The Revolution found the last issue of Countdown to be the weakest issue so far. However, the cover to Countdown #44 sports a menacing looking Captain Atom/Monarch! Now, if that doesn’t get you excited then not much will. I have a feeling that Countdown #44 is going to be a pretty good read. Let’s hit this review.
Writers: Paul Dini and Adam Beechen
Penciler: Carlos Magno
Inker: Jay Leisten
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Mary Marvel entering the Rock of Eternity and being greeted by Billy Batson. Mary is shocked by Billy’s new look as Shazam. Billy tells Mary how the Books of Magic have been rewritten and now Billy is basically the Rock of Eternity and that the Rock is him. Billy tells Mary how Freddy is undergoing his Trials in order to assume the power of Shazam. Mary then asks where she fits into this new world of Magic. Billy responds that this is why he brought her to the Rock. That they have a problem.
We then cut to Washington, DC where the Monarch approaches the Forerunner and tells her that the Monitors use her people as weapons and then intend on killing them off once they have completed their mission. That the Monitors fear her people and have kept many things secret from her people.
Forerunner doesn’t believe Monarch and angrily retorts that the Monitors have protected her people from the Nine Houses. The Monarch says that the Monitors think they are better than everyone. That Forerunner is very special and deserves to be the master of her own destiny. That the glory of battle burns in Forerunner’s heart.
Monarch asks Forerunner to come with him and he will show her a war that no man or god has ever seen. That the Monarch will show her the path to greater glory. Forerunner begrudgingly agrees to go with Monarch and says that she will join with him, but that if he breaks his word to her that she will kill him.
We shift to Jimmy Olsen in the Suicide Slums area of Metropolis. Jimmy is there to test his powers by placing himself in danger. Jimmy insults a few thugs standing on the street corner. One of the thugs goes to punch Jimmy and Jimmy waits for his super powers to kick in. Unfortunately, they don’t and the thug punches out Jimmy. Another thug then stands over and over Jimmy and reaches to grab him.
Suddenly, quills pop out of Jimmy’s body and he shoots a bunch of quills into the thug. The other thugs run off scared. Jimmy thinks how strange that his powers didn’t surface when the one thug punched him, but it did when the other thug went to grab him. Jimmy then runs off thinking how he doesn’t understand anything that is happening to him and that he is losing his mind.
We then hop over to Holly Robinson walking with a woman dressed as an Amazon. The Amazon tells Holly that she runs a women’s shelter and that Holly is free to stay for as long or as short as she wants to. Holly enters the building and it is opulently decorated in the style of ancient Greece with women walking around dressed as Amazons.
We cut to Pied Piper and Trickster scared to death and hiding in a dark alley in Keystone City. Piper says that they should just go to the JLA and tell them what happened. That they didn’t kill Bart Allen. That the other Rogues were the ones who killed the Flash. Trickster calls Piper an idiot. That the JLA wouldn’t believe them and would torture them and mind wipe them or worse.
Trickster comments how this is a grave new day for the Rogues. That the Rogues have gone from a kitschy super-villain club to cold-blooded killers. That they have to go deep underground until this all blows over, if it ever does. Trickster says that the Rogues have to watch each other’s backs because that is all they have. That the party is over.
We then hear people talking from off panel. One voice asks if they should get Piper and Trickster now. The other voice says that they should wait and follow the two Rogues. That the two Rogues might lead them to the rest of the others.
We zip back to the Rock of Eternity. Billy tells Mary that he never saw her fight so brutally or savagely as he did in the fight she just had with the demon Pharyngula. Mary tells Billy that she was granted Black Adam’s powers. Billy tells Mary that she made a huge mistake. Mary snaps that she was alone and powerless. What else was she to do?
Billy counters that maybe it was time for her to start her life over. That it was her destiny to lose her powers. Mary counters that maybe it was her destiny to get Black Adam’s powers. Mary yells that she has powers again and will use them for good and if Billy can’t approve of that then she will pursue her destiny alone.
We get a History of the Multiverse back-up story. We see the events of the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. End of issue.
The Good: Countdown #44 was a good issue. Dini and Beechen provided for an enjoyable rebound issue from the last issue. Countdown #44 was well paced with a good blend of action scenes and dialogue heavy scenes. This issue was also well plotted. Dini is a master at constructing and developing a story. The various plotlines are all well developed and are unfolding at a natural pace. Each new development builds nicely on the foundation of the previous issues. And best of all, Dini is keeping the reader guessing. We never know what is going to happen next.
