newest hero in Metropolis, in order to get the first interview with the mysterious figure.
Invulnerable Knuckles: In Kate Kane's third panel in the series, she punches Renee Montoya across the jaw, apparently hard enough for blood to start filling in Renee's mouth. However, when she should have at least split her knuckles, if not broken her hand altogether, the following panels show no pain or damage whatsoever.
Ironic Hell: The Helm of Nabu shows Ralph Dibny a literal ironic hell as a lesson on what happens to sorcerers who mess up bad. Ralph also gets the chance to inflict one of these on his wife's murderer. He could not bring himself to go through with it.
It Gets Easier: When Renee and the Question stumble across a bloody murder scene in Kahndaq, her police instincts are yelling at her not to touch anything for fear of contaminating the crime scene. She notes that, after already committing several misdemeanors and felonies breaking into Ridge-Ferrick Holdings back in Gotham, it is getting easier and easier to ignore that part of her mind.
It's All About Me: Lex Luthor is utterly convinced that Supernova is Superman in disguise. Why would Superman do this? Why create a new uniform, develop new technologies to give himself new powers and cut off all contact with friends and allies? Why go to so much trouble? To toy with him.
It's Not You, It's My Enemies: After getting her help to look into the background of a seemingly abandoned warehouse, Renee bluntly explains to Kate that this affair has nothing to do with her and that she (Renee) does not owe her anything. This leaves Kate visible crushed, but Renee's narration reveals that if the Question is correct and Intergang really is behind everything it is not just themselves who are in trouble, but their friends and loved ones as well, and she does not want Kate to be dragged into this.
Killed Off for Real: The Question, Osiris, Isis, and others. Their deaths were either drawn-out and heart-wrenching ( The Question) or graphic and brutal ( Osiris). Commentary in the trade paperbacks revealed that the authors and artists drew from personal life experiences for the more emotional deaths, whereas others were specifically designed to be as graphic as they could possibly be in a comic book.
Knight Templar: Black Adam genuinely believes in justice and making a better world, but personal tragedies and millennia of fruitless efforts have made him bitter, jaded and willing to go to any lengths, regardless of the blood those lengths are soaked in, to achieve his goals.
Lady Drunk: Renee Montoya for the first half of the series as she deals with the death of her police partner, Crispus Allen, and being left by her romantic partner, Daria Hernandez. Unlike many versions of this trope it is not played for laughs; the creator commentary published in the trade paperbacks imply that she is now an actual alcoholic. One panel, which showed her taking a pair of aspirin, was specifically drawn to give the impression that she was chewing the pills instead of just swallowing them, which turns out to be "an old drunks' trick."
Lady in Red: Kate Kane's first appearance is in a floor-length red party dress and, as Renee Montoya explains, "she has the kind of beauty that leaves you breathless."
Batwoman makes her first return to DCU comics continuity in several decades when Katherine "Kate" Kane is introduced.
Lex Luthor has bought the copyrights and trademarks to various superhero identities and teams and is using them for the products of his Everyman Project. This results in a new Infinity, Inc. running around and a new Nuklon, but also a new Jade.
Let's Get Dangerous: Black Adam has just massacred an entire country out of vengeance for his dead family, including the four Eldritch Abominations responsible for said dead family, and now he shows up at the front door of the Science Squad, the people responsible for the creation of the Eldritch Abominations. The Science Squad, a collection of various mad scientists from around the DCU, has mostly had their various social phobias and maniac tendencies played for laughs up until this point. This should be a Curb Stomp Battle, and it is... but not in the direction that you think. The Science Squad finally puts aside their myriad squabbles and works together to lay the hurt on Black Adam, eventually capturing him. Just to put this in perspective, once Black Adam later escapes, he starts World War III. By himself. Against everyone. With no allies. World War III is Black Adam vs. the entire planet. And the Science Squad, of all people, take him down with little effort.
