"Maybe this is the end of everything." – Red Robin
|"Countdown To Final Crisis" #9|
In the mad technological nightmare that Apokolips has become, Pied Piper struggles to survive and, quite possibly, find some measure of escape. However, as he works his way to the newly christened surface of the planet following Brother Eye's takeover, Piper discovers his tormentor, Desaad. Trying to give aid to the villain, Piper is overpowered by Desaad, but the struggle is interrupted by the arrival of the Una OMAC, carrying along Karate Kid.
In the midst of the challenge between Desaad and the OMAC, we learn that Desaad has been manipulating Piper since the start, guiding him ever-slowly towards Apokolips, where Desaad planned to use Piper's never-before-realized connection to the Anti-Life. Uncaring, the OMAC levels Desaad with a power blast before dragging Piper away along with Karate Kid.
In a brief interlude, Darkseid and Solomon debate their next moves in the grand game. Solomon, it is realized, brought Brother Eye to Apokolips in a bid to defeat Darkseid, but Darkseid foils his plans by simply not caring. Apokolips will die with the rest of the Fourth World, says the planet's ruler, and his vision still sees more moves yet to be played. At least one of those moves, it seems, will involve Jimmy Olsen, as Darkseid moves the pawn on his game board.
Back to the surface, where Jason Todd witnesses Pipers capture by the OMAC. Jason has been following the OMAC since it captured Karate Kid in the hopes that Brother Eye would help him escape the planet. Jason's fellow challengers, now joined by Harley, Holly and Mary Marvel, seek to find Jason, while Desaad follows them in the hopes of being led back to Piper.
Everything begins to come full circle, as all the forces join up in the hive of Brother Eye's computer network. Eye and the OMAC begin a dissection of Karate Kid to obtain the morticoccus virus, which is halted only by Jason's timely arrival. In battle with the OMAC, Jason uses the machines power to his advantage, freeing Firestorm from Brother Eye's energy matrix, at which time the cavalry arrives in the form of the Challengers and the female chosen of the gods.
It's go time, as the groups unite to fight the OMAC that was Una and free Karate Kid. While most of the group works over the OMAC, Ray Palmer discovers Brother Eye's findings about Karate Kid, just about the same time that Brother Eye decides to tire of the combat at its core. As such, the machine uses Boom Tube technology to move all the combatants outside, right into the hands of a waiting army of OMACs.
Not everyone is removed from the core, though, as Piper weakly tries to escape Brother Eye unnoticed. However, Desaad makes his final play, and a frustrated Piper uses the power of his music, and its connection to the Anti-Life, to explode Desaad's skull, ending his threat. Gathering his courage, Piper faces down Brother Eye, and begins to play a final tune that taps into the Anti-Life throughout the planet, performing a melody that rips the whole of Apokolips asunder, severing Brother Eye's connection to the planet and thereby shutting down all the OMACs, freeing them from the machine's thrall.
Unfortunately for the Challengers, the fight with the OMACs exhausted Kyle Rayner, and as the planet falls apart around them, there seems to be little hope of their survival. To make matters worse, some new threat has arrived to challenge the heroes.
And in the back we have the Origin of Black Manta, as told by Scott Beatty and Mike Norton.
BE: After 42 weeks at this we arrive in the single digits. We have two short months and we're at "Final Crisis." I, for one, am pretty excited.
JE: You should be. I look forward to your solo commentary on the subject. I'm both excited and concerned, but we'll see what time brings.
BE: Yes, no pressure. And then you and I will be working on another weekly in "Trinity." We truly are gluttons for punishment.
JE: I won't be minding the vacation, however brief, but hey, you need a hand, you know where to find me.
BE: By all reports, in some distant land well north of me.
JE: And to the right, always to the right.
BE: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti rejoin Mr. Dini on the writing chores this week as Apokolips is being torn to shreds and Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher get the art chores. According to Mr. Drenick's blog he has a big project on tap after "Countdown to Final Crisis" concludes and I'm very interested to see what it is. Good stuff this issue. Very visceral.
JE: It was top notch, that's for sure. It felt like good, old fashioned superhero artwork. At least, old fashioned for me. Very friendly to my tastes.
BE: We start off with the odd ball mix of Una (as an OMAC), Karate Kid, Piper and Desaad.
