Last issue of Countdown was surprisingly not horrible. However, that isn’t to say that it was anything great. Countdown continues to be exposed as nothing more than a 12 issue mini-series that was stretched and fluffed up to fill up 52 issues. Hopefully, Dini can at least salvage something from this train wreck of a title and crank out an exciting ending that will get me pumped up for Final Crisis. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Countdown to Final Crisis #13.
Writers: Paul Dini, Tony Bedard & Keith Giffen
Art: Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Superman-Prime and Monitor engaging in a titanic battle. Both of the combatants give just as well as they receive. Monarch unleashes a portion of his powers and there is a huge nuclear explosion that takes out the city. Kyle uses his power ring to protect himself and Earth-51 Batman and Red Robin. Donna protects Ray.
Monitor stand victorious and gloats that Superman-Prime could never match his power. Evidently, Monitor is gravely mistaken as a pissed off Superman-Prime comes flying at him from under some rubble.
We cut to the Challengers regrouping. Donna suddenly sees blazing flaming letters telling her to go to Apokolips. Unfortunately, none of the other heroes saw the letters.
We shift to the Nexus where Solomon has easily taken out Forerunner. Darkseid then appears on the scene and tells Solomon that their cosmic game of chess is not over. Solomon claims that his failure to unify the Monitors means that their game is forfeit. Darkseid disagrees saying that there is still much left to their game and that the next move is Solomon’s.
We slide back to Earth-51 where the Monitor for this Earth mourns the unavoidable death of his world. Suddenly, the Monitor senses something new and takes off in its direction hoping that he can be of use one last time before his world is destroyed.
We zip over to the Challengers. Earth-51 Batman gets tired of Donna and Jason arguing over if there really was any flaming letters on the nearby wall. Earth-51 Batman decides to attack several of Monarch’s evil metahumans including a version of the Joker. Earth-51 Batman snaps on Joker and attacks him and cries out why the Joker won’t stay dead. Donna tells Red Robin to leave Earth-51 Batman and that they need to leave Earth-51 immediately. Red Robin spits that he knows where he is needed and leaps to fight by Earth-51 Batman’s side.
Suddenly, an evil Superman attacks Earth-51 Batman from behind and punches Batman’s brain out of his skull and kills him. Red Robin then snaps and runs to Earth-51 Batman’s side. Kyle takes out the evil Superman. The Challengers then tell Jason to come with them that they need to get off this planet. Jason asks them to give him a moment. Donna replies that they will wait for him around the corner.
The wounded Joker mocks Jason’s mourning of Batman’s passing. We cut to the Challengers talking how they have no way to get to Apokolips. Suddenly, the Earth-51 Monitor appears and says that he also heard the call of The Source and that he can open the way to Apokolips.
Red Robin then re-joins the Challengers. Kyle asks if Jason is all right and Jason responds “Never better.” We then see the Joker dead with his head smashed under a large rock.
We cut back to Monarch and Superman-Prime still battling. Monarch says that Superman-Prime is nothing but a boy who is throwing a tantrum. That Prime is running out of the energy that he absorbed form the Guardian and that he is shrinking back down. Superman-Prime screams that he is not a boy. That he is a man. Superman-Prime then rips open Monarch’s armor. This causes a massive nuclear explosion that destroys everything on Earth-51.
The explosion subsides and the only person left standing on Earth-51 is the Monitor for that Earth. His perfect Earth has been reduced to a barren husk. The Monitor then senses something and notices a small plant beginning to sprout from the barren Earth. The Monitor thinks that as long as there is life then there is hope. End of story.
We then get a two page back-up story about the origin of Cyborg Superman. End of issue.
The Good: Countdown to Final Crisis #13 was a fast paced issue. Dini and company crank out plenty of action. We got a fairly entertaining battle between two monster heavy weights in Superman-Prime and Monarch. Dini did a nice job handling Prime’s personality as nothing more than a boy with more power than he can handle who is lashing out in an immature fit of rage. We also get a good sense of Monarch’s ego and god-like arrogance during this brawl. And it was great to see the high and mighty Monarch shocked for the first time as he sees Prime shrug off his nuclear blast that takes out the city.
