"We are Legion!" – Una
First this week, tidbits from around the galaxy. In our first sidebar, we see Trickster and Piper on the run from a strangely insane Deadshot, who decided to use a helicopter rocket to bring the boys in. After disabling their vehicle, Deadshot makes a play for the duo, only to be tripped up, quite literally, by our favorite team as they make a run for their lives once more.
Elsewhere, Jimmy Olsen learns that he is under the protection of the great and powerful Darkseid. Darkseid, though, is more concerned about his newest recruit, Mary Marvel (see below for details).
The majority of this issue takes us to the ruined city of Bludhaven, and starts with a confrontation between Karate Kid, Una, Buddy Blank and Firestorm and the Atomic Knights. The Knights refuse to allow the team access to the bunker discovered last issue, and the fisticuffs begin. The battle wages back and forth between the two teams until, finally, Firestorm gets sick of the situation and uses his powers to knock out all the Knights, changing the air around them into Ether.
From there, it's into the bunker itself, only to discover (and be trapped by) Desaad. The team, capture, tries to free themselves and Professor Stein, an ally of Firestorm's. Unfortunately, the result is devastating, as Desaad captures the power of the Nuclear Man and channels it into himself, overpowering the Firestorm Matrix and transforming himself into Firestorm.
Back in the back, check out the origin of Killer Frost, Firestorm's favorite baddie, as told by Scott Beatty and Jamal Igle.
Beware - Spoilers to Follow - This week we had "Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Red Rain," which is the latest one-shot in the series. The Challengers of Beyond (Bob the Monitor, Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner and Jason Todd) visit Earth-43, the home of a vampire Batman. This story is a sequel of sorts to "Batman and Dracula: Red Rain" (a 1991 graphic novel by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones). The original story spawned two sequels: "Batman: Bloodstorm" and "Batman: Crimson Mist" by the same creative team.
This week's one-shot, sadly, was not written by Doug Moench, though the art is by Kelley Jones. The writing chores of this one are by Peter Johnson and though the story has all of the evocative artwork of the original trilogy, the story does not live up to the predecessor's standard. In this issue, the team is, as the title implies, looking for Ray (The Atom) Palmer. In short order they find one of the vampire Batman's victims bearing the mark of the Atom and its Barbara Gordon. Sadly, when the group finds Barbara, she (now a vampire) has been staked by Gotham City's resident vampire hunter, Dick Grayson. At that point the series begins to meander. You see, half of our team is not sure that there is any such thing as vampires. Bob proves to be the only member of the team that is one task as we watch them try and locate the vampire hunter (whom they assume is Ray Palmer.) When the inevitable confrontation between Dick Grayson and Batman takes place, the team prevents Dick from killing the vampiric Batman, but doesn't prevent Batman from biting Dick Grayson. Once the team decides that Ray Palmer is not present, our heroes take their leave, wondering if it was ok that they didn't interfere. Excuse me? I'm pretty sure stopping Dick from staking the Batman was interference. At any rate, the issue ends in a satisfying shot that establishes what we all know, that there is no Batman without Robin.
With this issue, as with other in this series, there seems to be a mixed set of feelings among the Challengers. The feeling seems to be a balance between the Star Trek Prime Directive (a policy of non-interference) and an inability to view any other world but their own as real, and that robs scenes with the Challengers of any pathos, leaving them as mere spectators.
BE: Well, we were looking for more name artists. Ron Lim is a name.
JE: I love Ron Lim. And the fact that he's doing some DC work tickles me to no end.
BE: Here' hoping we see more work at DC. Ron started out (if I recall correctly) working for Eternity Comics doing "Ex-Mutants" and "Hero Alliance," but he's probably better known for his work on Marvel's cosmic titles like "Silver Surfer" and "Infinity Gauntlet." Lately he's been working on Marvel's All-Ages books. As he's matured as an artist he has developed into someone who draws with such beautiful clean lines. I'd love to see him on a regular title at DC.
JE: Me, too. His work at Marvel on the MC2 universe with Tom Defalco has been great. He's a top notch superhero artist. Honestly, I'd love to see his Superman.
