Archive for Countdown

Tangents and Permutations


Justice League of America #16

This is another one of those stories that’s gonna require some fairly extensive background info first. Back in 1997, DC published a small number of comics under a new imprint publishing arm they called “Tangent Comics.” The gimmick was that this was a superhero universe where all the characters had the names of DC characters but were completely different otherwise. Their version of the Atom was an atomic-powered energy-blaster; the Flash was a teenaged girl with light-based powers; the Joker was a crimefighting anarchist; the Green Lantern was a mystical artifact that could temporarily return the dead to life. In fact, Tangent’s version of the Green Lantern actually turned up in the regular DC Universe a while back, and it’s being kept in a storage locker by Guy Gardner.

And that’s where this story picks up, as a couple of no-luck lowlifes burglarize Guy’s storage building and somehow manage to activate the Green Lantern, which acts as an interdimensional teleporter, causing one of the burglars to switch universes with Tangent’s mega-powerful Atom. The Justice League — well, just Black Canary, Red Arrow, and John Stewart — respond to a police call about the incident. They manage to subdue the Atom and move him back to his proper universe, but they don’t realize that there’s another Tangent Universe hero in their universe — the Flash is stuck over here and doesn’t know how to get back home.

Verdict: Thumbs up, with some reservations. I really dug the Tangent concept when it first came out, so it’s neat to see some of these old characters. I wish they’d given the Atom more of a chance to shine, though. The JLA, on the other hand, gets plenty of opportunity to kick off some cool moments and lines — the best moment is probably Red Arrow defeating the Atom by beating him with garden implements. Unfortunately, this story isn’t going to be concluded in the next “Justice League” comic — it’s going to be in a miniseries about the Tangent Universe. I HATE comics that serve only to promote another comic series.


Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Superwoman/Batwoman

Wow, that is one way too long comic book title.

Well, we’ve got Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Jason Todd, and (ugh) Bob the Monitor searching, for some durn fool reason, for Ray Palmer, the Atom, who’s gone missing for the last couple of years. Since his miniaturization powers allow him to travel to other dimensions, they’re jumping from one alternate earth to another trying to track him down. This issue, they visit Earth-11, where genders are reversed. They watch as the world’s superheroines fight Wonder Man and his invading army of extremely hairy male Amazons. Aaaaand that’s about all that happens.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Boooooring.

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Quick Reviews

This is going to be a weird week, thanks to a series I plan to start on Wednesday. The series should run through Saturday, and I think I may have a lot less time to review comics this week, so I’m gonna get a passel of reviews done now while I still can.


Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman

Most of this is retelling the origin of Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman. It’s a very nice origin, but it takes up about two-thirds of the story. After that, Henshaw, the Manhunter robots, and the Sinestro Corps lay the smackdown on the Justice League, clean Superman’s clock, and knock down the Statue of Liberty.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but just barely. It’s entertaining enough, but there’s very little real story in there…


Justice League of America #13

The new Injustice League includes just about every supervillain in the world, and they give the Justice League a pretty thorough beat-down. And as nice as new writer Dwayne McDuffie’s plotting and dialogue are, they do not stand a chance against the utterly pukeworthy “art” provided by Joe Benitez.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Good grief, Benitez is just awful.


Supergirl #22

Supergirl is still hanging out with Karate Kid and Una from the (ugh) “Countdown” series, and they beat up a big government-owned super-monster. The fight is okay, but the story never manages to get away from the fact that it’s a tie-in with the much-despised “Countdown.”

Verdict: Thumbs down. Somebody get DC to quit inflicting “Countdown” on us!


The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society

Oh, okay, not all “Countdown” tie-ins are complete garbage. In this story, Donna Troy, Jason Todd, Kyle Rayner and one of the Monitors visit the alternate earth where the good guys are the bad guys, and vice versa. We focus almost entirely on the Jokester, a former comedian turned insane crimefighter, along with the mirror-universe versions of the Riddler, Two-Face, Robin, and the Joker’s Daughter.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mirror universe stories are always fun, and I’m glad to see DC is expanding their Earth-3 to include more than just Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick.

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Start your Engines!


Supergirl #21

First things first: No, the scene depicted on that cover doesn’t actually appear inside the comic. Too bad. It would’ve improved things immensely.

