Countdown to Final Crisis: Volume 1

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*Siiiiiiiiigh*  There are just so many crises lately, my poor heart can’t handle it. It’s so strange that the first crisis happened 40+ years after Superman debuted, and yet in the 30 or so years since there have been numerous crises. I get that it’s directly correlated to the rise in popularity of the genre, and it’s a great marketing ploy to get people to buy the individual issues, as well as provide a jumping on point for new readers. Given that I’m reading these comics in such a condensed time frame though, it feels like there was a crisis every other week.  I know that’s not the case, but it continues to evoke an image in my mind of DC headquarters, with the writers all nefariously sitting around a table, dreaming up new crisis storylines when the last one has barely been completed.

I’m fairly certain this is probably exactly what they do.

The Countdown is staged very similarly to 52, but in reverse: here, the issues count backwards from 52 (well, 51 to be more precise).  There are a handful of characters/storylines at the center of the plot, and while they are seemingly disconnected, I know enough to expect them all to tie together sooner or later.  Given that they’re fairly self-contained at this point though, it’s best to focus on them individually:

  1. Holly Robinson (with bonus Harley Quinn!)

Holly, Catwoman’s former protege (and apparently formerly Catwoman herself? Guess I missed that storyline) is on the streets and looking to start anew.  She’s brought into a sanctuary of sorts by Athena (yes, that Athena), who offers her solace and pampering.  Holly runs into Harley Quinn, who is determined to put that life behind her and insists that she’s now “Harleen Quinzel” once again.  For a while Holly seems to enjoy her stay here, until she watches Harley turn away a young woman and her child, who are homeless and looking for shelter.  Holly questions this, but Harley just says it’s Athena’s will.  Holly, ever the instigator, seeks out Athena, who responds in turn.

I might believe her, if it wasn’t for the glaring Medusa head in the background.  Clearly, this reveal is meant to let readers know that not all is as it seems here, but I’ve yet to uncover anything beyond that.  At the very least, it’s cool to see worlds colliding, as Holly and Harley interact within an Athenian refuge.

2. Karate Kid

Karate Kid, a member of The Legion Of Superheroes from the 31st century, was brought into the story in the previous trade I read, but here we see a little more detail given.  He’s a skilled fighter, even defeating Batman in hand to hand combat.  He helps the Legion complete their mission, but as they go to return home he is told he must remain behind, because his mission is just beginning.  This was all revealed in the last trade, so it wasn’t exactly big news. Still, I’m sure his role in the overall story is going to be important.

3. Donna Troy and Jason Todd

This duo shares a rather odd situation: both died, and both are now back from the dead. Unfortunately, there seem to be forces in the universe that believe their existence is an abomination, and that they must be destroyed.

All they know at this point is that someone strongly resembling the Monitor has been seeking out such anomalies and murdering them. With the help of “Bob”, one of the protectors of the many universes, Donna and Jason begin searching for Ray Palmer, because apparently he’s the one man who can help save everything.

Clearly, this is the main crux of the storyline.  Donna and Jason are seemingly more directly tied to the bigger picture at this point, while the other stories are less clear in their significance.  I liked reading about Donna and Jason interacting, primarily because Donna yells at him repeatedly for being obnoxious or annoying, and somehow it just makes me happy.  I also enjoy seeing Red Hood leaning more towards “good guy”.  I know he was always doing what he thought was right, but when he’s facing off against Batman, he’s always the antagonist. Here, he gets to be a hero in his own right, even if his methods might be questionable at times.

4. Pied Piper & Trickster

These two Flash rogues-turned-good guys have a rather interesting story arc. The events in this trade take place around the events of Full Throttle, so we learn that Trickster and Piper aren’t actually bad guys, and that they were moreso just infiltrating the Rogues. Unfortunately, that group had a hand in Bart Allen’s death, so now the pair is on the run for their lives.  I enjoyed their back and forth banter, although I admit there were just a few too many gay jokes for my liking (we get it, Piper’s gay, Trickster’s homophobic. No need to beat a dead horse).  Still, they make an interesting team, and it was nice to know that they haven’t returned to the dark side.  They infused a little bit of humor into the trade, which I’m always grateful for.

5.Mary Marvel

Not too long ago I wrote a post about girl-friendly kick-putt comic book characters, specifically ones who weren’t scantily clad or overdrawn, and Mary Marvel was at the top of the list. Mistah J informed me that that was true of Mary Marvel, except for one storyline. Well, I’m guessing this is that storyline.

Mary had been in a coma and lost her powers.  She runs into Black Adam, who instills her with his own powers, creating the Mary Marvel 2.0 we see above.  These powers bring a personality shift with them, as Mary is now much darker and edgier, eager to fight and even kill if need be.  She runs into Billy, who seems none too happy that she has these newfound powers.  The two argue about what Mary’s future was meant to be, with Billy maintaining that maybe Mary wasn’t meant to have powers forever, and should have started a new life after she came out of the coma.

I don’t know how I feel about this new Mary.  I get that it’s a different take on the character, but I like my Mary Marvel innocent and wholesome, so I really hope this change is temporary.  Although I also kinda hope she runs into Guy Gardner and punches him halfway across the country for all the rude things he said to her back in their Justice League days.

6.Jimmy Olsen

Oh Jimmy.  It only took 60+ years, but it seems he’s finally developing superpowers. They begin manifesting themselves sporadically, and they never seem to be the same.  They appear whenever he or someone else is in danger. He struggles with this realization, but soon seems to get a handle on them as he dons a mask and becomes a superhero in his own right.

I’m choosing to believe his name is a nod to Action Comics, and you can’t tell me otherwise.

Jimmy fights a few low-level street criminals, preventing a mugging here and there.  He decides that he should become a member of the Teen Titans.  Nothing’s happened on that front yet, but it’s interesting seeing Jimmy with full powers. Personally though, I still would have preferred if his powers turned him into Turtle Boy, because come on, how great would that have been?

These stories don’t really tie into one another all that much, but that’s okay.  Each is decent on its own, and clearly they’re going to intersect at some point.  The “countdown” element is interesting, making me anxious to find out what all of these stories are counting down to.  I’ve still got quite a way to go before I reach the big ending (this trade ends with issue #39), but so far I’m enjoying the journey. It’s nice to see characters who are often relegated to “sidekick” status given their moments to shine, and I can’t wait to learn the significance of each to the overall story.

Since this is the countdown to the FINAL crisis, I just hope that means I won’t have to deal with any more crises for a while.   Seriously, these things are emotionally taxing.

-Jess

 

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