JE: That's what it's all about. I'm glad to see the connections start to link up after all this time.
BE: As am I, but, really, when this thing started I really couldn't have dreamed of some of the encounters we've seen.
JE: Nor I. That's been the fun of it, I think, even moreso than "52." The way things have finally begun to interconnect is a good payoff for those of us who stuck around.
BE: Seems that Desaad has been manipulating Piper all along to get him to invoke an aspect of the Anti-Life equation on Apokolips. As we surmised, Desaad wants a way out of the Death of the New Gods.
JE: Yes, it's interesting; though I find it odd that Piper is a weapon of the Anti-Life and not of creation, or of the Source, if you will, since his power let the impossible become possible. Still, very cool.
BE: That's a great point. I'm hoping that we get more explanation on this. Solomon did, indeed, bring Brother Eye to Apokolips as part of his gambit, but Darkseid doesn't seem to be overly concerned.
JE: As he says, the death of the Fourth World will take care of that problem. As such, I stand by my thoughts that Darkseid has an escape route planned, or a way to make himself a creature of the Fifth World.
BE: I keep coming back to a fact that has not been mentioned. The whole process from "Infinite Crisis" down to "Final Crisis" has steered us towards older characters and concepts and merged them with the modern in new ways. In the Giffen/Levitz "Legion of Super-Heroes" period, Darkseid was still around in the 30th century. The rest of the New Gods were not.
JE: That's a good point, especially with the reprints of that era hitting the bookshelves these last few months. More credence to our theories around Darkseid's survival. Of course, didn't Ra's al Ghul and Mordru also survive in that timeframe, or am I thinking of another version of the Legion?
BE: Mordru actually was originally a Legion villain that was written into stories set in the early time periods. He was created by Jim Shooter in 1968. Ra's al Ghul, on the other hand, appeared in Legion during the wonder Dan Abnett relaunch, simply titled "Legion." In any case, I, too, noted the key timing of the "Great Darkness Saga" in which Darkseid and his anti-life minions go toe to toe with the Legion of Super-Heroes from 1982.
JE: Ah, that kooky Legion history, but you're right. Seems like a perfect book to re-release if you're talking about the end of the world and what's to come after.
BE: In another dark moment with Red Robin, Jason reminds us he is a survivor, but to what end. What becomes of Jason Todd when this is all over?
JE: I don't see him making it through, much to my chagrin. As much as I originally hated the concept of his return (and the "Superboy Punch!" that made it possible), he's grown on me as a throwback to years gone by. As much as it pains some people, I enjoyed a lot of the 1990s "leather-and-guns" attitude and Jason seemed to fit into that role nicely.
BE: So, Jason as Martyr? We bring him back in "Infinite Crisis" and kill him in "Final Crisis?" I can believe that.
JE: It's sound logic, certainly. Much of the work done between the two Crisis tales has been available for removal at the drop of the hat. We've seen 52 worlds reestablished, only to see many of them crushed under Monarch's boot, just to name one. The least of this could be a way to put Jason six feet under again and return to the previous status quo in Gotham.
BE: I think "status quo" is the last thing that Grant Morrison has in mind for "Final Crisis," but I take your meaning and don't disagree. The Challengers, Mary Marvel, Harley and Holly join Ray Palmer and Donna Troy shows her loyalty to Jason, sort of.
JE: Was it me, or did Donna look awfully manipulative when she told Kyle that Jason might still be useful?
BE: Exactly my point. That's not Donna's style.
JE: Possession? Too much time on the evil planet of Apokolips? I could see either.
BE: Ok. Mary's lightning bolt is gray/black. I thought that was perhaps an error last issue. Is this a reminder of her recent past?
JE: I noticed that, as well. I'm not sure what to make of it. Her recent past certainly comes into play, but could it also be the location? Even with her power coming directly from the Gods, there is little that is not tainted by the touch of Apokolips.
BE: That could be it as well, or they thought she needed a different look.
JE: Not a bad idea. Something to simply separate her from the core of the Marvel Family. Make her a gray sheep instead of a black sheep, so to speak.
BE: Jason pulls off some clever tactics and tricks the OMAC into freeing Firestorm. That's not a foe for Brother Eye to take lightly.
