"It will be interesting to see how your gambit plays out." – Darkseid
|"Countdown To Final Crisis" #12|
Beginning the week, we welcome our Challengers and Ray Palmer to the greatest home of darkness in all of the DCU: Apokolips. Hurried there by the Source itself, the team considers their place in the grand scheme of things and how they might be meant to avert the Great Disaster. However, their greatest question remains "How?"
Back on Earth, Forager and Jimmy Olsen enjoy a chance to look for food and take a shower, respectively, but as they, too, consider their fates, a message arrives from them (also from the Source) directing them to return to Apokolips.
Jump across the pond a bit and you'll see Holly Robinson, Harley Quinn and Mary Batson considering their lots, though not in such a grand scale as our other heroes. No, the female trio rather considers the mysteries surrounding the new Amazons on Paradise Island and the initiation of the so-called "Furies." As the three continue their investigation for the displaced Queen Hippolyta, Granny Goodness, still in disguise as Athena, presents the newest recruits to those aforementioned Furies, including holly and Harley's friend Tricia, who arrived on the island with them.
Mary can no longer take her portrayal of servitude or the lies spread by Granny, challenging her in front of all the Amazons. Tricia is told to make herself a true Fury by killing Mary, forcing Harley and Holly to intervene. As the battle begins, it is just as quickly joined by Hippolyta herself, who shatters Granny's disguise and forces her to flee, following in the footsteps of Desaad, who also recently left the island after meeting secretly with Granny. Unable to let Granny simply escape, Harley leaps into the Boom Tube right behind Granny, soon to be followed by Holly and Mary. As the teleporter closes, Hippolyta takes control of Paradise Island once more.
Lost in the desert, the Pied Piper has seemingly lost his mind, conversing with the rotting hand of his former cohort, the Trickster. After completing a disturbing discussion with the hand about a classic film involving (you guessed it) a severed hand, Piper is amazed to see a Boom Tube open up before him, as well.
Elsewhere on Earth, Brother Eye has completed its assimilation of the technology made available to it by the Atomic Knights. Now, with its systems fully charged, it seeks to find a new planet even more suited to its plans. Accessing Boom Tube technology, the techno-city vanishes from Bludhaven, leaving behind Karate Kid, Una, Buddy Blank and his grandson.
And on Apokolips itself, Darkseid plays Solomon in a grand game of chess, the same game we've seen him play all these weeks, and it is now revealed that Solomon and Darkseid are manipulating all the players in our little drama, but to what end?
Closing out the week, Scott Beatty and Aaron Lopresti give us the origin of Circe.
BE: Justin, my friend, I think you nailed it when you said that the writing and art teams would be working together in arcs. Just as the Monarch arc reached its explosive (albeit temporary) conclusion, Gray and Palmiotti return to writing chores along with the hardest working writer in the business, Mr. Paul Dini. And Jimmy Palmiotti is no slacker himself, handling the inks on this issue as well. Pencils by Jesus Saiz and Tom Derenick and layouts by Keith Giffen finish the credits on this issue. All in all, it was a good looking issue. Now, let's dissect it.
JE: I won't say I nailed it until we get the next issue in hand, but let's rather say I've got a good theory. However, the issue was mightily drawn. Saiz is a great talent and I hope my hypothesis is true.
BE: Our lead-in page is pure poetry; it was very reminiscent of a Silver Age lead in, it was (appropriately) Kirby-esque. Whoever wrote "Here stands the grisly midnight of decaying creation..." deserves a raise.
JE: Yes, it was very Silver Age. Now, as you know, I'm from a different generation and, as such, have different opinions on the quality of the work done on some counts. However, as this year has been nothing but a tribute to the age, I can safely join you in saying that it fit the tone nicely.
BE: The Challengers are on Apokolips. No big surprise there, but as the Beatles-inspired title indicates, they won't be the last to make the journey.
JE: Not where I expected at least some of our cast to end up, though I really shouldn't have been surprised. Darkseid's hands have been in this game all along, so where else would all the trails lead?
BE: In the end? I think it has to be the Source Wall, but Apokolips is a perfect staging ground. It seems that the finger of the Source has lowered itself to writing on steamy mirrors.
JE: Fire was much more emphatic, I'll say that. Still, Jimmy and Forager's domestic bliss seems very odd considering all the other circumstances surrounding them.
BE: You mean the fact that she is a humanoid bug from a world populated by gods? What could be odd about that?
JE: I was looking more towards the "End of the Multiverse" stuff, but, yeah, I think we're pretty much on the same page there.