Lets See You Do Better: When Booster Gold and Ralph Dibny meet, one of the very first crossovers of the separate stories, Ralph becomes almost violently angry when he remembers that Booster is from the future and, as such, should have known about his wife's murder and been able to do something about it. This leads to general contempt for Booster Gold's glory-seeking ways and overall status as a sell-out. Booster, however, is having none of it, and points out that even though he sympathizes with Ralph, he will not be lectured by a former hero who has not even put on his costume in eight months, and at least Booster is still doing something.
Lying Creator: In the commentary for Week Seven, Mark Waid points out that not even Booster Gold would be so stupid as to pay a sham-villain by check, and people should keep reading and have some faith to see the payoff. This is never brought up again. He does it again in the commentary for Week Thirteen, where he discusses the obscured-in-shadow figure in the background of the last panel; he says that he thought he knew who the character was when he wrote the script, but Week Forty-Two showed him that it was a different character entirely. Except that the trades include occasional reprints of the original scripts, and the revelation in Week Forty-Two is exactly who the original script said it would be.
Mad Scientist: Intergang actually goes around the world to collect all the mad scientists it can for Oolong Island, where it lets them run free and create to their wildest and most wretched dreams.
Male Gaze: Lobo's first action when he meets Starfire is to rip her shirt off and ogle her lustily. Her species has no nudity taboo, so she just stares him down until he gets it out of his system and offers him a bribe to give them a lift home.
Meaningful Name: The title of the story, which refers to the newly created Multiverse, which numbers at exactly 52, the 52 weeks in a year, and 52, when written in a certain way, forms the Greek symbol for Omega.
Mid-Season Twist: Initially, the space heroes had a personal and self-contained story-arc, simply trying to get back to Earth from deep space. Then they meet Lobo, and find out about the Stygian Passover and what that entails for the continuation of life.
Adam Strange: You know what we didn't need? One more disaster, one more roadblock. One more f^&*ing twist!
Mind Screw: Lobo is now a cardinal in an intergalactic religion of peace dedicated to the Triple Fish God. Seriously.
Mood Whiplash: When Black Adam and Isis are getting married, which is a joyous occasion where the heavens themselves are thundering their approval and thousands of spectators are laughing and cheering, Renee Montoya and the Question are scouring the crowd for a suicide bomber that could kill hundreds. The panels keep cutting back and forth between the characters, the joy of the wedding and the stress of the search, and Renee is eventually forced to kill the bomber to stop the explosion, which occurs superimposed over the final pronouncement that they are husband and wife. The last image of the scene, of Adam and Isis waving to the crowd, is reflected in the pool of blood coming from the dead child bomber. Later, when Adam and Isis enjoy their first night together as husband and wife, janitorial staff outside their windows are scrubbing the blood off the ground.
Dennis, the head scientist of Lex Luthor's Everyman Project, knew that Lex could not be trusted with superpowers. He kept telling Lex he was incompatible with the exo-gene therapy when he was actually able to have the treatment. When this led to Lex having an innocent young man killed, Dennis committed suicide and tried to take all of his research with him.
Abbot, one of Bruno Mannheim's underlings, rebels against Mannheim's plans to create Apokoliptian Firepits in Gotham City and helps Nightwing and Renee Montoya prevent the plot and save Batwoman. He himself explains that he is just sick of the whole damn thing, although his later appearances in Detective Comics instead have him label himself a "true believer" of the Religion of Crime who no longer agrees with Mannheim's specific interpretation of prophecy and doctrine.
Morality Chain: It seems that his own personal Marvel family is all that keeps Black Adam from just going around and tearing people in half all day long.
Isis (and eventually Osiris) becomes this for Black Adam. The writers hoped to slightly deconstruct the trope with the prisons of Kahndaq, which Renee and the Question experience first hand, by showing that even if Black Adam is being made warm and fuzzy by Isis that does not instantly negate everything he has done or his impact on society.
The Space Dolphin is one for Lobo, convincing him to do the right thing. It eventually fails in its task when Lobo kills the Triple Fish God when Lobo learns that he was being used.
Motivational Lie: Lobo's translator tells Lobo that Lady Styx is insulting him so that Lobo will rip her apart. He does.
