The 52 Steps: Week Fifity

Sun, April 22nd, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Justin Eger, Guest Contributor

Previously in 52 (and beyond)...
The JSA took the fight to Oolong Island, where they and the Great Ten decided to capture the scientists and Black Adam, only Adam escapes to begin World War III.

And since we're on the topic, I'm going to try and sum the whole nine yards right here.

"World War III" was DC's chance to catch all their storylines from around the DCU up to the point where the One Year Later jump began. Since "52" was supposed to be the place for that, but the storyline changed as early as Week Two, the event was needed to fulfill some promises. And it does - mostly.

Rather than going into the whole event here, as I don't want to eat into any precious "52" time, let's try to hit the high notes, shall we? Deathstroke begins his conversion of Batgirl to Bad-girl, Jason Todd gets himself a new suit, Bronze Tiger gets word of Rick Flag's sort-of resurrection, and Supergirl returns from the future, but not in the shape she originally was in. We get to see Firestorm's first joining with Firehawk, Aquaman's deal with the devils of the deep that made him the monster he is today, the decimation of the Teen Titans (and most of the world) at the hands of Black Adam and, really, the kicker of it all, just what has been up with the Martian Man hunter (hint: he's the one who helps save everything).

While not everything could be summed up, "World War III" does fill in most of the blanks for the missing year and gets everyone caught up. We now return you to you're regularly scheduled programming.

Week Fifty

"52" Week Fifty
"I changed his magic word." - Captain Marvel

This Week's Key Players
Black Adam, Steel, Booster Gold.

Guest Appearances
The Justice Society of America, Atom Smasher…oh, hell. If they were walking and not in exile during the missing year, they were likely in the fight this issue. Also, there was a cool appearance by Rip Hunter right at the end, there (see below).

Highlights
It's war, all right, and for the whole of the week, Black Adam took the planet to task, ransacking everyone in sight in his bid for vengeance. In Egypt, the Marvel Family tries to bring him down on day two, but to no avail, and Australia, Italy and a few other spots on the globe pay the price, leaving the JSA to play clean-up and catch-up throughout much of the week.

However, it's the Chinese that Adam wants, so his world siege ultimately leads him into conflict with the Great Ten, who swear that they can stop the mad superpower before ever needing the help of any other world heroes, who have assembled on the border of the nation, waiting for the call to aid. Sure, the Ten put up a good fight - for about ten minutes. At that point, Adam takes the gloves off and starts killing them, ripping through the strongest members of the team and forcing the August General to call in international aid.

The fight is a long one, but it only serves to buy two plans a chance. On the one hand, Steel and Natasha Irons are rigging a missile loaded with nanites, hoping to catch Adam off guard and shut him down from the inside out. Unfortunately, Booster Gold arrives and hijacks the weapon, telling the two scientists that it wouldn't have worked anyway, and he needs it elsewhere, teleporting away again before anyone can stop him.

Plan two relies on the mystics of the DCU to slow Adam down and, just maybe, strip him of his power, by hook or by crook. Since they can't force Adam to change back, Billy Batson, as keeper of all the Marvel power, rigs up a plan with the mystics to capture the magic lightning that would change Billy back to normal and chuck it at Black Adam. And it works, leaving the man who caused all this carnage stripped of his power. To top off the cake with some sweet icing, Billy also uses his magic to change Adam's magic word. "Shazam" no longer creates Black Adam, and Billy swears to never tell another living soul what the word is that will.

Oh, yeah, Rip Hunter. He and Booster catch up with Dr. T.O. Morrow (and his stolen omni-bot) in the Rocky Mountains, where he's been working on Red Tornado to find out why Reddy just keeps chanting "52." When the doctor sees what Reddy saw out in space, Hunter and Booster arrive to get the doc's help.

Justin's Thoughts and Concerns

  • I have to wonder, if Adam was so ticked at the Chinese, how did he end up all over the world? Why not just sack China and be done with it?

  • Anyone want to take a guess or two at what Adam's new word is? I vote for "Hoppy" (see below)

  • Okay, I see some JSA members, some of the Seven Soldiers, some Teen Titans, some JLAers, some Outsiders, some Infinity Inc. kids (the cowards). Anyone else?

  • I liked that the Justice Society are the one's keeping the whole show together in the absence of the Big Three. After all, who has the most experience fighting in World Wars?

  • Shaolin Robot? Seriously? He looks like a Power Ranger villain.

Crisis Continuity With Brian Eason
As "52" comes to a close and the pace of this storyline expands, it becomes more challenging to target a single character for this part of the column. Yet, since the point of this piece was always to put things into perspective or to provide a counterpoint to the storyline, I decided that this week needs to be dedicated to the Marvel Family. Previously we examined Black Adam's rise from Golden Age villain to a major protagonist in the DC Universe. But this week we saw the events that led the Marvel Family to the events of "Trials of Shazam" and (likely) Mary Marvel's appearance as a primary character in "Countdown." So, with no further justification, I give you: the Marvel Family.

