T-MINUS: "Countdown" #40

Mon, July 30th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

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By Justin Eger and Brian K. Eason

"Trust me: The less you know, the better for you." - Pied Piper

T-Minus 40

"Countdown" #40
We start our week in the Palmerverse (see below), where Jason, Donna, Atom Ryan Choi and the Monitor called Bob meet with the denizens of this verse, people dedicated to protecting the original Atom, Ray Palmer. After a quick throw down, during which Jason wins the warriors over by showing some spirit, the Palmer-ites tell the trio that Ray has moved on from this place, seeking answers and a way to repair the damage done to his life in recent years.

In Metropolis, we meet another red-and-blue clad hero. No, not the one you're thinking of. It's Mr. Action, who, using his random superpowers, helps out some folks in need, all to the growing curiosity of one Lois Lane. Compounding her curiosity, her pal Jimmy Olsen has been acting awfully funny lately.

Elsewhere in the city, Holly Robinson walks in on a curious scene at her new home in the Athenian Women's Shelter, as Harley Quinn turns away a woman in need, a woman accompanied by her young son. Holly questions her comrade, only to discover that it's Athena's rules, leaving Holly to try and track down the goddess and get some answers for the strange behavior.

On a cruise ship, Mary Marvel arrives to discuss some new control over her powers with that Mistress of Magic herself, Zatanna. However, a near incident with a heckler shows the lengths Mary might go to, and Zatanna picks up the bad vibes emanating from Mary, enough to cause even the world's most powerful magician to worry.

Moving to another realm of the fantastic, we travel to Apokolips, where Darkseid inspects a new hoard of Parademons with his concubine and Desaad. Darkseid's growing ennui is vented on the concubine, who questions Darkseid's opinion of the Parademons and his two sons, done so to keep the fact that Darkseid is capable of emotion from reaching his subjects. Looking on, the New Gods spy known as Forager sees the scene and slips off into the catacombs of the planet, determined to find answers about the death of Lightray.

Finally, in Gotham, Pied Piper and Trickster visit the Penguin, who reluctantly agrees to house the two escapees, though he's more worried about the other villains that have been vanishing as of late. Nonetheless, the cons now have a place to hide out for the night, though the powers of The Oracle discover the two men, and she offers the takedown to another resident of Gotham, The Question.

FYI

In recent issues (and issues of "The All-New Atom") we've heard about "The Sword of the Atom" and the Palmerverse. Since I have a great love for Ray Palmer, I figured we'd take a look at these two phenomenon in this week's FYI.

When Atom's own title folded with issue #45 (after having been combined with Hawkman), Ray Palmer became a comics vagabond, bouncing from title to title. In September 1983, Atom found a new home in "Sword of the Atom" #1. In this title Ray Palmer abandoned the civilized world for a world of six-inch tall yellow-skinned humanoids in the jungles of Central America. Here, Ray became a sword-and-sandals style hero in the vein of Conan the Barbarian. Ray loses his bucolic existence when radiation from an ancient power plant returns him to his own size.

A number of "Sword of the Atom" specials returned Ray to his swashbuckling ways in a total of seven issues over a five year time period. This is good stuff and hopefully DC will collect these tales for the Gil Kane artwork alone. As to the matter of the Palmerverse, it was established early on in the adventures of the Atom, that a veritable infinity of subatomic worlds exist and that the Atom could access them by shrinking so small that sub-atomic particles were the size of worlds. This device was used with mixed success over the years, but was a key component in the Atom's canon.

For the completists in the audience, run out and pick up a copy of "Teen Titans" #49. Supergirl and Wonder Girl continue their "Amazons Attack" storyline in that title prior to the big creative change-over in issue #50.

Finally, this week, rumors were being passed around that Mike Carlin (who is disappointed with "Countdown" sales figures) will be bringing in some big name artists to draw more attention to this title.

CommentsBE: Cover looks nice, the Dodsons are always a favorite of mine.

JE: Agreed. Always a pleasure.

BE: Now we just need them drawing the Challengers of the Beyond and I'll be a happy fanboy. We also totally need a spin-off with ape-men riding mechanical frogs. I'd buy every issue.

JE: I'd clear a revival of "Sword of the Atom." Maybe even shift Ryan into the Palmerverse for a lengthy story arc, only to return to Ivy Town and drastic changes?

BE: On the other hand, if this gets the Atom some good exposure, you could have Ray in "Sword of the Atom" and Ryan in "The All-New Atom" and get twice the bang for your buck.

JE: Now that is a solid marketing decision.

BE: Heck, with these upcoming two-in-one books like "Countdown to Adventure" and "Countdown to Mystery," we could have an "All-Atom" title with both stories. Get Didio on the phone! Back on point, Giffen is doing amazing things with the layouts on this book. I love how Bob is standing there with his arms crossed like he has better things to do.

JE: Not to sound too harsh, but I think most of the characters that are appearing have better things to do. The point of apathy was spread to Penguin and Holly Robinson, as well. At least Jason finally pulled a trick out of my old gaming hat: "Alright, I'm tired of talking, let's kick ass."

BE: I think that this is the general concern about this book. "52" was fairly action oriented and there was a heavier sense of mystery. This seems more like a linking sequence to what's going on in the DCU. Not to say that I'm not enjoying the book, rather I, like you, would like to see a little more action.

JE: That's all I'm saying. There's too many missed opportunities going on here.