In the midst of his attempts to tear down what he feels is the scam-backed Cult of Conner, which has claimed to be trying to resurrect his dead wife, Ralph Dibny is horrified to see the ceremony actually work, only for his efforts to disrupt their efforts reduce it all to ash.
"Oh, god... oh, god, what have I...?"
Renee is forced to kill a suicide bomber that Intergang sent to disrupt the Black Adam/Isis wedding, but the bomber herself was only a young girl, a kid, and Renee begins to pray to God, begging forgiveness for what she had to do.
Narm: By the writers own admission, their original plans for killing Booster Gold came off as hilarious instead of traumatic and they had to rewrite the scene several times in order to arrive at a scenario that had both the impact and the solemnity they wanted.invoked
Naughty Nuns: Whisper A'Daire, priestess of the Religion Of Crime, whom Renee actually calls a Naughty Nun. Unfortunately, neither the "naughty" or "nun" vibe really came across on the page, something that Greg Rucka felt was just lost in the translation from script to final product.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Religion of Crime uses mutating hybrid human/animal cultists as their soldiers, and even the "modern" Chang "Egg Fu" Tzu can not be described without using the terms "giant egg", "cyborg", "mutant", and "no sense of humor."
No Medication for Me: Averted by Magnus, who suffers from Manic/Depressive Bi-Polar disorder with delusional episodes and knows that he needs to take his medication to retain his balance. He is understandably upset when he is forcibly separated from his pills.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The climax of the Luthor/Steel storyline, where the newly-powered Luthor shatters Steel's armor, ruptures his internal organs and laughs about how it is so easy and he feels none of Steel's own attempts to fight back.
Noir Episode: Renee Montoya's initial storyline revolves around her employment to surveil an abandoned warehouse by a mysterious financial backer, complete with first person narration, the only character to narrate in the series.
Not-So-Innocent Whistle: When Renee and Kate are verbally laying into each other in the park in Week Eleven, the Question, who has faced aliens and mutants without fear, is whistling to himself in order to avoid getting dragged into it.
Novelization: Written by Greg Cox, who also wrote the prose novel versions of Infinite Crisis and Countdown to Final Crisis. It leaves out Luthor's Everyman Project, the Religion of Crime, the Great Ten, Ralph's quest, the space heroes, Steel and Natasha, and Will Magnus.
Obfuscating Disability: Averted. Ralph Dibny believes that minor villain Professor Milo is faking the need for a wheelchair so he can disguise a mystical artifact as one of the wheels. Ralph then rips off the wheel since he needs it for a ritual that will supposedly revive his late wife Sue. He is horrified when he realizes that Milo wasn't faking his disability. Milo really needed that wheelchair since he lost both of his legs.
Planetary Parasite: One of the possible futures that Rip Hunter foresees (and successfully averts) involves Mr. Mind spawning 52 giant extradimensional parasites that feed off the mental energies of entire universes.
Powered Armor: John Henry and Natasha Irons both begin the series in their iconic armor, but a theme running throughout the story is the question of whether or not they are worthy of this power, and if they can become so if they are not.
Private Detective: Renee Montoya is an experienced detective from the Gotham City Police Department, recently having left their employ, and the Question hires her to surveil a warehouse with the first three weeks (Or is it two?) paid in advance. Captain Maggie Sawyer, however, later reveals that she is not licensed to operate as such, and Maggie will not tolerate her investigations if they go somewhere they should not.
Private Eye Monologue: Renee Montoya's appearances are the only sequences narrated in the first person, and she is initially hired to investigate an abandoned warehouse.
Product Placement: A staple of Booster Gold's character is his constant endorsement of various commercial products, and after his various superhero activities, he will often pitch and use those products to the bystanders and media that have gathered. These same products, including Lit Beer, Big Belly Burger and Soder Cola, appear throughout the series in the background and being used by various characters.
Real Time: Published weekly with each issue covering a week of time.
