Monday, November 05, 2007

Four Color Fiend: Counting Down

Things are finally beginning to come together in the Countdown series. Countdown #27 brings some things to a head, if not clearing them up. Piper & The Trickster decide to make themselves scarce when they discover that a number of other villains who have been taken have seemingly disappeared. It looks like Jason Todd is going to join up with Lord Havok and Donna Troy doesn’t look so good. Jimmy Olsen joins with Forager to try and find those responsible for the “Death of the New Gods.”

With #26, Countdown picks up the new title of “Countdown to Infinite Crisis”, something already known to most of us fan boys & gals. Using the technique of having one of the Monitors (we’ll call him M-1, just to make things easy from now on) explains to all the other Monitors (who should know most of this since they are supposed to be keeping track, which is their job after all) some of what has been happening for the previous twenty plus issues. It also reminds us what we readers have seen and possibly forgotten, since some of us are reading more than this one title.

One thing I’m grateful for is that it is finally explained to we readers why the Monitors, who are supposed to be identical and appear so in some issues, look very different in others. M-1 tells the others that this is due to the tainting of the multiverse by Monarch and others breaching the Source Wall (originally TM Jack Kirby). Not only with the Monitors begin to differ physically but will also gain some individual traits, which may play out in interesting ways later on.

To be honest, it seems more and more that this entire crossover event is an attempt by DC’s Powers That Currently Be to eliminate everything remaining of Kirby’s Fourth World. I’d be surprised if they do away with Darkseid though, since there is no villain/presence anywhere in the DCU who comes close to him. Just about every writer working in the mainstream DCU seems to want to use Darkseid at some point.

Monarch seems to be bringing together quite a huge group of nasty folks and the Monitors have decided (again if memory serves me right) to unite in opposition to him. It also appears that M-1 may not be controlling things as much as he may believe, and the same holds true with Monarch. Again, I’m going to place my bets on Darkseid, who has always been a master at manipulation.

Countdown to Mystery #2 – The latest incarnation of Doctor Fate may just have begun to realize what has happened to him. Steve Gerber does a nice job with Dr. Nelson’s internal dialogue and he becomes a bit more sympathetic. Gerber also gives him a sense of humor, which will certainly be needed as Nelson must confront his own and other very real demons. Nelson is off the streets and working as a handyman/janitor in a sleazy motel run by the slovenly Mr. Swinburne. I don’t think Swinburne will be a likable character, but it should be interesting to see what Gerber does with him.

In the second story in the book we see very little of Eclipso (the less the better in my book), after Darkseid roughs her up a bit and orders her to Earth to spread discontent amongst the heroes. Most of the pages are taken up with Plastic Man acting totally out of character, and decades of characterization of Woozy Winks are tossed out the window for no good reason. I know that Eclipso is manipulating Plaz, but not Woozy so why have him act in such a manner? We then switch scenes to see TV talk show host Jack Ryder acting as much like a jerk as always, but even questioning (no pun) himself. Walking to his dressing room he is confronted by *yawwnn* Eclipso who tells him that she actually wants to see The Creeper, Ryder’s alter ego. We then switch back again to see Plaz walking into a bank, which he means to rob with a firearm. Why? Another tale like this I’m just going to cut the non-Fate pages out of CtM and keep the rest.

Countdown Presents Lord Havok and the Extremists #1 – Who knew that I’d actually find this book more interesting than some of the main Countdown story? I really didn’t know that much about this group, since I barely remember them from their JLA appearance years ago. It seems that Havok and his followers appear to see themselves as ‘freedom fighters’ and Havok actually has a moment where we see a bit of sympathy. I haven’t been reading the “Civil War” stories over at Marvel, but events on Havok’s world seem to mirror some of that. There might actually be more to this character than I thought. I’m giving writer Frank Tieri props for turning what I thought was going to be a single purchase out of curiosity into something more. I’m actually going to reread some of Lord Havok’s Countdown appearances and see if I’ve been missing something. (You can read up as well via the link in the headline to Wikipedia.)

By the way, the first issue of this series gives us the back story of Havok, and brings us up to the point at which the Challengers (Jason, Donna, Kyle & Bob the Monitor) show up at his fortress in Countdown #29. Unfortunately, Havok believes these costumed folks are soldiers for the government, which he is fighting. We’ll see where things progress from this point for Lord H and his minions.
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