After saving Piper and Trickster from mini-bombs planted by Deathstroke, The Flash takes the two Rogues to a safe hideout when he gathers his cohorts to determine what actions need to be taken to protect Green Arrow's wedding to Black Canary. Trickster, though, is determined to find a way to escape, only to be confronted with Hassan the Mummy as he tries to sneak out with Piper.
Jason, meanwhile, tries to save Donna from the pull of Belthera. However, he's not exactly the most powerful member the team, leaving the rescue to the well-timed arrival of Kyle Rayner. The Challengers complete, the team moves off to their first adventure in the new Multiverse as they continue their search fro Ray Palmer in the Wildstorm universe (Earth 50).
In return for helping Mary Marvel with the inhabitants of the mystic city (or, rather, protecting her from them), Klarion the Witch Boy asks only one thing in return: a small fraction of her power.
Finally, Jimmy Olsen is confronted by members of Project Cadmus, who want to help him figure out what is wrong with his powers, or even how they exist at all.
Back in the way back, meet The Riddler, courtesy of Scott Beatty and Don Kramer.
This week we saw the first Challengers of Beyond feature outside of the weekly with the publication of "Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm" #1. That's a heck of title. In this issue we follow Donna, Jason, Kyle and Bob to Earth-50, the Wildstorm universe, in search of, well, Ray Palmer. The story takes us around the Wildstorm Earth and, frankly, feels more like a travelogue than an adventure story. While the hunt for Ray is forwarded, it is a small leap and may not be as entertaining for those familiar with Wildstorm as it would be for those who aren't. The next spin off is a view of the new Earth-3 in "Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Syndicate" #1, which goes on sale October 3rd.
In other Countdown related news, the second issue of "Booster Gold" hit the stands this week, continuing the time traveling adventures of Booster, Rip Hunter and Skeets. Finally, answers to the Suicide Squad questions that were popping up in this column begin to be answered in the pages of a new miniseries written by John Ostrander. Pick up "Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag" #1 this week if you want an excellent read from a master of the supervillain genre.
BE: Art for this issue was - different. The dynamism, expressions and poses were very Neal Adams inspired, but it had an unfinished look.
JE: It was close in lots of places, but that unfinished feel didn't do it any justice. Again, I bet it would improve with more experience, but the first time is pretty harsh.
BE: Funny you should say that. I went back and looked at the issue again and just took in the artwork. While the layouts were pure Giffen, the art actually reminded me more of Gene Colan than Neal Adams and in that light, I think I like the rougher look.
We start off this issue with the Rogues and Wally. There is some excellent interaction here and I love the general whininess of the Rogues when faced with their old friend and sparring partner.
JE: I'm gonna oppose you on this one, because I much preferred the Rogues dealing with each other and the random characters. Their past with Wally makes them into second bananas, which isn't as much fun for two of our favorite stars.
BE: I can't fault that thinking, again, on a second look, Wally does come to the fore in this and that may be a disservice to the Rogues.
JE: Yeah, it's not that the inclusion of Wally is bad; it's just that it's not giving the Rogues any room to be more than simpering idiots. He just kind of overpowers them with his presence.
BE: As someone raised on Barry Allen, that last sentence - while true - is so strange to me.
JE: The times, they are a-changing.
BE: And with the Challengers, Kyle Rayner is here to save the day. You will forgive me if I say I am not a Kyle Rayner fan. I'm not sure that Paul Dini does either. Kyle seems to come across as smarmy here, or perhaps I'm reading too much into this.
JE: No, you're on the ball with that, Maybe it's that Kyle is turning evil because of the Sinestro Corps. Maybe its that we're supposed to like Jason more. Maybe it's because Kyle-as-Ion was always a little too big for his britches, but he's really not portrayed very kindly here. It's a good portrayal, but not the Kyle I'm used to seeing. For the record, I like Kyle. I'm just young enough to have been around for his introduction and he always clicked for me.
BE: Then you should be happy with "Countdown: The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm" #1. The special was pure Ron Marz and his love for Kyle was obvious, though not at the expense of Jason Todd.
JE: "C:TSFRP: Wildstorm" was all right, but, as you say, it's a little too fast to be of any real use. I'm kind of surprised that this was used as the first one of these titles, but maybe the hope is to put a boost into the flagging Wildstorm line.
That said, I think the need to bounce around the Wildstorm U hindered Marz. Not even Kyle really got a chance to shine. But the Grifter / Jason panel was pretty slick.
BE: I think what was needed was a classic Justice-League-splits-up-and-fights-the-bad-guys sequence. I'd have paid money for more than one panel of the Jason/Grifter fight.
JE: Heck yeah. I'm hoping for more of that from the visit with the CSA.
BE: The bit with Mary and Klarion seemed a bit jumbled. I felt like I was walking into a much more protracted event, rather than just a continuation of last issue.
JE: Yeah. Very hit-or-miss with everything this issue, it seems.
BE: So Jimmy is heading to Cadmus. The foundations of the Kirby / Jimmy Olsen connection continues. Perhaps we'll see the DNAliens as well.
JE: There's no better place to study DNA than Cadmus, though, as I said last week, I didn't think it was around anymore. It's good, though, because I always liked the concept.
BE: And while it might be too much to hope for, perhaps this will lead to a possible return of Kon-El.
JE: That would be really nice. That would be really, really nice.
BE: The Rogues and the running Mindwipe gag was priceless. These two absolutely need a series of their own. However, the mummy? This is starting to feel a bit like an Abbot and Costello picture.
JE: Perfect comparison, and, frankly, probably one of the reasons I'm liking it so much. Okay, Mr. Knowledge, where's the Living Mummy come from?
BE: Obviously we saw Hassan the Mummy in "Countdown" #37 preventing Mary Marvel from entering a certain room. Marvel Comics had their own "living" mummy as part of their horror titles. I think the reference here, on further examination, is very much an homage to the Abbot and Costello films and possibly the Hope and Crosby films. The comparison has been made, before, and by me if I recall correctly. There is also, of course, the reference to the Warner Brothers (DC's parent company) cartoon "Ali Baba Bunny" (1957) where Hassan, who guards the cave of the Sultan's Treasure, chases Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck around, yelling: Hassan Chop! That was actually my first thought when I saw the mummy in issue #37. As a final note, the Bugs and Daffy series of cartoons were another send up of Hope and Crosby.
JE: That's what I've been thinking of all this time! Bugs and Daffy rule.
BE: Donna asks Jason if Kyle is a problem. While there has been some obvious flirtation going on between them, I did realize that they were at that point.
JE: Yeah, I think this is where the "Countdown" system has some flaws versus the "52" system. The alternating don't always never seem to be aware of the last place things stopped (see the Mary Marvel portion for another good reference), whereas "52" was constantly flowing, and everyone was on the same page. I don't want to say that having Dini as the showrunner has hurt DC, because, really, you can't go wrong with our friend Paul, but I don't think the advance planning model has been working too smoothly, either here or elsewhere.
BE: There is always the fact that this book was intended as a linking piece for other DC comics instead of a story in and of itself. That being said, I don't think that that has been its strong point and would rather, as you point out, have been better served to follow the model of success set forth by "52."
JE: Yeah, it's unfair to try and compare the two story-wise, because they aren't supposed to be similar. "Countdown" has its own merits, but I think, instead, that DC should look at the business model of designing your entire line for over a year in advance. I have to think that it would get kind of claustrophobic to try and tailor every story to one person's vision.
BE: Not to mention the volume of work for a single writer trying to manage a weekly.
Panel of the Week
Translation: HASSAN CHOP!