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Countdown 4

Countdown to Final Crisis 4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 2, 2008

Cover date: April 2, 2008

"The Beginning of the End"

Writer: Paul Dini (head writer) and Keith Giffen (story consultant) with Sean McKeever
Penciller: Jamal Igle
Inker: Keith Champagne
Cover by Adam Kubert with Edgar Delgado

Back-Up Story: "The Origin of Ra's Al Ghul"
Write: Scott Beatty
Penciller: Cliff Chiang
Inker: Travis Lanham

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

The heroes are back on what appears to be New Earth. The heroes disperse. Firestorm leaves. Holly and Harley decide to return to Gotham. Jason throws a fit about wanting to get away from everyone and splits. Mary Marvel leaves because she needs to find out what happened on Paradise Island and what's happened to the rest of the Marvel Family. Atom, Kyle, and Donna stick by Jimmy Olsen and Forager and decide to take him to the Justice League for help.

Holly and Harley are heading to Gotham and they're joined by a now non-costumed Jason Todd.

Mary returns to her apartment and she's greeted by Darkseid in her living room. With one magic word, she returns to her Mary Marvel persona. Darkseid tempts her with her dark powers and Mary accepts. All Darkseid wants is one favor.

On Paradise Island, Hippolyta senses Mary has embraced the darkness.

At the Multiversal Nexus, in the Monitor's satellite, Solomon the Monitor thinks that the other Monitors are ignoring him. He considers that he wrested the Great Disaster from Darkseid's hands by letting the Morticoccus virus take hold of Earth-51 instead of New Earth. He believes the end of the Fourth World will have an affect on Darkseid. He concludes that the battle may be over but the war rages on as he writes "To Earth" in the condensation on the satellite glass.

The heroes approach Justice League headquarters. Atom considers that he's going to have a lot to explain to this League about his disappearance following the events of "Identity Crisis". Before the heroes can enter the Hall of Justice, they're attacked by a now back in black-suit Mary Marvel. Mary has agreed to bring Jimmy to Darkseid. The heroes fight. Donna wonders why, if they're right outside the Hall, the League doesn't appear to be present. Mary swoops in and flies off with Jimmy. Forager swears she'll track him down.

To be continued...

2Story - 2: The story may be called "The Beginning of the End" but it's the end of the line for me. It's my last "Countdown" review of the run. And, though I'll be part of the review team on the next weekly, "Trinity", I have to admit to being a little exhausted on these year-long weeklies. They've become to the 21st Century what company-wide crossovers were for the 20 years following "Crisis on Infinite Earths" - bane of the faithful reader and just plain overdone. Plus, the focus on a weekly continuity-tied book has clearly taken DC's eye off the ball in getting regular titles out on a timely basis.

Poor Mike Carlin's taken it on the chin as current Editor of "Countdown" but Superman fans remember Carlin managed, in effect, a very successful weekly book for many years. Carlin's weekly, of course, had different teams assigned to each week and a different title for each week of the month - "Superman", "Action Comics", "Adventures of Superman", and "Superman: Man of Steel" - but, make no mistake, this was a weekly continuing adventure - tied together with the triangular numbering on the covers - and it worked for a long time. DC should be looking to that model for future weeklies.

With respect to this week's issue, I find myself using the term "heroes" for our rag-tag team of Multiverse-hopping super-people but not really meaning it. Heroes stick together and help one another. Heroes don't run off when they know Darkseid is scheming. Heroes don't go home potentially carrying a world-destroying virus they don't fully understand. And that's not to mention heroes standing by as Earth-51 burned last issue. Some heroes.

As with "52", the final issues are over-loaded with plot (such as said plot is) as the heroes are taking their places for the advent of "Final Crisis". Like Senator John Kerry before her, Mary Marvel's a real flip-flopper. First she's good, then she's evil, then she fights off the evil and embraces good again, and then she becomes evil yet again. I get it that there's a message in there: one must remain vigilantly good and upright to always be good and upright. But it just feels like the writers went one place with Mary, then decided they needed her in a different place by the time they reached the end of "Countdown". Same with how Jason Todd's treated in this issue, abandoning the Red Robin costume and his 'team' and clearly having learned nothing from his time among heroes. Sure maybe that's the point, but again it feels less like the way his arc was planned and more like the writers figured out Jason as Red Robin wasn't resonating with many fans.

Characterization this issue is off all around though. Hippolyta uttering "Oh, my dear" on sensing Mary has taken Darkseid's offer doesn't ring true for a woman who just a few months ago led an army against the outer world in "Amazons Attack".

And Darkseid sitting on a couch? The only thing that could possibly have redeemed that moment would be if, when Darkseid got up, Mary realized Darkseid peed on her couch.

4Art - 4: Unlike many issues of "Countdown", the art this issue does not feel rushed. It's a pretty book. Characters have very individual physical traits distinguishing them - Jason has a Clooney 'do to distinguish his dark-haired self from Kyle who wears his dark hair spiked. Donna is so unmistakably Donna here, she could be drawn here by George Perez himself. There are some gorgeous full page panels - the page with Hippolyta, even Darkseid on Mary's sofa - but the smaller multi-paneled pages don't suffer in comparison.

Back-Up Story: "The Origin of Ra's Al Ghul"
Write: Scott Beatty
Penciller: Cliff Chiang
Inker: Travis Lanham

Ra's Al Ghul is the immortal adversary of the Dark Knight. Ra's had two daughters, Talia and Nyssa. Ultimately Nyssa killed Ra's. He was reborn in the body of his secret son the White Ghost.

1Back-Up Story - 1: How do you tell Ra's Al Ghul's origin story without mentioning his raison d'etre? The guy is fascinating because he's all about saving the planet by destroying humanity. And his recent reincarnation in the White Ghost's body just seems kind of pointless.

3Back-Up Art - 3: It's surprising this story has only one penciller. The first panel on each page is really good. The rest seems a bit rushed.

2Cover Art - 2: I like the image of the lightning bolt changing a lot. I think the prevailing image on the left side of the cover is about as sexist as comic book imagery can get though black costume Mary appears to be somewhat more flat-chested (though I'm not quite sure what statement on good girls versus bad girls the artist is trying to make).

The problem here is the devil's in the details and the details are a bit sloppy. There's the, ahem, imbalance issue I mentioned. But look at Mary's neck. The white costume does not extend up Mary's neck. Then there's her hair which appears to be the nastiest darn mullet anyone's ever worn. There's the hair coming down the front of her costume that is clearly about as long as Mary wears her hair in the book. But look how far down Mary's hair runs down her back, all the way to her hips. This is Mary Marvel, not the Global Guardians' Godiva.

The cover artists this time out are clearly a bunch of, err, boobs.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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