Dini and Beechen provide the reader with some nicely crafted dialogue. Each of the main characters in the various plotlines have well developed external voices. Dini has also clearly mandated a commitment to quality character work on this series rather than relying on over the top action scenes. This enables some nice chemistry between characters like what we saw with Mary and Billy in this issue.
I enjoyed all the scenes with Mary and Billy. Dini and Beechen did an excellent job touching on the tension and resentment that Mary has inside of her soul toward Billy and Freddy. The reader is beginning to see the dark transformation of Mary Marvel. Mary is slowly slipping to the dark as Black Adam’s power will continue to eat away at her soul.
Mary is drunk for power and it is completely understandable. Here Billy has attained the status of Shazam and has literally become one with the Rock of Eternity. That is a nice power upgrade. Then there is Freddy who is on his quest to become the next Captain Marvel. That is also a nice power upgrade. And then you have poor Mary who is stripped of her powers and abandoned by Billy and Freddy.
It makes complete sense that Mary would act in this fashion. Billy suggesting that maybe Mary was destined to lose her powers and to start her life over is hardly an appealing option for Mary. After having the incredible powers of Shazam, it is understandable that Mary wouldn’t be able to deal with being just a normal mortal.
Imagine if you had incredible powers for a long time and then suddenly lost them. You would also probably do whatever you could to get that power back regardless of what part of your soul you would have to sacrifice. It isn’t realistic of Billy to expect Mary to just walk away from her life as a metahuman.
Rogues scene was chilling. This is just what we thought was going to happen after we saw the Rogues kill Bart Allen over in Flash #13. Trickster summed it up perfectly. The party is over. The Rogues are no long kitschy harmless group of robbers and thieves. They are now cold-blooded killers. They are super-hero killers. In just the quick action of killing Bart Allen, the Rogues have suddenly gone from no street cred to more street cred than almost any other super villain in the DCU. This is a totally new view of the Rogues and a totally new life for them.
And it definitely isn’t lost on the Trickster and Piper. They are scared to death and they should be. They are going to be hunted down like dogs. I dig that even through the Trickster and Piper didn’t take part in killing Bart, that they realize no hero will believe them and that they have no choice but to stick with their fellow Rogues and watch each other’s backs.
And just who were the mysterious off-panel voices watching Trickster and Piper? Could it be the JLA or maybe someone else?
I also dig how Dini and Beechen use the events of Identity Crisis to strike fear into the hearts of the Rogues. The JLA has a much more threatening image to villains now that they know what Zatanna did to Dr. Light. Batman has always been scary, but not the JLA in general is a much more frightening to villains than they ever were prior to Identity Crisis.
The Jimmy Olsen scene was pretty cool. Jimmy displays yet another power. And this one has ties to the Legion of Super Heroes. Jimmy’s quill powers are similar to the powers of Porcupine Pete. Porcupine Pete was a member of the Pre-Crisis Legion of Substitute Heroes. Up to this point, we have not seen Porcupine Pete in the current incarnation of the Legion of Super Heroes.
I am curious to learn more about Jimmy’s powers and if there is a connection between his powers and the Pre-Crisis Legion of Super Heroes. Dini is doing a good job crafting an exciting little mystery surrounding Jimmy’s character.
The Holly Robinson scene was interesting despite the fact that I have little interest in her character at all. It appears that we have ourselves appears to be an Amazonian woman’s shelter. I have no idea where Dini is going with the plotline, but he has certainly piqued my interest.
The Monarch/Forerunner scene cool. I’m glad to see that Dini is mixing the Monarch into Countdown. It is neat seeing the various cosmic forces beginning to align and take their positions for the upcoming war. It is nice to see DC finally building off the re-birth of Captain Atom as the new Monarch back in the pages of Battle For Bludhaven.
Monarch should definitely spice up this already volatile mix of cosmic forces at work in Countdown. Is Monarch lying to Forerunner? Will Forerunner end up turning on Monarch at some point? What in the world is Monarch plotting? So many questions and so few answers. Dini certainly knows how to build tension within the reader.
Carlos Magno and Jay Leisten dish out some great artwork. I really dig Magno’s style of art. I have never collected a title with Magno as the artist so I’m glad that I’m finally able to appreciate his talent. And does Magno draw one insanely hot Mary Marvel or what? Wow. Turning evil has been very very good to Mary.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Countdown #44 was a great read. I have been impressed with Beechen’s writing to this point on Countdown. It seems that Dini has been able to coax out Beechen’s A-game. Hopefully, working with a master like Dini will help Beechen elevate his writing and apply his newly crafted skills to the other titles that he writes. If you still haven’t tries Countdown then definitely do so. Countdown is certainly worth your money.