Comic Book Review: Countdown to Final Crisis #1

We are finally here. There were moments when I thought I would not be able to last to the very end. It has been a real struggle to keep chronicling this story as it simply sunk to all new lows with each issue. For as much a success as 52 was, Countdown has been an unmitigated failure. DC gagged up one horribly plotted and paced story with this title. Countdown was a flawed and poorly conceived idea from the start and suffered from lousy execution.

And what really gets me is that there appears to be no purpose to this title. Morrison has gone out of his way to state that his Final Crisis has nothing to do with Countdown to Final Crisis. Huh, whaaaat? You mean a comic book entitled “Countdown to Final Crisis” has nothing to do with Final Crisis? That lacks any and all sense. That is either a result of poor communication between the DC editorial staff and their creative talent or an admission by DC that Countdown has been an utter failure.

At any rate, the end is finally here as Countdown to Final Crisis #1 is sitting on my desk. It is a beautiful sight since I know can take solace in not having to post another review of an issue of this title. My job will soon be done. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Countdown to Final Crisis #1.

Creative Team
Writer: Paul Dini & Keith Giffen
Pencils: Tom Derenick
Inks: Wayne Faucher

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Jimmy Olsen thinking how if he ever wrote an article about everything that he has seen and been through during Countdown that nobody would believe him. We see Jimmy and Forager at Jimmy’s apartment. We learn that the honeymoon is over between Jimmy and Forager. Forager tells Jimmy that they need to talk.

We slide over to Ray Palmer arriving back at his old house where he and Jean lived. Ray wallows in misery and self-pity. Being in their old home fills Ray with pain and sadness. Ray does not know if he even wants to continue living. Suddenly, Donna arrives at Ray’s house. Donna says that they know so much now after traipsing through the Multiverse that they just can’t let it go and move on.

We shift to an alley where we see Piper waking up and realizing that he is alive. (What the hell?) Piper comments that he has been given another chance in order to settle some unfinished business, this time on the side of the angels.

We cut to Jason Todd thinking how the Batman from his Earth and the Batman from the Earth-51 both had it wrong. That Jason’s Batman is one step away from real craziness and that he turned away after Jason’s death. That the Earth-51 Batman went rogue after Jason’s death. Jason says that crazy isn’t his thing (What? Really? Could have fooled me.) and that he will never play the sidekick again. Jason says that the past year has taught him that it is time to carve out a life of his own. We see Jason pulling out a knife and standing in front of a thug tied up. Jason thinks that knowledge is power. Jason tells the thug to tell him everything he knows or Jason will slice and dice him.

We hop over to the Monitor Solomon who is standing at the Source Wall. Solomon thinks how Darkseid lost. Solomon makes a small statute as a mocking monument to Darkseid since it is the smallest of all the statues on the Source Wall.

We cut back to Ray’s house where we see that Kyle has now joined Donna and Ray. Ray retorts that he is not going to have a bunch of mopey super heroes wallowing in misery at his house. Ray tells them all to just forget about what they experienced. Donna then asks Ray “Who monitors the Monitors?” Ray exclaims “No!” Ray calls Donna crazy.

We shift to Black Mary meeting with Black Adam. Black Mary says that the two of them are the same. Black Adam calls Mary a spoiled little child and that the two of them are nothing alike. Black Adam has done what he has had to do. Black Mary does what she wants to do.

Black Adam dismisses Black Mary begins to leave and Black Mary snaps and blasts him. Black Adam says she is lucky he finds beating children distasteful. Black Adam then flies off. Black Mary screams that she doesn’t need anyone. That she is “Mary damn Marvel.” (Oh my god. This is the crap dialogue that Mary has been reduced to spouting out.)

We cut to Earth destroyed by the Morticcocus virus. Buddy and his grandson, Kamandi, are running out of food and water in the Bunker that they are trapped in. Brother Eye comes back online. We see Buddy transform into the original OMAC created by Jack Kirby. Brother Eye says that Buddy is a new version of an OMAC that has limited free will. Brother Eye tells OMAC to free themselves from the bunker. OMAC then busts open the door that was locking them in the bunker.

OMAC turns back into Buddy. Buddy asks Kamandi if he is ready to go home. Buddy thinks how Brother Eye is still out there watching over them and protecting them from anything that this toxic environment can create. Buddy wonders what the real “need” that Brother Eye has for him. And what will happen when Brother Eye calls for him again.

We slide back to Ray’s house where we see that Jimmy Olsen and Forager have arrived on the scene. Ray is less than pleased about this little get together. Donna informs Ray that they have decided that they are going to monitor the Monitors. And that they are going to do it with Ray’s help.

