T-MINUS: "Countdown to Final Crisis" #5

By Justin Eger and Brian K. Eason

"And then things got worse." �" Buddy Blank

T-Minus 05

Picking up almost exactly where we left off last week, Una and Buddy Blank go on a quest through the ruined world, discovering more and more victims of the Morticoccus virus as they search from Buddy's daughter and grandson. With chaos abounding, it's a matter of getting to their destination with as little trouble as possible, though mutated humans and animals that have taken on human skills and abilities make for a harrowing journey. Thanksfully for the duo, Una's skills in fighting (learned from the now-deceased Karate Kid) make the going a little bit easier.

The heroes of the world work all the while to contain the madness, but to little avail. Of those heroes that have survived, some have already begun to mutate on their own, forcing their comrades into yet another battle. Everyone, it seems, is a part of the world gone mad, including Buddy's own daughter -- who was lost to the virus and attempted to kill her son.

Buddy and Una arrive at their destination and rescue the boy, but the victory is hollow. Una is bombarded by mutant rats, and, to cap it all off, they're also attacked by the now-feral daughter of Blank. Death is close, and Una sacrifices herself to save the others, tossing Buddy her flight ring to allow them an escape.

Buddy takes his grandson to the hidden Command D bunker, where they hole up to wait out the worst. Unfortunately for them, the worst is yet to come, as nations begin throwing blame around for the virus and, in an effort to retaliate, the nations of the world use their nuclear arsenals to attack their perceived enemies. The world as we know it is gone, and only a few pockets of life remain. In one, Buddy Blank guards his grandson day and night, under the watchful vigilance of the satellite called Brother Eye. Elsewhere, those who remained behind at Cadmus survive, and the Challengers finally use Jimmy Olsen's power to teleport away, but to where, and for what purpose, remains a mystery.

Rounding it out, Scott Beatty and Thomas Derenick provide the Origin of Mr. Freeze.


BE: Issue #5. One month left in the bag until "Final Crisis" and after this issue, I have no firm map of where we are going.

JE: I was trying to get a bead on it as we were going, but I have a feeling there are only going to be answers when we get to Final Crisis.

BE: Adam Beechen joins Paul Dini for the third issue running. I look for Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti to rejoin us next issue for (what I assume to be) the final arc.

JE: That would make sense to me.

BE: Jim Starlin. Didn't see that coming.

JE: I'm still left a bit agape after it all. So beautifully drawn, and fitting, after a fashion.

BE: Absolutely. It's nice to have Starlin at DC again. "The Death of the New Gods" has been gorgeous and I am very excited about "Rann/Thanagar: Holy War" with writing by Starlin and pencils by Ron Lim, coming in May.

JE: That's a cosmically aligned duo if I've ever seen one; definitely on the reading list.

BE: Oh, and by the way, I am now solidly convinced that this is not New Earth.

JE: Most certainly. Batman wearing the gold shield was the first of two final nails in that theory, and the alternate Brother Eye at the end made it certain.

BE: I completely missed the gold shield.

JE: Point for me then.

BE: This issue we pick up the narration by Buddy Blank again. I'm surprised they continued this. Buddy and Una give us a street level view of the devastation, followed by a global view based on his speculations.

JE: I was, too. I opened the first page and was taken aback, but I found it comforting. I don't know how well I would have handled the end of the world otherwise.

BE: Meanwhile, the Challengers stand by and watch. I'm not sure what's going on with this.

JE: I thought this was oddly out of character, considering their previous determinations to save the Multiverse. My only thought is that something reassured them that this was not New Earth, and they still had a chance to set things right.

BE: But aren't they all carriers now or have they been inoculated?

JE: That's still unclear. I'd hope they were inoculated, though, as we saw this issue, it doesn't last forever. That Manimal Superman was a little scary.

BE: It was frighteningly reminiscent of "The Lady and the Lion" story from "Action Comics" #243 (1958) and I don't think that it's a coincidence.

JE: Nice call! That's almost a perfect replica of what we saw this week.

BE: Buddy and Una arrive home in time to save Buddy's grandson, but not in time to save his daughter.

JE: Not unexpected, considering our own Buddy Blank (should we continue that this is not New Earth) is the sole protector of his grandson. Perhaps there are some things that cannot be changed.

BE: Una is eaten by rats. Wow.

JE: Dude, that was nasty. I'm going to have nightmares for sure.

BE: I can't help thinking of the Derenick picture of Batman-52 getting his head punched in. This book has had some very dark visuals.

JE: It's not exactly been all rainbows and sunshine, that's for sure. And, well, since it was designed as a precursor to the end of the world, we shouldn't have been so surprised.

BE: I was hoping for a return of the Super Friends. Where are Zan and Jana?

JE: I think I'm going to throw up.

BE: Buddy escapes with his grandson to -- wait for it -- Command D. I think we all saw that coming.

JE: Absolutely, though, again, it's not the Command D we've been seeing on New Earth.

BE: Right, but it is very reminiscent of Kamandi's bunker.

