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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Countdown #1

Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 30, 2005

Cover date: May 2005

Writter: Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Judd Winick
Penciller: Rags Morales, Ed Benes, Jesus Saiz, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez
Inker: Michael Bair, Ed Benes, Jim Palmiotti, Mar Campos, and Andy Lanning

"Countdown To Infinite Crisis"

Reviewed by: Nick Newman

Click to enlarge

Blue Beetle drops down into a room and breaks into a room with a huge computer screen. Clicking on Batman's logo brings up a profile, complete with his secret identity. Beetle frantically calls Oracle.

Four days earlier, Beetle gets onto a plane with Oracle. She tells him that someone has been siphoning money from his company. One of the receipts had the name O.M.A.C. on it. She also tells him that someone is using his ATM card right now.

Booster Gold takes money out of Beetle's account. Seeing Booster, Beetle thinks back to the time they shared in the Justice League. Dropping down from his bug, Beetle tells Booster that he needs to be careful; he's running out of money. After hearing about the problem, Booster suggests they go and talk to Max Lord.

At dinner, Max tells Booster and Beetle, between consulting phone calls, that he'll look into it. Walking out, Beetle says they need to go see Bruce. Booster tells Beetle that he can't go, he's got a commercial audition. Beetle walks away hurt.

In the cave, Beetle tells Batman about O.M.A.C. and Batman says he'll look into it. Beetle presses further, mentioning Doctor Light and Bruce swings around, knocking Beetle's drink to the floor, saying he'll look into it and telling Beetle to leave. Alfred suggests that Batman should forgive and forget. Batman tells him that he's paranoid because he knows what they did. He knows everything they did.

Currently, Beetle continues looking through the files. He hovers over Superman's symbol. This is a big one, barely anyone knows it, but he clicks. Clark Kent's portrait appears on the screen.

Three days ago Beetle's last warehouse was broken into. Half of the League and the JSA searched the place, but they couldn't find any clues. As the heroes drift off, a flash of light draws Beetle's eyes skyward, where he sees Hal Jordan. Hal tells Kyle that his ring is detecting some radiation. Hal asks what he had in the warehouse, and Superman, suddenly appearing inside, asks the same question. Beetle tells Superman that he had over one hundred pounds of Kryptonite that Kord Industries was commissioned to collect and destroy after Supergirl's coming. Superman thanks him for the warning as he soars away with Hal.

Suddenly Beetle hears a laughing coming from down the alley. He's suddenly jumped by the Madmen, a gang of for-hire crooks. They begin to drag him down when a blast sends them running. Booster hovers above him, and tells him that he realized this was more important.

Somewhere outside Gotham, the Calculator communicates with the new society of villains. On the other end of the connection sits Luthor, joined by Talia, Deathstroke, Doctor Psycho, and Black Adam. Suddenly Doctor Light bursts into the room, demanding retribution for what was done to him. Luthor tells him their building it.

Two days ago, Beetle and Booster sit in Beetle's home and try to track his money down. Booster keeps looking at the original Blue Beetle's Scarab. Booster sits down to try his luck at the computer, when suddenly the house explodes. Beetle grabs Booster and charges out through the flames. As the paramedics arrive, Beetle notices the Scarab inside, pulsating with light.

He flies to Fawcett City to talk with Captain Marvel, but instead is drawn to a mysterious door. Going through, he meets the wizard Shazam. After warning him about coming events, Shazam dismisses Beetle and keeps the scarab for himself.

Eight hours ago Beetle materializes out on the street. He calls his Bug when the vehicle suddenly explodes. In the Watchtower infirmary, Diana asks Beetle about his investigation. Diana tells Beetle that she believes him, before leaving. Beetle talks briefly with J'onn before J'onn receives a communication from Adam Strange. Thanagar is invading Rann. As J'onn begins to put out the call for help, Beetle teleports himself home.

Beetle is looking at his mask when he suddenly notices something. Taking the first Bug out, he visits Booster at the hospital. Someone bugged his mask, and Beetle thinks that they stole Booster's robot Skeets to do it. Booster says they can use the transmitter to trace it back to the source, but when he tries to get up he collapses. As the nurses help Booster back, Beetles tells them to tell Booster that it's not his fault, and he never had a better friend then him.