After the chaos of wrecking Air Force One last issue, Supergirl runs to Smallville to seek some comfort from the Kents. But the worst possible thing is ahead for her. No, it’s not the oversized cybermonster that wrecks a train a few miles away — it’s a “Countdown” tie-in. Yeah, the much-despised weekly comic shows up and spews its noxious storyline all over the place. Two characters from the old Legion of Super-Heroes, Karate Kid and Una (actually Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel after losing all but one body), hitch a ride on a train that gets wrecked by a steroid freak called Equus. The cops show up and think the Legionaires are infected with a bioengineered virus, mainly because Equus called the cops and told ’em that story. Supergirl shows up, figures the Legionaires are the bad guys until she suddenly recognizes them from the pre-Crisis continuity where she was a Legion member and…

Yeah, the whole thing is like that.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Confusing, useless, and entirely revolving around a tie-in to a weekly series that everyone hates. The sooner “Countdown” and all its tie-ins go away, the better.

On the bright side, the art by Renato Guedes is absolutely beautiful.

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Cut the Blue Wire!

Wow, did I ever have a busy day yesterday. Tons of work here at the office, followed by a couple hours running errands for family before finally getting home in time to cook dinner at 8 p.m. I didn’t even have time to finish reading yesterday’s new comics, but we’ll try to remedy that over the weekend.

Here’s what I’ve gotten to read so far…


The Spirit #8

If you’re not familiar with the Spirit yet, here’s the general summary. The Spirit is a guy in a suit, fedora, and domino mask who runs around fighting crime in the best pulp tradition. He has no powers, other than his ability to get repeatedly and entertainingly beaten up. He was created by Will Eisner, who is generally considered one of the best artists and the very best storyteller who’s ever worked in the comics biz. This is a new series, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, who is generally considered to rock the house.

In this issue, the Spirit and superspy Agent Satin are locked in an old water tower with a nuclear bomb. Satin could disarm it easily… but she’s got amnesia. With just 30 minutes left before the bomb explodes, can the Spirit get Satin to recover her memory in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Darwyn Cooke is the reigning King of All Awesomeness. If you’re not reading this comic every month, you’re missing out on a guaranteed pure 5000cc megadose of pure unfiltered AWESOME. Go pick it up.


Marvel Adventures: Giant-Size Avengers

An extra-sized one-shot of the best all-ages comic produced by Marvel, thanks to Jeff Parker’s ability to write outstanding action and hilarious dialogue. This issue combines teams up the Avengers with the Agents of Atlas, a team of Avengers surrogates who had their glory days during the Golden Age — Parker wrote a wonderful miniseries starring the Agents of Atlas last year.

Anyway, Kang the Conqueror, a time-traveling despot, attacks in this issue, first sending a wave of dinosaurs against the Avengers and later manipulating the Agents into reviving Captain America in the mid-50s instead of the present. As a result, Captain America becomes president and, tricked into thinking that Kang is a great hero, he signs the whole world over to him. Can Storm, Wolverine, and Spider-Man make it through Kang’s timegates to convince the Agents to let Cap remain frozen in the Arctic?

On top of all that, readers are treated to reprints of Golden Age comics starring Namor, Namora, and Venus.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is a joy from beginning to end. Kang’s plot is unusually subtle and clever, and his personality is a lot more interesting than is normally portrayed. It’s great to see the Agents of Atlas again, too. Gorilla-Man is hilarious, and I’d love to see him and the rest of the Agents in an ongoing series. Even the reprints at the end are fun — they’re kid-friendly without being simple-minded. My only disappointment is that there’s no appearance by the Hulk.


Countdown #41

Trickster and Piper fall out of a plane but survive. Mary Marvel is targeted by evil forces. Jimmy Olsen is wearing spandex under his clothes. Donna Troy, Jason Todd, the Atom, and the Monitor (now called “Bob”) shrink down to —

To heck with it.

Nothing happens. Everyone just marks time for another issue, waiting for whenever someone decides to start writing a real story instead of these pointless, meandering vignettes.

I’m done with this one. At its very, very best, it’s been only mediocre. “Countdown” is a symptom of everything that’s gone wrong with DC, and I’m not going to waste my time or money on it any longer.

That’s all for now. More reviews this weekend, I promise.

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Slacker Reviews

Man alive, I am one lazy, lazy comics reviewer. You’d think these were hard reviews. But they ain’t. I’m just lazy.

Let’s get after it.