JE: And yet Firestorm, being the biggest gun we've yet to see, is too much of a "deus ex machina" kind of character. As such, he does nothing. I get that he's "recovering," but if he could wake up, we could end the story night now.
BE: I'm placing my money on Firestorm-as-escape-clause for our heroes.
JE: Sucker bet.
BE: We all knew that Karate Kid had the Morticoccus virus, but now, so does Brother Eye and Ray Palmer. What's worse is that now Brother Eye has the means to wipe out humanity with the strain.
JE: Have you seen some of humanity lately? Maybe that's not the worst idea in the world.
BE: What? Sorry, I was booking my flight for Earth-2.
JE: I'm off to Earth-4, myself.
BE: Say hello to Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt for me. Slim chance we'll see him in the DCU anytime soon.
JE: How'd you guess who I was going to visit? I'll be sure to give him your warmest regards. Truly, it is a shame to have so little Peter Cannon in the current DCU.
BE: Brother Eye uses a Boom Tube to import more of his OMACs, but Desaad has other plans. Sadly for Darkseid's torturer, Piper has vengeance in mind and -- this part is key -- explodes Desaad's head.
JE: That was badass and pretty gruesome. Just nasty. Though, come to think of it, there's been a lot of head-exploding around the DCU these last few years.
Tom Derenick's MySpace page has an unrated version of Superman-Prime's fist going through Batman-52's head. I think it's a pattern with the artist and it's one I applaud, because I'm demented.
JE: Dang. It truly is "the place for friends." I wonder if that'll make the trade collections of the book. I would like to see more of that. Honestly, I'd buy a whole book of "panels we had to change," from this series and from the ones I heard about in "52," just to start.
BE: Even in death, Desaad's manipulation of Piper bears fruit as the Rogue unleashes the Anti-Life, destroying Apokolips.
JE: And all to (or should that be with?) a Queen song. "The Show Must Go On" is a personal favorite.
JE: Shocked you that I knew that one, didn't I?
BE: (laughs) Yes, actually you did.
JE: Good. Got to keep you on your toes.
BE: Brother Eye escapes, and the Challengers and company survive, but what of Piper?
JE: Hey, we should all be so lucky as to a) destroy an evil planet and thereby save hundreds, if not thousands and b) do it to a kick-ass, if self-developed, soundtrack. If we die in the process, at least we died cool.
BE: I think we'll see more of our poor friend Piper. Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins have "The Flash: Rogues Revenge" coming in June 2008 and "the story will also involve a reformed Pied Piper." Where Piper goes from here to there, I have no idea.
JE: As you said before, no body can likely equal no death. However, and this is just a thought, could "Rogues Revenge" be a flashback tale? Or, and even more likely, a tale that immediately follows the big "reset" button that might come with Final Crisis?
BE: After recent Grant Morrison interview, I become less convinced that "Final Crisis" will be a reset. I hold out hope for a massive change in the DCU.
JE: Not a bad idea at all, as long as it's handled properly. I like to get in on the ground floor of massive changes.
BE: We end on a cliffhanger as the survivors try desperately to awaken Kyle Rayner so they can survive the cataclysmic destruction of Apokolips.
JE: Can anyone say "Wave of Doom, now with Anti-Life!"? But, seriously, that was a pretty classic cliffhanger, and introducing it with such a small panel right at the end was a nice touch.
BE: It's one of those subtly brilliant storytelling things that Giffen does so well, keying the small panel against the larger threat. The backup this week is Black Manta, of all people. Beatty is succinct and entertaining as always with workmanlike art by Mike Norton and Rodney Ramos.
JE: The imagery here had a nice old-school feel to it. Very appropriate, and a nice way to make a pretty lame villain into something worth reading about, if only for two pages.
BE: Black Manta suffers from the Super Friends effect: he was lame on TV, therefore he's lame. The version that Dwayne McDuffie used on the "Justice League" animated series was called Devil Ray and was far more capable and had a much less racially charged name. I really feel that this guy needs a new name and new look to make him a credible character.
JE: Yeah, he was pretty awesome on "Justice League." It was also pretty awesome when he appeared in "Justice," specifically when Aquaman stabbed him through the goggles with a frickin' trident. But, yes, a revamped character to go along with a revamped Arthur Curry would be a blessing.
Panel of the Week
I'd call it a little punny, but Piper's got a whole new level of badass going on right now.