The 52 Steps: Week Fifty-Two

Sat, May 5th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Justin Eger, Guest Contributor

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"Are you ready?" - The Question

"52" Week Fifty-Two
Week Fifty-One

Previously in 52...
A few answers found their way home, as did Buddy Baker and Starfire, and the heroes hat took the year off reform to ready for the new world order.

This Week's Key Players
Booster Gold is the man of this and many other hours.

Guest Appearances
Rip Hunter, Supernova (wha?) Dr. Sivana, and, really, everyone else who made this past year what it was.

Highlights
So where we are, gang, the final week, the grand hurrah of the whole show. And where does it take us? Right back to the very first moment of the year.

Say what?

Following the emergence of Mr. Mind as the super dandy new "hyperfly" last week, Rip Hunter and Booster Gold escaped into the past to find a way to stop the villain from destroying not just this world, but all the others birthed following last year's Crisis, multiple worlds that are exact copies of our own, right down to the lettering on the page and the coffee in your cup. But, as it turns out, these worlds are the food for Mr. Mind and his friendly fellow hyperflies, which are, in fact, more copies of Mr. Mind himself, each determined to devour their own little worlds.

Well, that's pretty darn rude, if you ask me, and our heroes agree. So off it is into the multiverse, as well as time and space to find the way to shut down the monster. Along the way, they pick up Supernova, aka Daniel Carter, whom we all thought was lost back when Skeets trapped him in the stolen 52 seconds everyone has been so worried about all year. Rip, being the master of time, freed Dan and gave him the Supernova costume so he could play a part in the coming fight.

The ability to stop Mr. Mind comes in two forms. First, the heroes need a power source of extreme magnitude to lure the monster into their trap. This is provided by the Blue Beetle Scarab, which Booster picks up from his old friend, Ted Kord (in arguably the issue's best guest appearance). Supercharging the Supernova suit with the Scarab, the heroes beat feet to Rip Hunter's lab, where they use the shell of Skeets, lined with Dr. Sivana's suspendium, to encase Mr. Mind in a new cocoon and shuttle him back through time, permanently keeping him in his larvae state.

However, on all the other worlds, the damage was done. The feeding that the hyperflies did caused irreparable changes in the new 52 earths of the multiverse, altering each just enough so they look familiar in some ways, but in others are completely unrecognizable. For your reading pleasure, a roadmap to the new Earths introduced (compare to those listed by Brian below):

  • Earth 2 - Home of the original JSA, a world where all heroes were born just prior to WWII, and, as they aged, they trained a whole new generation.

  • Earth 3 - Welcome to the home of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, villainous versions of the JLA that rule the planet with an iron fist.

  • Earth 4 - The original home of the Charlton heroes The Question, Nightshade, Blue Beetle, captain Atom and Judomaster.

  • Earth 5 - Gee whiz, its the world of the Marvel Family.

  • Earth 10 - A world where the Axis Powers won WWII, and a world where Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters still battle to defeat the evil of the Nazis.

  • Earth 17 - Okay, this one stumped me, but its post-apocalyptic all the way.

  • Earth 22 - The Kingdom Come future.

  • Earth 50 - The Wildstorm Universe (nice job, guys!)

And, finally, with the newest crisis (little "c" this time) averted, the rest of our world, New Earth, moves on. Checkmate realigns with parameters to handle Black Adam, should he ever rise up again, while the Steelworks is a busy place for John and Natasha Irons. The DEO realigns as well, also ready to take down Adam in the event they have to. In Alabama, a mystical mystery pops up in a cute little preschool, a mystery that's enough to twitch the nose on the ghost of Raplh Dibny, who's hand in hand with the soul of his wife, Sue (together at last). Booster Gold and Will Magnus rebuild Skeets, who has no memory of the past year, and, finally, In Gotham City, as Batwoman recovers from her wounds, The Question repairs the bat-signal and once again asks the world a favorite riddle (see this week's quote).

