"Now, me, I'm something of a showoff." - Mr. Mxyzptlk
|"Countdown To Final Crisis" #23|
Out in the deepest reaches of space, Mary Marvel sits alone on an asteroid, where Eclipso finds her and tries to bring her back into the fold. Mary, it seems, still has a bit of good in her, and doesn't want to be a pawn of someone as evil as Darkseid. Eclipso tempts Mary to return, reminding her that evil is a matter of perception, using Mary's own experiences as bait.
However, the meeting is interrupted by some insterstellar conflict between Monarch's Army and the Dominators. It's at this time that we learn Forerunner has abandoned the Monarch cause, leaving Lord Havok to be named her replacement by Monarch, much to the dismay of Ultraman.
From there, though, let's get to the real meat of the story, where Superman-Prime has captured Mr. Mxyzptlk and Annataz Arataz from Earth-3, using the mystic to keep Mxy in chains inside Prime's castle, which is located in the Source Wall.
Yes, that's just as weird as it sounds.
Still, the majority of our issue takes place here, and Prime does his level best to convince Mxy to give up his Fifth Dimensional powers to him and make him even more powerful than he is as the next Superman. Mxy reminds the boy that he's not yet a man, and that he's only so tough because he absorbed lots of power. Eventually, he'll be just a punk kid again. Enter a new round of torture, as Prime goes so far as to brand Mxy's face with his heat vision, seemingly giving the imp a permanent "S" shield on his face.
Eventually, Mxy and the mystic (there's a new series title if I've ever heard one) outwit Prime, and Annataz helps Mxy escape, taking the wrath of the mad Super-kid on herself to buy Mxy some time. Mxy, in turn, uses his powers to jump through space, going off in search of aid, leaving Prime to stew in his own mess for the moment.
And because he's such a star, let's take a look at the origins of Mr. Mxyzptlk, all thanks to Scott Beatty and Kyle Baker.
For those of you out there interested in lighting your wallets a little bit more this week, I firmly suggest "The Search for Ray Palmer: Gotham By Gaslight." The original tale, now dubbed Earth-19, was written by Brian Augustyn with Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell on art. The tale, eventually dubbed the first Elseworlds story (though not labeled as such) centered on a Victorian Age Gotham plagued by Jack the Ripper, who had migrated from England. Bruce Wayne, who is dubbed one of the suspects in the string of murders, becomes Batman to combat the menace. Augustyn returned to the character for an eventual sequel, "Master of the Future," accompanied by Eduardo Barretto on art.
Thankfully, DC tapped Augustyn to handle the scripting duties on this issue, as well. This tale follows the Challengers as they enter Earth-19, only to become separated by some mysterious force. While there, the team travels to Gotham in search of some sign that Ray Palmer was, indeed here. In the meantime, the team becomes embroiled with this Gotham's Batman and his search for a mysterious Man-Bat creature that has been tormenting the city. In a nice twist, we discover the true results of the Man-Bat infestation in Kyle Rayner, infected from his visit to the vampiric Earth-43. Rayner is stopped by the newest hero of Earth-19, Dan Richards, the Blue Beetle, with an inspired character design on the part of artist Greg Tocchini. Look for more of this Batman in the upcoming "Countdown: Arena," and expect this Blue Beetle to make an appearance, as well, as the close of this tale hints at his involvement with worldhopping. Next stop: Earth-30, home of Red Son Superman.
BE: Please indulge me with a bit of storytelling before I start on this issue. Wednesday morning I had to be on an airplane at 7:00 a.m., as my lady and I headed north to visit her family for Turkey-Day. So, as a result, I could not pick up my comics at my local shop. We landed in Boston around 10:00 a.m. and started the five-hour trek north to our destination, but I knew I needed to find a shop where I could pick up a copy of "Countdown to Final Crisis."
Along the way, we stopped in Reading, Massachusetts for some coffee and a wi-fi connection, and happened upon Comically Speaking. This place is a classic comic shop in the best sense of the word, and Keith (who was very kind to a southern boy lost in greater Boston) and Patrick (the owner) were amazingly helpful and friendly. They got me on the road with my comic so I could write this article with you and painted a completely different picture of Massachusetts than I had before I arrived. Boston has some great people and I thank them for their hospitality.
JE: Can't beat a recommendation like that. Should I ever be in Reading, consider it on my list of stops.
BE: Now on to the comic. Nice issue again this week, even if it is lacking some action from last issue.
JE: I thought it looked good, and the main story was pretty strong even though, as you say, it wasn't action packed.
BE: It's very nice to see this book actually have a main story. I think this adds to a more cohesive feeling.
JE: Yeah, I'm liking the direction "Countdown To Final Crisis" has been on more than previous "Countdown" issues. The cohesiveness is providing readers with some closure each week, as well as strong setups for the coming months.
BE: Keith Giffen's fingerprints are all over this one, especially the layout of the Source Wall.
JE: Very good. A very nice representation of what could, literally, look like anything.
