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Sunday, 20 November 2011

52 volumes 1 to 4

Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Artists: various
Publisher: DC

What’s it about?
The DCU has suffered an Infinite Crisis and the big 3 heroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman have disappeared.  The other heroes have to take up the mantle, but in a world fractured and without hope, how will they survive?

Lex Luthor is building an everyman programme, giving ordinary people superpowers, but at a price.  There’s an island of mad scientists building cricketrons, omnibots and other explosive things.  The religion of crime is building and only Batwoman and the Question can stop it.  Starfire, Animal Man and Adam Strange are stuck in the farthest reaches of the Galaxy with an ex homicidal Czarnian, now converted into the Pope of the Triple-Headed Fish God's church.  The dark half of the Captain Marvel family is growing and Black Adam is developing his compassion.  Booster Gold is being replaced by a young whippersnapper and he doens't like it.  Then there’s the Teen Titans, JLA, JSA who are all imploding without proper guidance or support.

There’s a lot going on.  More than I can describe in a short paragraph.

What’s good about it?
52 takes place over the course of a year.  It was originally published in weekly installments (superhero comics are usually published monthly) and was a bold new move for DC.  However bold and unprecedented it was, it worked.  These 4 volumes collect all 52 issues and are a densely filled journey into the lesser known characters in the DC Universe.  As such, it’s a brilliant way to get to know a lot of characters and to find your way around the DCU.

After each issue there are some notes from the writers about the creative process that went into publishing a series as expansive as this.  No spoilers are given away, but each page of text does serve as an interesting addition to the main material.
I love these volumes and find something worth reading in each sub plot and set of characters.  The final volume draws all the different stories together to give a gripping finale.

What’s bad about it?
Well I suppose you could argue that at 4 volumes these take  along time to read, but really, who’s gonna complain about being able to savour something this good?
What’s the art like?
There are loads of different artists on this series, (as there are many different writers).  Sometimes issues are drawn by just one person, sometimes several pencillers, inkers and colorists contribute to the same issue.  Of the most notable names, you might recognise Phil Jiminez, Keith Giffen, Jared K Fletcher, Jamal Igle and Dan Jurgens.

Usually I find that a mix up of artists distracts from the storyline, but in this case, perhaps because we are following so many storylines, I feel that this doesn’t happen.  Some artwork is better than others, but nothing is so bad that it repels me from the events being shown.
Other information
Volume 1 - ISBN: 1845765524. Look inside the book here.
Volume 2 - ISBN: 140121486X. Look inside the book here.
Volume 3 - ISBN: 1845766040. Look inside the book here.
Volume 4 - ISBN:1845766245. Look inside the book here.
All priced at about $19.99 (American) or £15 (Sterling).

To read more about these characters try the following books:
Booster Gold: Try his own series.  You can find out more about them here.  My partner is also selling my old monthly issues for me on ebay, here.  If you want them sent outside the UK send him a message saying you got to the listing from the New readers blog.  He'll work postage out.  (Hey, I'm skint and running out of shelf space for comics, some things have to go!)
Batwoman: She has one trade out, named Elegy and reviewed by us earlier this year.  There is currently a Batwoman monthly series out, see here for details.
Captain Marvel family: There are really only 3 worthwhile trades out, we reviewed them all here and here.  There is also a trade collecting a Black Adam mini series which sprung out of 52.  It's called The Dark Age but it's awful.  Read at your own risk.
Animal Man: There are 3 key trades to read, we reviewed them all here.
52: Companion reprints old background stories about the key playes in 52.  It's worth a look.

Also, see our post on DC's 'Crisis' books to see how 52 fits into it all.

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