Hopefully, this issue also spells the end for Monarch and Superman-Prime’s involvement in this story. Monarch failed to interest me from the start. He is such a generic and one-dimensional villain. I’ll be fine if we never see him again in Countdown. Plus, since it appears that all of Monarch’s forces were obliterated when Earth-51 was nuked then maybe we will get lucky and this silly conquest to destroy the entire Multiverse is done. Of course, we all know that neither Monarch nor Superman-Prime is dead. I’m sure that both characters will re-surface during Final Crisis.
I am really enjoying Jason Todd’s transformation into Red Robin. This was a great move by Dini. Red Robin gives Jason his own personal look and identity that separates him from the other Boy Wonders and his mentor Batman. And I dig the aggressive attitude that Jason displays. Jason’s smashing the Joker’s head with a rock and killing him was well done. The reader gets a clear sense that Jason is more inspired by Earth-51’s Batman than he is by his own Batman from New Earth. And Jason displays more loyalty and affection to the Earth-51 Batman than he does to our Batman of New Earth.
Dini makes it clear that Jason is willing to dispense lethal justice when he deems it necessary. And Jason’s casual off-hand answer of “Never better” when Kyle asks how he is doing after Earth-51 Batman’s death was perfect. This shows Jason’s view that the use of lethal force is perfectly acceptable and no big deal. I view this moment as Jason fully accepting who he is and his core beliefs of justice despite them being radically different from those of his fellow Challengers.
I certainly will understand if there are fans of the Bat-family that are less than pleased with a disciple of the Bat practicing such a lethal brand of vigilantism as Jason does. However, it works for me since it gives Jason a visual look, personality and code of conduct that is radically different from his fellow Boy Wonders and his mentor. Yet, the Red Robin gimmick at the same time is a nice homage to Jason’s roots as a Robin.
It is about time that Countdown gives us some plot movement. Dini finally merges the Challengers plotline together with Darkseid’s plotline and Jimmy Olsen’s plotline. We also get to see Darkseid finally starting to play a bit more of an active role in this story as we learn that he has been engaged in some sort of cosmic chess game with Solomon. I’ll admit that this little plot twist has piqued my interest.
Derenick and Faucher combine to deliver better than average artwork, but it certainly isn’t anything special.
The Bad: The dialogue on Countdown continues to be very ordinary. At times the dialogue is cringe inducing and at other times it is simply average. None of the characters display much personality as everybody possesses the same generic exterior voice. There is still not much chemistry at all between the various characters. Everyone seems a bit robotic as they go through the necessary motions to move the story along.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Countdown without a ridiculous amount of meaningless and pointless deaths. And Countdown #13 serves up plenty of that with the killing of everyone on Earth-51. See, the problem with heavily overusing deaths to artificially create drama and importance to a story is that it desensitizes the reader to it all.
So, while Dini was trying to make a poignant statement with the death of Earth-51 and the small plant sprouting from the Earth as a sign of hope in the face of great destruction; it all had absolutely no impact on me. Why? Because we have been flooded with worlds blowing up and deaths by the truckload that the destruction of Earth-51 barely registered any response from me at all other than a mild yawn and a feeling of painful predictability.
Dini still has failed to give any attention to numerous plotlines in Countdown. The plotlines from Mary Marvel, Holly Robinson, Jimmy Olsen and Pied Piper have largely been ignored. And I’m beginning to wonder what in the world was the point of any of the plotlines outside of the Challengers and Jimmy Olsen plotlines. It is becoming painfully obvious that the majority of the plotlines from Countdown were pretty much just time wasters and filler.
Overall: Countdown to Final Crisis #13 was a slightly above average read. This issue does at least give me some hope that Dini might be able to pull off a somewhat exciting ending that could build some momentum leading into Morrison’s Final Crisis. Countdown is still largely a waste of time and should have been reserved for a tight and fast paced 12 issue mini-series leading into Final Crisis. In that format, I think that Dini could have delivered a powerful story that would have had a nice impact on the reader and gotten us excited for Final Crisis.