T-MINUS: "Countdown To Final Crisis" #20

Mon, December 17th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

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By Justin Eger and Brian K. Eason

"Jimmy Olsen must die!" – Forager

"Countdown To Final Crisis" #20
T-Minus 20
To start with, we'll pick up where we left off last week, trailing Brother Eye across the high skies throughout the country. As we see from its monologue, Brother Eye has cloaked itself so well that no one is going to see it coming. Not the JLA, not the JSA. Not Superman, even though the satellite passes right by him over Metropolis. No, not even the vaunted skills of the creator himself, Batman, can detect Brother I as the machine sets course of Bludhaven. However, instead of leveling the remains of the city, Brother Eye takes an unexpected turn and uses its OMAC army to capture the city in a giant dome, but for what reason remains unknown.

Even as the city becomes encapsulated, Karate Kid and Una work to open the secret vault they found last issue, the very same vault that ignited Brother Eye in the first place. Their combined efforts, including those of their flight rings, fail to budge the hatch, leaving the Legionnaires to search for other options. It's in the looking that their companion, Buddy Blank's grandson, points out something else entirely: that Una and Karate Kid are in love. Despite their own protestations, the duo seem to silently agree with the kid, though more on that will have to wait.

From Bludhaven, we go to the Bleed, as the Challengers travel through the space/time barrier in search of Ray Palmer. Working with the information gleaned from the Monitor they confronted last issue, the team deciphers that the Monitors have already learned the whereabouts of Ray Palmer. As such, Bob steers the team on a course towards the unknown, planning "something unexpected" to put them back in the game.

Sidestep slightly from the Bleed for a visit to the Quantum universe, where Monarch rules over the battle of the Batmen seen in last week's "Countdown: Arena." After the winner is selected, Monarch takes the survivor to a secret holding cell, letting the Green Lanterns do battle. The results of that epic confrontation can be seen in "Countdown Arena" #2, out this week, as our own journey carries us off to Apokolips.

In the bowels of the fiery planet ruled by Darkseid, a strangely transformed Jimmy Olsen climbs from one of those very same fire pits, armored in green, shell-like flesh. Mr. Miracle's calculations, it seemed, were correct, and Jimmy's powers prevented him from being harmed, all the while putting him in perfect position to find the one person that can help him escape, the one person that brought him to Apokolips in the first place: Forager. Guided by unknown voices, Jimmy finds the bug lady, only to be attacked by her after her revival.

A quick hop out into space nets us a confrontation between Mary Marvel and Eclipso, as Eclipso takes back the black diamond and proceeds to thrash Mary with its power. Unable to retaliate against he much stronger Eclipso, Mary is defeated and left to rot in the far reaches of space, cold and alone, as now she's even betrayed the one person, however evil, who might have been willing to help her.

Finally, let's jump back to Earth and a train ride cross-country with Piper and, well, Trickster's rotting carcass. Using some cobbled parts to make a flute, Piper uses the sounds to slow down the timer ticking away towards his inevitable doom, stalling the detonation of his handcuffs for what he hopes will be long enough to escape. The problems come in when the train is stopped at the Mexican border, and Piper is forced to begin hoofing it through the desert, carrying (and talking to) Trickster's dead body all the while.

To cap it all off, let's learn the Origin of Mr. Mind with Scott Beatty and Joe Bennett.

FYI
As we close on "Final Crisis," we start to see more and more stories dovetail out of this series and it is really starting to feel tied into the DC Universe as a whole. In this week's "Green Arrow/Black Canary" #3, we see Granny Goodness reveal more of her plans for the New Amazons/Furies and Paradise Island. On the whole, this series is really good and the art is gorgeous. Judd Winick has a firm grasp on the voice of these characters and has worked nicely on the foundation of the "Green Arrow Family."

"Booster Gold" #5 takes a look at the day that Batgirl was paralyzed, the inevitability of some historic events and the time traveling mastermind who is trying to re-write the DCU. For those who read Geoff Johns' previous work, the identity of the villain is no surprise. But what makes this issue key to our story is the reappearance of Rip Hunter's white board. As you may remember, in "52," Rip Hunter's white board laid out clues of what was to come in pages of that magazine and the future of the DCU. This incarnation is no different. This time we have:

  • "The Ghost Detectives have the answers!" A statement that indicates the return of Ralph and Sue Dibny.

