“Adventure beckons!” – Harley Quinn
|“Countdown To Final Crisis” #21|
Our story begins this week right where we left off, as Pied Piper and Trickster (or his corpse, at least) take a train ride. Unfortunately for Piper, nothing he tries revives his partner in crime, leaving Piper tied to a dead body for the duration of his journey. Can we make it worse? Sure we can, because now that one party in the cuffs is dead, a sensor inside starts counting down (get it?), leaving Piper with just 24 hours before the cuffs detonate and eliminate him, as well.
It’s an ugly situation, and Desaad revels in the mischief, finally removing Trickster’s playing piece from Darkseid’s game board. The interrogator is joined by Granny Goodness, who reveals her role as Athena, working in secret to create new Female Furies to serve her lord and master.
It’s a test that may kill some, if not all, of the women still on Paradise Island, including Holly Robinson and Harley Quinn. The pair, though, seems to be doing better than most as they run an “American Gladiators”-style gauntlet across the island, all under the watchful eye of their Amazonian leaders. However, during a lull in the action, Holly and Harley slip off into uncharted territory, finding a cave to explore, though the mysterious inhabitants of the cave aren’t likely to welcome the women with open arms.
A quick world-shift drops us (and the Challengers of Beyond) onto Earth-12, the home of “Batman Beyond” and his counterparts. Though it’s unclear who resides in the suit, the Batman of this earth takes no notice of the events playing out around him, as this world’s Monitor, naming himself Nix Uotan, makes a play for Bob and the Challengers at the bidding of his leader, Solomon (the Monitor that has declared war on world-jumpers). The battle is hard-fought, but brief, as the Challengers make the jump into the Bleed in lieu of escape. However, Bob’s manipulations to date have finally run out, as the 52 minute-delay he’d been using has finally run out. With that, the Challengers learn that they’ll likely be spotted (and attacked) on each new Earth they visit.
And if all that wasn’t enough, let’s stop by Bludhaven, where Buddy Blank, his grandson, Firestorm and the Legionnaires try to make their escape from the Atomic Knights. Gaining a few moments thanks to Firestorm, the others make a run for it and discover a secret portal beneath Command-D. Using Karate Kid’s retina scan does two things. One, it opens the secret portal, and two, it unleashes the OMACs and a revitalized Brother I, who will arrive at and level Bludhaven’s remains in exactly 52 minutes. But there is a tad of silver in the storm cloud: Nix may have inadvertently revealed the location of Ray Palmer.
To cap it all off, let’s learn the Origin of Granny Goodness with Scott Beatty and Jon Bogdanove.
This week’s FYI is big, because I love you all so much. There was a lot of “Countdown to Final Crisis” stuff going on in the DCU this week.
In the pages of “Justice Society of America” #11, Jay Garrick and Wally West pull out the cosmic treadmill to verify the story of the Superman of Earth-22 and determine if the Multiverse has returned. The Flashes manage to get vibrationally attuned to “Universe Two” before hitting a barrier we can only assume is the Source Wall. Note that the universe in question appears to be Earth-2 and still leaves the details of the mysterious Earth-1 in questions.
“Death of the New Gods” #3 raised the body count on the New Gods by three as the unknown killer takes the souls of Takion, Kanto and Mortella. Mister Miracle, Superman and Orion make a visit to Darkseid and Mister Miracle shows the lord of Apokolips what mastery of the anti-life equation looks like. Granny Goodness and other Apokoliptians voice their concerns over Darkseid’s lack of actions and we witness the return of Mantis. Mantis is also eliminated as a suspect, which was a prevalent internet rumor as people continue to speculate on who is bringing the “Midnight of the New Gods.” I want to say that I find the term “midnight” to be an odd choice, usually the end of an era is referred to as the “twilight.” I think this may be a deliberate (though obtuse) reference to the end of the Fourth World (hence midnight) and the coming of the rumored Fifth World (the morning to follow midnight). Jim Starlin is nothing if not specific in his use of language as fans of his previous work will attest.
The capstone to this week’s “Countdown to Final Crisis” crossovers is the much discussed “Countdown: Arena” #1. For those living under a rock, the Arena series has the villainous Monarch staging tryouts for the army he is constructing in the bleed. With shades of the novel “Battle Royale,” Monarch has kidnapped heroes (and villains) from earths throughout the Multiverse to battle for the right to fight at his side against the Monitors, whether they want to or not. In the first of this four part series, Monarch pits three versions of Shadowpact’s Nightshade against one another with (literally) earth shattering results. In the meanwhile, we get to know many of the principle characters and the plot advances in a logical (if predictable) fashion. The main event for this issue is a battle of Batmen. When this book was first announced, fans were encouraged to go to the DC Comics home page and vote for the winners of specific bouts. The Batman throw down was one of them and pits the Victorian Batman of “Gotham by Gaslight” against the Pulp Batman of “JSA: Liberty Files” against the Vampiric Batman of “Batman: Red Rain.” The results, determined by your votes, were not surprising. All in all, this was a good start, the art by Scott McDaniel gave an energy to the book that was needed prevented this from becoming the DC version of “Contest of Champions.” We look forward to issue #2.
