"The future is what we make of it." – Ray Palmer
Two years ago, Ray Palmer put the love of his life, Jean Loring, into Arkham Asylum. She'd murdered one of their best friends, and set off a chain reaction that led to even more deaths. Gone completely mad, the only place Ray could see to put her was Arkham, with all the rest of the criminally insane. To this day, the act still haunts him, giving him nightmares that leave him shaken and torn. But, after all that time, he's found someplace (and someone) to help him forget. Earth-51.
On this, the perfect world of the 52, Ray Palmer has found everything he needs. After using his abilities to cross the barriers between the 52, after searching world after world, Ray found a version of himself on this Earth, a version who was making the very same discoveries that he was, looking for a way to cross over. Unfortunately, Ray's counterpart was unable to make the jump, ultimately killing himself in an accident while he searched for answers, as well as a way to avert the coming of the Great Disaster.
Seeing his opportunity, Ray replaced his double, vowing to continue his work on this world. However, Ray also had another motive for staying: this world's Jean. Jean and her destined Ray had yet to meet, and our Ray found himself with an even greater opportunity, to fall in love all over again and have the perfect life he always so desperately wanted with Jean.
Five years later, Ray has it all. The Justice League has ended crime as we know it. Everyone is alive, healthy and happy, except, at the least, for Batman, who refused to give up his mission, even though the rest of the team did. Still, everything, it seems, is perfect, except for those nightmares. His friends offer him some comfort, and he lives life as he thinks it should be. He's also been continuing his research, but, tonight, he's taking a break. It's Christmas, and he's enjoying an evening with Barry and Iris Allen, Ralph and Sue Dibny and Jean herself when it all comes crashing down in the form of our Challengers.
With the arrival of the team and their need to recruit Ray to the cause, Ray is forced to come clean with his love and his friends, telling them the truth about who he is and where he comes from. The revelations are short lived, though, because Monitor Bob has declared Ray an anomaly and has marked him for elimination.
With the bulk of the story, we also have a brief interlude with our Jean, as Eclipso strikes out against Mary Marvel, only to find out that Mary is a lot tougher than Jean ever gave her credit for. She's a woman fueled by rage, as Jean learns from being the brunt of all that anger.
Finally this week, Scott Beatty and Howard Porter bring us the origin of Dr. Light.
It was another busy "Countdown" week as we continue the mad dash towards "Final Crisis." We'll start this week with "Countdown to Adventure" #5 and what Forerunner has been up to. In this issue, we find that after being cast aside by Monarch, she has been picked up by some kindly aliens. Yet, the story doesn't have a happy ending as the kindly aliens are attacked by Space Pirates. Forerunner whacks the bad guys and takes control of the ship just as the Thanagarians attack. This story is a wide left turn from the prior plot points, so your guess is as good as mine as to where it is headed.
In "Death of the New Gods" #4, Mister Miracle goes off the deep end as the body count rises. The Forever People: Beautiful Dreamer, Big Bear, Mark Moonrider, Vykin and Serifan are all found dead. While this eliminates them as the suspects, their gestalt form, the Infinity Man remains a possibility. Meanwhile, Mantis and Kalibak join forces and invade New Genesis. This story is only half over and the bodies keep piling up as the Fourth World comes to an end.
"Countdown: Arena" comes to a crashing end with the war of the Supermen. The Soviet Superman (Earth-30), the Dark-Knight Superman (Earth-31) and Christopher Kent (now identified as Earth-16 instead of Earth-15) slug it out and rebel against Monarch as Breach concludes his search for an Army of Captain Atoms to defeat the villain. Sadly, there are no more show-downs as the battle of the Supermen takes up most of the action. The story ends the way we were likely to expect it and will be continued in the pages of "Countdown to Final Crisis." I will, however, point out that Ray Palmer's army gains some powerful allies as Monarch proves he is not infallible after all. Nice close to a fun series.
BE: This has been what people have been asking for: a complete story. This felt more like an issue of "52" than an issue of "Countdown."
JE: I agree. I had hoped the series would get to this point as the end drew closer, and I was rewarded. Great stuff.
BE: This one had a full-house on the creative staff: Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins on the art chores. All in all it was a great issue to read and look at.
JE: Yeah, though I read the issue then went and looked back at the credits, as I am wont to do, and it surprised me that this issue was done by Kolins. His stuff is usually lighter, and this was very weighty.
BE: He did his own inks. That may have been the difference.
JE: Possibly, but the coloring was also pretty heavy. No complaints, though, because it worked awesomely.
BE: We flash back to the outcome of "Identity Crisis" and then discover that the "perfect" world we saw last issue, Earth-51, is where Ray Palmer has been hiding all along.
JE: Not to get too geeky and metaphysical, but everyone I've ever met has a perfect world they want to be a part of. Only makes sense that Ray would, too.
BE: It seems kind of obvious in a way; it's the end of the line, the last earth.
JE: And it's fitting. It took everything he had, and every world he could find, to ultimately discover the right one. I'm wondering if he'll stay.
BE: Provided the world still exists when this all plays out.
JE: I'm still on the fence about that. There's good reasons to keep the 52 worlds around, and just as many to off them. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
BE: Also, and maybe I'm a bit dense here, but did it seem obvious to you that Ray was running from the horrors of his past? Didn't it seem like he was planning to save the multiverse from the get-go?
JE: To be honest, I never thought much about Ray's past at the start. Over time, it became more obvious, but I was always in the camp that Ray, genius that he is, knew something was wrong and needed to find a way to fix it.
BE: In a related interlude, Mary Marvel kicks Jeanclipso's butt.
JE: At first I thought this was pretty pointless, but it comes full circle by the end of the issue. One Jean has gone mad in her love for Ray, the other possibly learning too much about herself and her life. Enough, one might say, to drive her mad.
BE: I remember when Jean was just a nice little cypher. Ah, for the good old days.
JE: Wouldn't it be a kick if Ray accidentally polluted the perfect world?
BE: It seems like would be very much in keeping with the current sentiment at DC. So, back to Utopia, the Challengers ruin Christmas and we find out that Earth-51 Ray is the one who discovered the 'Great Disaster' and our Ray continues his work.
JE: But just what is the Great Disaster? I thought that this was a nice touch, giving us so many answers, but keeping the real prize just out of reach.
BE: Our clues? A new Source Wall is growing between the worlds. The New Gods are dying. A war between the Monitors and Monarch. Thoughts?
JE: Obviously, it's all tied together. The Great Disaster is likely a fairly biblical way to reset the cosmic scales for the Fifth World, and all that comes with it. And with what we've seen of Monarch's power in "Countdown: Arena," he's probably the tipping point.
BE: We shall see, but I'm afraid that Scott Free may be the devil in our little passion play. Finally, Bob says he's here to "eliminate" Ray. I call shenanigans on the cliffhanger. Bob's a good guy and is just being dramatic.
JE: Same here. Can you say drama queen? Though, still, it might be interesting if Bob is reacting to my aforementioned "pollution" theory. Not likely, but interesting.
BE: Origin is Dr. Light, who is at the root of all this evil.
JE: Surprisingly so, even when you sit back and think about it. Disturbing thought, that.
Panel of the Week
All our journeys, summed up in one awesome panel. Enjoy!