16 December 2015

Faster than a DC Bullet: Prose Fiction #9: Project Crisis!, Part XXXIV: 52 [novelization]

Trade paperback, 359 pages
Published 2007

Borrowed from the library
Read March 2015
52 by Greg Cox

Prose and comics are two mediums that have very different strengths, and nowhere is that more evident than here. One of the things that made 52 so successful was its very investment in the comics model of long-form serialized storytelling: it told a single story in 52 parts, adding up to over a 1,000 pages of comics. Though obviously you could in theory reproduce this in other mediums (prose, television, &c.), I don't think it would play to their strengths, at least not as those mediums are produced in contemporary America.

So while a novel version of 52 could in theory work, I suppose, this novel version never could. The whole point of the story was its hugeness, its sprawl, its peeking into every corner of the DC universe/multiverse. That just cannot happen in a 359-page novel. Cox is hampered by trying to simulate the very format of the original comics; while in his later novelization of Countdown to Final Crisis, he can just lop out whole subplots, here he emulates the original comics in having 52 chapters, one for each week. This means at least some part of each issue has to make it into the book, which makes it much more difficult to cut the story down. Countdown focuses on just a couple of the subplots in great detail; the novel of 52 hits most of the subplots at a very superficial level.

The result is a book that would probably be mildly interested if you hadn't read 52 as a comic, but is thoroughly uninteresting if you have. I'm sure Greg Cox did his best with the hand he was dealt, but in this format, I just don't see a way this project could have ever succeeded.

(Also I'm pretty sure there's just one flat-out error: the Nightwing who meets Batwoman in Gotham is Dick Grayson here, but I'm pretty sure that in the comics he's meant to be the undead fellow former Robin Jason Todd impersonating Dick.)

Next Week: Time to begin a countdown... a Countdown to Final Crisis!

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