"How could you miss the giant flaming letters?!" – Donna Troy
|"Countdown to Final Crisis" #13|
Welcome back to Earth-51, where the Monitors continue to clash with monarch's villainous forces, only recently bolstered by the arrival of Donna Troy's newfound insectoid army, and where Superman Prime prepares to do battle with none other than Monarch himself. It's a quick recap like that starting us off this week, only as seen through the eyes of Monitor-51, who is forced to watch his world come under these attacks and await the ultimate outcome.
The fight begins with Prime and Monarch, who begin slugging it out in Monarch's base camp, but it's soon the rest of the world that feels the wrath of these titans. As the fight progresses, Monarch unleashes a devastating surge of energy, a nuclear-level explosion that wipes out many of the combatants, including Donna's army. Unable to do anything but watch and try to protect Ray Palmer, Donna is stunned by the horror of the explosion and surprised to see Kyle Rayner arrive safely, protected by his power ring and with Jason Todd (as Red Robin) and Batman-51 safely in tow.
Monarch thinks the battle done, only to see Prime erupt from the ruins to begin the fight anew. Meanwhile, the Challengers and Batman-51 try to make a new plan of attack, only to bear witness to the power of the Source itself, streaking a nearby wall with words of direction: "To Apokolips."
The message gives the team a point of argument, though they're distracted by the arrival of monarch's forces, which Batman leaps to attack. While trying to reach a version of The Joker, Batman-51 is cut down brutally by Ultraman. Kyle removes Ultraman from the fight, and the Challengers leave Jason to grieve over this alternate version of his mentor. Taunting Jason from the rubble of the battle is, of course, The Joker, and Jason provides a violent retribution against this villain, crushing his skull with a small boulder.
The Challengers, aided by Monitor-51, gather together and are transported away from the ruins of Earth-51, though the Monitor elects to remain behind and oversee the final fate of his world, however brief, as the battle between Monarch and Superman Prime continues to rage on. Expending all of his supplanted energy, Prime viciously assaults Monarch, tearing into his armor, mistakenly thinking that is the source of Monarch's power. In fact, the suit served to contain Monarch's energies, and the damage done to the suit, with a final shout of fury, actually unleashes a cataclysm beyond anything imaginable. Not only the world, but the entire 51st universe, is destroyed under the wave of power unleashed by Monarch. The only survivors, it seems, are Monitor-51 and a small green plant, a symbol of life and home on an otherwise barren planet.
As if that weren't enough, we also get an interesting tease from the Multiversal Nexus where Solomon, the rogue Monitor, has quickly dispatched Forerunner and works in collusion with Darkseid, who offers Solomon the next move in this "game," but to what end, we do not yet know.
Rounding out the week, we have the origin of Cyborg Superman, written by Scott Beatty and drawn by the talented Ivan Reis.
BE: We have the same art and writing team for three issues straight.
JE: I'm liking this. I'm also thinking that, as the month's progress, we'll likely see a rotating creative team for each of the final arcs.
BE: Is that a rumor I missed or do you have the inside track?
JE: Just a guess on my part, but we've had a team for a month that covered one solid story arc. I imagine that the team will change with each step closer to "Final Crisis."
BE: They waste no time getting to the action. Monarch versus Superman Prime for the fate of Earth-51.
JE: It's one for the record books, to be sure.
BE: "I'll kill you to death!!!" with three, count' em, three exclamation points, that shows that Prime is extra crazy. While I am sure there will be a hue and cry over the inanity of Prime's dialogue, I think it further paints him as the adolescent mad-man that he has become. His stupidity and immaturity are highlighted by the sheer incredulity of the scene. It's either that or Prime has degenerated into a caricature. You decide.
JE: I'm liking a little from Column A, a little from Column B at this point. He's essentially a teenager throwing the hissy fit from Hell, but, at the same time, he's doing it because he (like the rest of us) knows that he's just a joke.
BE: Yet despite all of that there is a small, but vocal community that likes Prime.
JE: You're kidding me, right? Where are these people and what do they do when they're not improperly caressing images of this character?
BE: Lamenting the fact that since Ted Kord is dead that their Booster Gold slash fiction will never become canon.
JE: Oh! It's funny 'cause it's true! Still, I do miss Ted Kord.
BE: Monarch is just cruel here. It's obvious that he thinks he can finish Prime, but to belittle his manhood, that's just mean. It makes me happy.
JE: Unfortunately, all good fights go bad when the taunting starts.
BE: There were a lot of ways this could go. Monarch releasing a nuclear firestorm by taking off his faceplate was not what I expected.
