"Worst damn friend ever..." - Pied Piper
Well, he's going through the desert on a horse with no name.
Well, not really, and I'll apologize for that awful pun now, but this week does start off in the desert, as Pied Piper continues to drag the corpse of The Trickster though the desert, ostensibly still searching for the person who can remove the explosive handcuffs. However, it seems that the heat and the lack of water have begun to work on old Piper's mental faculties. After all, he starts talking to his dead buddy, and, what's worse, the corpse seems to be responding. At least in Piper's head. Still, the journey continues for the duo, as Piper uses his magic flute to rustle up a burro to haul Trickster's carcass around, at least until he gets the bright idea to mutilate the corpse and slip the cuff free from the body.
The journey also continues for the Challengers, who arrive on Earth-51 to find yet another seemingly perfect world, this one where the heroes have gone public and Liberty Belle is now President of the Unites States. If that's not odd enough, Bob the Monitor is concerned that, even after lingering on this world, the team has yet to be attacked by the other Monitors. Has he missed something important?
Jump to Paradise Island, where the Amazon guards have finally noticed the disappearances of Holly Robinson and Harley Quinn. One guard in particular reports to Athena, who reveals herself as Granny Goodness and sics her Female Furies on the poor recruit, likely for being simply the bearer of bad news.
As for our sexy duo, they're actually in a cave not far from the island capital, where they meet with Hippolyta, who has been in hiding since the Amazonian conflict. Secretly, she's been waiting for her chance to take on the Athena impostor and take back her throne, and the arrival of Holly and Harley may be just what she needs to infiltrate these new Amazons. Unfortunately, their plans are interrupted by the arrival of a hellhound unleashed (no pun intended) by Granny, which has been tracking the runaways. Hippolyta kills the beast, then sends the duo back into the midst of the false Amazons with the dog as a trophy, using their love of battle and blood to trick these impostor into accepting the runaways into their trust.
And hey, we'll take one last hop around the universe and catch up with Forager as she strangles Jimmy Olsen to death. At least to start with, as Jimmy's mysterious powers retaliate against Forager and slow her down long enough for rational thought to take over. In the process, Forager realizes that Jimmy's powers actually stem from a Mother Box and, thus, the Source itself. Unfortunately for them, there isn't much time to dwell on the discovery, as Darkseid's consort Bernadeth attacks the pair. After staving off the madwoman just long enough to Boom Tube away, our weekly tale closes with two developments: One, Bernadeth is killed by the mystery murderer of the New Gods, and two, Jimmy and Forager arrive on Earth, only to discover perhaps the most dangerous threat of all, a growing attraction between them.
Top it off with the Origin of the Scarecrow with Scott Beatty and Kelley Jones and we'll call it a week!
This week, as the Countdown marches on, we see (as a counterpoint to the Earth-22 Superman over in "JSA") an appearance by heroes from the Tangent Universe appear in the pages of "Justice League of America" # 16. As we know, the Tangent heroes hail from Earth-9 and we get to see the Tangent Flash, who also appears in this week's "Countdown: Arena," so it will be interesting to see where this all fits.
"Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Superwoman/Batwoman" #1 brings this series of one-shots to a close as the Challengers of the Unknown visit Earth-11, where the genders of the residents are the reverse of those we typically encounter in the DCU. I have to say that this issue is just fun and (like the first in the series) the Challengers are more spectators to the events than active participants. The story revolves around the events of "Amazons Attack" as the heroes of Earth-11 take on Wonderman and his army of Amazon warriors. The only real surprises in this issue are finding out why Wonderman killed Maxine Lord and discovering that if Wonder Woman were a dude, she'd be a raving psychotic. The story closes with what you and I have known all along: if Ray Palmer wanted to be found, that he would have found the Challengers first (sort of like Dorthy in the Wizard of Oz). If you have the extra cash, pick this one up for the Palmiotti and Gray dialog. It's a keeper.
