Thursday, January 17, 2008

Four-Color Fiend: Counting Down with Jimmy Olsen & The Atom


Just playing catch-up with some of the latest DC books, as of last week.
As needed we’ll put down some…

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COUNTDOWN #17 picks up right from the last page of #18 where we discovered that Bob the Monitor had used the Challengers (Jason Todd, Donna Troy & Kyle Gaynor) to help him find Ray Palmer (the original Silver Age Atom), only to kill him. We have a battle where Bob kills a number of Earth-51 versions of DC superheroes, currently in their civilian identities. If you remember in the previous issue it was shown that the heroes of this Earth had defeated all of the super-villains so had retired from the dual identity field. Only Bruce Wayne/Batman continued to remain active. We also learn in #16 that this Batman has not renounced the use of deadly force if he finds it necessary. In fact, it looks like Jason Todd may learn this personally in #15 unless something happens pretty quickly.
At the end of #17 Monarch and his minions arrive to begin killing off any super or non-super resistance they encounter. By #16 most of the Monitors (who have begun showing more and more individual traits) have joined with the surviving heroes to battle the invasion. Both sides give no quarter and we see various versions of DC characters fighting, including a ‘dark’ Donna Troy still dressed in her original Wonder Girl outfit. I’m not sure but I think the Earth-51 Zatanna is killed, simply because she gained weight after taking off the net stockings & heels.

Meanwhile, back on Earth-1, Jimmy Olsen is back and sharing his apartment with the female Forager, who looks pretty humanoid coming out of the shower. Seems to be only the upper portion of her face, a bit of carapace and antenna reflect her insectoid origin. Fortunately, the human parts are mostly covered by steam, towel or shadow since we really aren’t interested in how well the art team of Pete Woods, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher portrays pink-skinned females.

Issue #17 brings us a slightly different version of the fight between Eclipso and Mary Marvel that we saw in Countdown to Mystery (that I reviewed last time). It seems from this view that point both characters aren’t as chilly and Earth’s atmosphere has taken them down a cup-size or three. Whereas in CtM we learn that the Eclipso entity leaves Jean Loring (as she sinks beneath the waves and is approached by sharks), here we find that dark Mary (who renounced her powers at the last moment to defeat Eclipso) has washed up on the shores of Themyscira. In Mary’s final scene she is confronted by two not very pleased Amazons.

The books aren’t quite train-wrecks but it does seem like things are going at a pace designed just to drag it out for another dozen plus issues. Sadly, I have so much time and money invested at this point that I couldn’t bring myself to give it up.

Countdown Special: Jimmy Olsen 80-page Giant – This book reprints three issues of the old Jimmy Olsen book from when it was written and drawn by Jack Kirby. These issues (Superman’s Pal…Jimmy Olsen #136, 147 & 148) feature encounters with Project Cadmus, the DNAlien, the Newsboy Legion clones and various other Fourth World elements introduced by Kirby into the Superman titles and later the DCU as a whole. Since much of this stuff plays a major part in the current Countdown series it’s probably helpful for new readers and as a refresher for we Old Farts of Fandom who may have forgotten how unique and wonderful it all was at the time. Even if you aren’t picking up the any other Countdown titles (and I don’t know any reason at this point why you would) this is one-shot is fun.

Countdown Special: The Atom 80-page Giant #1 & 2 - As with the J.O. book, these specials reprint past stories which explain some background or at least remind you of why we once cared about these characters. Here we have four stories (originally appearing in Super-Team Family #11-14) written by Gerry Conway that show Ray Palmer’s search for his missing wife Jean Loring, with the aid of his Justice League pals. This was of course before Jean & Ray split and she ended up killing Sue Dibny, so you might find yourself having a bit more sympathy for her here. These stories are typical mid-1970s stuff and typical Conway, who does have his fans they are a nice reminder of the era.

Still have a few books unread that I'll get to ASAP.
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