T-MINUS: "Countdown" #50

Sat, May 19th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor

By Justin Eger and Brian K. Eason

"If you're lost in the wilderness, look for a guide." - Madame Xanadu

"Countdown" #50
Previously in the DCU
An attack by the Monitors puts the world on alert, as the "great disaster" looms.

Countdown #50
Jimmy Olsen. Karate Kid. Mary Marvel. The Rogues. What a mix, eh?

From up in space, Jimmy Olsen is led to Jason Todd by his best pal, Superman. On the hunt for a story about Duela Dent (killed last issue), Jimmy tracks down the only witness to the murder: The Red Hood. Jason Tells Jimmy, after kicking some ninja butt, that there's only one person he should be talking to, Duela's father.

Jimmy, taking Duela's criminal name of "Joker's daughter" literally, visits Arkham Asylum to meet with Batman's greatest nemesis. Jimmy's trail runs cold, though Joker does inform the intrepid reporter that there's something greatly wrong with the universe. Jimmy, of course, has bigger problems, because Killer Croc has just escaped.

Elsewhere, Mary Marvel visits magic mistress and fortune-teller Madame Xanadu in the hopes of tracking down Freddie Freeman. Unfortunately, Freddie is nowhere to be found, though the blinded one warns Mary of dark times coming and advises her to seek out a tutor if she hopes to regain the power of her magic word.

It's also party time for the Flash's favorite bad guys, with drugs and prostitutes galore. However, all that good time they've purchased still isn't enough to settle all the doubts flitting around the room about Trickster and Pied Piper, both of whom have been on the side of good for the past several years, and both of whom claim to want to return to the dark side. In an effort to display loyalty to the cause, Mirror Master informs Trickster and Piper that they'll be required to prove themselves before they continue any further with their old friends.

Lastly, there's a quick jump to the bat cave, where Karate Kid of the Legion of Super Heroes duels Batman while in the guise of the villainous Trident. Black lightning helps Bruce bring down the time-lost teen, and the two heroes plan to take Kid to see the JLA. I wonder where that might have played out - could it have been over in "Justice League of America?"

FYI
Madame Xanadu made an appearance this week. As obscure mystical characters go, she's a pretty good one. Madame X, who first appeared in "Doorway to Nightmare" in 1978, is the sorceress Nimue (of Arthurian legend). When she cast a spell on Merlin, he stripped her of her magic. To atone, she helps those with supernatural troubles. She operates a fortune telling parlor in Greenwich Village and gained immortality by beating Death in a card game. She's been regularly used as a plot device by writers to further mystical storylines. When Spectre was destroyed by the Anti-Monitor, Madame X performed a ritual that restored him and became an advisor of sorts to him. During "Infinite Crisis," Spectre blocked his old advisor's interference by stealing her eyes and leaving her blind. As Justin said, "You don't *&%$ with The Spectre."

Prior to Karate Kid claiming to be Trident, there were three agents of the H.I.V.E. that assumed the identity. The three teamed up, each wearing the same costume, using the same name and bearing the same type of weapon. The trident weapon had three forms of attack: fire, ice and pure force. The Tridents took turns at committing crimes, giving the impression that there was only one Trident and successfully providing alibis for the trio. Eventually, one of the Tridents (Sammy Jaye) tried to double cross his partners. The pair killed Sammy, and Trident's body was discovered by the Teen Titans. How these villains relate to the time-displaced Karate Kid, or what the Trident Guild may be, has yet to be revealed.

One small additional note, the alias used by Karate kid is "Wes Holloway, a member of the Trident Guild." Wes Holloway is the protagonist of JLA scribe Brad Meltzer's latest novel, "The Book of Fate."

Comments
Brian Eason: Apparently Superman is handy for breaking and entering. But I guess after a year off that he's "feeling his oats."

Justin Eger: No comment about Supes feeling anything on himself.

BE: Okay, well, the art from Calafiore is particularly nice. I especially like the page 2 & 3 splash page, very reminiscent of Mike Grell.

JE: Kind of. A little rougher. I had some problems with the fight scene with Jason, but overall, pretty bitchin'. Hey, who were the ninjas? I didn't recognize the gear.

BE: I didn't recognize them, but they did have the Evil Thug color scheme down pat.

JE: This is a reach, but do you remember Shadow Dragon? These guys look like rainbow versions of him.

BE: Hey, you're right. Maybe they want to keep the trademark on the image. Regarding the Superman signal watch: No one likes a braggart, Jimmy.

JE: Yeah. This is why I never really liked Jimmy Olsen. And the fact that Jason didn't slap the taste out of his mouth showed ample restraint. Note that I didn't think such restraint was a good idea.

BE: Since a recurring theme is "Jimmy Olsen must die!", you may very well get your wish.

JE: If only, man. If only.

BE: It appears that Madame Xanadu's address is 616. Now, I find it suspicious that a series, whose key premise is parallel worlds, would have a street number the same as the designation that Marvel Comics uses for Marvel Earth. Coincidence? I don't think so.

JE: Her address has always been 616. I don't remember the rationale for it, but there is one, something a little more than a dig at the competition. 'Course, it's an interesting thought.

