T-MINUS: "Countdown" #31

By Justin Eger and Brian K. Eason

"You know, this reminds me of a killer joke." - The Jokester

T-Minus 31

Jimmy gets tested, Mary gets tempted, Mr. Myxzptlk gets taken and Holly takes a trip. Oh yeah, Karate Kid and Una pay a visit to the man named Buddy Blank and the Monitors prepare for war against Monarch, too.

But for the real story this week, we'll take a trip to Earth-3 with Jason, Donna, Kyle and Bob, where they meet this world's version of the Justice League, a villainous team called the Crime Society (not the Syndicate, as GL may have first believed). The main players we already know: Ultraman, Owlman, Power Ring and Superwoman, and, with that, the groups might almost be evenly matched.

However, the Society is much larger than it first appears, and villainous versions of The Flash, The Spectre, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Wildcat, Green Arrow and a Stargirl knockoff while some sixguns all arrive. Very, very dangerous, but the Challengers From Beyond have a little help of their own in the form of The Jokester. Who he is, where he comes from, no one can say, but he's waging a one-man war against the Crime Society, but when the going gets really bad, the Challengers take their newfound friend and pull a vanishing act courtesy of Bob.

Back in the way back, Scott Beatty and Brian Bolland provide a three-card-monte featuring The Joker.


BE: Nice art this issue. Keith Giffen's layouts are, as always, perfect. Manuel Garcia's facial expressions are excellent and each character benefits from a unique look. One small annoyance was the moving neckline of Donna Troy's costume.

JE: I missed the random neckline, but I thought Jason's boot tops shifted. Still, that's a nitpick. This guy's got a good style, and I'd like to see more from him.

BE: In our first part we have the Challengers encounter the Crime Society. Very nice stuff here. We've established something new and hearkened back to something old. Jason and Kyle have their usual by-play, which is very nice and the introduction of The Jokester (who looks an awful lot like Snapper Carr).

JE: I thought he looked familiar, but I expected the Jokester to not be as violent. I thought he'd be, like, ultra-sane and talking with lots of huge words, since he's, y'know, not crazy. He doesn't seem to be the opposite of our Joker except that he's doing good, but he's still fighting and maiming people. I'm looking forward to more explanation in the CSA one-shot.

BE: I think that in this version of Earth-3, while the world is flipped along the moral axis, the characters are essentially the same. In the prior versions, Lex Luthor was the sole hero and was still a genius. In some versions he was arrogant, while in others he was humble.

JE: That's true, that's true. Guess it stands to reason that our Jokester friend is still batty as a hatter (and I'm sure he would understand that).

BE: The Athena plotline continues with, sadly, some predictability. I wonder if we'll continue to see this unfold here or if we should look for more of this over in "Catwoman."

JE: I'd rather see it move to "Catwoman." I think that this would make a great continuing Catwoman plotline, since Holly never even got a chance to shine in costume. Here, it just seems like it's not getting enough airtime.

BE: Mr. Myxzptlk and his lovely wife, Gsptlsnz, make an appearance long enough to establish that Myxy will be back in "Superman."

JE: One word: Yes! I love Mr. Myxzptlk. I fondly recall one of my first issues of "Superman" featuring his post-"Crisis" introduction.

BE: I admit a similar affinity for the little imp. There are definitely a lot of opportunities for this character right now. The question remains: Who is calling him up, Johns or Busiek?

JE: My money's on Kurt. Don't know why, but it is.

BE: Mary meets up with Eclipso and all I could think was: "What's up with the mohawk?"

JE: Okay, so I wasn't the only one. Jason's hair bugged me, too. Guess we just need a little practice and a character reference.

BE: As I know you are tickled with the appearance of Buddy Blank, I have to say that the idea of an OMAC mini-series has me excited. I'd love to see Jim Starlin take another crack at the One Man Army.

JE: That would be sweet. I know John Byrne isn't fondly remembered, but I did love his take on the OMAC and I'd love to see a new version of that character brought into play. Not that I didn't like the liquid-metal killers under Greg Rucka, but nothing beats the supreme fighting machine.

BE: I liked the initial revamp of the OMACs, but it fell down on the back end. I'm hoping that this was the plan from the beginning, introduce the modernized OMAC/Brother Eye story and have it dovetail into the classic OMAC origin.

JE: And then have the classic OMAC smash all the remaining OMACs? That would be cool: an OMAC war.

BE: Jimmy gets in the middle of some sophomoric humor over at S.T.A.R. Labs and seems to be manifesting all of his transformations at once under the influence of the - I hate to say it - A.N.U.S.

JE: A sly comment on his storyline?

BE: Or a bold attempt at 3rd grade scatological humor?

JE: I can't say much. I come up with a story point that had a scientist working for a company that spelled out NERD.

BE: We end the question of which side Monarch is on and Jokester hitches a ride, leading up to the next one-shot in the Search for Ray Palmer Series.

JE: As previously mentioned, I'd like to see a good development of the character, but I have a feeling that, like the Wildstorm one-shot, there will be very little from Jason, Donna, Kyle and Bob, which is what (I thought) the books were to be about.

BE: I was going to do an FYI on this, but I think it's better addressed here. We have 30 more weeks until "Final Crisis" and we all know it. So, all of the tie-ins and all of the multiversal story lines are on a time constraint. The Challengers story suffers from the same problems that we see in the Forerunner story from this week's "Countdown to Adventure." In this month's issue, Forerunner invades Earth-10, the home of the JLAxis, a dystopian world where the Nazi's conquered the world. While it was fascinating to see this new take on a classic theme, it was hard to do in a mere 16 pages. In "Countdown" we have even fewer pages to tell the story. In a perfect world, the model followed by Marvel's "Exiles" would be the solution: multiple issue visits to a single parallel world. While I would love for this to be the case in "Countdown" and the companion titles, it's not feasible. You have 52 Earths and 30 weeks until we hit the event that all of this has been heading towards. So, with the exception of the Lord Havoc miniseries, each world is going to be a travelogue and that's a shame. Here's hoping that the multiverse survives the "Final Crisis" and we get to know these worlds better in the coming years.

JE: Well said.

BE: Nice dodge on the origin of the Joker as the backup. I don't care if they fail to commit, just give me the Bolland artwork.

JE: That back-up feature was, potentially, the most beautiful comic artwork I've seen in a long time, and it was so cleverly done. Man, I got chills reading it, and it was only two pages.

BE: I miss Brian Bolland. I pull out my "Judge Dredd" and "Camelot 3000" comics occasionally just for the visual treat.

JE: Ah, "Camelot 3000." There's a concept that deserves a revisitation someday. I loved that book. Took me years to find a trade copy.

Panel of the Week

This could prove interesting...


"Batgirl" #1 Restores Barbara Gordon's Gusto in the Wake of "Batman: The Killing Joke"

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