52 Volume One

52 Volume One
52 Volume One review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 978-1-4012-6325-6
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2016
  • UPC: 9781401263256
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

52 was DC’s first long form series published weekly for a year, four writers collaborating on a variety of the company’s lesser characters and leading into a rebooted DC universe. As this occurred in 2006, several reboots in the past, it might be imagined there’s little interest in a pair of tenth anniversary editions, each combining two of the originally published collections. Divorced from their purpose, do they still maintain any allure beyond their historical benchmark of reintroducing Batwoman to modern day continuity? The answer to that is resoundingly “yes”.

In 2006 Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison and Mark Waid already had for years shown their love of superheroes, and consistently being able to innovate within an overpopulated genre. Greg Rucka’s reputation lay with clever crime-based material, which requires narrative sleight of hand, so he fitted the ongoing purpose of following the likes of Adam Strange, Animal Man, Black Adam, Booster Gold, Elongated Man, Starfire, Steel and Wonder Girl. And just who’s Supernova? Sometimes their paths cross, and three are constantly teamed attempting to find their way back to Earth from billions of miles into the universe, but this is largely a fall and rise arc for B-listers, although not exclusively, as other DC mainstays are used, as are the ridiculously obscure. However, a degree in DC’s past history isn’t required to enjoy the rush provided. Yes, some touches will fly over the heads of some readers, but 52 is intended as an access all areas read.

As the original comics were issued on a weekly basis, there’s no way a single artist could cope with the schedule, so several are used, but visual consistency is maintained by Keith Giffen providing layouts for everyone. Eddie Barrows, Chris Batista, Phil Jiminez, Ken Lashley, Shawn Moll, Todd Nauck, and Pat Olliffe do have different styles, but they’re all broadly speaking superhero artists with clear and dynamic styles. The nearest to a lead artist is Joe Bennett, a relatively recent discovery when taking on 52, yet the solid superhero definitions on which his reputation is based are already obvious here. His fabulously detailed sample art is Booster Gold making a pivotal discovery and just prods at a sense of wonder.

The start is an Earth that’s only just avoided annihilation, still in a state of shock, and the major heroes are missing, leading to others taking the spotlight, especially Booster Gold attempting to piece everything together. The pace is rapid, and all the featured characters are in very different places by the halfway point cut-off, some literally. Over the final quarter there’s some droop, especially with scenes of Adam Strange, Animal Man and Starfire out in space, and their plotline seemingly too isolated from the remainder. They have a purpose, though, and that plays out when Volume Two picks up.

Until this reissue the original four paperback versions had become very expensive, but used copies of the slimmer Volume One and Volume Two are now cheaper again. At the other end of the price scale there’s the 52 Omnibus collecting the entire story and more.