“I’m you… The better you!” – Superman-Prime
|“Countdown to Final Crisis” #24|
First, the build-up. As the week begins, we can pick up where we left off last issue with the super-powered Desaad taking on the Legionnaires and the Atomic Knights. Though ultra-powerful, Desaad’s bid for domination ends swiftly, as the Atomic Knights use some undefined technology to create a feedback and drive Desaad out of the Firestorm Matrix. Defeated, Desaad makes a run for it, only to end up back on Apokalips.
Interestingly enough, our next thread takes us there, as well. As Darkseid tries to inform Mary Marvel of her newfound servitude to him, she throws quite a fit and, with Desaad’s terrible timing adding to the confusion, makes her escape. Eclipso promises to return young Mary to the fold, but for now, our attentions shift elsewhere, as Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner reflect upon their lot and their former companionship, growing, it seems, ever closer in the wake of their joint dislike of Jason Todd’s tactics.
With that out of the way, let’s turn to the bulk of our issue. Retuning to Earth-15, we visit the incapacitated Lex Luthor, captive of a black-clad Superman-Prime. In looking at Earth-15, Prime has found the world, even with all its perfections, wanting, and he’s not about to sit quietly while others enjoy their lives. First, he butchers Zod and his wife. Then Luthor. Then the Justice League, featuring several Titans who have taken on the roles of their mentors. Then he scorches Atlantis from beneath the waves, only to run into the remaining heroes of the world, namely Batman (Jason Todd) and Wonder Woman (Donna Troy). Both die swiftly and, in a fit of pique, Prime decides that the world itself is not fit to exist, using his extreme superpowers to rend the planet, shattering it into nothing but fragments and slaughtering all life on the Earth.
To recover from that bit of madness, we take a breath with Scott Beatty and Walt Simonson, who provide the origin of Desaad.
BE: No Keith Giffen this issue, but what the issue may lose from his lack of layouts is more than made up for by the strong art team of Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher.
JE: To be honest, I didn’t even notice any changes, I was so pleased with the art. It held up better than most issues have.
BE: It did, but I have an eye for those Giffen layouts. I have stacks of Giffen issues of the Legion and occasionally I’ll see a panel in “Countdown” that screams Keith’s name.
JE: Probably the same way I felt about Ron Lim last week. Some panels were all Ron, but so many were Giffen’s touch.
BE: This week’s story continues to gather the cohesiveness that we’ve been wishing for with Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti adding their usual flair.
JE: See, now I thought it was a little bit of a step back, with the way everything jumped around. I felt the real flaw came with the fight with Desaad, but we’ll cover that later.
BE: I think I was happiest with how Superman-Prime was handled. That story had (as Jim Shooter would say) a beginning, a middle and an end. It was very well handled.
JE: Yeah, I’ll buy that. I was at my happiest reading those parts.
BE: Well, we wondered who the black and silver Superman was, looks like it’s the artist formerly known as Superboy-Prime. I’d recognize that emo dialog anywhere.
JE: Okay, then we are on the same page. Odd, though, that he’s dressed like this. I admit, I haven’t been following “Sinestro Corps War,” but I thought that something such as a relatively big costume change would have been mentioned there, first.
BE: This look is new for all of us. In the pages of the Corps War stories, Prime is wearing a variation on the Anti-Monitor’s armor.
JE: Right, which is why this stunned me so. Unless, of course, there are two Primes out there.
BE: At any rate, Superman-Prime slaughters Zod-Superman and his wife and then move on to Earth-15’s Lex Luthor and Justice League.
JE: Odd that the fight was so quick, but I have to think that, if Earth-15 was such an ideal world, the heroes wouldn’t have been prepared for such a ferocious opponent, thus the quick losses.
BE: While I’m sure that is part of it, Prime has been presented as being super charged by solar energy by the power suit he wore during the Corps War. This new costume, which is similar to Superman’s resurrection suit, may serve the same purpose. Prime appears to be at pre-crisis power levels for a Kryptonian.
JE: Isn’t that suit similar to the one he wore at the end of “Infinite Crisis?” This could be a slimmed down version that provides the same result.
BE: Fire-Desaad is in full control of his elemental controlling powers and we called it, Darkseid is gathering a super army beyond what he already has and has Mary Marvel in mind for his sorceress, but Mary is having none of it.
JE: I’m thinking it’s less a realization of Darkseid’s evil and more her own teenage brattitude that instills her with a sense of rebellion.
BE: Absolute power corrupts absolutely? I’ll go for that.
JE: Definitely. After all, she’s got enough power to make her a contender.
BE: In the meanwhile, the Challengers are stuck in the middle of nowhere and Donna and Kyle play catch up while Kyle attempts to out-emo Superman-Prime.
JE: And he’s getting close to being in the lead. I hate to see good characters reduced to schmucks when they’re near a pretty girl. I blame the writers, and that’s not meant as an insult, just an insight. It seems a lot of writers fall back on the “I’m a sissy-feelings-boy” move when they’re trying to show a character’s attractions for a girl.
BE: And that’s sad really, while I am no fan of Kyle Rayner, I have been very happy with the way he was portrayed by Geoff Johns and to see him reduced to being the team whiner is a waste.
JE: And it’s not just Kyle. Jason suffered the same indignities, which is way out of character for him of late.
BE: Question: How do you break a shapeshifter’s neck?
JE: Um, carefully? I would have thought laser-vision would have been more appropriate.
BE: Back in Bludhaven, the Atomic Knights use some unexplained technology to drive Desaad out of the Firestorm equation while poor Karate Kid remains a spectator.
JE: And considering that this is supposed to be his storyline, well, maybe there’s something wrong here. I do like the Atomic Knights, though.
BE: I do too and with the post-apocalyptic Atomic Knights getting their own Earth, there is a solid chance we might see a mini-series after Final Crisis.
JE: That’d be rockin’. Totally trade-worthy, too.
BE: The balance of the issue shows one of the most beautifully brutal sequences in the series as Superman-Prime ends all life on Earth-15. Simply stunning.
JE: Yeah, that about sums it up. For two pages I just stared at what I was seeing, trying to process it. “Oh, my God, he’s ripping the planet in half!” That was amazing. And kind of scary. We always knew a Superman could have that much power, but to see it in use…
BE: Frankly, I’m glad the Batman of New Earth didn’t see this, he’s set about wiping out the Kryptonians in a New York Minute.
JE: “Now where did I put that synthetic Kryptonite Ra’s borrowed? Oh, here we go, right next to the Bat-zooka.”
BE: I have to mention the excellent two-page origin story of Desaad, Scott Beatty, Walt Simonson and John Workman. Simply flawless. These three would be a dream team on a New Gods title.
JE: Very much so. I’ve often thought Beatty should be doing more direct comic work.
BE: Agreed. Next issue, a caged Mr. Mxyzptlk. Ugly.
JE: How do you cage a being that warps reality? I assume this finally picks up the thread of Mxy’s capture we saw a few weeks ago.
BE: Good memory. I think that is likely the case. Let’s hope it’s not Prime that has him, for Mxy’s sake.
Panel of the Week
To quote myself from last week, “I’m not ashamed to admit this terrifies me.”