Suddenly, Nix Uotan, the youngest of the Monitors, appears in Ray’s house. Nix urges them that now that the Monitors are becoming individuals that they are in more of a need than ever for someone to monitor them. We cut to the Nexus where the Atom, Donna, Kyle and Forager stand before the assembled Monitors. Donna announced that they will now monitor the Monitors and that the Monitors will abide by their decisions or they will accept the punishments.

Some of the Monitors disagree with this idea. Nix argues that this is necessary. One of the Monitors exclaims that Donna and Kyle are anomalies and that only the Atom has a world. Ray then states that there is nothing for him in his world and that he renounces his place in it. Ray says that he joins the others to serve the Multiverse as “border guards” for man and Monitor alike. Ray says that they didn’t come to ask permission. That they came to serve notice. That they are out there and for the Monitors to watch themselves. Our heroes then teleport away from the scene. The Monitors are shocked and pissed. Solomon grins that a new game begins.

We zip over to Holly and Harley hanging out at their apartment. Harley stares at the night sky and thinks how something so scary and uncertain is going on out there in places they don’t even know about. That they never know when fate will shake it all up. That she wonders who they will ever make it through. Harley then answers her own question by saying that they will make it with a positive attitude and lots of denial. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Countdown to Final Crisis #1 was such a flop of an ending. However, I can still satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity. I was thrilled to see the return of the real OMAC. I always liked Kirby’s OMAC. I have always liked the character’s design.

It appears that planet Kirby is fully re-created for Grant Morrison’s pleasure as we have both Kamandi and OMAC back and better than ever. I have to admit that I am looking forward to seeing more of Kamandi and OMAC. I think they are both neat characters and that their world is rather intriguing.

Derenick and Faucher combine to deliver slightly above average artwork.

The Bad: Countdown to Final Crisis #1 was a completely appropriate ending to this title. This issue was dull, slow, boring and lacked any purpose at all. And that is pretty much a microcosm of this entire year long story.

Countdown to Final Crisis #1 delivers plenty more of its trademark dull dialogue. Everyone speaks with the same generic voice. The character work remains paper thin as all the characters come across about as one dimensional as possible. Countdown to Final Crisis has continually displayed an aversion to character work during the entire story and this final issue is no exception.

The magic of 52 was that DC took a bunch of B and C-list characters and took the opportunity to spend fifty-two issues fleshing out and growing those characters. Countdown to Final Crisis has completely and totally failed in that endeavor. Countdown to Final Crisis failed to nurture, progress and grow any of the characters that appeared in this title.

Let’s take a look at each of the characters that starred in Countdown and see if any of them underwent any type of real character growth. Did Donna’s character grow or evolve at all during this title? No. How about Kyle? Nope. Jimmy Olsen? No. Ray Palmer? Well, he has re-joined the DCU after being missing for several years. However, is his character any different now than it was when we saw him at the end of Identity Crisis? Not really. Especially since we see him dealing with the same feelings of guilt, grief and depression in this issue.

How about Jason Todd? The answer would have to be no. His character has snapped back to exactly where he was before Countdown. He is the same morally ambiguous tough guy who believes in using whatever means necessary to fight crime. Jason still has serious issues with Batman and doesn’t want a relationship with anyone. Jason’s character hasn’t even remotely grown or evolved during Countdown.

How about Pied Piper? Once again, the answer would be no. Piper’s character is pretty much the same as it was at the beginning of Countdown. Piper still has his basic good heart and a willingness to do the right thing. And Piper is still searching to clear his name. I don’t see much of a change here at all.

And speaking of Piper, how in the hell did he suddenly appear on Earth alive and well? This is just sloppy writing. A little attempt at an explanation would have been appreciated.

Did Holly and Harley’s characters evolve during Countdown? I don’t think so. I guess you could argue that both women are more positive than they were at the beginning of Countdown. However, I don’t think anyone would say that these two ladies underwent anything that would be considered quality character growth. Out of all the various plotlines in Countdown, Holly and Harley’s plotline was probably the most uninteresting one.

Karate Kid and Una? Oh please, these two characters were simply inserted as plot devices to introduce the Morticcocus virus and to let Giffen kill Karate Kid once again. Giffen even admitted at the New York Comic Con “I hate that character. I agreed to come on Countdown only if I could kill him.” Wow, what a professional. I’m so glad that this is the motivation and reasoning that DC’s writers use to include characters onto a title. Hack.

Black Mary is probably the only character that is truly different at the end of Countdown compared to how she was at the beginning of Countdown. The problem with this is that the character work on Mary was completely bungled and lacked any internal logic and was horridly executed.