BE: See, now who's the expert on continuity? I didn't remember that. Hey, is it just me or is Mary a little whinier than I remember?

JE: I've never been a Marvel Family guru. I'm more entranced by the possibility of her dark side getting her the power back than her actual history. I did like all the references to shadows and darkness and the need for a guide. A little heavy handed, considering the advertisements (see below), but overall, a good scene. And on an entirely unrelated point, I like Madam X. She's a snappy dresser.

BE: The idea of a fallen Mary Marvel is pretty hot. Eclipso may end up with her own pet Marvel before this is over.

JE: That is both disturbed and attractive and oddly reminiscent of Giffen's return to the JLI characters a few years ago, namely the fact that Mary Marvel could be pretty dangerous if she wasn't so, you know, virginal, I guess is a good word (without trying to sound too pervy).

BE: An evil Mary Marvel is right up my alley, so I'll sound pervy for you. And why is Gotham bad for magic?

JE: That's where Crispus Allen / The Spectre has taken up residence, and you don't *&%$ with The Spectre.

BE: Ah. I took a pass on the latest incarnation of the Spectre.

JE: A wise choice. Not terrible, but Spectre with a goatee is just a little weird. Again, trade-waiting for "Tales of the Unexpected."

BE: Beats having poor Hal as the Spectre, I guess. I miss Jim Corrigan.

Keeping with the trend of Gotham and crazies: No guns, coins, umbrellas, plants, water, playing cards, coolers. What's the water reference? Killer Croc?

JE: Nah. Mr. Freeze. Dude could take out half the city with a good bottle of water. But speaking of Croc, when will Arkham guards ever learn? Seriously, one guy?

BE: And you figure a guy with that many teeth would rate a muzzle.

JE: My point exactly.

BE: Who is the "What do 4-D beings look like" guy? Is this Grant Morrison from the "Animal Man" run?

JE: Funny, I was about to ask you the same question. Looks like I'm going to lose my status as a Gotham-guru. Maybe it's Alan Moore.

BE: Ok, I guess we can assume that Jimmy didn't know that Duela was from another Earth, which might indicate that Superman didn't either. This is likely the biggest plot point and we are probably over-thinking this, but it seems that Duela assumed it was common knowledge that she was extra-dimensional. My only assumption is that this is the world discovering that there is more than one earth.

JE: Let's add another wrinkle: Duela was already here prior to the end of "52," like Jason. So does that mean she was only aware of pre-New Earth information? Or, another wrinkle: Because she's crazy, does that give her better access to the other realities? After all, reading the last ish of "52" nearly drove us all crazy, so maybe it's not for the most rational of minds.

And, that said, is that why the Joker is the best man to talk to?

BE: You joke, but it wouldn't be the first time you had to be insane to see the multiverse clearly. Remember Psycho Pirate?

JE: Well-played! Though, here's a scary thought - what if the Joker does get that access? What's to stop him then?

BE: Didn't we see that with "Emperor Joker?"

JE: Good point.

BE: I think the advertisement with Red Robin sporting the "I found Ray Palmer" button may be very telling as far as Jason Todd goes.

JE: You hit a point I wanted to bring up, here. First off, I love that image, but this is joined by the Joker wearing a Jimmy Olsen convention pin, and by Lady Eclipso wearing the "WWMMD?" pin. I like it. i don't want to over-think it, but I like it.

BE: And don't you have to wonder why Darkseid is doing his "Kilroy was here" imitation? Maybe he grew a mustache…

JE: But hey, we're here to over-think things, so here goes: since the Wizard article that previewed "Countdown" came out, I've been thinking about Jason finding his own identity. So, does that mean it won't be Red Robin, but some new name? I hope so. I always did love the costume, but the name was kinda ass.

BE: Batman versus Karate Kid from the pages of JLA. Note that this is the Karate Kid from the Original series run and not one of the many reboots post Crisis.

JE: And this is what I was hoping would start happening. I like the idea of crossover points, though now I feel I need to go back and reread "JLA." Anyway, this is what we should be looking for, and, really, if anyone among our readers sees one we miss, let us know. Might make story points a lot clearer.

BE: That being said, the Rogues make their appearance in "Flash" this month, as does the Black Flash. My prediction? Goodbye, Bart. Hello, Barry.

JE: You and my comic shop owner should get together. Damn you both for trying to make me buy "Flash!"

BE: The Rogues are doing coke? That's incredibly disappointing. I always thought they had more class than that. It also seems that the Society's cunning tactic of "join or we'll kill you" has caught on. I still think that both Trickster and Piper are undercover good guys independent of one another.

JE: I agree on all counts. The coke and the hookers just seemed so tacky. How the colorful have fallen. Piper and Jesse better be trying to bring down the group from the inside, though what path will the "initiation" take them?

BE: If the adverts are to be believed, some costume changes and some handcuffs!

JE: We got a really kinky column going this week, man.

Panel of the Week

Joker lecturing someone about the big picture is about as weird as Jason Todd calling someone a gun-toting maniac last week.

Previously
Week 51

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