BE: Jimmy having relations with a bug is "End of the Multiverse" stuff! What would Lucy Lane say? On Paradise Island, Mary has been reduced to a scullion, but she has friends like Harley, so who needs enemies?
JE: I've missed this sub-plot in recent weeks, though as much as Mary was reduced to a maid, at least she hasn't been put on the second-string bench like Holly Robinson, who now seems overshadowed in a story she began.
BE: Absolutely. The character seems to have lost her way. I was looking for great things from Holly, and I continue to hold out some hope.
JE: As do I. She really came into her own back during Ed Brubaker's days on "Catwoman," and she's only grown since then, so I hope she gets back in charge of the situation, rather than being reduced to a sidekick.
BE: And with Catwoman on the "Salvation Run" planet, the opportunity is open again. Ok, in the scene with Harley and Mary, I have one rave and one complaint. I am very happy with the portrayal of Harley here. She is often made out to be brainless, it is forgotten that she was a clinical psychiatrist. Harley's (accurate) account of the Greco-Egyptian tale of Rhodopis shows her classical education. Bravo.
JE: Agreed. Harley is a fine mind and I like seeing her used in this light, especially when it's coupled with her sharp twists into buffoonery.
BE: If only we could have a Harley series with Terry and Rachel Dodson doing the art again.
JE: Speaking of, did you see the hardcover of those first issues of "Harley Quinn" with the Dodsons was just released? My greedy paws can hardly wait to pick it up in a few days.
BE: It's already in my library. Back on point: on the down side, Mary Marvel, who drew her powers from three Greek Deities (and interestingly enough, Queen Hippolyta), should be well aware of what the word Fury means and its origins.
JE: Has Mary ever really been the sharpest knife in the drawer? C'mon, she cut a deal with Black Adam, for Pete's sake and, for my two cents, I'd be willing to bet she (at least this incarnation of her) thought she was getting her powers from Billy Batson / Captain Marvel, not the gods.
BE: I assumed the wisdom of Minerva extended to a more rounded education. On the other hand, I did laugh at the fury/furry joke.
JE: I did not. Furries terrify me.
BE: It was that episode of CSI, wasn't it?
JE: There was a CSI episode? Oh, dear.
BE: It gave me trauma. We don't talk about it.
JE: Let's not. However, I will give Mary one iota of defense here: fury certainly has a double meaning and it's likely she understood the Greek version, but not how the Amazons could identify with such.
BE: I'm hoping that was the intended context. Elsewhere on Paradise Island, Desaad is a jerk and Granny is a loyal thug of the great Darkseid. Do you have any thoughts of the "You act as though you cannot provide us another Bernadeth" comment? While Darkseid has killed his minions many times and had them recreated, I assumed that Bernadeth's death at the hands of the Source's agent was permanent. Perhaps Desaad means a replacement from the ranks of the new Amazons.
JE: That's my thinking, yes. Train new Furies, but leave them with the same names of the fallen. DC is, after all, a place of legacy.
BE: It is indeed and I'm very interested in the legacy of the Fourth World, the Fifth World. Can such a major change in the DCU stand the test of time?
JE: That is the question, isn't it? I will say this, though: As a company, DC has always handled large events and changes with style and class. They generally don't work at odds with the fans, and, as we mentioned earlier, this whole year has been one great big tribute to the Silver Age reader. I met a comics pro at the Pittsburgh Comicon a year or two ago. This writer loved how much DC cared about the fans and their history with characters, and also said that other companies should be doing the same thing. I agree, and I have faith that the company plan, no matter how odd it might seem now, will put us in a good place for the future. You may disagree, but there wasn't a whole lot of mileage coming from the "Fourth World" line of characters lately, but this year has changed all that, likely with an eye towards continuing Jack Kirby's legacy.
BE: I completely agree. Only Darkseid (and to a lesser extent, Big Barda) got any real page time in recent years and all attempts to revitalize the comic were as unsuccessful as (ultimately) Kirby's run on the books. Even the Grant Morrison "Seven Soliders" version has been, apparently, ignored.
JE: Right, so getting a new version of much beloved characters moving, creating even further legacies, seems to be a good way to go.
BE: Darkseid and Solomon playing chess. Well, now we know who Darkseid's opponent has been all this time. Since I am sure many readers will wonder, the Lucena position, that Darkseid mentions, is an endgame scenario in chess involving a rook and pawn in an attempt to checkmate the opponent's queen. It's considerably more complicated than that, but this is an article on comics and not on chess theory.
JE: I think we figured that out last week, what with all the thinly veiled gaming references in the Nexus, but let's go beyond that a minute. Please tell me you had to look the Lucena position up.
