Monday, February 05, 2007

Books I'm Not Reading -- DC Comics' "52"

Last year, after Superboy finished punching the universe back into shape in DC Comics’ controversial “Infinite Crisis” miniseries, the company announced that it would be publishing a 52-issue megaseries, entitled “52,” oddly enough. It would be written by four comics bigwigs – Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka, with art breakdowns by Keith Giffen. But because “Infinite Crisis” proved to be so mean and stupid, I held out little hope for this elephantine follow-up.

But DC has always been good about sending out review copies. (Unlike the insanely stingy Marvel. It took the personal intercession of Neil Gaiman and Joe Quesada to secure a copy of the “1602” hardcover for review in The Chronicle.) Every week, I received a new installment of “52,” and I came to enjoy the anything-goes nuttiness of the serial, which featured, among other highlights: a lipstick lesbian Batwoman; not one, but two, Questions; the Elongated Man driven insane by grief; an entire island populated by mad scientists; and the return of one of the most racist and ridiculous supervillains of all time, Egg Fu.

Now, I never had any intention of reviewing “52” for The Chronicle. It’s pretty much incomprehensible to anyone not steeped in DC Universe trivia and therefore well outside the interest of the newspaper’s core audience. But I was perfectly happy to read it for my own enjoyment, even though I relied on annotations from the estimable Douglas Wolk to keep track of the background details.

But then, without warning, DC cut me off at Issue #28. The free issues stopped arriving! I figured they would resume after the holidays, but no. Apparently, 28 out of 52 is all I get.

It’s not like I can call up DC and demand that they send me the rest of the series. That wouldn’t be ethical. I considered just gritting my teeth and springing for the back issues out of my own pocket, but changed my mind when I realized that would set me back $27.50 in one whack. That’s more than I want to pay for a comics series that’s little more than a guilty pleasure.

Maybe I’ll complete the series once the issues make their inevitable migration to the Four-for-a-Buck bins at my local comics shop. In the meantime, “52” is, with reluctance, another Book I’m Not Reading.

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