JE: Exactly. Grant Morrison said we'd be seeing Kamandi in "Final Crisis," and I wonder if this is what he's been hinting at.

BE: At the 2007 San Diego Comic Con, Grant Morrison stated that Anthro, the first boy on Earth, would be on the first page of the first issue of "Final Crisis" and that Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, would be on the last page of the last issue. Take that for what it's worth. And as if the Morticoccus wasn't bad enough, the world is nuked.

JE: You could almost hear the slow violins in the background, couldn't you?

BE: Actually, I could.

BE: Oh, and look, that's Brother Eye in orbit. This is not New Earth.

JE: My point.

BE: And now that the world is pretty much destroyed, Jimmy makes an exit.

JE: Taking with him the Challengers. I stand by the logic that they somehow discovered this wasn't home, and are still looking for a way to set things right.

BE: Showdown with Darkseid?

JE: A possibility. Darkseid has been in control of much of the board since the beginning, so he'd likely be the one with the best answers. An interesting thought: Gods are often presented as all-powerful and all-knowing. Can Darkseid see the future, specifically, his own future with the Legion of Super Heroes?

BE: Which future and which Legion? That may be the real question. Next issue's cover has a split Mary Marvel on it. Speculations?

JE: Considering that this week saw the release of yet another Countdown Special, this one focusing on Eclipso, and the last time we saw Black Adam's powers, they were being used on Jean Loring / Eclipso, I'm going to say that it's the final showdown between a redeemed Mary and an overcharged Eclipso. I add a layer to this confirmation by pointing out that the hair on the "dark" side of the picture is black, not brown.

BE: Ding! I think we have a winner.

JE: I hope so. That one made me feel good, and I'll be crushed if I'm wrong.

BE: Beatty and Derenick give us the Origin of Mr. Freeze. Flawless as always.

JE: That sums it up nicely, I'd say.

BE: Everyone ready for spoilers on the final issues of "Countdown to Adventure" and "Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists?"

JE: Check and check.

BE: In "Countdown to Adventure" #8, we have followed Forerunner from her enslavement by Monarch through the visitation of several of the 52 worlds to the highjacking of a pirate ship. This issue? Yes, well, the crew of Forerunner's ship are stuck in a weird starless void without fuel. How in the world can they escape? Well, let me tell you. A Deus Ex Machina shows up, asking the crew to carry an infant planet (yes, an infant planet) to a star where it will live. There is no real explanation of this process or if this is where we are suppose to believe that this is where planets come from. It's, to say the least, bizarre. In any case, the crew fight some bad guys, and to help overcome them, Forerunner gives the planet some genetic material so that it can construct defenders to battle the bad guys. Once the evil has been thwarted, the crew arrive at their destination and the infant planet begins to create life. Ready for the capstone? The planet is going to create a new race of Forerunners from the genetic material and want Forerunner to be the new Thought Mother. I have a distinct feeling that the saga of Forerunner has come to an abrupt and weird end.

JE: I'm with you there. I was finally getting into the Forerunner part of the book following the weird stop with the JLA magi, and we get some final (and relatively unsatisfying) closure. Perhaps the character didn't go over as well as DC Editorial hoped, or perhaps this is just a setup for some grander appearance down the road. Regardless, I was much happier with the main story, the closure given to Starfire, Animal Man and Adam Strange, as well as the hint of future conflict.

BE: I agree completely and, of course, the heroes of the lead feature will be in the aforementioned "Rann/Thanagar: Holy War."

JE: Definitely a must buy.

BE: As strange and unsatisfying as the finale for "Countdown to Adventure" was, "Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists" #6 was the opposite. As I have said from the beginning, this series is what Marvel's "The Ultimates" would be if it was written by DC. This is excellent stuff. In each issue, we have seen the origin of one of the Extremists against the backdrop of the invasion of Earth-8 by Monarch. In this issue, we get the origin of Lord Havok itself and it is (much like the other Extremists) very sympathetic to the "villain."

Meanwhile, the Meta Militia (the corrupt "heroes" of Angor) reach the Extremist headquarters and get their just desserts. As we all know from "Countdown to Final Crisis," Lord Havok and his team do, in fact, join with Monarchs army and follow him all the way to the destruction of Earth-52 and the (apparent) destruction of Monarch in battle against Superman-Prime. What we now discover is that Lord Havok had stolen some of Monarch's power for himself and at the point that Earth-52 was destroyed, Havok and the Extremists escaped to Monarch's ship and now have free run of the Multiverse. Great issue, perfect way to end the story and I would pay regular money to see Frank Tieri write a monthly series about these perfectly flawed characters.

JE: I'd buy that. I do like the characters, and I'm glad to see them escape a relatively certain fate. I do have to say I'd prefer a regular monthly artist over the rotating crews, though.

BE: If we see another series dealing with the Extremists, there will more than likely be a regular artist. I assumed that device was due to the origin-an-issue format.

JE: Agreed, but it still hurt a few of the stories. Still, we can only hope for the future.

Panel of the Week

As if everyone wasn't already afraid of Superman going to the dark side.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Countdown to Final Crisis forum.


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