Fifty-one issues later, here we are.
As a so-called “spine of the DC Universe,” “Countdown” has failed absolutely. It did not have any bearing on what happened anywhere else, no matter how many characters were trotted out in its various spin-off series. The Justice League-level characters remained unaffected, with only Kirby’s Fourth World characters paying any sort of price — a price largely handled in the “Death of the New Gods” series anyway. Sure, Lightray died early in “Countdown,” and Darkseid died in the issue before this one, but those events were as inorganic as everything else that came along in this series.
In the end, what we’re left with in “Countdown to Final Crisis” #1 is a handful of characters who will “monitor the Monitors,” whatever that means, a Jason Todd who is creepier than ever, a Mary Marvel who’s a badass (you can tell, because she actually says, “I’m Mary Damn Marvel” — which is the DC equivalent of “I’m Gumby, dammit!”), and Holly and Harley living together. Fifty-one issues of anxious zooming through the multiverse for that. Fifty-one issues of poorly paced, transparent “character beats” leading to a climax in which a character, Orion, appears out of nowhere to kill his father. Note to DC: Orion wasn’t one of the characters in this story.
It’s called a deus ex machina, Paul Dini, as I’m sure you know. You may have heard of Aristotle — he thought the deus ex machina was played out 2,500 years ago. He was right.
But even ignoring the problems with the climax, was this final issue — this epilogue — any good?
Artist Tom Derenick does a fine job, in a kind of middle-of-the-road Tom Grummett sort of way. He’s a capable artist, and he does what he needs to, so you can’t fault him for the failure of this comic. He knows how to tell a story. Too bad he doesn’t get one to tell.
What he gets from Paul Dini is the very essence of perfunctory. Dini gives us a check-in with each central character from the series, showing what they’re up to now that it’s all over. (And, of course, it isn’t all over, as we all know — as even the title of the book tells us.) Structurally, it parallels what happened in the first half of “Countdown” as we were given a couple of pages of story updates for each of the main plot threads. It’s a structure that could work, if any of the plot threads were interesting, but they never were. And that’s the problem. It ends up reading like a story told by an enthusiastic child as he plays with his action figures: “And then Kyle Raynor shows up, and then Mary Marvel becomes evil, and then Holly and Harley sit around complaining, and then Jason Todd dresses up like Red Robin, and then Orion shows up to punch Darkseid, and then. . .”
So that’s it then?
“Oh, and grandpa turns into OMAC!”
At least it’s over.