In this run down of 52 I’ve been concentrating on the subplot behind the number 52 itself. Rip Hunter and Booster Gold have been fighting an evil version of Booster’s sidekick, Skeets, a library/security robot from the 25th century. It knows that time is broken, that something powerful and new has been left behind in the wake of the INFINITE CRISIS, but it doesn’t know what. The answer to that is to be found in the head of damaged android Red Tornado. The Tornado has spent the past year languishing in Australia until retrieved by its creator’s T.O. Morrow. Just as Morrow realises what inside the Tornado’s memory, he’s drafted by Booster Gold and Rip Hunter to fight the Evil Skeets. He’s bait to lure Skeets out into the open.
Mister Mind revealed (Ugly sucker ain't he?)
Booster still assumes that Skeets’s programming has been corrupted, but it only now that the full horror of his transformation is revealed. For the last 50 weeks the Venusian mindworm, Mister Mind, has been gestating inside of Skeets’s robotic body. Doctor Sivana’s experiments on Mister Mind removed the biological blocks that were keeping it at a larval stage. It needed a chrysalis to gestate in. Mind ate the real Skeets from the inside and kept its shell – a shell uniquely capable of surviving the ravages of time travel – as a chrysalis. Now, after 52 weeks its ready to reveal its full adult form. Mister Mind is a Hyperfly, a monstrous moth-like creature that feeds on dimensions and universes – this is how it was able to absorb the Phantom Zone during his last encounter with Hunter and Booster in the Fortress of Solitude.
Mind sensed that the events of the INFINITE CRISIS had created a powerful new power source for him to feed on, but he didn’t know the truth about it or where to find it. Only Hunter knew and that’s why Mister Mind was hunting him. Hunter and Booster grab the Red Tornado’s head from Morrow’s laboratory and dive into Hunter’s Time Sphere, leaving Morrow to escape on his own. Following on in Week #52, Hunter explains that they’ve travelled back one year into the past and that that they are inside the timestream witnessing a birth. Hunter relates the unseen events of INFINITE CRISIS which he witnessed from within the timesteam.
The Secret of 52 is explained (Week #52)
“It was during one of my strange adventures. I was traveling thought time investigating an anomaly when the time stream was ripped open. A survivor from a parallel Earth long dead had returned to ‘save’ ours from a self-perceived corruption. His name was Alexander Luthor. He split our Earth in thousands of divergent worlds, but the planets he manifested were unstable. Trapped in the time stream, I watched worlds live and die — until Conner Kent sacrificed his life to save our reality. ”
“The broken Earths collapsed back together, combining historical remnant to form one New Earth — one far too small to contain the energy within it. In a cosmic act of self-preservation, as you just saw, it began replicating. Unknown to anyone save myself, a new Multiverse was born in the wake of the crisis. 52 identical Earths in 52 identical cosmos.”
The Red Tornado witnessed the same event, but his vibrationally attuned technology was able to map the new Multiverse. Hunter needed his map so that his Time Sphere could vibrationally attune to the different universes and travel between them. The gestating Mister Mind sensed the change in reality, but wasn’t sure of the cause. How that the secret of the 52 is revealed he is free to feast on the energies of the new Multiverse, absorbing it and destroying it before it is fully explored.
Each of the Universes started out identical to the New Earth Universe, but Mister Mind’s feasting alters their history at a deep level. This isn’t unlike the reality ripples that Superboy Prime’s escape into realspace caused, but this time the effects are far more dramatic. Hunter describes the Multiverse as “52 Universes, moving in harmony like gears in some gigantic, celestial machine. He’s prefiguring the Orrery of World, the Monitor’s own conception of the Multiverse. Mister Mind’s rampage is altering the chronology of each world, creating divergent histories and natures. Like the butterfly from chaos theory, the flaps of his wings are having massive effects on each Universe.
With the help of Supernova (now Daniel Carter, Booster’s ancestor) Rip Hunter restores the Phantom Zone when Mister Mind tries using it as a weapon against them. Daniel had been trapped in a loop of 52 seconds – the 52 missing second Clock King had been complaining about. They then align the pieces they need to trap Mister Mind. Hunter steals a sample of suspendium from Doctor Sivana, but accidentally reveals to him that the Multiverse exists. Meanwhile Booster borrows Dan Garret’s Blue Beetle Scarab from the day after the first Crisis and inadvertently meets Ted Kord for the first time.
Hunter uses the suspendium to lure Mister Mind out of the Multiverse before he spawns and into realspace. They then trap Mister Mind back inside Skeets shell and hurl him backwards through the timestream. He devolves back into a worm as he travels backwards in time. Then one year ago, Sivana finds the worm in the wilderness just in time to start his experiments all over again. The perfect closed time loop.
There you have it, the secret of 52. When the New Earth Universe reformed at the end of Infinite Crisis 51 other Earths in their own Universes were also formed. These 52 cosmoses were momentarily identical until Mister Mind’s flight altered their causality and chronology at a fundamental level.
Personally I was quite surprised by the compact nature of the new Multiverse. By having a set number of universes DC could either be seen as limiting themselves or as forcing themselves to make every parallel Earth count. There is a throw away line from Rip Hunter about something called the Megaverse so I would not be too surprised to learn that there is a large multiversal structure outside of the 52 itself.
Oh and don’t worry about Skeets. Rip Hunter and Will Magnus were able to salvage a backup of his AI from before Mister Mind starting on him.
Next in this series I want to take a look at how the 52 played out in other comics, but I’m going to reserve COUNTDOWN and FINAL CRISIS itself for a later date.