Review: 52: The Companion trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Collected Editions welcomed a whole bunch of new readers after our breakdown of the issues collected in 52: The Companion (as well as a nice mention from The Collected Comics Library), and now we've finally had a chance to read that volume.

This volume is all about range, probably not unlike 52 itself. 52: The Companion ranges from old stories--Rip Hunter, in 1962--to the JSA in 2003. It ranges from stories completely unrelated to 52, to stories from Gotham Central and Metal Men. It works exceptionally well, probably because the stories seem to have been selected by DC-history-buff Mark Waid. The range of these stories--that not every one, for instance, is an origin story--keeps them from growing repetitive, and makes for a nice read overall.

In fact, the 52 Companion contains an amazing cross-section of DC Comics history, from the aforementioned recent Gotham Central and JSA issues, to Steve Gerber and Walt Simonson on the Metal Men, to an Adam Strange text story by Gardner Fox with illustrations by Murphy Anderson. The Question story here, rather than one by Dennis O'Neil, is a classic written and drawn by Steve Ditko, and it's an alarmingly text-heavy piece, with seemingly Ditko's own value system dripping from the page; rather than feeling offput, however, I was charmed by how challenging this story is to read. This is a rare chance to see glimpses of DC history often set aside for more contemporary material.

Overall, I'm a fan of DC's publishing these "companion" volumes, showcasing stories related to various DC plotlines or events. The Power Girl trade is another example, as it included a couple of old Power Girl stories; in Superman: Back in Action, we saw a couple of additional older Superman team-ups. One of the many things I like about the Dan Didio era of DC Comics is the way Didio, Johns, and company seem to be trying to resurrect or make more relevant older DC history--I don't mind the corniness of old Justice League stories, for instance, if I know they're "in continuity" with current storylines.

[Introductions by Mark Waid to each issue, but no covers.]

So if you're not familiar with the characters in 52, I think 52: The Companion is a good place to start. There aren't any spoilers found inside, so you could even read 52: The Companion before the books themselves--though, do be warned about a spoiler on the back cover--anyone else spot it? Leave a comment and let me know.
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