Justin's Thoughts and Concerns
For once, gang, I'll just shut up.

Crisis Continuity With Brian Eason
52 issues is a lot of story. Just to put all of that into perspective, that's over four years of a monthly. When I wrote the first CRISIS CONTINUITY, I had no clue where the story was going or what characters I might write about. It never occurred to me (as it did two weeks ago) that I would have to figure out who I would cover in the final issue. I had no idea how easy that decision would be until after reading issue #51. This week's character is a controversial one, loved by some, hated by others. For me it was a no-brainer. We're old friends. This final week, I give you everything you need to know about the DC Multiverse.

While some might argue that the Multiverse has always existed in the DC Universe, the first alternate reality appeared, not in the pages of "Flash" #123 (1961) as is popularly believed, but in "Wonder Woman" #59 (May-June 1953). In the story, Wonder Woman is transported to a parallel world by an electrical storm. On this alternate Earth, Wonder Woman discovers a duplicate of herself, the heroine Tara Terruna ("Wonder Woman" in that world's language). The pair team up to defeat the villainous Duke Dazam and Wonder Woman returns to our Earth. While this event is typically lost in the discussion of parallel worlds, and the science behind it is all but non-existent, it established a precedent that would eventually become DC's cure for nearly every continuity challenge they would face for the next 30 years.

In 1961, Gardner Fox opened the real Pandora's box with a story called "Flash of Two Worlds" (in the aforementioned "Flash" #123), when Barry (Flash) Allen discovered the existence of another Earth existing side-by-side with ours on another "vibrational plane." In this tale, the Flash of Earth-One (Allen) meets his Golden Age counterpart Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-Two. Then, in "Flash" #179 (May 1968), Barry discovered that comic book stories are real and that the writers are "tuning in" to another reality. So yeah, Bruce Jones's "Warlord," that all happened in another reality, sorry.

Once DC had established the existence of an Earth-Two, a variety of numbers and letters were to follow. Since the cat was out of the bag, the idea of teaming the Silver Age heroes up with their Golden Age counterparts was too hard to resist. Finally, in "Justice League of America" #21 (August 1963), the Justice Society of America teamed up with the Justice League of America to battle a team of villains from both worlds. This was the beginning of an annual summer team-up, which continued until 1985.

This parallel world idea was a boon to writers. They could create alternate worlds for the heroes to visit, and it gave the publishers a place to stick continuity that they didn't know what to do with. When DC Comics acquired the rights to Fawcett Comics' Marvel Family, they created Earth-S in "Shazam!" #1 (February 1973). When DC bought the Quality Comics library, they established a world where the Axis powers ruled the world in "Justice League of America" #107 (Oct 1973) and introduced the Freedom Fighters. They even lampooned themselves when "Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew" were placed on Earth-C and the funny animal version of the JLA, the "Justa Lot of Animals" were relegated to Earth-C Minus. Even in the process of destroying the Multiverse, DC managed to find a world for the Charlton Comics heroes when, in the pages of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" #1 (April 1985), it was established that Earth-4 was the home of the Question, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and the other characters that had been recently acquired.

In 1985, DC planned the largest body count in comic-book history. "Crisis on Infinite Earths" was an attempt to consolidate all of the Multiverse into one single universe where all of DC continuity could be neatly placed. Yeah. Well, they tried. Some ideas won't stay dead because they are good ideas. After Crisis there was no Supergirl, Jonah Hex was transported to a post-apocalyptic future, Power Girl became an Atlantean and there was only one flavor of kryptonite. You will note that none of those things remain true. Continuity issues continued to plague the DC Universe and it was handled in various ways. In the pages of "Animal Man," the Psycho Pirate (who actually remembered the Earths destroyed in the Crisis) began releasing characters destroyed during the Crisis back into the world. In a hope to salvage all the good work that Crisis had done, in September 1994 DC published "Zero Hour: Crisis in Time."