Tracing the signal, Beetle finally finds a castle in the Swiss Alps. Beetle infiltrates the castle, avoiding the familiar guards, when he finds himself with the computer. Checking his own file, he finds himself listed as deceased. Suddenly the lights come on and someone begins clapping. Turning around, Beetle finds Maxwell Lord, surrounded by his Checkmate guards. Max dismisses his guards and uses metahuman persuasion power to make Beetle drop his gun. Max tells Beetle that there are 1.3 million metas on the planet. Most are too weak to matter, but the real powerful ones need to be monitored...and stopped. Max tells him that's why he kept the League ineffectual for years. Suddenly Max's computer screen goes blank. He demands to know what happened to his files, and Beetle takes the opportunity to punch Max and turn to run. He tussels with a few guards before he comes face-to-face with Max and one other soldier. Max orders an O.M.A.C. download, and the man is suddenly clad in a armor suit. Beetle tries to fight, but is almost instantly subdued.

Waking up, Max tells Beetle that he wants Earth's destiny in the hands of humans. Max tells Beetle it's join or die. Beetle tells him to rot in hell. Max responds with a bullet through the heat. As Beetle's corpse lies bleeding on the ground, Max activates Project O.M.A.C.

4Story - 4: I'll start this off with a disclaimer. As many of you may already know, I am a huge fan of a unified DCU. I have always loved, and will probably always love, company crossovers. I think comics are at their best when you can combine so many different characters into one cohesive story. In short, the next twelve months that DC has planned...well, it's like a kid in a candy store for me.

Keep that in mind, because that definitely influences my opinion of this book.

The three writers on this book are three of the best in comics right now. No question. I'll even go further to say that Geoff Johns is the best writing right now, and probably the best we've seen for a long time. If you aren't reading Titans, JSA, and Green Lantern, you should be. And Rucka and Winick aren't slouches either. Adventures and Batman are two of the best solo books out there right now. DC couldn't have picked a better team to write this book.

I'll tackle the story itself pretty quickly, because I think the implications of this book are far more important than the story itself.

I was kind of disappointed with the story in that it really doesn't accomplish much of anything on its own. It clearly lays the groundwork for all four of the upcoming minis (more on those later), but I wish that there had been some resolution of something in this issue. I like the choice of Blue Beetle as the protagonist. I've always been a fan of the character, especially in the Giffen JLA days of the late 80s, and it was nice to see him get a starring role. I wish he hadn't been portrayed as so helpless though. J'onn's reaction in the Watchtower was particularly out of character. For him to dismiss Ted so easily just wasn't right. Max is pretty much the same way. He was always a fun guy back in the League days, and I don't like the idea of him always being evil. At least JLA Classified is giving me real Max right now. These two characters were chosen for this book, and then their personalities altered to fit the story, and I don't like that. That's pretty much my only gripe (other than the big one that I'll get to later), so on to the good stuff.

It's been pretty much assumed for awhile now, but Batman knows what was done to him. Whether or not you agree with what they chose to do to him (or Light for that matter), I think the coming confrontation in JLA will be great. I like the bit thrown in when Beetle was looking at Superman's secret identity. "Max doesn't even know this one." A lot of people, myself included, didn't like the idea that Jean Loring knows Clark's secret, so to have that secret actually valued here is nice.

Then, we get the second appearance of Hal back. Maybe you don't care, this is the Superman Homepage after all, but I'm happy. I love Kyle, probably more than Hal, but there's something that just feels right about having Hal (and Guy for that matter) back.

The stolen Kryptonite would be troubling, if I was sure that it wasn't the exact same K that just turned up in Batman. If it is, then that's kind of pointless because Batman and Nightwing already recovered it. And as long as I'm talking about it, I highly recommend the last four issues of Batman. Absolutely great stuff.