Reality Ensues: The Question has lung cancer resulting from years of smoking. Instead of a quick and clean death from the disease, or a Heroic Sacrifice since he knows he is already dead, he slowly wastes away over weeks, becoming sickeningly gaunt and delirious, hallucinating old friends and lovers as he babbles incoherently. Ungodly godawful, but a realistic depiction of a cancerous death, with accompanying moaning and groaning which author Greg Rucka knows from personal experience.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Ralph unmasks Felix Faust and reveals he knew it was him all along he tears into him, explaining all the steps of how they got here and the familiar "stink of desperation" surrounding the whole plot. Dibny is, for the first time in several weeks, clean-shaven and properly dressed while his opponent cowers and trembles, and Dibny lets him know why.
Supernova's identity, even up to the very moment of his identity reveal.
The number 52 appearing in several places (52 'stolen' seconds, Gotham City's 52nd street, etc.) tricking the readers into thinking they were important clues. They were not.
Red Shirt Army: At one point two dozen of Luthor's Everymen storm out to try and help the new Justice League against some temporally displaced pirates... and get slaughtered in a panel. It also gave Mark Waid a chance to use the superhero name "Poledancer", which he had wanted to do for fifteen years.
Retcon: The series re-writes a large portion of the early-90's Metal Men history, which featured the Metal Men as human minds that had been transferred to, and trapped in, robotic bodies. In this series, Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, describes those events as a delusion he suffered after a psychotic break and the Metal Men are, and always have been, completely artificial constructs with Artificial Intelligence.
Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Steel leads a team of heroes to rescue Natasha after Luthor manages to take her hostage the previous week.
Sanity Has Advantages: Doctor Magnus really wishes his fellow mad scientists would believe him on this one.
Dr. Magnus: You shouldn't have taken away my meds! I told you I do crazy things without my meds!
Sapient Cetaceans: Lobo is accompanied by an intelligent space dolphin and is a member of a church worshiping the Triple Fish God, also a space dolphin, but of large size.
Screw the War, We're Partying: Oolong Island's under attack from a furious Black Adam, the rest of the Science Squad are desperately firing off every countermeasure they have, and what's T. O. Morrow doing? Bid-sniping Red Tornado shrapnel on eBay.
The original, Silver Age Supernova was Superman in disguise.
Senseless Sacrifice: When Renee and the Question sneak into a ceremony for the Religion of Crime, they discover Amon Tomaz, Adrianna's missing brother, and they watch him being viciously beaten for trying to escape. Witnessing the beating, Renee plans to jump down and do what she can to save him, but the Question stops her and points out that it would be a truly senseless sacrifice.
The Question: "We go down there, we'll die. Simple as that. It stinks and it's wrong and it hurts like hell, but there's nothing we can do for Amon right now."
The Question initially hires Renee Montoya with payment in advance for three weeks of surveillance, but subsequent references to the event mention only two weeks, and then later switch back to three.
When Renee and the Question travel to Kahndaq they discover an Intergang safehouse and deduce that a bombing will occur sometime in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, the bombing in question is later revealed to be planned for the wedding of Black Adam and Isis which, due to the creative team deciding to delay the engagement of the two until a later week, has not actually been revealed by the time Renee and Vic head to Kahndaq. The writers acknowledge in the annotated edition that this makes Intergang into something of a prophetic criminal organization, because they apparently knew of the wedding before Adam had even proposed.
Seven Lines No Waiting: At first glance, the story looks bloated and overly-complicated, but its ability to mesh the individual stories into one narrative whole managed to accomplish the impressive task of avoiding Four Lines, All Waiting, and is often credited as one of the series best points.
Sex for Solace: Renee admits to Charlie that she has a clearly defined pattern whenever it comes to severe emotional trauma, namely getting drunk and then hopping into the nearest bed she can find. The series opens with her picking up random women in an attempt to deal with the death of Crispus Allen and being left by Daria Hernandez, and the Question first approaches her just after one of her liaisons. When it looks like she has gotten a handle on her emotional problems, she then needs to kill the Intergang suicide bomber to protect the Black Adam/Isis wedding and is found "drunkenly taking pleasure with one of [Black Adam's] citizens." A key point in her character arc is when she is eventually able to deal with her personal troubles emotionally, instead of running away from them through alcohol and sex.