JE: Me, either. It seemed pretty extreme when it was all said and done. Guess all that restructuring of Captain Atom from "Superman/Batman" to "Armageddon" to "Battle for Bludhaven" really upped the ante on his power levels.
BE: I think we can suppose that the armor that was intended to contain Captain Atom's power has done its job as said power has grown exponentially.
JE: Sounds like some science to me, though I wonder if the armor can survive all this.
BE: This is comic book science -- of course it can. Also, Donna shielding Ray from radiation with her body? This falls under the duck and cover school of science. It is also one of three things that annoyed me about an issue that I thought paid out some good action. I'll mention the other two items when we get to them.
JE: Hey, Donna can shield me with her body anytime, but I see where you're coming from. Radiation isn't exactly something you can aim and, conversely, dodge.
BE: Somehow I knew it was going to come down to Donna's body and you.
JE: You're just mad you didn't think of it first.
BE: Moving right along. As the remaining Challengers (and Batman-51) regroup and we get a moment of joy as the Source writes on the wall with a celestial finger. Loved it. That moment was so Silver Age you could have minted it.
Annoyance number two, Solomon finishes off Forerunner off panel. Now, if this fight is shown in its entirety in "Countdown to Adventure" #8, I will retract my complaint.
JE: Yeah, especially with Forerunner stomping so many heads over in the aforementioned issue of "Countdown to Adventure" this week.
BE: And early on she took on Donna with what appeared to be ease and in "Countdown to Adventure" she went up against various versions of the Justice League. I can only assume that Solomon is in a surprisingly high class of power levels.
JE: That would have to be a really big surprise. As you say, he rough-and-tumbled a lot of people since this whole thing started, and we're not talking lightweights, either. Perhaps Darkseid had a hand in it.
BE: With an appearance by the great Darkseid we answer another pair of questions. Solomon intended to consume the essence of the other Monitors so that there would be only one Monitor in the multiverse as there was before in "Crisis on Infinite Earths." We also discover who was behind Solomon's quest to become the Source, Darkseid himself. Now, why?
JE: Because it's easier to kill one enemy than multiple enemies, in this case 52 of them.
BE: That's solid thinking, but I also think that Darkseid wishes to hasten the end of the Fourth World. As to whether Darkseid believes he will survive, only time will tell.
JE: Darkseid has expressed moments of fatalism, but I'm still in the camp that he'll make a play for all the power before it's all said and done.
BE: Surprisingly we get more of Monitor-51, who, I venture to hope, will be the sole Monitor after "Final Crisis."
JE: It's on my list of wants, as well. Dare I say we could count on it?
BE: Batman-51 proves his high level of crazy by jumping directly into the fray without a plan. Enter Ultraman and "splutch."
JE: That was rough all around, and, though crazy, a little out of character with any Batman, including this one. Consider that my one gripe with the issue.
BE: That the previously cautious Batman-51 was suddenly, suicidally reckless? Yes, I'll have to agree.
JE: Yeah. No Batman goes jumping into a fight with any version of the Justice League without a plan. That was just silly.
BE: Jason on the other hand? I don't think we need to worry about Red Robin being a kinder, gentler Red Hood. One good head splatter deserves another.
JE: Like Keanu says, man, "Whoa." I was at once both stunned and satisfied to see such a reaction. Though where, I wonder, did this Joker come from? Joker-51 was already dead, our Joker is on Salvation Run, and the Jokester also bought the rubber chicken farm. Just a curiosity on my part.
BE: It's a lousy year to be a version of Joker -- or Batman for that matter.
JE: Here, here. I wonder if this was just a hint of the Batman RIP story that Grant Morrison is cooking up.
BE: Rumors continue to abound that DC still has plans for the Alex Ross re-imagining of Batman that was planned for the Fifth World. Stay tuned. Back to Monarch and Prime, the last idiot of Krypton breaches Monarch's armor and annoyance number three rears its ugly head. All of those soldiers that were so painstakingly selected and Lord Havok and the Extremists?
JE: And vampire Batman.
BE: Yeah, gone. Remember last week when I said the only real point of "Arena" was to tell a side story and pump up readership? That being said, I hold out hope for the rebels from the "Arena" series returning for more than a cameo. This was a wasted moment is what otherwise was an action packed story that really turned the pages.
JE: Yeah, that was a pretty big explosion, and, I have to think that this points strongly in the direction of a single Earth once again after "Final Crisis," considering that the populations of several were just vaporized. But at least we have "Final Crisis" to look forward to and see who crops up.