Finally, there was a beautiful two-page spread featuring over 50 potential combatants and (because I am a sucker for this sort of thing) I did my best to identify them all so you don’t have to.
- Victorian Batman (Earth-19) from the “Gotham by Gaslight” Elseworlds story.
- Pulp Batman (Earth-40) from the “JSA: Liberty Files.”
- Vampire Batman (Earth-43) from the Elseworlds “Red Rain” series.
- Blue Beetles
- Scarab (Earth-26) is a real beetle as this is the home of Captain Carrot and other anthropomorphic animals.
- Blue Beetle (possibly from New Earth) is Jamie Reyes who first appeared during Infinite Crisis.
- Buggy Blue Beetle (Unknown Earth) who appears to be made up of scarabs or beetles and that’s just nasty.
- Jay Garrick Flash, (possibly of Earth-2), is the Golden age flash, but is lightning bolt is not the same as the New Earth’s flash.
- Tangent Flash, (Earth-9) is Lia Nelson of the Tangent Comics imprint.
- Johnny Quick (Earth-3) is a member of the Crime Society of America. I would have assumed that he had already joined Monarch’s army with the rest of the CSA, but that may not be the case.
- Green Lanterns
- Shazam Green Lantern (Earth-5) is the Marvel Family’s answer to Green Lantern.
- Green Lantern Beyond (Earth-12) comes from the WB’s Batman Beyond universe and is a descendant of Hal Jordan.
- Darkest Knight Green Lantern (Earth-32) is the Bruce Wayne of the Elseworlds story of the same name.
- Eve Eden (possibly Earth-4) appears to be the Nightshade from Charleton comics and not the current one in “Shadowpact.”
- The Shade (Earth-13), a villainous version of Nightshade that appears to be an amalgam of Nightshade and the JSA/Starman villain, the Shade, complete with top-hat.
- Eve of Shadows (unknown Earth) is married to Brigadier Atom.
- Fascist Ray (Earth-10) is a Nazi as you can tell from the glowing Swastika on his chest.
- Apollo (Earth-50) is a member of Wildstorm’s super group, the Authority.
- Glowy Ray (unknown Earth) glows. Yeah, that’s what I’ve got.
- Stargirl (possibly New Earth) appears to be Courtney Whitmore of the JSA but the costume is green and the hair color is wrong. Time will tell on this one, but it could be a coloring error.
- Simian Starman (unknown Earth) is an ape. Apes always sell. It’s a fact.
- Blue Starman (unknown Earth) kind of resembles Mikaal Tomas, Starman III of New Earth, but the uniform is wrong. He also looks a lot like Forerunner.
- Young Superman (Earth-15) was verified by Keith Champagne in an interview as Christopher Kent, the son of General Zod.
- Red Son Superman (Earth-30) is the soviet Superman of the Elseworlds novel “Superman: Red Son.”
- Dark Knight Superman (Earth-31) appears to be the Superman of “All Star Batman and Robin” and “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.”
- Wonder Women
- Western Wonder Woman (Earth-18) was a sheriff in the 1890s in the “Justice Riders” Elseworlds story.
- New Frontier Wonder Woman (Earth-21) appeared in the miniseries of the same name.
- Amazonia Wonder Woman (Earth-34) is from 19th Century England where she starred the Elseworlds title “Wonder Woman: Amazonia.”
- The Teen Titanimals (possibly Earth-26) appear to be anthropomorphic animal versions of the Teen Titans (best Boy, Raven, Nightwing and Cyborg).
- A pair of alternate Firestorms (unknown Earths), but one appears to be the original Firestorm
- Thrillkiller Batgirl and Robin (Earth-37) from the “Thrillkiller” Elseworlds story.
- Robin (Earth-2) who is an older Dick Grayson and a member of the JSA.
- L.E.G.I.O.N (unknown Earth) from the Elseworld story “L.E.G.I.O.N. 90210”
- Justice Society of America (Earth-40) from “JSA: The Liberty Files,” with members including Black Canary, Hourman, Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific. Some debate on this one, but it’s confirmed in the design of Mister Terrific, who is wearing a hood made the mask from the dress of his dead fiancé, a significant plot point in the series.