B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls #5

The conclusion of this storyline. Not quite as many spooky scares, but much, much more of Abe Sapien unleashing the forces of scaly-fishman whup-ass on the freaky oldsters in their steampunk armor and on Edward, the oversized muscleman.

It also includes the following panel.


That may not be the coolest cow in the world, but it’s sure close to the top of the list.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice thrill-ride to finish off all the horror. Grand fun.


Countdown #42

Piper and Trickster have been captured and shackled together with manacles that could kill them if they try to break them. Holly Robinson, former Catwoman, is hanging out Harley Quinn and a bunch of Amazons. Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and the renegade Monitor get the current Atom, Ryan Choi, to take them to the hyper-miniaturized “Palmerverse” to find the previous Atom, Ray Palmer. Mary Marvel meets up with the Riddler, then sends Clayface into orbit. And way too many of the pictures of Mary in this issue are upskirt shots. Siiiigh. Fine, fine, I recognize that there’s not much of a way to avoid it with that costume, but after a certain point, it just seems creepy.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Boring.


Deadpool/GLI Summer Fun Spectacular

Cute, fun, and funny. I’ve never much seen the point of Deadpool, but the Great Lakes Avengers (now calling themselves the Great Lakes Initiative) are always good for a larf. Squirrel Girl meets up with her ex-boyfriend Speedball, who’s now grim and gritty and spiky and calling himself Penance. A.I.M uses the Greek god Dionysus to get every superhero in the world drunk. Flatman shows off his Origami-Fu. Mr. Immortal dies a lot. Squirrel Girl also visits the future, and we get nearly-official confirmation that she is indeed the baddest badass in the Marvel Universe.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Squirrel Girl rocks. Deal with it, fanboy.


Green Lantern #21

The aftermath of the Green Lantern Corps’ first battle with the Sinestro Corps. Hal Jordan fights the Parallaxized Kyle Rayner. Hal is confronted with his only real fear. Ready for it? Ready? He’s afraid… that when his father died in a jet crash… that he was afraid.

That’s it? That’s the great fear?

Where’s my Whackin’ Stick?


Verdict: It’s WHACK!


Martha Washington Dies

Martha Washington, Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ futuristic soldier and freedom fighter from the classic “Give Me Liberty,” is now 100 years old. She dies.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Way, way too short. Half the comic is devoted to promos for next year’s collection of all the Martha Washington stories.

Okay, that’s all of ’em I got. New comics coming in tomorrow.

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Rapid-Fire Reviews

I didn’t pick up many comics this week — probably could’ve grabbed a few extras, but I was feeling a bit cheap. So let’s get us a trio of quick reviews out of the way.


PS238 #24

Well, Tyler Marlocke is stuck in an interdimensional wasteland, thanks to teleporting bully Charles Brigman, now a student at the evil Praetorian Academy. Tyler’s in big trouble because he’s the only student at PS238 who doesn’t have any superpowers, and Charles is pretty darn ruthless. Anyway, Charles finds out that Tyler’s parents are some of the most powerful superheroes on the planet, and he panics and runs off. Tyler also meets the other person stranded on this rock — a convenience store clerk who also happens to be a robot.

Meanwhile, half-angel/half-demon Malphast and conspiracy-minded goofball Cecil take up the quest to rescue Tyler, which involves travel through evil dimensions, deals with both of Malphast’s parents, and Cecil picking up far too many funny mutations.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The entire comic is very entertaining, but Cecil turning into a trenchcoated Cthulhoid monster pushed it way, way over the top. If you’re interested in offbeat, funny superheroics, check this series out.


Countdown #43

Well, we’ve got the funeral for Bart Allen, and it’s boring. We’ve got Monarch offering to let Forerunner lead his armies, and it’s boring. We’ve got Holly Robinson hanging out with Amazons, and it’s boring. We’ve got Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and one of the Monitors arguing about going to look for Ray Palmer, the missing Atom, and that’s boring, too.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s boring.