Shoot the Dog: Intergang tries to attack the Black Adam/Isis wedding with a suicide bomber that Renee tries to stop, but with the heavy crowd blocking her way Renee can not reach the brainwashed young girl before she detonates her bomb, forcing Renee to shoot and kill her to protect the massive crowd.
When Renee Montoya takes aspirin, the panel was specifically drawn to give the impression that she was chewing the pills instead of just swallowing them; this is apparently "an old drunks' trick."
During the Black Adam/Isis wedding arc, Intergang coats the shrapnel of their suicide bomb with rat poison, an anti-coagulant, which is what real bombers do to make sure that that their victims bleed out if they are not killed by the immediate blast.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Yes, the villainous metahuman Everyman is named Hannibal and yes, he is told to shut up.
The Silver Age of Comic Books: The series is set in the here and now, but many of its characters are original creations of the Silver Age, and a lot of the minor characters (and even some of the major characters) have not been seen since that age ended.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: In their first scene in the series, apparently their first meeting in approximately ten years, Kate Kane hits Renee, Renee goads her into trying again, and then the two of them nuzzle for a second before separating dramatically. Unlike most examples of the trope, however, this does not lead to a reconciliation or revelation.
Smoking Is Cool: No. No it is not. The Question explains to Renee in great detail all the problems with smoking, including what, exactly, is found within cigarettes.
Smug Smiler: In one panel, as Natasha is bitterly and publicly rejecting her uncle to join Luthor's initiative, there is a shot of Luthor standing behind Natasha with an infuriatingly smug smirk on his face directed towards Steel.
Space Madness: Animal Man is told not to look out the spaceship's windows for too long because it tends to cause existential crises.
Spinoff: 52 spawned two ongoing series (Booster Gold and Infinity Inc.) and several miniseries (World War III, Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood, Black Adam: The Dark Age, The Four Horsemen, Metal Men, and The Great Ten).
Stable Time Loop: Mister Mind gets caught in one, until later in Booster Gold's own title. Booster and Rip Hunter also set one up to fake Booster's death and make him into Supernova.
The Stakeout: Renee's storyline opens with her being hired by the Question to surveil an abandoned warehouse. She complains because she does not know what she is supposed to be looking for or what the circumstances of her surveillance are. She also admits to herself that, as she is only a single person without either technological or organizational backup, she is doing a bad job of it since she is tired, bored, and unable to remain at the position around the clock.
Sudden Name Change: An Asian magic user by the name of "Terri Thirteen" appeared as part of the Croatoan detective society. Post-52 continuity would clarify that this was actually meant to be Traci Thirteen, a pre-existing character (and Doctor Thirteen's daughter). It appears there was some editorial oversight that lead to the name slip-up.
Super Serum: Gingold, the chemical extract that gives the Elongated Man his powers, plays an important role in a few crucial parts of the story.
Super Zeroes: Booster Gold's pallbearers. For the record: Beefeater, the Blimp, Honest Abe, Mind-Grabber Kid, Odd Man, and the Yellow Peri.
Superhero Speciation: None of the witnessed products of the Everyman project are seen to have duplicate powers, despite the thousands of metahumans produced by Luthor. When Everyman himself, a shapeshifter from the project, squares off against Beast Boy of the Teen Titans, Beast Boy actually remarks there is only room for one shapeshifter.
Mauve Shirts: The Yeti, The Seven Deadly Brothers, The Celestial Archer, Shaolin Robot
Thanatos Gambit: Ralph Dibny uses his death to trap both Felix Faust and Neron in the Tower of Fate for eternity, since by killing him before he removed the binding spells around the tower, there is no way to escape.