- Justice League of America (unknown Earth), members including Aquaman, Atom, Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter from the Elseworlds story “JLA: The Nail.”
- Breach (Possibly Earth-7, which Alex Luther described as the home of Breach in Infinite Crisis) is an alternate version of Captain Atom.
- Big Dude with Blonde Hair (unknown Earth) appears directly behind Breach and, sadly, I have no idea who he is, it may be another Captain Atom.
BE: Story assist by Sean McKeever this week makes for a tight story. The Keith Giffen layouts with Jamal Igle pencils and Mark McKenna inks are evocative of Kirby in many places. I am sure that was intentional. Nice looking work this week.
JE: Yeah, it really looked smooth and polished. I was glad to see Jamal Igle get tapped for this, because I really like his work and I wish I could see more of him on a regular book again. He gets better with each passing year.
BE: He does. While I was not a huge fan of the most recent Firestorm, I thought he art was amazing. I was also particularly happy with his Nightwing and Green Lantern stuff.
Wow, Trickster is dead. This is bad. It’s bad and it makes me very sad.
JE: I’m less sad because his full potential was hardly realized with this series, but, in honor of James Jesse, I am quite sad. Now all we have is the Trickster-punk out there. So uncool. But I wonder if we’ll see a disturbing scene with an axe to get rid of Piper’s dead weight, a la “Prison Break.”
BE: I think that sort of thing is likely as we move from humor to horror with this storyline.
JE: Poor Piper. Poor, poor Piper. That is some messed up action, right there.
BE: No surprise that Granny is Athena. We called that.
JE: Take your bow, man, you were all over that from day one.
BE: The imprisonment of the Greek Gods was a surprise, but explains my prior question about why the real Athena hadn’t intervened. This also explains “Amazons Attack.”
JE: Yeah, very nice way to handle it all, though the fact that Darkseid is more powerful than an entire pantheon is unsettling.
BE: Firstly, I think Darkseid is probably the most powerful villain in the DCU when he is done correctly. Secondly, I imagine this is more of a dimensional lockdown than any direct involvement with the gods themselves.
JE: Makes a reasonable amount of sense. Perhaps he’s using the weight of the New Gods to keep them in check.
BE: Holly and Harley are great together, and rumor has it there may be a mini-series for these two.
JE: I heard the same rumor, and I think that could be kind of cool. I also wouldn’t mind seeing the two show up in very special issues of “Birds of Prey” as Oracle’s off-the-books team or something.
BE: It would make for the perfect crossover if they did. I would hope that Holly/Harley would be played for a few laughs and that would mix well with Oracle’s seriousness. In a perfect world we could have Gail Simone write it. Maybe a “Birds of Prey” annual.
JE: You’re on the same page as me, then.
BE: Jason is the only voice of reason as the Challengers take on Nix Uotan. I did some research on this name and the best I can come up with is that Uotan is another linguistic drift of Odin. So, possibly, this is “No Odin” or “No God.”
JE: Makes sense to me. Interesting distinction, though, since one of the Monitors has chosen the name of Solomon, which holds more than a little religious connotation.
BE: Or I could be over thinking this, but there has been a lot of religious imagery since “Infinite Crisis” with the Crime Bible and the Last Supper teaser poster for “Countdown.” There is no reason not to ascribe more religious connotations to this as well.
JE: Not really. After all, we’re talking about Armageddon. No way to take that lightly, religious significance or no. And, let’s not forget, our Gods, or at least our New Gods, are dying. More here than we’re seeing, I’m sure.
BE: And for our capper, the Legionaires, Buddy Blank, his grandson and the Atomic Knights face Brother Eye realized as Command-D is breached and we are 52 minutes (there’s that number again) from armageddon.
JE: Ah, 52, my lucky number. That was an exceptionally crazy moment for the whole of the DCU. Even with all the chaos going on, I imagine a giant freakin’ robot eye floating across the country towards sure ruin would warrant some attention on the part of the big guns.
BE: And gigantic hypodermic needles. That’s just upsetting.
JE: You noticed those, too? Glad I wasn’t the only one.
BE: Our backup is another excellent Scott Beatty biography, the Origin of Granny Goodness. Ever since I saw Walt Simonson do her origin story, I thought that Granny was a hottie when she was young.
JE: Which do you think is worse: the fact that you’ve got some really weird sort of kink going on there, or the fact that I kind of agree with you on that one?
BE: Trust me, it’s the former.
Panel of the Week
The end is near, eye am sure of it.