BE: And Universe-51 is gone, except for Monitor-51 and a small plant. We can assume that Monarch and the Challengers were not among the fatalities.
JE: Challengers will likely be following the Source, as they were 'ported out by Monitor-51. No, Monarch is far from gone, though, again, I ask how much power is he really packing? You'd think that he'd burn himself out with a trick like that.
BE: I'm sure he will be back in the Bleed rebuilding his power. But, what of Superman Prime?
JE: You just asked my next question -- what are the odds that this actually killed him? He's juiced up before, so who's to say he won't do so again?
BE: I think we'll see the powered down Prime return before "Final Crisis."
BE: Scott Beatty and the amazing Ivan Reis give a wonderfully concise retelling of the convoluted origin of Hank Henshaw, the tragic Cyborg Superman. Very nice, if you haven't been reading "Green Lantern," look at the artwork here and you'll see one of the many reasons why the series kicks ass.
JE: Reis is definitely a talent that only gets better with each assignment, and I always liked the Cyborg Superman.
BE: Then I will once again point you to Sinestro/Green Lantern Corps War. The hardback of volume one is due out at the end of February.
JE: It's already on my calendar. Very, very excited.
BE: We here at the Hal Jordan fan club thank you. Rather than write an entire FYI to cover the 17 pages of "Countdown to Adventure" #6 that deal with Forerunner, I will give you a quick recap. Forerunner has taken over a pirate ship, fights the updated version of Golden Eagle (who is now Thanagaran) for what amounts to an interstellar booty-call and locates the Source Wall in her search for the Monitors. It was actually pretty good, but the timing is way out of whack with our weekly series.
JE: Two questions (since I read this as well): Why is Golden Eagle now Thanagarian (not a complaint, just another curiosity), and why is he such a girl (actually a complaint)? A hot blue girl decides she just wants to hit that and he cries about the lack of personal commitment? I get that it's a parody of human relations, but I thought Carter Hall raised 'em tougher.
BE: This version of Golden Eagle was introduced in "Hawkman" #43 (Vol.4) and is still Charley Parker (who in the Silver Age was a Teen Titan). This version was an orphan in Midway City who was taken under Carter (Hawkman) Hall's wing (pardon the pun). Charley joined Teen Titans West and after the group disbanded, he was killed by the Wildebeest society. The Nth metal of Charlie's armor revived him and Charlie replaced the missing Carter Hall as Hawkman.
In the end, we discover that Charlie is the Human/Thanagaran son of an earth woman named Sharon Parker and the villain Fel Andar (a spy sent from Thanagar during the "Invasion" miniseries). Charlie (now Ch'al Andar) was defeated by Hawkman (who Charlie believed he had killed) and sent to Thanagar for judgment. During the Rann-Thanagar war, Charlie was pardoned and made a Wingman leader. His eye was lost in a battle with Hawkman and replaced with the cybernetics we saw in "Countdown to Adventure" #6. So, why is Charlie now a girl? At the end of the Rann-Thanagar war, Charlie's father returned and had turned from his evil ways and begged Charlie to do the same.
JE: Huh. Well, that was pretty comprehensive. So much so I'm wonderfully speechless at this very moment. Thanks very much.
BE: That's why I am here, a sticky brain filled with vast amounts of trivia. In closing this week, we also had "Death of the New Gods" #5 in which the soul stealer that is wiping out the New Gods is revealed and the body count is raised by two: Mantis and Kalibak. This is a key issue for "Countdown" readers as it gives greater insight into the second Source Wall, the function of the Source Wall, and how all of this is tied to "Infinite Crisis," "52," and "Countdown."
JE: "Second Source Wall?" Explain please. And who is the soul stealer???
BE: Warning, Spoilers follow:
As we have seen in "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods," a second Source Wall is being constructed and the faces of those taken by the Soul Stealer appear there, much as the Old Gods appear on the first Source Wall. In this issue, the Soul Stealer appears to Metron and reveals itself to be the Source itself. The Source is using an un-named agent (my money is on Orion or the Infinity-Man) to undo the failed New Gods. The Source explains to Metron that the New Gods were never meant to be divided, but rather a whole. The Source desires to be reunited with the Anti-Life and create the Fifth World. In the meanwhile, Orion and Superman slug it out with Anti-Life Mister Miracle and Darkseid hints that all of recent history from "Infinite Crisis" to "Final Crisis" have all been part of a bigger plan to end the Fourth World and Darkseid has a plan of his own.
Panel of the Week
Looks like somebody was watching Season Six of "24" this week.