Outsiders #49

This one’s the conclusion of a fairly lengthy crossover with the “Checkmate” series. The Outsiders and Checkmate try to save Nightwing, Captain Boomerang, and Sasha Bordeaux. Boomerang apparently spent all last issue getting tortured by the evil Chang Tzu, and Bordeaux is getting tortured this issue. Nightwing pukes up a very small cutting torch he’d swallowed before this whole thing (because you never know when you’ll need a cutting torch, I guess. Or maybe Nightwing likes to swallow cutting torches. Super-people are weird.) and he and Boomerang rescue Bordeaux, with an assist from Batman. Later, Nightwing announces he’s quitting, and Batman is taking over the team.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It didn’t make sense that Nightwing would listen to a teammate getting tortured last issue and not barf up his fancy cutting torch to escape then. It didn’t make sense that Boomerang wouldn’t kick him in the butt for not trying to rescue him before. Plus, there are just too many characters to keep track of, what with all the Outsiders and all the Checkmate crew, too.

Here’s the most interesting thing I found in this issue: a preview for the new Outsiders team.


For the uninitiated, it looks like the team is going to consist of Batman, Katana, Catwoman, Metamorpho, Grace, Martian Manhunter, and Captain Boomerang. Observations: Catwoman and Martian Manhunter are big surprises for this team; Thunder off the team is a big disappointment; I think this will mark the first time that Catwoman has been on a non-supervillain team; Katana is still wearing her painfully ugly new costume — surely I can’t be the only person who hates that completely ridiculous outfit…

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Two Countdowns for the Price of One

I missed reviewing last week’s issue of “Countdown,” so I’m going to take a quick look at last week’s and this week’s.


Only one of these characters appears in this issue.

In last week’s Countdown #45, we catch up with Donna Troy, who’s trying to fight off the alien Forerunner in Washington, D.C. Basically, Forerunner is tougher’n spit. Donna’s got powers like Wonder Woman and fairly recently spent some time as one of the Titans of myth, but she has serious trouble with Forerunner. But in the end, she and Jason Todd are saved by one of the transdimensional Monitors. Forerunner, distressed that the Monitors consider her nothing more than an untrustworthy weapon, resolves to sever her links to them and stay on Earth.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen is still trying to discover why he’s starting to manifest superpowers, and Holly Robinson, who took over for Selina Kyle for a while as Catwoman, meets up with someone who offers her charity and shelter. And a few timelost members of the Legion of Super-Heroes sit around the Justice League’s satellite HQ and verbally spar with the JSA’s Dr. Mid-Nite.

Much of this issue is fairly pointless, but the big fight between Donna and Forerunner is a nice fat dose of happy, so I’ll give it a thumbs-up.


Beware! The Return of… a villain no one ever liked.

And in this week’s Countdown #44 (remember, they’re numbering this entire series in reverse), Forerunner meets up with Monarch, who is probably DC’s biggest archvillain failure. Way back when, in a mini-series called “Armageddon 2001,” Monarch was going to be the ultimate Big Bad — a planetary conqueror from the future who was secretly a superhero gone bad. But which hero was he? There was a big build-up, but people figured out pretty early that he was going to be Captain Atom. DC didn’t want their big suprise spoiled so easily, so they rewrote the end to make him… Hawk. As in the old ’60s duo Hawk and Dove. This was almost impossibly lame. Anyway, DC has spent years trying to somehow make this make sense, including everything from declaring that Hawk was possessed by an evil sorcerer to creating a new Monarch who really was Captain Atom — they’re apparently going with the Captain Atom angle for Countdown. It doesn’t keep him from being lame, but he somehow talks Forerunner into joining forces with him, at least temporarily.

Elsewhere, Holly Robinson finds herself taken in by either the goddess Athena or a bunch of Amazons. The story isn’t real clear on that point. Jimmy Olsen tries to purposely put himself in danger to see if he activates any more powers, and this time, he temporarily acquires the ability to shoot sharp spines out of his body. So far, all of his powers match up with powers he had during the old Silver Age series “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen,” which is one of the world’s primary sources for pure Whacko-Weirdonium.

The Piper and the Trickster are on the run from everyone after being involved in the murder of Bart Allen in the final issue of “The Flash,” and Mary Marvel finally meets up with Captain Marvel, who now has shaggy gray hair, a white costume, and is the Official Guardian of All Magic. Cap says that Mary’s changed — she’s wearing a black costume and really savagely beat the snot out of the baby-suit demon from a couple issues back. Mary gets mad and takes off.

Okay, I know DC is trying to raise warning flags about that possibility that Mary has become corrupted by Black Adam’s powers, but could I just say that Captain Marvel really comes off as an utter cobag here? First of all, Mary is his sister, and he let her sit in a coma for months, took away her powers, and refused to have anything to do with her. Then he whines about her fashion choices and complains that, when she met the horrific demon from hell wearing dead babies strapped all over him and threatening to kill her and other people, she shouldn’t have beaten it up quite so badly. Cap, dude, just because you’re the Official Guardian of All Magic, that does not give you permission to be a jerk to your sister.