Finally this week we have "Countdown: Arena" #3, which is just a true guilty pleasure. We get to see the shadowy duplicates of the heroes we know and love posture and strut upon a small stage and get randomly killed when it suits the story. In this issue, the insurrection against Monarch builds as the Conflict between the Supermen of Earths 30 and 31 grows. The first bout this week is between the Starwoman of Earth-7, the Star-Gorilla of Earth-17 (the post apocalyptic world of Kamandi) and the Starman of Earth-48 (Forerunner's homeworld). I have to pause here, because I'm pretty sure we were told that Forerunner was the last of her kind -- and after this issue, it's even more likely -- so I'd like to know where this Starman came from, but we may not find out that answer until we see some annotations on this series by someone more deeply tied in. The Breach (an alternate Captain Atom) of Earth-8 (home to the Extremists) uses a dimensional jumping harness to escape the Arena (under the direction of Liberty-Files Batman) to find re-enforcements in the form of more alternate Captain Atoms to face Monarch. The next bout is the battle of the Flashes between Jay Garrick of Earth-2, Lia Nelson of Earth-9 and the villainous Johnny Quick of Earth-3. The results are not a big surprise, but there are some interesting twists. Our closing throw down is the battle of the Wonder Women and it goes the distance. We close with a shot of Breach and five alternate Captain Atoms as the opposition to Monarch's army.
JE: First off, we should thank DC for getting Jesus Saiz to tackle the art chores on this. He's a top-notch artist in my book, and though I wish he'd settle down on a regular title, it's great to have him on board. And his turn on "Crime Bible" was pretty sweet, too.
BE: Indeed. The art on this issue was very nice. Saiz has a good grasp of the players here and the body language was good.
JE: Kickoff brings us Piper and a corpse wandering through the desert.
BE: Yeah and James is looking kind of desiccated here. This went from comedy to horror real quick.
JE: This also brings us voices inside Piper's head. Or are they?
BE: Unless DC is following Marvel with the Zombie riff, I'm betting it's the former.
JE: I was actually wondering if it was a really disturbed prank on the part of Boston Brand.
BE: Wow. That's messed up. On the other hand, if Alan Moore was writing this, we might have something.
JE: The stop on Earth-51 telling you anything?
BE: Surprisingly, not really. The world appears to be Utopian and the argument being that if the metahumans actually worked for the greater good, instead of beating each other up, that the world would be a better place. It's either that, or they ran out of ideas.
JE: I kind of thought the same thing, since there seem to be a lot of "near-perfect" worlds out there. Funny thing is I never really thought that the DCU was all that bad to begin with.
BE: As Captain America observed in the "JLA/Avengers" series a few years ago, the citizens of the DCU seem to worship their heroes, at least compared to Marvel.
JE: I miss Cap. But back to our story. The Furies are revealed in all their disturbing glory. Alright, I'll say it: you thought Young Goodness was a hottie? I always liked Lashina.
BE: One of my favorites. I was a particularly big fan when she was in "Suicide Squad" as the Duchess.
JE: It all comes back to the Squad.
BE: I'm surprised we haven't seen more of the recent miniseries represented in "Countdown."
JE: Definitely a loss for the fans, that's for certain. At least John Ostrander is getting room to work, though. Wait, Holly, Harley and Hippolyta? Aside from a lot of freakin' "H" names, wasn't Hippolyta dead? I mean, again?
BE: This ties directly into what is happening in Gail Simone's "Wonder Woman." It's good stuff, though this Holly/Harley piece seems a bit forced.
JE: Maybe a little, but I thought that it went well. We all know that this is going to come up as a fight between the Triple H ladies and the Furies, so might as well get it under way.
BE: I'm now expecting a cease and desist from the World Wrestling Federation.
JE: It's World Wrestling Entertainment, now, man, get with it. And look, it's a burro and a dismembering for Piper. Question: does that make you more of a supervillain, or less?
BE: At this point we are well beyond heroes and villains. This is survival. I just hope he doesn't try and eat him.
JE: Or he could eat the burro.
BE: Where's the fun in that?
JE: Spot on with our discovery of Jimmy's Mother Box / Source connection.
BE: Take a bow.
JE: Consider it taken.
JE: Finally, Bug / Nerd Love? It's a VH1 reality show waiting to happen?
BE: And with the Saiz artwork, Bug looks kinda hot. I am pretty sure Jimmy shouldn't make any future plans with a New God at this point. Oh, and speaking of which, our body count for the New Gods is up by one: Bernadeath.
JE: Let me mark my tally sheet. Not too many big players left in the game at this point.
BE: With the exception of the Forever People (which may indicate that the Infinity-Man is the killer), Mister Miracle, Orion and Darkseid, the list of known characters is getting short. With Kanto and Baron Bedlam gone, the killer is striking very close to Darkseid. Perhaps Granny and the Furies won't last long enough for the 'Triple H Ladies' to get a chance.
JE: Maybe we should just call them "Team Triple H." But beyond the useless WWE references, that's a really interesting take on Infinity-Man. That would be wild.
Panel of the Week
That's just disturbing.