I could care less about this little group of Ray, Donna, Kyle and Forager and their mission statement to monitor the Monitors. The reason is that this has to be a temporary arrangement. We already know that Ray is a part of Robinson’s Justice League and will not be operating as the Atom. And we know that Donna has re-joined her old teammates to form the Titans. Well, that is half of your team gone right there.

Also, I hate how the DC editorial staff cannot mesh Countdown together with anything else going on in the DCU. In Titans #1 we see Donna and Kyle in space talking about their adventures in Countdown which have concluded. Then we see Donna joining her Titan teammates. However, on Countdown to Final Crisis #1, Donna and Kyle make it back to Earth and don’t split up. They continue on to form this little band of heroes. Am I to understand that Titans #1 takes place much later than Countdown to Final Crisis #1?

Also, we have Kyle over on Green Lantern Corps living on Oa and going on missions with his fellow Lanterns. Yet, in Countdown to Final Crisis #1, we have Kyle joining a band of heroes pledging to be the border guards of the Multiverse. I know there will always be some continuity issues when characters appear in more than one title, but this is just too much.

I sit here at my desk staring at Countdown to Final Crisis #1 and I am left wondering what the hell was the purpose behind this title? I mean other than to bilk money from fans for another weekly title. Outside of re-creating Kamandi and OMAC and delivering the conclusion to the Death of the New Gods mini-series, I have no idea what else this title actually accomplished. And honestly, we didn’t need 52 issues to accomplish the little bit of story that Countdown actually delivered. Recreating Kamandi’s Earth and concluding the Death of the New Gods mini-series could have easily been done in 12 issues. The rest of Countdown was just pure garbage and filler.

And that is the harsh reality of it all. Ninety-percent of this year-long story was nothing more than fluff designed to waste time in order to stretch this title over the course of 52 weeks. The plotlines for Countdown were anemic and flimsy. This entire story lacked substance and depth.

Overall: Countdown to Final Crisis #1 was a fitting ending to what has been a dreadful title. This issue was completely unimpressive and did nothing to get me excited for DC Universe #0. DC needs to use DC Universe #0 to drive a stake through the heart of Countdown. The more DC separates Countdown from Final Crisis the better. No fans will get excited about Final Crisis if they get the feeling we are just going to get more of the same crap that we got in Countdown.

5 Comments

  1. Great blog. Now, at the end, it’s pretty obvious that Countdown could’ve told its so-called “story” in about six to eight issues.

  2. Newsarama’s weekly “Moment of the Week” poll currently has “Countdown #1 – It’s finally over!” in the lead, which tells you about as much as you need to know.

    The most incredible part of this whole ‘story’, for me, is that Donna, Kyle, Ray, etc. are now responsible for the genocide of an entire world, but nobody seems to quite realize this.

    That said, apart from Mary (and I’ll get to her in a minute), everyone else emerges from this debacle relatively unscathed.

    Now, on to Mary: poor, poor Mary.

    Oh, and Jimmy remains a complete feeb; I guess some things will neve change, no matter what you go through.

  3. Thanks for hanging in until the very end and offering us some great commentary and insight. This was indeed a very disappointing series and considering that it cost me over $150 to follow this darn thing leaves an awfully bad taste in my mouth.
    I will say I am still committed to the idea of a weekly comic and want it to continue. There is something exciting about a weekly series. As bad as Countdown was, the comic was always the first one I read each week. I also appreciated the attempt to bring some of DC’s more obscure characters. It failed on many levels but it was great to see some of Jack Kirby’s wonderful
    70’s work again(i.e. Kamandi).
    Call me an optimist, but reading between the lines of Dan DiDio’s recent comments,I think DC has gotten the message of how much the fans have hated this series. They know they have their work cut out for them to restore their fan’s trust. I love what Morrison is doing over at Batman and Johns is kickin’ over on Booster Gold. If that magic spills over to Final Crisis, we may have still some great reading ahead.I’ll keep the faith!

  4. I should have followed the advice of something positive when Randy postulated a meeting in DC’s offices: “Sure we can do something with writing just as bad and as many required-reading tie-ins that no one wants to deal with.” (07-16-2007 and that was only a few months in.) But all in all, it wasn’t as bad as other DC crossovers I can think of, (cough: Panic in the sky :cough)

    So what do we have to look forward to? I’m hoping that DC has a sort of, “Send us a picture of all the Countdown comics you bought, and we will give you that many free copies of Trinity at half price.” Because, at the end of the day, all the people that are crying about it will be buying the next series. (including me)

  5. Hey Everyone!
    I think I figured it out. If you want to enjoy Countdown, do what I just did: read it all backwards! When you start with issue one and end with fifty-two, it all concludes nicely. Mary Marvel is still a great character, the fifty-two universes make sense and Kyle, Jason and Co. are no longer ruined forever! Why didn’t they tell us? Who knew?

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