Countdown to Final Crisis: Volume 4

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Where do I even begin?

Fresh off of 52, DC decided to embark on another weekly series, this time under the title of Countdown to Final Crisis.  This trade marks the end of that series, and what an ending it is.  The various focal points of the series are transported to Apokolips, then to an alternate Earth, then finally back to their own Earth. What all transpires within those travels is more than I could ever possibly hope to summarize on my humble blog. Instead, let’s just focus on some of the major bullet points:

  1. The revelations on Apokolips are many; Darkseid and Solomon the Monitor have essentially been playing a giant chess game with everyone’s lives at stake; Darkseid has been using Jimmy Olsen as a vessel for various dead new gods’ souls, which has been giving him his powers; and, while the planet is being destroyed around them, we learn that Desaad was responsible for all of the misery Piper has been facing as of late.

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For some reason, this revelation stood out to me more than others.  I think it’s partially because Piper always seemed like such a bad-luck character, and unlike the others he was never really in control of what was happening. Everything in his life was going wrong, and it turns out that his misfortune was nothing more than a ploy for power by one of Darkseid’s minions.  Adding to this intrigue is how understated Piper’s story is towards the end.  He makes one final stand, finally acting as the good guy, only to wind up back on Earth. He seems to vow to try his luck once again on the right side of the law, presenting the first hopeful bit to his storyline that we’ve seen yet.

2. Mary Marvel renounced her evil ways in previous issues, and seemed to be working hard to return to her formal ways. That is, until Darkseid showed up in her apartment, offered her the power back, and she took it.  *sigh*.  Oh Mary, can’t you learn?  I’m really hoping the big, bad Mary Marvel moves along soon enough, because I miss the wholesome version so much.  Even when she wasn’t all-out evil, Mary didn’t seem to have the same innocence she once possessed. I’m not sure if that was simply due to writing style, or if it was an intentional choice in order to show that she is still leaning towards the darker side of magic.  Either way, she’s an incredibly strong force, but I keep waiting for her to go back to being the Mary I know and love. I really hope this change isn’t permanent.

3.  Halfway through the trade, our heroes wind up on an Earth that they believe to be theirs, yet no one has any recollection of them. We later learn that this was actually a reborn Earth-51, that near-perfect place that Superboy-Prime hoped to call his home.  The world succumbs to the virus Karate Kid is carrying inside him, but not before the story takes a bit of a detour.  We follow the outbreak through the eyes of Buddy Blank, a lab technician at Cadmus Labs with an all-too familiar name.  He travels to Metropolis amidst the outbreak to rescue his grandson, and flees to an underground bunker for protection.

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I can’t lie, I geeked out a little bit at this. Not only that the story was referencing back to Jack Kirby’s O.M.A.C. and Kamandi comics of the 70s, but that I actually understood the references being made. It never ceases to amaze me how many times stories hearken back to earlier comics, and I’m continually grateful to understand many of the references being made.  Also, after the trainwreck that was The Death of the New Gods, it was nice to see some of Kirby’s characters handled with the deference and respect they deserve. Take note, Mr. Starlin, this is how you keep characters relevant.

4.  HARLEY QUINN. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nobody writes Harley quite like Paul Dini.  Her offbeat quirkiness infused just the right amount of humor into this comic.  I especially enjoyed watching her play off of Holly Robinson’s more no-nonsense attitude. The fact that the comic ends with Harley, Holly, and Jason Todd heading back to Gotham together makes me desperately want a spin-off comic where the three of them rent an apartment together Three’s Company style, as antics and hilarity ensue.  I’m sure it’ll never happen, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

5.  Jimmy the Giant Turtle Boy is Back!!!!!

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I love that giant turtle-boy Jimmy is a thing.  The first time Jimmy turned into a turtle boy was bizarre enough, but the fact that writers continue to allude back to this again and again makes me irrationally happy.  Also, Jimmy goes all giant-turtle in order to fight DARKSEID, of all people.  Nobody can call Jimmy wimpy anymore; he’s officially a certified badass. And sure, he wasn’t the one to actually kill Darkseid in the end, but he certainly softened him up quite a bit. Speaking of…

6. Darkseid is dead?? I’m already assuming that this won’t be forever, because Darkseid is one of the big bads in the DC universe, and you just can’t kill him.  Even so, his death at the hands of his own son, Orion, was pretty epic, and felt fitting considering every other new god was dead.  Darkseid’s death was actually a bit uplifting, because obviously he can’t be gone forever, and if they find a way for him to come back, maybe the rest of the new gods can come back to? I will forever hold out hope that I haven’t read the last of Barda and Scott Free.

7.  While most people seem to be going on with their lives after Earth’s complete and utter destruction is averted, a handful of heroes are having trouble adjusting. Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Ray Palmer, and Forager feel out of place, with no real world to call their own.  Unhappy with the open ending to everything that went down, they’re left to wonder, “Who monitors the monitors?”.  The group decides that someone needs to fulfill that role, and so they all step up to serve as overseers of the monitors.

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It’s impressive that these heroes would even attempt to stand up to the likes of the monitors, but given everything they’ve been through in the past year, it’s hardly surprising.  Whether their promise of supervision will cause major conflict or not remains unclear, but if I had to wager a guess, I’d bet that the monitors won’t be too pleased at being policed by the very beings they had once sought to destroy.

It’s always difficult to digest such a vast undertaking with these larger storylines.  Overall I’d say this one was very well done, with each story arc being tied up nicely while remaining open-ended enough  to lead into future comics.  I enjoyed the focus on side characters, with less emphasis placed on the normal big players, allowing for a deeper study of those who might otherwise be relegated to the sidelines.  It still feels unfathomable to me that this wasn’t even the “Final Crisis”, but instead merely a lead-up to it.  Given how massive the changes were that occurred here, I can’t begin to imagine what that storyline will entail.  Plenty of death and destruction no doubt, but if we’re lucky, a bit of hope and humor as well.

-Jess

 

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2 thoughts on “Countdown to Final Crisis: Volume 4

  1. Once again, I must thank you for reading and writing about this such that I don’t have to, and yet I have a much better grasp myself FROM your writing of what this story entailed and thus retroactively better-contextualizes some stuff I read as it came out (and that you’re about to get to).

    I know DC just put out new versions of the TPBs for 52 (as 2 volumes this round instead of 4). I MIGHT consider snagging Countdown if they do the same with that, AND I have steady employment and thus disposable cash for the thing.

    Random thought: did you know that Infinite Crisis, 52, and Countdown have novels (Greg Cox, I believe) as well as audio dramas (Graphic Audio)? I know I’ve listened to Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis…honestly don’t recall if I got to all of 52 or Countdown at all; I highly recommend basically any of GA’s productions of comics-related stuff (both DC and Marvel).

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    1. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to read through all of this stuff 🙂 But I suppose it’s all for the good of getting the “complete” story, good bad or indifferent. At least that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂
      I wasn’t aware there were any novel/audio tie-ins to comics at all, let alone any of these major storylines. I might have to check those out at a later date. For now though, I’m sort of tunnel-visioned trying to stay on track and finish the main DC continuity first. I’m kinda-sorta in the home stretch! Only about 100 trades left to go!! (Only in the comics world would that be considered “the home stretch”)

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