  • "Now Ray Palmer = Disaster," which is ties into the great disaster that Ray Palmer is key in averting.

  • "Who controls the Wildebeest Society?" This sentence may tie into upcoming "Teen Titans" stories as the Wildebeests are most closely associated with that book.

  • The phrase "Lightning Saga(s) strike twice??? 3000+8" tells me that a sequel to last year's Lightning Saga will be continued next year, possibly in the pages of "Legion of Super-Heroes" as the year 3008 is indicated. This would be interesting as the Legion of the current magazine is not the same Legion that appeared in the "Justice League" Lightning Saga.

  • Look in the pages of Mark Waid and George Perez's "Brave and the Bold" for the answer to "Who will escape the Book of Destiny?"

  • I have no idea what is meant by "Steve is Watching."

  • "Death of the Supermen," appears to feature the Superman logo worn by Christopher Kent of Earth-15 and points to the events of upcoming issues of "Countdown: Arena."

  • The next one is a bit of a puzzler. "No Trophy=Stephanie" had me scratching my for a moment, then I saw an advertisement for Check Dixon's return to "Robin." It is likely that this refers to the return of Spoiler to those pages.

  • "Who does Supernova work for?" is a reference to the ongoing mystery in the pages of "Booster Gold" and is answered shortly after the panel with the question appears.

  • In what I hope is a reference to Marv Wolfman's recent "Nightwing" run, "The Vigilante knows the traitor - the League does not!" appear on the board

  • And finally, if what appears to be a reference to the Kingdom Come Superman (of Earth-22), we see "Gog is dead! The age of Gog is upon us!" So, we may see the foundations of "Kingdom Come" in the pages of the DCU before "Final Crisis" after all.

The Challengers of the Beyond re-visit the Soviet Superman of Earth-30 in "Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer: Red Son" #1. Alan Burnett (of "Batman the Animated Series" fame) turns in a mixed bag with this issue as we travel over some of the same places that "Superman: Red Son" went and add in a few key elements that tie it to the search for the Atom. While we do meet Ray Palmer, it's not the Atom for whom we are searching. One interesting statement does arise from this issue, voiced by the Ray Palmer of Earth-30 when he says (referring to our Ray Palmer): "He's said there was a threat coming that involved the entire cosmos. He said he was gathering a force, and he wanted me to be ready." With that, the heroes that oppose both Monarch and the Monitors have their leader and now we know why to avoid the "Great Disaster" that we must find Ray Palmer.

Finally this week, we have "Countdown: Arena" #2. This is the second issue in the Battle Royale-esque conflict to determine the soldiers for Monarch's army. This issue, we see the three Green Lanterns (Bruce Wayne of Earth-32, Green Lantern Beyond of Earth-12, and Shazam Green Lantern of Earth-5) band together to fight the Monarch, with interesting results. The three Rays (the Nazi Ray from Earth-10, Apollo from Earth-50, and Ray Palmer from Earth-6) slug it out and seeing the Ray Palmer version of Ray in action is worth the price of the comic. A trio of Blue Beetles hit the arena next as the Earth-39 Beetle (named Danny, but appears to being wearing Jamie Reyes's Reach armor), the Earth-26 (misnamed Earth-21) Scarab (who is a colony of insects) and the Earth-33 Beetle (a humanoid Beetle named Ted, who was adopted by the Kord family) have a short, brutal and mildly disturbing bout. We also find out that the Liberty Files Batman survived his bout with the Vampiric Batman - sort of. The art of this issue is tighter and, whether you think the concept is high-art or not, it's a fan's delight to watch this battle of the century.

Comments
BE: Art on the issue was hit and miss. I've often felt that way about Art Thibert's inks, so it may be him. Nice layouts though.

JE: Everything seemed to go together pretty well, or at least better than the art on our trip to see the "Red Son" Superman in the supplemental this week. Ouch.

BE: Yeah. I wasn't going to mention it.

JE: Sorry, couldn't help it.

BE: We start off with bragging by Brother Eye, he seems to have a bit of an ego for an artificial life-form. He has some delusions of God-Hood going here.

JE: I actually consider this pretty typical of machines, actually. At least fictional machines. They all seem to think they're better than us, except they forget the fact that we created them. Stupid machines. Yeah, I'm looking at you, work computer!