There Are No Therapists: When all the heroes who went out into space in Infinite Crisis are rescued and brought down to Australia they have all been mutated, transformed, merged or deformed in unique and disturbing ways. Original Green Lantern Alan Scott got off lighter than almost anybody else - he only lost one eye, but even the eye he still has was not originally his and his daughter Jade died during the Crisis. Steel recognizes that, physical rehabilitation aside, all these returning heroes are going to need counseling to help them deal with what happened, but Alan is adamant that that is not even an option.
Green Lantern Alan Scott: "It's my job to set an example. I have to show we don't break like other people. We don't give in to fate."
These Hands Have Killed: Renee Montoya has killed people before, in her duties as a cop and when fighting for her life against Intergang, but at the Black Adam/Isis wedding she is forced to shoot an Intergang suicide bomber that is a young girl, just a kid. Regardless of the reasons for her actions she is wracked by guilt over having killed a child and prays for forgiveness.
"I killed a kid, Charlie."
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Batwoman, like Batman before her, has a very strict no-killing policy, even extending to knocking down her own teammates instead of letting them take a killing shot. Except against Bruno Mannheim, which may have something to do with the fact that she killed him with a knife that he half-way cut her heart out with just moments before that.
Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: Skeets replicates the function of the original almanac and gives Booster the winning scores of sporting events in order to bet on the winner. He also has more sideline and less immediately beneficial information, like the entire sweep of future events. Oddly enough, as time goes on and his files on business dealings, superheroes and disasters become more and more inaccurate, he is never shown being anything but spot-on-accurate when it comes to gambling.
Timey-Wimey Ball: Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, and Skeets jump back and forth through time, altering the stream at key moments, and referring to events that have happened, will happen, and even to events which never will happen but which already happened anyway.
Truth Serums: Played with when Lex Luthor kidnaps Clark Kent and gives him an experimental truth serum which his scientists explain is a synthetic recreation of Wonder Woman's magic lasso. He then asks Clark, who broke the story about new hero Supernova, why it is that Superman is toying with Luthor by pretending to be someone else. Clark, laughing madly, informs Lex that he does not know who is under the Supernova mask, but he is absolutely certain of one thing: it is not Superman. Creator commentary in the trade paperbacks points out that this scene, and perhaps the entire future path of DC comics, could have gone so differently if Luthor had simply known to ask the right question.
Twofer Token Minority: Renee Montoya, a Hispanic lesbian, and her on-again/of-again girlfriend, Kate Kane, a Jewish lesbian.
Underestimating Badassery: It seems like everybody, everywhere, does not give the Elongated Man the respect he deserves. His stretching abilities give him a respectable degree of combat capability, and his analytical and inquisitive mind that sets him far and away above many of those who would challenge him. Hal Jordan himself has stated that Ralph, moreso than even Batman or Barry Allen, has always been the most rational person he had ever met.
Ralph Dibny: "That's where people always get me confused with Plastic Man. He's the clown. Elongated Man is the detective."
Unreliable Voiceover: When Renee tries to shoot the Question in Day Three of Week Two, she wonders how he managed to get away since "I know I hit him dead center." However, in the actual panel her "dead center" shots are clearly ripping two holes in his jacket next to his body. She missed.
Between Renee and Kate (some fans believe she held feelings for Vic too, although the reverse is more likely, considering...)
Animal Man and Starfire became close and she even lived with in his house for a while. During Countdown to Adventure, Buddy is even asked if he has feelings for her and does not reply. The problem with this is that Buddy is married with two kids...
Violence Really Is the Answer: Isis' last words. It is later implied that this is the reason that Isis decided to turn evil after coming back to life in "Justice Society of America." She had lost all faith in humanity and thus intended to destroy all of humanity who could do such evil.
When Sobek first appears, he is crying. A crocodile's tears.
When Luthor first gets his superpowers at the end of one issue, his shirt is torn in the shape of Superman's hexagonal logo. According to Word of God, it began as an accident, but went with the Stealth Pun.
Webcomic Time: Trying to balance narrative pacing with the core concept of each issue representing a full week in real time worked fairly well overall, but created some very strange moments, such as Animal Man apparently sitting motionless on the edge of a rock staring at the two aliens who had just brought him back to life for three full months before reacting. Or maybe time passes in Space-B differently than normal. Who knows?
