"Um… Shazam?" – Mary Marvel
Our visit to Apokolips continues this week, starting off with Mary Batson, Holly Robinson and Harley Quinn, our favorite female trio, as they find their way into the holding cell of the gods - this great big piece of Darkseid's technology that has kept the Greek pantheon at bay with Granny Goodness impersonated Athena and reforged the Amazonians. Listening to the guidance of the Gods, Mary uses their magic to free them, breaching the barrier with a burst of Shazam-powered lightning, which is also a signal to Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner and Ray Palmer, who seek out the source of the magic, thinking it heralds the arrival of Captain Marvel.
Before the arrival of the Challengers, Mary, Holly and Harley talk with the Gods, and for their help in freeing the Pantheon, the women are each given blessings. Mary regains her marvel-ous abilities, while Holly finds herself blessed by Diana, granted speed, strength, and other powers of the hunt, as well as a magical bow. Harley, an amusement to Thalia, the muse of comedy, gets herself some powers as well, topped off by a big ol' magic mallet. The trio then uses their newfound abilities to hunt down Granny Goodness, only to watch her destroyed by the stalker of all the New Gods.
Elsewhere, Karate Kid enters into a (very one-sided) duel with the OMAC that has replaced Una. Unwilling to harm the creature in the hopes that Una is still inside, Karate Kid is battered and bruised, with only the timely arrival of Jason Todd to save him from certain death. However, Kid and Jason argue about the escape, and Jason abandons Val to the OMAC. Unable to convert Val through the nano-virus, the OMAC takes Karate Kid away to the central hub of Brother Eye for an autopsy to discover the Legionairre's resistance to the virus.
Meanwhile, Pied Piper finds himself tempted by the devil that is Desaad, who convinces Piper that he can reign over this hell by using the power of creation locked away in his music. Piper, considering himself damned, begins to play, seeing no other option. However, the music is interrupted as it begins by Brother Eye, who causes explosions all across the surface of the planet.
Brother Eye has merged with, and taken over, Apokolips.
And in the back we have a cheery rendition of the Origin of Harley Quinn, as told by Scott Beatty and Bruce Timm. Yay!
BE: Week Ten and counting down. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti join Paul Dini again on the writing chores and its Scott Kolins art over Keith Giffen layouts. Last time we saw Mr. Kolins was "Countdown to Final Crisis" #18 and you felt his pencils and inks were heavy. What did you think?
JE: I liked it. It was still heavy, but only appropriately so, what with everyone being trapped on a hell-planet and all. It was dark and gritty and just right. You?
BE: There were some moments when Giffen's rougher facial detail came through, but the whole piece had a lot of motion and gravity. All in all, I liked it. I saw a lot of Giffen in this issue's art and a (not surprisingly) Kirby influence, particularly on page 2 when we see the prison of the Gods.
JE: Oh yeah, that was a scene right out of the Kirby handbook, for sure. I felt similarly about the final page, as well.
BE: The final page was indeed very Kirby-esque. It had a classic New Gods cliffhanger feel.
JE: Well-placed in the course of the run.
BE: Admittedly, there are times when this series has missed some opportunities, but Mary Marvel kneeling before the prison and saying Shazam? Hell of a payoff.
JE: Yeah, that was pretty cool. I was glad to see it done this way, as well, with Mary being very uncertain about it all (as well as her place in it).
BE: And it was suitably humble with her kneeling before the door to the prison. A whispered "Shazam" has all the impact of a shout.
JE: Right! And the following page with her reveling in the power was an interesting throwback to earlier in the series when Black Adam gave her his power. Full circle, it seems.
BE: Holly and Harley get a divine upgrade. Holly gains her power from Diana, huntress of the gods, perfect! Harley's upgrade is from the muse of comedy -- ok -- that's perfect too, but kinda lame.
JE: Giant mallets are never lame. I, however, still take issue with the idea of fighting monsters and Parademons in a midriff-baring toga (for Holly). At least Harley looked like she'd survive a fight.
BE: True, but it was in keeping with the Greek theme, so I went with it.
JE: It was probably the only place I had trouble with Giffen / Kolins this week. Holly just looked so out of place, and her six-pack looked harder than mine.
BE: I can only assume you are referring to beer in your fridge.
JE: C'mon over any time.
BE: Jason and Karate Kid have a moment and it kind of annoyed me. I can believe that Karate Kid could be so stubborn, but Jason is falling farther and farther away from heroic. Not good.
JE: I felt the same way. I think it would have been better deserved by simply having Karate Kid and the OMAC that was Una duke it out. Adding Jason into the mix served to be more of an antagonistic approach to the story that lessened both men as heroes in my mind.
BE: "Hey Granny, why don't you act your age and die?" I love Harley and Granny, for her part, runs headlong into the agent of the Source and complies. Now, I don't want to read too much into this, but the other New Gods did not burst into flames when they were killed.
JE: True. I have to wonder if, unlike the other New Gods, Granny was destroyed utterly, rather than converted into the power that Forager is searching for.
BE: Interesting that you should say that, because in "Death of the New Gods" #6, we have a similar fatality. Desaad plays the part of the devil as Piper wanders in the metaphorical wilderness. We were dead on the money with that one.
JE: We just calls 'em likes we sees 'em, though Desaad's plan seems interesting. I wonder if he's wandered off the reservation, so to speak, and is working towards his own ends once more, as we felt he was when he took over Firestorm's powers.