BE: I'd love to tell you that, but no, I used to play a little chess in college. I was familiar with the strategy in question. Darkseid and I are just cool like that.
JE: Yes. As you say, "cool." Of course, the comparison now makes me terrified to think of you in a classic Kirby shortpants costume.
BE: And a really big hat. Kirby loved big hats.
JE: How could I forget?
BE: Mary, Harley, Holly and Hippolyta finally take on Granny head to head and the old girl bails out. Mary, Holly and Harley follow Granny to Apokolips, leaving Hippolyta with a batch of Amazons.
JE: I'm actually surprised Granny bailed as quickly as she did. I understand it's a simple plot device to get all the characters in motion, but Granny's always been portrayed a bit tougher than that, and where were the rest of her Furies (the real ones that were lurking on Paradise Island about six weeks ago with her)?
BE: I think you nailed it with the plot device. My sources tell me that the final four issues of "Countdown to Final Crisis" will be the Great Disaster, so we have just a few short issues left to set that stage. Poor Piper, how we've missed you, alone in the desert with the severed hand of your former partner -- ew. Piper also gets a written invitation the Apokolips in the form of a boom tube.
JE: Are you sure it wasn't a BOOOOOOOOOOOM Tube? There sure were a lot of those floating around this issue. Not a complaint, mind you, but, again, I reference the aforementioned plot device. But why the hell is Piper part of the equation? He's not exactly in the same class as, well, anyone else that got the invitation.
BE: Since the Challengers and Jimmy got a written invitation, I am wondering if Piper is a pawn on Darkseid's side of the board.
JE: That would make sense in keeping with the countered actions of Mary Marvel (Solomon's move) by Holly and Harley. They Boomed out unexpectedly as well. At least, it was unexpectedly to them and us. Darkseid, however, likely is, as a good chess player should be, several moves ahead.
BE: I don't know if I am more horrified by the hand chained to Piper or his boyhood crush on Rod Lauren from the execrable film "The Crawling Hand" (1963). In an independent study I performed at my local comic shop, using some patrons, a laptop and a wi-fi connection, I determined that no one but Piper could find Rod Lauren attractive. However, co-stars Peter Breck and Sirry Steffen (the former Miss Iceland that played the daughter of the Swedish biology professor) were judged to be "pretty hot."
JE: I, uh, I, well, yeah. Hmph. Well, I, uh, I think you took that exercise just a wee bit too far there, old buddy.
BE: I am nothing if not professional and I have seen every bad horror movie made in the 1960s. It's a skill, I have to go with it.
JE: Go with God, then.
BE: In Bludhaven, Una, Karate Kid, Buddy Blank and Buddy's grandson are on hand as Brother Eye decides that Apokolips (I know, I was surprised, too) is the place best suited for his prime directive. He also plans to return for Buddy Blank and "place him above all others." I think your OMAC wish is about to be granted.
JE: Man, I hope so.
BE: The perfect scenario? OMAC is a major player in the Great Disaster and then we get a new OMAC series. Since DC has Starlin working on the New Gods, it wouldn't be a far stretch to imagine him back on OMAC. Jim took over OMAC where Kirby left off, way back in "Kamandi" #59. It was Starlin that tied Kamandi and OMAC together and established OMAC as Kamandi's grandfather.
JE: Too true. He found a fine link between all those classic stories and there's not one reason it shouldn't continue, especially with so many of the players already in place. I'd buy a new OMAC series pretty darn quick, with Starlin on board. I'd also give Greg Rucka a crack at the character, since he did so well creating these new and troublesome OMACs. Think we could get Walt Simonson to pick up art chores?
BE: That would be great. You may also notice that this week we saw "Countdown Special: OMAC" hit the stands. I don't think that was a coincidence, and this issue ends with a Boom -- tube, that is.
JE: Again, this issue seemed to be moving all the players into place for the next act, if you will, so it was only natural that, yes, we saw one more Boom Tube. All very well and good, though the arrival of the unexpected "OMAC" special certainly put a crimp in my comics budget for the week.
BE: We can't all be handsome and rich.
JE: Nope. I just settle for amazing.
BE: Scott Beatty's origin of Circe is right on the money (as usual) and the art by Aaron Lopresti was gorgeous. I am a big Lopresti fan, particularly his work on Green Lantern. Aaron takes over as regular artist of "Wonder Woman" with issue #20 (May, 2008.)
JE: I'll give Lopresti this: that was probably the best rendition of Circe I've seen since the the great George Perez left "Wonder Woman" all those years ago. I was highly impressed. Fans will certainly be marking the art change on the current title with interest.
Panel of the Week
From bad to worse, it seems. Can't this poor guy catch a break?