Wham Line: When Renee discovers the truth about The Question's aversion to her smoking:
Renee: "When'd you quit?"
Question: "Not soon enough."
What Happened to the Mouse?: Along with Aborted Arc above, Grant Morrison indicated that there was originally supposed to be a resolution for Super-Chief, who literally fell through the clouds in the afterlife in his last appearance, but it had to be cut, though he intended to bring him back eventually. This never happened - he was last seen as a Black Lantern in Blackest Night, and a new Super-Chief eventually showed up much later during the "Grounded" arc in the Superman book.
According to the commentary in the trade-paperback, the Questions line "...no, really, that was smooth. No wonder the women are falling all over themselves for you. Hey, I got an idea, why don't we double date sometime!" was originally "...no, really [...] why didn't you just tell her you'd faked all your orgasms while you were at it?" Unfortunately, Greg Rucka knew from the beginning that this was not a line he would ultimately be allowed to keep in.
In Week Thirteen, when Ralph Dibny is breaking up the Cult of Conner, he brings along several heroes connected to either returning to life or the afterlife in order to investigate if, maybe, the Cult has a legitimate point. These heroes are Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) and Metamorpho, all of whom have died and returned to life, and Zauriel, an angel who represents Heaven itself. Originally, the plan had been for Hawkwoman to be in the scene instead of Zauriel because the characters' history was heavily based on a cycle of reincarnation, but earlier in the series she had been transformed into a 20-foot tall giant, which necessitated a change.
Zachary Zatara, who appeared as one of the Teen Titans in Week Twenty-One, was drawn in the layouts wearing fishnet stockings as a joke and reference to his cousin, Zatanna. However, Joe Bennet, the penciler for the issue, did not know who Zatanna was and actually drew Zatara in fishnets, which almost made it to the printer without being noticed. Due to the rapid deadlines of the series, the Titans almost had a crossdressing member.
When Booster Gold was saving Metropolis from the meltdown of the nuclear submarine, he was originally going to give a speech reminiscent of Daffy Duck in Duck Season! Rabbit Season! Duck Season! "Look at me! I'm saving the day! I'm Supernova!" The scene was eventually re-written because the writers felt it would have been too blatant a hint as to the truth behind the story.
Skeets: "It could have been worse, Daniel Carter. You could have ended up a museum janitor."
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Subverted. Renee is ready to kill one of the mutating human/animal cultists used by Intergang when Batwoman, like hernamesake, knocks her down rather than let her get in a killing shot, even against one of these nonhuman animals.
What the Hell, Hero?: Bea is rather disgusted that Booster Gold seems to have forgotten the sacrifice of the Blue Beetle and gone back to his glory-seeking ways, and Ralph feels personally betrayed that Booster did not warn him on his wife's death. This is all magnified when it comes out that Booster has actually staged some of his heroic acts with paid actors.
When All You Have Is a Hammer: When facing a crazed being with near Physical God power levels after their most powerful weapon has been stolen before it could even be used, what advice does John give Natasha? "Grab your hammer."
Who Is This Guy Again?: Bea, though an important (if minor) character, never appears in costume, is never addressed by her superhero name, nor is her last name spoken. Though she provides emotional support for Ralph Dibny and a moral center for Booster Gold, identifying who she is in the larger DC Universe is not made easy.
Beatiz is actually a former member of the Justice League International as the heroine Fire, and knew Booster (and his murdered best friend Blue Beetle) as well as Ralph (and his wife Sue, when she was alive). While long time readers might be able to recognize her, the maxi-series itself didn't really do much to identify her.
World War III: The 50th week in the book, World War III is a week long war which boils down to Black Adam vs. Everyone on Earth. Eventually a spinoff comic was written detailing it better (reviews were mixed, though).
Yellow Peril: The Great Ten. While most of them are merely patriotic to China, Chang Tzu is one of the Big Bads of the story and August-General-In-Iron is pretty xenophobic about anyone who isn't Chinese.