Verdict: Gaaah, I dunno. I didn’t find myself completely hating it, but it sure seemed sloppy. I think we’ll call this one a thumbs-down.

Wow, I actually said those were going to be short reviews? I need to work on my “not rattling on for hours” skills…

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New Comics: Countdown… to Extinction?

DC’s new motto: “We’ve got anime girls punching Robin clones!”

This is a review of DC’s “Countdown #46”. It features Mary Marvel, Jimmy Olsen, a bunch of bad guys with no fashion sense, multiple characters who used to be dead, an alien pornographer, and a demon with dead babies stuck all over him.

But to get this to make even a little sense, we must first discuss the backstory.

Once upon a time, there was the “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” back in 1985, where DC got rid of all their hundreds of alternate universes and trimmed them down to just one. This was fine for a while, until DC realized that alternate universes were actually fun. This led to last year’s “Infinite Crisis” in which some of the good guys from the 1985 series came back as bad guys to try to recreate some of the “multiverse.” They failed, so there was still just one universe. This led immediately to “52,” a weekly comic book that recreated the multiverse. In connection with “52,” an old Captain Marvel villain-turned-hero named Black Adam let his sense of vengeance get out of hand and took on every superhero on Earth. In order to stop Black Adam, who had powers very similar to Captain Marvel’s, they had to change his transforming magic word from “Shazam” to… something else which is being kept secret so he can never change back again.

Anyway, all this led to “Countdown,” another weekly comic like “52” except that the issue numbers are counting backwards, from #51 to #0. So far in this series, we’ve followed Mary Marvel, who has lost her powers and is unable to get them back; Jason Todd, who was the second Robin before he got killed and only recently came back to life under unknown circumstances; Jimmy Olsen, who is following some ill-defined story and has suddenly started getting random superpowers; the Trickster and the Piper, two outcast members of the Flash’s “Rogues Gallery;” and the Monitors, a bunch of gaudily-dressed reality cops who have decided to kill off everyone who “doesn’t belong” in the DC universe. Recently, Mary Marvel has run into Black Adam, who has somehow managed to get his powers back again, and then he gave all his powers to Mary, which means she now has a black costume like Black Adam’s. Why? Apparently, Black Adam wanted to make comic book geeks turn red and breathe funny. “Countdown” has really not been a very good series, so far.

ANYWAY: In this issue, Jimmy Olsen meets up with Sleez, a creepy little freak from the alien world of Apokolips who specializes in mind-controlling people and filming them while they, umm, make whoopie. (Yes, I apparently have to say “make whoopie” or the Lubbock mayor will have me arrested.). Sleez has decided to tell Jimmy how he can kill the evil alien despot Darkseid when someone appears in a flash of light and blows a hole in Sleez’s chest. Elsewhere, the Rogues very pointlessly fight with each other, Mary Marvel fights a demon, and a new character named Forerunner (shown on the cover) shows up to beat up Jason Todd and Donna Troy, another character who used to be dead.

So now that all that rigamarole is over, how was it? It wasn’t too bad, especially compared to how thoroughly lousy the first few issues of “Countdown” have been. We’ve finally started seeing a little progress on the plots they’ve been setting up, and the action quotient has started to increase a bit. But it’s still not a very good comic book. They’re still absolutely wasting pages on the story with the Rogues — there hasn’t been any plot development at all, and the characterization for all of them is really, really poor.

We don’t know much about Forerunner yet, but I promise to like her if she’ll just continue beating up Jason Todd and Donna Troy for the rest of the series. Sleez was a mostly useless character, so I don’t really mind that he’s been killed. The Mary Marvel story seems to be picking up, plus it includes the goofiest concept for a demon I’ve ever seen. This is him below…

Child Protective Services just hates this guy.

He calls himself “Pharyngula, the Harvester of Stillborn Souls,” and yes, he’s a demon with a body made of dead babies. I’m really not sure if that’s the best or worst character concept I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly the thing I remembered the most after I finished the story, so I guess that makes it a good thing.

Verdict: a thumbs-up, but just barely. And if you’re likely to dislike demons with babies velcroed all over them, you should probably skip this one.

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