Following on from our quick look at the publishing history of DC’s Multiverses I thought I’d go over the discovery of the 52 Multiverse in the series 52. Following the conclusion of INFINITE CRISIS the internal chronology of DC’s superhero titles jumped forwards by one year in a stunt called “One Year Later.” The idea was that this missing year would be chronicled in a weekly, year-long series called 52 written by the cream of DC’s writers – Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid. It was originally meant to connect the stories published before and after the missing year, but it became something greater and more cohesive.
Many of the events and threads that led up to the FINAL CRISIS were planted in 52. There were a number of different subplots that wound through 52 including the personal journeys of Ralph Dibny, Black Adam, Animal Man, Steel, and Rene Montoya. However, its the journey of Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, and the Red Tornado that are relevant to the central mystery behind 52 – the meaning of the number itself.
From Week #1 we are shown that somebody is kidnapping an assortment of mad scientists. The first genius we see being kidnapped is Thaddeus Sivana, the Captain Marvel villain. He’s kidnapped from his lab and leaves behind a tube containing a caterpillar that he had been studying – this is Mister Mind a telepathic alien worm who was also one of Captain Marvel’s foes.
There is a throw away line in Week #2 when Will Magnus (the creator of the Metal Men) says that this mentor Professor T.O. Morrow (the old JLA foe) is in Haven, the super scientist prison, “for attempting to start a war between two parallel worlds”. That’s our first mention of parallel worlds. Later when Will Magnus meets Morrow he passes on the news that his creation, the heroic Red Tornado, has once more been destroyed protecting the Earth. During their conversation Morrow is shown pinning a notice about Sivana’s disappearance to a notice board. The last image of Week #3 is of Mister Mind’s test tube in Sivana’s abandoned lab and we see that the caterpillar has created some sort of cocoon or chrysalis around itself.
Weeks #4 and #5 are when the heroes that have been lost in space Zeta-Beam back to Earth. Green Lantern Alan Scott, Donna Troy, and the rest were caught in the chaos surrounding Alex Luthor’s rift in space. They tried to escape by Zeta-Beaming through a portal created by Mal Duncan, but something went wrong. The reality distortion refracted the Zeta-Beam scattering some of the heroes through time and space. The Red Tornado was blown apart, a piece of his shrapnel blinded Alan Scott and his voice box was embedded in Mal Duncan’s chest. When Duncan awoke on Earth the voice box kept repeating the Tornado’s last words, “It’s coming! 52! 52!”
At the Week #10 Will Magnus is back at Haven visiting Morrow again. He’s discovered Mister Mind’s coccoon from Week #2 in Sivana’s lab, but whatever was inside had pupated and escaped. The next time Magnus visits Haven, he finds that Morrow has vanished as well, but not before leaving behind a note revealing the secret of artificial intelligence. Later in Week #23 we discover that it is Intergang who have been kidnapping mad scientists and evil genius from all over the world to work on their secret Oolong Island. Sivana was one of the earlier ones, then they got Morrow, and finally they kidnap Magnus.