"Zero Hour" introduced Extant, a villain who used his temporal powers to unravel time. The power behind the destruction of the universe turned out to be Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan, who then called himself Parallax. Jordan (who had gone insane) tried to remake the universe. The combined might of the DC Heroes defeated Parallax and the universe was recreated - again. Just to make things simple, DC published a fold-out timeline inside the back cover of "Zero Hour" #0. Unfortunately, once again, in some cases the cure was worse than the disease. A final attempt to fit infinite Earths into a finite universe was made. In 1998, writer Mark Waid established the concept of Hypertime. Hypertime was explained as small divergences in the "river" of the history of the DC Universe. These tributaries in time were used to explain continuity errors, down to, and including, (as I mentioned elsewhere) coloring mistakes.

That, of course, brings us to "Infinite Crisis." The "Infinite Crisis" crossover event from October of 2005 brought back survivors of the worlds destroyed in the original "Crisis on Infinite Earths," specifically, the Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2, the Alexander Luthor II of Earth-3 and the Superboy of Earth-Prime. During the event, Alexander, driven mad by his isolation, attempts to create a new perfected world, restoring many alternate Earths in the process. In the end, the multiple Earths recombine into a New Earth, or so we all believed until last issue of "52." Now we know that, for better or worse, the Multiverse has returned and frankly, I'm ok with that. Come on, what's a good story without an alternate universe?

In any case, it's been my pleasure to bring you this, the final, CRISIS CONTINUITY. I will end it in the manner that it began, with trivia. What follows is a brief list of Earths that existed (more or less) prior to the "Crisis on Infinite Earths." This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it intended to be; it's a bit of nostalgia that may have just become relevant again.

  • Earth-One - This Earth was the home to the Silver Age characters and was the "default" world for DC characters.

  • Earth-Two - The home of the Justice Society of America, Earth-Two was the "nice" world, where the Golden Age heroes of WWII and their progeny set a better example. South Africa had abolished apartheid sooner and Quebec was an independent nation.

  • Earth-Three - Home to the Crime Syndicate of the World, villainous versions of the JLA. Syndicate members included Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick. Alexander Luthor (the father of Alexander Luthor II of "Infinite Crisis") was the world's sole superhero. History was (sometimes laughably) backward, Christopher Columbus discovered Europe, England won its freedom from the United States, and John Wilkes Booth was assassinated by Abraham Lincoln.

  • Earth-Four - This was the world created for the former Charlton Comics heroes: Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom, Nightshade, Peacemaker, Peter Cannon, and Judomaster.

  • Earth-Six - This world was created to be destroyed in the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" It was home to a royal court of superheroes: Lord Volt, Lady Quark and Princess Fern. Lady Quark was the sole survivor of this world.

  • Earth-Eight - It was explained by Alexander Luthor II that this world had been intended to be the home world of young heroes like Breach, Kyle (Green Lantern) Rayner, Jason (Firestorm) Rusch, and Helena (Huntress) Bertinelli if the Multiverse not been destroyed.

  • Earth-Prime - Earth Prime was presented as being "our" Earth and had no superheroes. That idea went right out the window with the introduction of the heroes Ultra and Superboy-Prime.

  • Earth-S - As mentioned previously, this was the home of the Marvel Family and the Fawcett family of characters like Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Ibis the Invincible, Isis, Mister Scarlet and Pinky and Spy Smasher.

  • Earth-X - On this world, the Axis won WW II, and the Freedom Fighters, originally from Earth-Two, fought them in the modern age. Quality Comics characters ended up on this world.

Looking Ahead
Check back with us next week, folks, as your faithful "52" followers tackle a new challenge: "Countdown." By the grace of God and head honcho Jonah, Brian and I will be back to give you another year's worth of commentary on the DCU. Look for a little different format, but all the same stuff you've come to know and love. Thanks for sticking with us for the long haul.

Panel of the Week

Enough said. Are you ready?

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