BE: The pages have very heavy Keith Giffen influence, frankly, in some places, it looks like Giffen pencils with Lim inks.
JE: Agreed. After all, why mess with the perfection if it's done the way you'd do it yourself? And while we're on art, a shout out to my friend Glenn for pointing out the Claudio Castellini cover.
BE: And it's a beautiful cover. Nice action. I need to say that the issue, again, felt more focused and on task, but Adam Beechen does not have a full handle on the voice of some of these characters. None the less, good issue.
JE: I was very happy with it, but you're right, there were some places that Beechen slipped up and I felt lost.
BE: We start with the Legionnaires, Buddy Blank and his grandson, and Firestorm in Bludhaven. The Atomic Knights, so, where did they get the authority to lock down Bludhaven? Weren't they opposing the SHADE forces in the "Battle for Bludhaven" miniseries?
JE: It was unclear. Perhaps they've simply taken it upon themselves since SHADE gave up the effort.
BE: Trickster and Piper. I still love this stuff, but I have two bones to pick. The first is that Deadshot's "voice" is still off; this just doesn't sound like Floyd Lawton. The second is the constant references to Piper's sexuality. We get it, Piper is gay and Trickster's a homophobe, move on.
JE: Check and check. The gay stuff really hindered my enjoyment of it, but with four writing teams taking turns, I guess everyone feels the need to make their gay jokes. And yeah, Deadshot was off. It was close, but there's a little too much psychopath in there for my liking.
BE: Agreed. As we've said, there seems to be only a few people that can capture the character and it takes time to develop that. Jimmy is being protected by Darkseid. Justin. You. Nail. Head.
JE: I'll take a bow later.
BE: Humble fellow. Now, I need to digress a moment. If you haven't been reading "Countdown to Mystery," then you probably don't know that Eclipso had a recent meeting with Darkseid where we established that the black diamond, that is the source of Eclipso's existence, is an Apokaliptian artifact and that Darkseid has asserted his authority over Eclipso.
JE: Kick ass!
BE: Now that we have that background, we see that the events of "Final Crisis" move closer as Mary Marvel, with the powers of Black Adam, is brought before the lord of Apokolips. Earlier we speculated that Athena was Granny Goodness and was recruiting new Furies, it appears that Apokalips may be at the root of the coming, well, Apocalypse.
JE: Makes sense, especially when you consider our closing point his issue (see below). There's a lot of power floating around out there.
BE: And if Darkseid is drawing all of this power to him and he is the source of the Great Disaster and the New Gods are dying -- does Darkseid take all of this power down the drain with him?
JE: Less down the drain, maybe the kickstart to make himself even more powerful the next time around.
BE: We close with something that felt more like what we were hoping "Countdown" would be, a long, detailed storytelling sequence. This felt so much like "52." Frankly, I think I've figured out what has been hurting this series, it's the lack of momentum. No one story has gotten going long enough to get my blood pumping. They manage that here and in spades! Desaad is Firestorm.
JE: Okay, I'm glad I wasn't the only one that had a "Holy *&%#" moment when I hit that last page. That was excellent. Now, let me ask you this: Is Darkseid really in control of all his minions, or are they plotting behind his back? Each one competing to be the one that brings the most to the table of destruction, so to speak?
BE: Don't forget that Monarch is building an army and Darkseid is building an army and someone else is wiping out the New Gods. We have a three corner war going on here, not including the monitors and the heroes.
JE: Or, this just hit me: weren't Firestorm and Black Adam two of the people gathered for Alexander Luthor's big sacrifice in "Infinite Crisis?" Having all that reality-shaping power under Darkseid's control seems terrifying.
BE: They were, but that was because each one of his sacrifices represented a different pre-crisis Earth. Black Adam was Earth-S and Firestorm was Earth-8. However, Firestorm has total control over matter and energy and with Mary, Darkseid has, effectively, a magic fueled Kryptonian level threat.
JE: Whatever the reason, it's going to be ugly as hell, and awesome all the way along.
Panel of the Week
I'm not ashamed to admit this terrifies me.