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52 Weeks Later: Hibbs on What Was Wrought

Brian Hibbs

52 WEEK 52: So, I have to admit I am a little torn. The final issue of 52 is kind of two different things, really. There’s the full-length (or there about) “multiverse, multiverse, who-has-the-multiverse” story, which seems almost tangential, and largely irrelevant to the narrative through-line of 52; then there’s the Epilogue-to-the-series bits where everyone (who didn’t get one last week) gets their happy ending.

The latter mostly makes me happy — especially the Ralph sequence, which is pretty much exactly what I asked for weeks ago (yay, me!) — but also goes far in underlining some of the narrative problems of the series: situation A, B and C are all resolved while skipping over some of the “how”, and while more or less ignoring certain amounts of story logic. (For example, the whole “prophecy” bit — when you’re “playing fair”, prophecy should, in fact, “come true”, but with a twist that no one expects because they read the prophecy incorrectly. Like a Wish spell in Dungeons & Dragons, y’know? “I wish for 1 million experience points” “OK, your character ages 60 years, mark off 6 points each of Str and Con, and 4 points of Dex”)

As a story, I think history will probably judge 52 to be a failure – a very noble and far-reaching failure, to be sure, but a failure none-the-less. Plenty of stuff is left unexplained, or dashed off explanations that don’t really make a lot of sense; there’s an enormous bloat in the 2nd act where wheels are spinning on mostly really dull stuff (every single thing that happened with Steel, for example, could probably have been contained in a single 22 page story); and, it appears to me looking at things from the outside that the intent and the scope of the story changed from week 1 to week 52 — shouldn’t have there been more meaning in the “people were changed coming back from space at the end of Infinite Crisis”? Which, instead, more or less got tossed under the rug.

However, that’s kind of alright, really, given the experimental nature of 52 — something I don’t think any of us really thought was going to work at or, nor, in fact, come out like clockwork the way it did. And it very much raises the stakes on COUNTDOWN, because I strongly suspect the audience isn’t going to put up with the annoying tics that 52 had on Project #2. Overall, I very much doubt that 52, the series, deserves much better than a Savage Critic “OK”… and it was actually probably closer to an “EH”, but you have to admire both the audacious nature of the idea, as while of the crazy efforts of everyone involved, both on the business side (as exemplified by Didio’s column this week), as well as the creative side (who…. uh. Aren’t even mentioned in passing?)

As for the specific content of the main bits Week 52, I was reasonably charmed. But, again, I’m not sure how I feel. I *think* when people say things “we want that back”, what they actually mean is “we want it back to what it was pre-Crisis — JLA on e-1, JSA on e-2, Shazam family on e-S, Freedom Fighters on e-X” and so forth, where there was demarcation between the “earths”, and where each one was relatively self-consistent.

What I’m less sure of is the value of “Earth-1 is ‘smooshed Earth’ where everything stays jammed together; but then we also have an e-10 (10=X, get it?!?!) where the JLA heroes are controlled by the nazi party and the Freedom Fighters battle them”

How do I put this? That set up is good for a story, maybe two. BUt it’s not really sustainable in terms of audience interest over the next umpty decades. Why? Because the audience wants to read about the “real” version of a character. The Freedom Fighters on e-10 can’t be much more than a McGuffin (or a way to introduce Ubermensch and Fraulein Vundabar) because the “real” FF lives on e-1.

[I also want to say that just because the audience or a reader wants a concept back in play, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has commercial success written on it. For a decade or more I thought one of the stupidest mistakes DC made was eliminating the Green Lantern Corps — what a brilliant tool for generating ideas and stories! But that doesn’t mean I want to read a monthly GREEN LANTERN CORPS comic book, running parallel to GREEN LANTERN itself]

Obviously, at this point, it’s probably not even possible to “unsmoosh” Earth, even if that what people REALLY wanted, but this does feel like a way to keep 52 plot devices, rather than actually bring back the multiverse in any meaningful way — especially because there are only AND SPECIFICALLY 52 parallel worlds, rather than an infinite number of them.

Anyway, despite all of that nitpickery, as a single issue I really rather enjoyed the romp, and the spirit on display, and anyone jumped off during the series, or, really, cares about the DCU at all would do well to pick up this issue — I thought it was a solidly GOOD comic, though I might be a little more rose-colored than I should be.

What did YOU think?


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