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52 #14

August 9, 2006

Quick Rating: Very Good
Title: Sand and Rust

As Renee and the Question head to Kahndaq, John Henry comes from hiding.

Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Pencils: Dale Eaglesham
Inks: Art Thibert
Origin Story Art: Eric Powell
Colors: Alex Sinclair, Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Travis Lanham, Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics

This is one of those quieter issues of 52 that has drawn scorn from readers who don’t seem to appreciate that they’re reading a chapter of a novel at a time – it’s low on the earth-shattering moments, but it does advance several of the ongoing plots, most notably the Montoya/Question storyline. As Renee and “Charlie” go to Kahndaq to investigate Black Adam’s possible ties to Intergang, they see firsthand what the rule of a god on Earth has done to the country, and it isn’t exactly what they expected. This is the first time two of our ongoing storylines have really converged like this (although the principal characters from the two still haven’t met), and I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen to these two next… and especially interested in the cryptic comments “Charlie” keeps making about Renee.

We also check in on John Henry Irons this week – the former Steel has been mostly absent since his niece joined up with Lex Luthor and he himself began a transformation into a creature of living metal. This issue we see what he’s been doing, and it’s clear he is reaching his limit as surely as Ralph Dibney did last week. This story really feels like we’re watching a metamorphosis, watching John Henry change from one kind of hero to something else. As he’s one of my favorite DC characters, I’m keeping my fingers crossed as to what form that transformation takes.

The series was initially discussed as involving six principal characters and/or storylines, but as Montoya and the Question immediately came together, we saw two storylines rush in to fill the gap – that of the missing space heroes and that of Will Magnus, who gets some spotlight time here. He’s working on rebuilding his greatest creations, the Metal Men, when he gets some unwanted pressure. As he makes his regular trip to visit his mentor, the mad scientist T.O. Morrow, he gets another surprise altogether. I find that the mystery of the missing scientists, which has been part of this book since the outset, is just as intriguing to me as everything else.

I didn’t check the credits to see who this week’s artist is at first, and it’s a credit to how popular Dale Eaglesham has become since Villains United that I recognized his style about halfway through the book. He brings that same style here, and although he doesn’t have as much action to work with, he does just fine.

The “Origin” back ups in this series have been a vast improvement over the disappointing “History of the DC Universe” storyline, and this issue’s spotlight on Metamorpho is no exception. Mark Waid, as always, manages to encapsulate the character’s story and abilities in a taught two pages, illustrated nicely by Eric Powell. It works.

This is an issue of 52 for people who appreciate development in their stories. You get it here in spades.

Rating: 8/10

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