52 Week Twenty-Three:
Writers: Johns, Rucka, Morrison, Waid
Penciller: Giffen/Drew Johnson
Inker: Ray Snyder
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Sometimes an issue is just so well written, the rest of the series, arc, or whatnot just recedes. This is such an issue. Between the wacky antics and corny reveal of the mad scientists’ location and the Black Adam/Montoya/Question/Intergang melee that takes up the majority of the book, not only is there something for everyone, but it will resonate. The captured villains act like kids in a candy store, which is what they’ve been both elevated and reduced to. The Question and his partner face off against the agents of A’Daire as best they can, and Black Adam and Isis have their first meaningful interactions not only as husband and wife, but as heroic adventurers. It’s a great mix of characters, and the two plots counterbalance each other well.
The dialogue is what really sings though. Each lead is not only written in character, but the supporting voices are also distinct and enjoyable. Black Adam’s rage upon discovering exactly what’s happening in the evil stronghold is epic and amazing to behold. The Question has had a knack for puncturing the drama of any tense scene with a fitting non sequitor, and this installment is no exception. Both comments are each characte’s inner core writ in one sentence and they add a lot of gravity to the plot.
The art in this issue doesn’t match the luster of previous weeks, but it might work for other audiences. The mad scientist pages are certainly scruffier and less polished than all the other pages thus far. Still, those pages have more humor and in-panel jokes than this seriously crowded series has ever bothered with. The headless ambling android and the squashed cricketron are cute and quirky extras. The action scenes in Khandaq don’t even appear to be the work of the same hand. They’re dynamic and bold with more close-ups and less background. The monsters faced by our heroes look a bit too much like those that transported Professor Morrow to the island for these two plots to be independent, and that’s worth noting, if only as bookkeeping.
Thematically, the redemption/evolution of Black Adam is one of the most interesting developments of the whole series. He is slowly becoming the head of a family unit, just as Captain Marvel became the de facto leader of the Marvel heroes before him. The best part of this gradual progression is that it hasn’t changed his drives, just how he responds to them. That line about torturing those who tortured his citizens would have fit perfectly well (and almost certainly been carried out) in Black Reign but it doesn’t happen here because of Isis. If this group all live through 52, one wonders about their influence on the modern DC world. And if all this happiness and stability is somehow flensed from Teth Adam before the end of the story, how terrible will the backlash be?