BE: Don't taunt the PC, it never helps. I was kind of surprised that after the closing of issue #21, with the big display of power, that Brother Eye sort of lays back here.

JE: You're not the only one. I expected a serious attack, rather than this seemingly innocuous dome being built over Bludhaven. And, seriously, even with all the cloaking, who doesn't see that?

BE: The big guns seem to have forgotten about Bludhaven, sadly, even Nightwing. Val and Una sitting in a tree... yeah, where is Bouncing Boy when you need him?

JE: Probably remaining as useless as he was when he was first created? To be honest, I never thought this storyline would cover this particular ground, and I don't know why it's going there this late in the game.

BE: You have now successfully alienated the thronging legion (pun intended) of Bouncing Boy fans. And this all continues to beggar the question: Which future or Earth is this Legion from?

JE: Your guess is far better than mine. Legion continuity breaks my brain, man. That's why I liked the Mark Waid reboot, because it was something I could get a handle on.

BE: With Jim Shooter taking over for a bit and Paul Levitz rumored to follow him, it's a good time to be an old-school Legion fan. Bob informs us that the other Monitors know where Ray Palmer is located and now what? What is "the unexpected?"

JE: A raid on Monitor HQ?

BE: You got it in one. I was thinking the same thing. If all of the Monitors are off looking for Bob and company, the maybe Solomon is alone minding the store.

JE: And ripe for a quick beatdown while the team raids the computer files. A plan worthy of Batman himself.

BE: Then Jason shouldn't do too badly. Jimmy is now officially the mayor of Weird city and he turns green with circuitry and gets the hots for a bug woman. I got nuthin'.

JE: Question: did all this circuitry look like a Mother Box to you? It did to me, which would explain a lot of what has been going on with Jimmy, including the voices in his head.

BE: Again, we're on the same page. I think that a Mother Box would explain, basically, everything. If the Mother Box can communicate beyond the Source Walls, tapping into potentially alternate Jimmy Olsens, then why can't it duplicate the powers of Silver Age Jimmy Olsen to protect him from harm?

JE: Precisely.

BE: For those who missed "Countdown: Arena" #1, we are provided the closing scene of the Battle of the Batmen, with the reveal that Liberty Files Batman survived his bout (as we see in this week's FYI above).

JE: I'm digging most of "Countdown," but "Countdown: Arena" has just been so neat the whole time (all of two weeks, now). Everybody's got such a solid voice, which is surprising because I think it could get derivative very quickly.

BE: It's definitely a guilty pleasure. Poor old Piper is losing his marbles and who could blame him? If I had a dead homophobe chained to me while a bomb ticked down to the end of my life, I'd go a little nutty myself. As a matter of fact, that's my excuse going forward.

JE: I certainly hope I don't have to go find you in the desert in such a situation. Better yet, I just hope I'm not the one you're chained to.

BE: Count on it. If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me.

JE: Gotta catch me, first! Dammit, where are my flying shoes?!

BE: Jeanclipso vs. Mary Marvel goes to round two. Jean kicks Mary around and leaves her alone. We might define this point as rock bottom. Where do we go from here, redemption or damnation?

JE: I was going to argue, but yeah, we're pretty much as bad as we could get right now. I say this brings her closer to damnation, though. After all, if no one cares about her, then she's got nothing to lose.

BE: And that makes her very dangerous. Where's Freddie Freeman when you need him?

JE: See previous answer featuring Bouncing Boy.

BE: Hey! That's the new Captain Marvel you're talking about. Besides, I like the new "Shazam" mini-series.

JE: I guess I shouldn't complain too much. The Big Red Cheese has really developed in the last few years.

BE: The Origin feature is Mr. Mind. I liked this a lot as I was a huge fan of the closing act of "52." I'm amazed at how much Grant Morrison can make me like Mr. Mind.

JE: As much as, or less than, Granny Goodness?

BE: No. I am, as we have established, in love with young Goodness. Granny? She's let herself go to pot.

JE: Yeah, pot-belly! Zing! Yeah, that was pretty sad. I got nothin'.

BE: And we're out!

Panel of the Week

Yeah, 'cause no one's gonna notice that at all.

Previously
Week 21
Week 22
Week 23
Week 24
Week 25
Week 26
Week 27
Week 28
Week 29
Week 30
Week 31
Week 32
Week 33
Week 34
Week 35
Week 36
Week 37
Week 38
Week 39
Week 40
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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