After the appearance of the Three Lieutenants Marvel in "Whiz Comics" #21 (September 1941), Captain Marvel, Jr. in "Whiz Comics" #25 (December 1941) and Mary Marvel in "Captain Marvel Adventures" #18 (December 1942), Captain Marvel's adventures grew from the stories of a single superhero to that of a super-family. Principally with the appearance of Junior and Mary, this made Captain Marvel the forerunner to hero "families" like Superman, where a number of characters shared a common symbol, powers and origins.

From 1942 to 1953, the Marvel Family appeared together and separately in many of Fawcett's titles ("Whiz Comics," "Captain Marvel Adventures," "Captain Marvel, Jr.," "Mary Marvel," "The Marvel Family," "Master Comics" and "Wow Comics"). Throughout the 1940s, the Marvel Family comics were some of the best selling comics in the business. National Periodicals' (DC Comics) sued Fawcett Comics over similarities between Marvel and Superman and the Marvel Family titles were gone by 1953.

In 1972, DC obtained the rights to the Marvels and began publishing "Shazam!" (Fawcett actually sold the characters to DC in 1980). In the 1986 miniseries "Legends," Captain Marvel was re-established as a solo character and joined the Justice League. However, with the "Power of Shazam!" series by Jerry Ordway, the Marvel Family made a triumphant return in 1995 with the re-introduction of Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel.

The Marvel Family - Past, Present and Future

  • Captain Marvel - The World's Mightiest Mortal first appeared in "Whiz Comics" #2 (February 1940) under Fawcett Publishing and made his first DC appearance in "Shazam!" #1 (February 1973). Captain Marvel is the alter-ego of young Billy Batson. Speaking the name of the wizard Shazam, Billy transforms into Captain Marvel with the powers of Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage) and Mercury (speed). In OYL, Captain Marvel has become Shazam's successor, residing in the Rock of Eternity.

  • Captain Marvel, Jr. - Junior made his first Fawcett appearance in "Whiz Comics" #25 (December 1941) and his first DC appearance was, like Captain Marvel, "Shazam!" #1 (February 1973). Newsboy Freddie Freeman was attacked by Captain Nazi and left for dead. Freddy was given his powers to save his life and whenever he speaks the words "Captain Marvel" he is transformed into a teenaged version of Captain Marvel himself. Freddie's costume is blue, rather than red, with a gold lightning bolt. Junior had a small problem that apparently didn't occur to Captain Marvel (who has the wisdom of Solomon, after all); Freddie could not actually identify himself as Captain Marvel Jr. without transforming. As a result, Freddie took to calling himself CM3 for a while. In the OYL title "Trials of Shazam," Freddy Freeman is undergoing twelve trials to become the new Captain Marvel.

  • Mary Marvel - Billy Batson's long lost twin sister Mary first appeared in "Captain Marvel Adventures" #18 (December 1942) from Fawcett and "Shazam!" #1 (February 1973) from DC. Mary's costume is white with a gold lightning bolt. Mary Marvel shares similar powers to her brother, calling on the powers of Selene (grace), Hippolyta (strength), Ariadne (skill), Zephyrus (swiftness), Aurora (beauty) and Minerva (wisdom).

  • The Three Lieutenants Marvels. - Three other young men named "Billy Batson" appeared in "Whiz Comics" #21 (September 1941). The three were identified as Tall Billy, Fat Billy and (I kid you not) Hill Billy. The trio learned (because apparently Shazam is a whimsical wizard) that since their name was also Billy Batson, they too could call on the power of Shazam becoming Tall, Fat and, yes, Hill Marvel. Thankfully, these three have only appeared once in post-Crisis continuity, when they appear to lose their powers in "The Trials of Shazam!" #2 (2007)

  • Thunder - Thunder is the alter-ego of a girl from the planet Binderaan around the year 9000 A.D. named CeCe Beck (C. C. Beck created Captain Marvel). She first appeared in "The Power of Shazam!" Annual #1 (1996). Captain Marvel, having taken the place of the Wizard Shazam, is caretaker of the Rock of Eternity and mentors CeCe. When Beck speaks the words "Captain Marvel," she is transformed in the same way Billy Batson did. Thunder was a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th century.

  • Hoppy the Marvel Bunny - Yeah. He was a funny animal spin-off, but if I don't mention him, someone else will.

While we could go on to include the extended Marvel Family of Uncle Dudley, Tawky Tawny, Freckles Marvel, Tanist and even Shazam himself, I think we should probably quit while we're ahead with, um, Hoppy. Yeah. At any rate, with Billy Batson ensconced in the Rock of Eternity, Mary Marvel featured in advertisements for "Countdown," and the "Trials of Shazam!" series establishing Freddie Freeman as the new Captain Marvel, I can only imagine we'll be seeing much more of the Marvel Family.

Panel of the Week

That sums it all up for me.

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