BE: Frankly, only Kirby and Simonson have done better. I'm a bit disturbed that there is a keyhole in the Source Wall and that there are steps inside it.
JE: Yeah, just as much as I was disturbed by the fact Superman-Prime (or "Clarky," as I feel the need to call him) made sort of a castle out of part of the wall.
BE: Clarky is pretty bent.
JE: Not that we needed that clarified by this issue at all. He's just so creepy. About as creepy as the "Check your pants" dialogue.
BE: As we suspected, Superman-Prime has Mxyzptlk locked up and we have the Earth-3 Zatanna here as well. She talks upside down, truly bizarre.
JE: Cheers to the lettering team for freakin' me out.
BE: Prime gives us an update, and we get a vague idea of what happened at the end of the Sinestro Corps War (which is still ongoing in the pages of "Green Lantern" and "Green Lantern Corps.") I love the art on these pages.
JE: Yeah. I was curious about the time placement, and this resolved that nicely.
BE: I think we still have two months until the Corps War finally resolves. I'm interested to see how that shakes out.
JE: Me, too. It's an interesting idea, and since Johns has hinted at more colors-to-emotions-to-powers ideas out there, there could be a lot of interesting fallout.
BE: This has been a point of discussion around my house. Green is willpower, Yellow is fear. Purple (the Star Sapphires) is love, Blue (the Reach) is logic possibly, the upcoming Red lanterns are hate. This leaves Indigo and Orange and I can't begin to guess what those are. I was looking at the Seven Deadly Sins for a clue at one point, but didn't get very far.
JE: I like Blue as logic, or possibly wisdom. If you run down the strata, you'd have to get Orange as some mixture of hate and fear (which is perfectly logical) and indigo would have to be some mix of love and, if we go with your theory, logic. Heart versus head, perhaps.
BE: With the revelation that Mxyzptlk is a (or possibly the) Trickster God, we grab some territory that Alan Moore covered in "Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" And I'm glad of it. That story still stands out as, in my opinion, the greatest Superman story ever written.
Making elements of a good Alan Moore story into part of the DC canon is always a good thing. Apparently the Black Mercy plant for "Superman Annual" #10 will be appearing in upcoming issues of "Blue Beetle" and now we have Mxyzptlk telling us plainly that Fifth dimensional wizards are not, in fact, little people in ugly hats. I'm not sure who is at the root of that decision, but I'm betting that Grant Morrisson at least was involved.
JE: The Black Mercy was a regular appearance in lots of Elseworld books, so it only makes sense that it would show up in the 52 worlds now.
BE: Mary and Jean standing on an asteroid. I thought I knew where all of this was going, but now I'm starting to not care.
JE: It was a bit of a curve ball, and I think I'm on your boat. It's getting a little too drawn out. I'd rather have just seen Mary team up with Darkseid.
BE: It certainly would get Jeanclipso out of the picture.
JE: Yeah, she's become more of a nuisance villain than an actual threat anymore. Which is a shame, since she was set up so well after "Identity Crisis" and the lead-in to "Infinite Crisis."
BE: Sadly so, at first I was unimpressed with Eclipso as seducer and corrupter and then it occurred to me that a being on this power level needs to be managed in just such a way. Sadly for these two, Lord Havok and Monarch's fleet have chosen that asteroid for target practice. Monarch's crew have made a critical error here and Darkseid may have a weapon to use against Monarch without having to do anything. Mary and Eclipso are going to be a rough team to beat, even for the Crime Society and the Extremists.
JE: I thought that was an interesting discussion between the two powerlords in Monarch's crew, and it also hints at Forerunner's defection, which was interesting. And yeah, that's a big error on their part, since both Mary and Eclipso are god-level beings, and most of the Monarch crew aren't going to be able to cope with magic users of this scale.
BE: The "Gotham by Gaslight" installment of "The Search for Ray Palmer" was out this week and that may answer some questions, others will have to wait for the next "Countdown to Adventure." We end with Prime going nuts again, and destroying an unknown amount of the Source Wall where they were located, but Mxyzptlk escapes.
JE: I never thought I'd see Mxy running around with intent to save the universe, but Clarky is a threat to everything. Unfortunately, the damage to the Source Wall reminds me a little too much of "Superboy Punch!"
BE: So, where is Mxy going?
JE: I'd think to get his Superman.
BE: Frankly it may take more than one Superman to take down Prime on this level.
JE: An intercept with Monarch's army, perhaps?
BE: Or perhaps a counterpoint? Recruit some Supermen that haven't joined the army of the Bleed? The Superman from "Speeding Bullets," for example.
JE: You're readin' my mind, man. I like it.
BE: Next issue, we are back to Jimmy Olsen's field trip to Apokalips.
JE: As you know, I'm not a big fan of Jimmy, and though his great adventure is fun, I'm still hoping we'll get to see more of Forager, since she up and disappeared after their arrival.
BE: Sadly, like all the New Gods, her days are numbered and I liked her as well.
Panel of the Week
Don't think he'll take this lying down.