Seeing Luthor bad is great too. I've been wondering for almost two years now what the Crisis he talked about in Superman Batman 6 would be, and finally we start to see that come together. Other than Doctor Psycho, I love the new Injustice Society (or whatever they'll be calling themselves), and I can't wait to see Luthor do his worst to the DCU. I loved corporate Luthor, but it's been a long time since that worked well (pretty much before the whole clone thing, which dates it back to what, fourteen years ago?),

We see the new O.M.A.C., or at least one of them. Maybe there's more than one. We'll have to wait and find out. I think he looked pretty cool.

I didn't like Max's story of keeping the League ineffectual mainly because he didn't. Max's league stopped Starro. The European branch (which Max didn't even have control of) took down the Extremists in one of the best League stories ever. And the Despero fight was incredible. Those years of JL have gotten a bad rap, but there were a lot of serious threats dealt with. Any team with Captain Atom and Martian Manhunter can hardly be ignored. To call that League ineffectual just shows a lack of knowledge about what actually happened in the DCU between 1987 and 1990.

Unfortunately, this issue also had to contribute to DC's latest theme of killing characters. This felt a lot like Identity Crisis 5. I knew Jack Drake was going to die though the whole issue. The cover pretty much gave that one away. But I still couldn't believe they actually did it when I got to the last page. I knew Beetle was going to die, thanks both to knowing he was the central character and to an unfortunately page-turn in this weeks Wizard the day earlier. You really didn't need to kill Beetle DC. Really. I don't like Max being evil, but I would have dealt with that. But why kill Ted off? I'll definitely miss him. I knew it was coming, but I still hoped that it wouldn't happen.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It was excellently written, and apart from some character shifting I think it all worked pretty well. I don't give it a five mainly because they killed Beetle, and I can't condone that fully. First they killed Sue. I know most people didn't even know the character, but I hated it. Now they've killed Beetle and made Max evil. Since Booster is supposed to be a major player in Identity Crisis, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up dead too. And come to think of it, they killed Captain Atom back in Superman Batman didn't they. All they need to do is kill Guy and Fire and you've taken down almost that entire League. Is Rocket Red still alive? He might end up being the only one left.

So with that out of the way, I think it's worthwhile to look at the upcoming minis. First, JLA is going to deal with Identity Crisis fallout. This probably doesn't really affect too many people because most of you probably already read JLA. However, these other four series are going to hurt some people's wallets. Personally, it doesn't really affect me much. I'm a single student with a full time job and only rent to pay each month. For those with families and bills, or those trying to afford comics on a weekly allowance, this really sucks. Over the past year the number of books I read each month has risen from around nine to over twenty this April. In May it's close to thirty. As I said, I'm happy to spend the money on good stories, and almost everything I'm reading right now is fantastic. But if this had happened say, 10 years ago when I was buying my comics with a $2.50 a week allowance, I'd be really unhappy right now, simply because I couldn't afford to buy everything. Financial issues aside, three of the four minis look great. OMAC will definitely be good. If Greg hasn't proven himself by now, then I don't know what else he can do. Villains United, poor name aside, should be good too. I'm looking forward to the Rann/Thangarian war because the Adam Strange mini has been pretty good, and it'll have Kyle, and I miss Kyle. Day of Judgment looks pretty pointless in my opinion, but I'll still buy it. DC pretty much owns me these days.

5Art - 5: How could anyone possibly complain about this lineup? Rags Morales, Ed Benes, Jesus Saiz, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez. I'll admit I don't know that I've seen anything by Saiz before, but I liked his work. And the other four...well, if we got them on the Superman books I'd be a very happy reader. Jimenez' work in particular (Beetle's death scene) was just fantastic. The "rot in hell" panel is just mind-blowing in its realism. I cannot wait to see his work on Infinite Crisis. It's always hard to review perfect art, because you can only say how great it is so many times. And since I'm already on my fifth page, we'll just leave it at that. Wow. Great job to all involved, this book is beautiful.

5Cover Art - 5: Jim Lee? Check. Alex Ross? Check. How could this cover not be great? I wish the colors were a little bolder, but I'm not going to complain. Did they have to make the logo look like that though? It just looks...cheesy. But even poor logo design couldn't hurt this cover. If there is one person who was made to draw Batman, it's Jim Lee. Just beautiful.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2005.