5 + 2 reasons to buy 52
Posted by Seb Patrick at 12:20 on 14 May 2014
It's a good DC comic
... and every so often it's nice to remember what those were like. The post-Crisis universe had been somewhat in the doldrums for the first half of the 2000s, but in the wake of Infinite Crisis (which was... mixed, at best), the twin-pronged assault of the "One Year Later" jump and this series (which filled in the gap left by that narrative jump) revitalised a number of characters and series. DC weren't exactly consistently brilliant in the final few years pre-Flashpoint, but 52 shows that era at its best.
It's a weekly series done right
It's not just that editor Stephen Wacker was somehow able to get every single issue out on time (although that was undoubtedly a remarkable achievement - at the time it was the longest ever weekly series published by one of the major US companies). It's also that the book actually suited being told in this way. The structure and pacing were akin to a superhero soap opera, with interweaving storylines dropping in and out issue by issue. This meant that even if you weren't sold on a particular strand, it wouldn't be long before another one took up the baton. Its predilection towards dramatic cliffhangers made each week's issue something of an event, re-emphasising comics as a serial narrative form at a time when writing for the trade is/was more heavily the norm.
Obviously, if you binge-read the lot in one go it'll have a different effect, but you could always deliberately ration yourself.
It's by an all-star writing team
Grant Morrison. Mark Waid. Geoff Johns. Greg Rucka. Keith Giffen. If you like comics, then it's a pretty reasonable shout that you think at least one of those fellows is a bit good. Chances are, you like several of them. So when you take all five (Giffen was officially credited as doing "layouts" for the series, but certainly seems to have had input into the story) all working at or near to the top of their game - and, what's more, with their different styles and approaches complementing each other - then you've got something pretty special. What's particularly telling is that, with the odd exception (Rucka on the Montoya stuff, for example), fans' guesses on who was writing which story strand tended to turn out to be wrong - and, in fact, many of the segments were more collaborative than first seemed.
Writer collaboration, while obviously not unheard of, is rare in comics - and collaboration between writers with such distinctive individual styles and histories is even rarer. That the result should have been so good makes 52 a lightning-in-a-bottle event.
It's got great characters in it
The central hook of 52 is that it's telling the story of a year in which Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all - for various reasons - off the scene (although Clark Kent, in particular, does play a role in those parts of the story that are set in and around Metropolis). This means that it's a perfect opportunity for assorted B-list (and even C-list) DC characters to shine - and many of them do admirably. Booster Gold, Ralph Dibny and Animal Man get some of their best ever moments (especially Booster, who earned a brand new time-travel-based status quo and ongoing series as a result), and there are also significant roles for the likes of Black Adam, Steel and Lobo.
Perhaps most significantly, however, there's Renee Montoya. Already established by Gotham Central as one of the DCU's best characters, her unlikely friendship with Vic "The Question" Sage is perhaps the strongest character hook of the series. Oh, not to mention the fact that it's through her that the series introduces Kate "Batwoman" Kane. You love Batwoman, right? Well, here's where she first appeared (in issue #7, specifically).
It's got some really cool twists
Obviously we won't spoil any of them here. But one of the things that makes 52 so relentlessly readable is that it constantly wrong-foots you, usually in the best possible way. Okay, so if you've read various things published since, some of the plot developments will already be known - but it still makes for a great ride.
(And yes, the Supernova reveal is still one of my favourite ever comics moments.)
It has brilliant covers
By its nature as a weekly series, 52 needed artists who could churn out pages and stick to schedule. The art is rarely actually poor, but it's generally workmanlike, and rarely stands out.
What does stand out, however, are the covers, by JG Jones. They're never just there - they're almost uniformly exciting and imaginative images that, in a quite old-fashioned way, tease at the issues' contents rather than just being generic character shots. I mean, who doesn't look at an image of a super-powered Lex Luthor flying towards the reader and want to know what story that goes with?
It's 69p an issue
... which, okay, is hardly unusual for a Comixology sale, I know. But 52 issues is a pretty big investment - and the series isn't really one that you can just dip into a bit of - so this is about as good an opportunity as you're ever going to get to take the plunge on it. In addition to the main story, you also get some quite nice DCU history/origins backup strips (although of course, they're only relevant pre-Flashpoint, but still).
There are some other items in the sale, mostly spin-off and/or tie-in miniseries, but they're not especially worth the effort. If you particularly care about the World War III part of the storyline, then that miniseries was basically created because there wasn't enough space to fit it into issue #50 - so if you want more of it, pick those four issues up (think of them as issues #50.1-50.4, basically). Otherwise, though, there's nothing really essential.
Oh, and if they ever do a sale on Countdown (the weekly series that immediately followed 52)... don't. Not even for curiosity's sake. Seriously.