Jumping on the Subplot Train as it Rumbles Down the Track: 52 Week 34

I picked up my first issue of 52 this week. Because, you know, Brian Bolland drew Zatanna. Also, I have really poor impulse control. But mostly Bolland drawing Zatanna. That's like the best Christmas Gift you never even thought to ask for.

I've avoided the series thus far, but I'm only human, and thus weak to the charms of something like Brian Bolland drawing Zatanna. Sure, it was only a two page character history that could have been on the back of an action figure or trading card, but that still works out to about $1.25 a page for Brian Bolland drawing Zatanna. That sounds about right to me, even if Mark Waid has to not only mention Identity Crisis but also call it an essential story in the character's history (which is incredibly depressing for a lot of reasons).

So the rest of the issue was just garnish for those Bolland pages. How good was that garnish, you ask? Let's find out!It occurs to me that this would be a fun comic for Greg's whole accessibility test. So much so so that I'll rip it off without really reading those guidlines I linked to. Even if that's about as fair as critiquing hour 15 of 24 for not being new viewer friendly.

The Black Marvel Family plot (which is a killer idea, by the way) has the fighting the Suicide Squad (another killer idea). In theory, you would think that smushing these two things together would be like superhero high concept Reese's Pieces. Well, you would if you weren't as highly cynical and bemused about the state of DC Comics as most people on the internet seem to be.

In practice... it's okay. Not as bad as I expected, given all the rending of garments over Geoff Johns writing there is (and I'm pretty sure this is his handy work, although I've barely read anything from him). It's perfectly competent. It just happens that I liked this whole plot better when it was Miracleman.

Because, y'know, this whole thing read a lot like something out of Miracleman. I guess it's less egregious with Black Adam than it would be with the actual Marvel Family, but still; there's something disheartening about the recycling of a decades old plot from the grim and grittifying of a rip off character for a story about one of the characters that was being ripped off, who also happens to be a rip off*.

It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. The fairly graphic violence disturbed me a bit, but that's the post Identity Crisis DC for you, I guess; I'm too late to the party to bitch about it now, but it's worth mentioning. The violence towards Isis is probably something that might rile up anyone who still has the energy to rail against misoginy in DC Comics after Identity Crisis and that Big Barda comic where she stopped being so strong and independent and learned to bake and clean for Scott Free like a proper wife*.

That said, the execution is fine; the moment of pathos worked for me, and as far as the accessibility goes, it does a decent job of bring new readers up to speed about what Adam has been doing without being an info dump. It was kind of charming in the way that every character was identified in the dialogue by name. The plot also seems to be going somewhere interesting. And by that, it reminds me a lot of the first season of Justice League Unlimited. Has anyone called Geoff Johns the human zerox machine yet? Because I want to take credit for that if they haven't, even if I stole that, thus breaking all irony meters in existence.

I have less to say about the rest of the comic. So I'll say it with bullet points!

  •  I have no idea who some of the characters are in the Steel plot. I don't really care. Apparently they brought back Infinity Inc. Roy Thomas must be... old? This doesn't mean anything to anyone
  • Clark Kent's subplot gets one page, and it works better than anything else in the whole issue. I bet this whole Supernova thing would be really interesting to me if I was following this comic. Then again, I find lint from the dryer interesting.
  • The scenes with with Renee Montoya and who I assume from the cover is the Question (he's never identified as such) that is so depressing that it has to be written by Greg Rucka. Another tip off; it's got Renee Montoya in it. We have no idea why he's dying. Batwoman has a cameo; she isn't named, but it's implied that it's her.
  • There's some stuff with Lex Luthor that reminds me a little of Superman For All Seasons. If you have any familiarity with the character whatsoever, the whole thing makes sense and is easy to follow. I do like how Luthor looks in the last panel. Nice use of shadow. Nice use of inset panles from Keith Giffen in the layouts, too.

As a self contained reading experience, this was okay. It's well constructed, and while not as impressive as what the creative teams on the Image Slimline comics have done with a single issue, it's still impressive in that regard. The plots all move, and there's a decent cliffhanger at the end, which is pretty much all you can expect from this kind of thing.

I'm not sure I'll ever read the whole story, but for parsley to the main dish of the two pages of a hot magician in fishnets drawn by a master craftsman slumming it considerably, this one issue wasn't bad. Even if it makes me sad that I will probably never see a Brian Bolland drawn Zatanna story. Or even another good Zatanna story now that Morrison is done with her. How's that for a ringing endorsement of DC's biggest comic of the year?

*- I made that up, but no one would be surprised to see that in Previews next month, would they?

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