Saturday, November 17, 2007

Four Color Fiend: Countdowns, Running and Searching in the DCU


I’m putting Spoiler warnings here because it allows me to b**** about things that nobody but me cares about, but still warns folks that I’m giving everything away.

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COUNTDOWN #25 & 24: Sadly, Trickster and Pied Piper haven’t been killed in a horrible fashion yet, although both have easily outlived any usefulness to the plot of this series. Also, the constant moaning by Trickster that he will be identified as ‘gay’ because he is accompanying Piper is a pathetic running gag and borders on homophobic. It is no longer funny, if it ever was, and I think that certain writers (if not the overall editor of the project) should put an end to it.

Poor Jimmy Olsen is on Apokolips and not doing well. I’m sure that he’ll eventually be rescued but not before nasty things happen to our favorite cub reporter. Also, on Darkseid’s world is Mary Marvel who, after doing nasty things to normal folks and meta-humans for the past two-dozen issues tells the Lord of Apokolips that he shouldn’t do likewise. MM is hardly the person to moralize at this point. Eclipso stands around looking smug for a few panels and then cowers for another. Yeah, she’s a force to be reckoned with all right!

Karate Kid hasn’t died yet, but hope springs eternal, as apparently does Desaad, the chief torturer for Darkseid. For several pages Desaad acquires the powers and abilities of Firestorm, which he barely uses before getting taken down by the Atomic Knights of all folks. KK is still kicking people and spitting up blood, sometimes simultaneously at issues end.

Holy crap! SUPERMAN PRIME kicks serious butt, in fact, laying waste to several entire planets. This is one incredible nasty and hard to believe that he was the naïve Superboy we saw way back in the original CRISIS. Dressed in black, this Man of Steel has no mercy for anyone so mentally blinded is he in his search for ‘his’ perfect Earth. It’s fascinating to see glimpses of several alternate Earths with their heroes before SP appears and destroys them. He wipes out several alternate JLA teams in a single issue and I can’t imagine what else he’ll do before the series wraps up.

Things are getting worse in the DCU, but certainly more interesting for this reader. At this point I’m leaning towards continuing to pick up the series if only to learn where SP will turn up next.

COUNTDOWN PRESENTS The Search for Ray Palmer: Red Rain – Branching off from the main series we follow the quest of the “Challengers” as they continue to stay one step behind the Silver Age Atom. Jason, Donna, Kyle & Bob the Monitor pop up on an alternate Gotham which was used in an “Elseworld” book. In the Red Rain world there is a plague of vampires and one of them is Batman. Having turned bloodsucker he sleeps beneath his city during the day, hunted by Dick Grayson, to avenge his parents whom the Dark Knight had killed. The Challengers attempt to track him down but arrive too late (as they tend to do pretty often) to save the Dynamic Duo from their shared fate. I believe that this version of Batman is scheduled to turn up in the up-coming ‘Arena’ spin-off later this year. The Challengers will be showing up on several other Elseworld/alternate earths in this series, as well as that of the Wildstorm Universe. Personally, I’m waiting for the RR Batman vs. Marvel Zombie crossover. :-)


SALVATION RUN #1 (of 7) - Not so much a spin-off of Countdown as a series which takes place at the same time. The U.S. government, using the agents of Checkmate and the Suicide Squad, is rounding up all the costumed villains it can catch. Along with all those already in captivity, including the revolving door inmates of Arkham Asylum, the newly arrested are being sent via a captured Boom Tube (see any Kirby Fourth World book for that technology) to a supposedly non-hostile planet. They are allowed to keep their weapons and powers (always a grand idea), but given no food, survival equipment or medical supplies. They are told that they must learn to survive on their own and that they have no threats to face other than their own animosities. We can assume from the outset that things are going to go bad and see from a couple pages in that the world is not what the government promised.

The first group sent is comprised of those members of Flash’s old Rogue’s Gallery who killed Bart Allen. The last two members of that group, Trickster and Pied Piper, still being on the run over in Countdown don’t accompany their former teammates. We get the usual bickering between these folks and a bit of finger pointing as to whom really was to blame for the death of the then Flash. By issues end we get an idea of how many dangers there might be and the appearance of another dozen villains, including The Joker who is really not happy being out in the country. The final panel reveals ‘mysterious figures’ watching the situation on a screen and it’s pretty obvious to anybody paying attention the past thirty years who these two might be. In other words, if you didn’t already guess that this series would eventually tie into COUNTDOWN the last panel leaves no doubt. Not a bad issue, but I’ll wait until reading at least one more to decide whether I’ll stick it out for the next six months.
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