BE: I can't disagree. We get a shot of Mr. Action in, um, action. This is for all of the folks that aren't reading the adventures of Jimmy Olsen in the Superman family of titles.

JE: Have they explained how Jimmy is tapping into his powers? Is it just the danger or is he gaining more control?

BE: In "Action Comics" #852, a Jimmy turned into a werewolf as he originally did back in "Jimmy Olsen" #44 (1960). It seems like Jimmy is gaining some control over his powers, but I imagine the explanation is still farther along.

JE: Teen Wolf Jimmy? That's just great - did he play basketball, too?

BE: Interestingly enough, the Jimmy Olsen Werewolf story in the '60s was inspired by Michael Landon's "I was a Teenage Werewolf," which inspired "Teen Wolf," and no, Jimmy did not shoot the rock.

JE: Boo!

BE: If Mary is looking to Zatanna as a mentor, we could have an interesting side story her. I'd like to see a Zatanna/Mary Marvel one-shot.

JE: No, no more one shots and side stories. I want action here, in this book, not elsewhere for more money. There's plenty of opportunity here, so why aren't we using it?

BE: I agree that we should use the opportunities here, but I'd also like a one-shot - because I like fishnets and mini-dresses.

JE: You are such a dirty old man. I, of course, am a dirty young man, and would probably nerd it up enough to purchase said one-shot.

BE: Art by Adam Hughes, written by Gail Simone. I'd buy five copies. Anyway, well, it seems that our concerns about the Athena shelter are justified. I'm figuring we have a strict "No Males" rule.

JE: Or she's part of the reason that villains are coming up missing. She might be recruiting.

BE: Oooooh. You are wise - unless it's Luthor.

JE: Also wise. Also very wise. After all, we're going to see the new Injustice League from Dwayne McDuffie coming up shortly.

BE: My thoughts exactly. Next up we have the scene stealer in the form of Darkseid. The old boy is so sensitive. There is nothing more enjoyable than watching Darkseid do his thing and it was even better when Desaad could see it coming and excused himself from the impending disintegration.

JE: Oh, how we all wish that vocal chords could be removed from concubines. I guess there are benefits to ruling a planet (sorry ladies!).

BE: Public Service Announcement: The co-author of this column loves women and does not want hate mail sent to him. To further the possibility that I won't get hate mail, I'd like to say that I like women with vocal chords.

JE: That's right, send me the hate mail, I can take it. I'll weep uncontrollably, but I can take it.

BE: Don't hurt him folks. He's a sensitive man. I see that Jason is back to using his wavy knife. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

JE: Allow me to be a kid a little bit: Kris blades are awesome! I fully support this decision, and you'll note that no blood was shed by it.

BE: First, your geek is showing.

JE: Oops, better tuck that away before anyone else sees it.

BE: I wasn't going to call it a Kris knife, but you had to go there. Second, what point is there in not shedding blood with a knife? Poke somebody!

JE: And yes, I agree, he should be using it, but then Donna would get all whiny about it and take the knife away from him (and probably use it herself, the hypocrite).

BE: The cover of "Countdown" #31 shows Jason fighting Owlman (there's going to be a couch-load of therapy sessions in that story) using more claw-like blades. I'd say that suits him better than a weapon with spiritual connotations like the kris.

JE: Can't argue with it. Those things look badass. Gotta get me a set.

BE: We close our story with Oracle and the new Question closing in on the Rogues. I'm not thrilled with how the Question is drawn here. What's up with the bald and ponytail look?

JE: Yeah, there was a really, really bad artistic decision. I know these guys are busy, but a quick character reference search shouldn't have been that hard, especially since Renee look so cool on the cover of the "Crime Bible" solicits.

BE: And I'm certainly hoping that that is the look they settle on. Costume redesigns never help. Iconic characters become iconic for a reason.

JE: Exactly. There's no point in mucking with a good thing, and the Question has such beautiful noir overtones, both then and now, I get mad when it gets messed up.

BE: That says it all: Keep it iconic. Our backup feature establishes "Gotham by Gaslight," "Red Son" and "Red Rain" as worlds within the 2.

JE: Check, check and check.

BE: Because someone will ask, the Supermen are (from left to right):

  • The Tangent Superman

  • Kingdom Come (Earth-22) Superman

  • Nazi Superman from the upcoming "Countdown to Adventure"

  • Earth-1 Superman

  • Earth-2 Superman

  • Red Son Superman

  • Earth-3 Ultraman

JE: And I got all those! Woo! Expect it's not Earth One, it's New Earth. There's a whole separate Earth One out there somewhere that we haven't heard about yet (it was a question at Comi-Con).

BE: Ah ha. So this means that we have "New Earth" and Earth-1 through Earth-51?

JE: Yeah, that's it exactly.

BE: Further proof that grade school math was not wasted on me. I'm sure most of this will be in "Countdown to Adventure," but I'd like to start slapping numbers on some of these worlds.

JE: I would to, but only to a point. I want a mystery world or two left for a couple of years. Save them for something really big, not just as a way to write off all the Elseworlds tales. But, if they are going that way, then I want Jason to take a side trip to the "Brotherhood of the Bat" world.

BE: You're assuming they'll still be here after "Final Crisis." *insert evil laugh here*

Panel of the Week

Welcome a new Forager to the fray.

Previously
Week 41
Week 42
Week 43
Week 44
Week 45
Week 46
Week 47
Week 48
Week 49
Week 50
Week 51

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