BE: Oh, absolutely. Desaad appears to be fighting the twilight of the New Gods and that puts him at odds with Darkseid's plan.
BE: We close out with Brother Eye -- who seems to have assimilated the entire planet of Apokolips. Wow.
JE: Some people have been complaining about this ending, saying that Brother Eye (a mortal creation) has become a power that can overthrow Darkseid, who himself has the power to imprison gods. Personally, I don't see it that way. After all, Brother Eye was created as (and then evolved further into) a weapon against the "gods" of our own world, the superheroes. Who's to say that it can't continue evolving? I believe that's what the whole trip to Apokolips was about in the first place. Your thoughts?
BE: If Brother Eye has evolved to the point that he was a threat to the Justice League, I have to imagine that he's a threat to Apokolips as well. Besides, I still contend that Solomon has had a hand in this. In "Death of the New Gods" #6, the Source announces to Metron that the Monitors thwarted its powers by constructing the barriers between the 52 universes. If the monitors can thwart the Source, then if (and I stress 'if') Solomon is involved with Brother Eye, then he is no longer merely a construct of the Batman.
JE: Makes sense to me. I also have a curiosity about how Piper's music played into the manifestation of Brother Eye as the planet. Perhaps we'll see more of that in the weeks to come.
BE: I hope so, Piper seems sadly outclassed. Our origin this week is the beautifully written story of Harley Quinn. Beatty can really do no wrong it seems, but we are doubly blessed by the art of Bruce Timm. My only complaint is that "Mad Love" was not under the "Essential Storylines" section.
JE: I noticed that, as well. I'll consider it an oversight, since I was just so tickled with those two pages. It's nice to see Bruce Timm take over the art for the origin, as well. I just love Harley.
BE: On that note we agree with a great many fans. She has made an amazing transition from supporting character on a TV show to a fan favorite in the comics.
JE: Much like Renee Montoya did, as well. Both have really come into their own in the last few years, and have come a far cry from their inceptions on "Batman: The Animated Series."
BE: Since I know you are wondering, this week we have "Death of the New Gods" #6 and we have two huge events. The death of a really big character and the revelation of the agent of the source who is killing the New Gods.
JE: Care to elaborate while I kick on the "SPOILER ALERT" sign? Readers, please note that the "SPOILER ALERT" sign is now flashing. A bypass, the scroll bar, is located to the right for your convenience, while emergency exits are located to the top of your screen in both the "Back" arrow and the Red X of Doom.
BE: Very well, you've been warned. In "Death of the New Gods" #6, Orion (who was Mister Miracle's chief suspect) goes out into space to challenge the agent of the Source. His reasoning is that the code of combat that binds the New Gods will require that the agent answer his call. Then, if Orion fails to defeat the agent, that Superman and Mister Miracle can identify the agent and, hopefully, defeat it. The agent does indeed answer the call and from a distance draws in the son of Darkseid. Orion is obliterated by the agent, much like Granny was in this issue. But in this case, a great deal is made of the fact that all that remains of Orion is his helmet. Unlike the other victims, the agent could not take Orion's soul, but was forced to destroy him. There is always the caveat that without a body, a comic book death is moot. I won't speculate on whether that was the intent here.
JE: Seems like both sound logic and a reasonable hypothesis that ties nicely into our discussion of Granny Goodness earlier.
BE: Superman and Mister Miracle then discover the second Source Wall, noting that all of the New Gods, whose souls had been taken, were represented upon the wall. Then a key question is asked, one that I wondered about since the inception of this series: Why did Himon, who had recently been to the Source Wall, not mention the second wall? The answer is, of course, Himon, the leader of the rebellion that freed Scott Free and Big Barda, is the God Killer.
JE: Whoa! That's insane! And yet it makes total sense. As the creator of Mother Box (and the revelations we've seen about Mother Boxes this year), it makes total sense that he would be chosen as recipent of the Source's powers. Also, being a character who lives in both worlds (a New God on Apokolips) he's also the most logical choice to be the assassin.
BE: It really made more sense than any other suspect. I should have guessed, but I went with the heavier hitters than the one most closely tied to the Source.
JE: However, the light that was shed here creates a few more questions, namely why are certain New Gods immune to having their essence captured by Himon for the new Source Wall?
BE: I think that the two possible and only one confirmed may not imply immunity. Rather I think that Orion (at least) required all of Himon's power to defeat and that precluded the chance to steal his soul. That being said, what does this tell us of Darkseid?
JE: Interesting, very interesting. Oh, and I guess we don't need the SPOILER ALERT on anymore.
BE: I need to close by thanking Chris Buckley for writing me this week in regards to "Countdown to Adventure" #11 and sending me running to my "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" collection. Last week, I identified Jimmy's friends in the Habitat as the "Hairies." While the Hairies did occupy the Habitat, that locale was also home to a biker gang named the "Outsiders," and this is them. As Chris points out, these are a group of thrill-seekers with Apokolips technology and Jimmy, at least for a time, was their leader. Good catch, Chris.
JE: Thanks to Chris, indeed. It's a sharp one that catches you off your game, my friend.
BE: Isn't that how I got this job in the first place?
JE: And it wouldn't be the same without you.
Panel of the Week
What did we say about "Favored of the Gods" last week?