As if I were not confused enough by the goings on in the main Countdown title, I have decided to check out a couple of tie-ins. These feature characters who took part in “52” and we get to see where they are now.
Countdown to Mystery (CtM) begins by introducing the likely future DOCTOR FATE to the DCU. Grant V. Nelson is the grandnephew of the original Fate, Kent Nelson. At one time a happily married psychiatrist, an affair with a student ruined his marriage and eventually brought an end to his practice. When we first see him here he is taking part in a ‘bum fight’, eventually getting thrown into a dumpster after being beaten unconscious. Naturally, as happens in stories of this kind, this leads to his being found by the helmet, although he doesn’t fully realize it yet. As with past wearers the helmet speaks to Fate, telling him what he needs to know mystically as he confronts a demonic creature sent to kill him. This doesn’t go over well with the equally demonic rider who was the creature’s master.
Along the way we get to see not only Nelson’s past, but also some of the others who have used or tried to use the helmet since the last Doctor Fate left this mortal world. I’m really thankful to Wikipedia for filling me on what has happened to various incarnations of Fate since I last read his adventures several years ago. With seven issues left to the series I’m not sure how long the story will keep my attention, although it is great to be reading a comic by Steve Gerber again.
The second part of CtM deals with the new incarnation of ECLIPSO, most recently housed in the body of Jean Loring. Jean was the ex-wife of Ray Palmer the Silver Age ATOM. Back in IDENTITY CRISIS, the last DC books I read before picking up COUNTDOWN, Jean murdered Sue Dibney in a convoluted attempt to win Ray back. Sent to prison she discovers a shard from the black diamond in which the spirit of Eclipso was trapped. (Don’t they check these cells in maximum security for mystic devices?) Eventually, the SPECTRE separates Jean from Eclipso and exiles her to space.
I’m still not clear as to what her goals are, but we see her here manipulating Plastic Man, just she uses those same skills on Mary Marvel in the main series. However, as her encounter with Plastic Man continues we are given a flashback in which we find Eclipso still floating in space, where she was last seen, being retrieved by mysterious beings. Waking at some point later, she discovers that she is in the fortress of DARKSEID, he who had forged the original black diamond and now commands Eclipso. I can’t say that I care much for Eclipso and will be picking up this series solely on how much I continue to enjoy Gerber’s section of the book.
While CtM deals with the mystic side of the DCU, COUNTDOWN TO ADVENTURE is also split into two stories about several heroes formerly ‘lost in space’ for a year and gives us some history about FORERUNNER. Buddy Baker is ANIMAL MAN and he is having some serious problems with his powers. Buddy is able to “borrow” the abilities of any animals (from mammals to insects) he is near for a short time. Since returning to Earth at the end of 52, Buddy is having a difficult time with his powers, or using his acquired abilities for more than a few minutes.
Buddy is very happy to be back with his wife and children, but he has brought along former Titan, STARFIRE who is also having problems with her powers. In her case, she no longer seems to have any. While Buddy’s kids seem more than happy to have her as a house guest, Buddy’s wife feels that both of them would be better off going to the Titans and asking for their help. Since Starfire doesn’t want her former teammates to know she is back she and Buddy decide to keep it a secret for as long as possible. We just know that things are only going to get worse for both these heroes.
Meanwhile, the third member of the group now returned is ADAM STRANGE. Adam is now back on his adopted world of Rann. While he was off in space, following events in the Rann-Thanagar War, the good people of Rann decided they might need another hero. Going back to again to Earth they chose a former ‘ultimate fighter’ turned action-movie star as the new protector. It is obvious to Adam that they have made a poor choice, but after witnessing the borderline psychotic behavior of his replacement he decides to retire from the public spotlight. Since this new hero was also the star of the movie that had hired Buddy as a stuntman, you know that the story lines are going to come together at some point.
The back-up story in this issue gives us the origin of Forerunner, or rather the origin of her race. We find that she is actually the descendant of the survivors of eight races left on what was once Earth in an alternate reality. We won’t even try to figure out how eight totally alien races, seemingly very different physically got around certain …ahem, technical problems. We learn that all of this was actually planned millennia ago by the Monitors to create a race that would be their trained assassins. We also discover that when the race doesn’t do what they were created to do the Monitors may had a back-up plan, which involved other specially created beings to wipe out Forerunner’s entire race.
MONARCH, the former Captain Atom, who is having Forerunner train his soldiers, threw in this last part. Since he has his own plans in motion, as we witness with his recruiting of the Crime Syndicate/Society, we really don’t know if she should believe him, but of course she does.
You really should check out the essays over on Wikipedia if you are interested in any of this. I have been spending hours catching up on things that have happened over the past couple of years and am still thrown by events taking place. I’m sure that folks who have been following all these events understand things much clearer. I’m also positive that wiser folks know where all this is going while I’m still lost.
I’m going to keep picking up both these books for the next few issues at least. Try to follow along with me as I do.