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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Countdown 5

Countdown to Final Crisis 5

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 26, 2008

Cover date: March 26, 2008

"End Times"

Writer: Paul Dini (head writer) and Keith Giffen (story consultant) with Adam Beechen
Penciller: Jim Starlin
Inker: Rodney Ramos
Cover: Scott Kolins

Back-Up Story: "The Origin of Mister Freeze"
Write: Scott Beatty
Penciller: Tom Derenick
Inker: Wayne Faucher

Reviewed by: Jason Larouche

Click to enlarge

Buddy Blank and Una leave STAR Labs and make their way through the chaotic streets of Metropolis as the airborne Morticoccus spreads at an inhuman rate. Civillians are being mutated into twisted, animalistic, rat-like cannibals wreaking havoc on the populace. Buddy's surprised at Una's fighting prowess, which she attributes to Val's instruction.

Worldwide, both hero and official try to quell the violence, but unfortunately fall prey to the virus themselves, in particular Superman, Wonder Girl, and even villains like The Joker and Lex Luthor. The Challengers, amidst all of this, can only look on in horror and shame.

Una and Buddy finally make it to his daughter's apartment building. The apartment is broken into. The search for Buddy's grandson is successful, but it is too late for both the boy's mother (his daughter) and his dog, both infected by Morticoccus. Una quickly dispatches the dog, but outside Buddy's daughter attacks them. Una is soon overwhelmed by mutated rats and tosses Buddy her Legionnaire flight ring, which he uses to help both he and his grandson to escape to the only safe place on the now-scarlet Earth: Brother Eye.

Armageddon comes to pass as a nuclear bomb goes off in every city in the vain hopes of quelling the spread. While the Challengers, via Jimmy Olsen's ability to access boom tube technology, escape this world, Buddy and the boy settle in on board the satellite, now literally the only humans on Earth. As his grandson sleeps, he prays his grandson will forgive him.

Back-Up Story: "The Origin of Mister Freeze"
Write: Scott Beatty
Penciller: Tom Derenick
Inker: Tom Derenick

GothCorp scientist Dr. Victor Fries attempted to prolong the life of his wife Nora, stricken with a life-threatening illness, by placing her in cryogenic suspension. Due to accidental exposure to his own cryogenic coolants, Victor's biochemistry mutated into a state where he could not survive outside of subzero temperature. This forced him to don a cryo-suit of his own design. When GothCorp cut off the funding to his research, Fries sought revenge and took the building hostage until he was confronted by The Batman. Fries - calling himself Mister Freeze - tried to flash-freeze the Dark Knight but instead the blast shattered Nora's cryo-tank...along with her. Blaming Batman for his own actions, Freeze turned to crime all in vain attempts to restore his wife. Recently, Batgirl managed to convince Freeze to place the reassembled remains of Nora in one of Ra's Al Ghul's Lazarus Pits. Though it reanimated her body, Nora's mind was gone, and her body took on the fiery properties of the pit. Now truly unable to touch his wife, where Mister Freeze goes from here remains to be seen.

4Story - 4: This review comes just shortly after my viewing of Will Smith's film, "I Am Legend" in which he plays a virologist immune to a virus that ravaged the world and transformed some survivors into vampiric monsters. It was not hard to see the parallels of that film in this week's story. Like Smith's character Robert Neville, Buddy Blank witnessed the complete decimation of the planet one person (and hero) at a time.

The irony of a powerless Animal Man saying he's not a superhero speaks volumes. While the thought of seeing Superman corrupted in body and mind is disheartening to even the strongest and determined of crusaders, it could have been given more coverage.

The idea of having a first-person narration with no dialogue at all worked extremely well in how it brings the reader in to the confusion and shock at the implications of a pandemic plague spreading like wildfire.

Though the Challengers got very little coverage this issue, it works in the sense that they are involved since it was Karate Kid's body that caused the spread of Morticoccus. Now I am not familiar with the disease or what book covers it, but it is easy to determine it as a metaphor for incurable illnesses like AIDS, SARS, West Nile, and so forth. What I didn't expect was Una's demise...and the lightness of the treatment. The heroic death angle should have had some internal dialogue, maybe a lament for her fallen friend, Van.

What made this story a little hollow is Buddy's lack of acknowledging the names of his daughter and grandson. Names would have brought more realism into the piece; not mentioning them seemed to keep him slightly disconnected.

All in all, the irony of relying on Brother Eye for survival and protection is not lost, nor is the failure of the Challengers which will carry on into the final issues of Countdown. Good job.

3Art - 3: I don't know why, but Starlin didn't really do it for me this issue. If they went for an "I Am Legend" style prose, they should have gotten a penciller known for horror art like Kelly Jones or Gene Colan. I'm not knocking Starlin because he's a great artist. I just feel that he was unsuited for the visual scope this script required. The infection of the JLA and villains were sorely underplayed, and some of the characters seemed slightly stiff. Like the writing, Una's death should have been visually more interesting.

5Back-Up Story - 5: As a fan of Batman: The Animated Series, I'm pleased that they translated the television version of Mister Freeze's backstory for the comic, and Beatty captures it perfectly. From GothCorp to Nora's resurrection, all important points are highlighted. Truth be told I had no clue Nora had been resurrected to a fashion. Without the villain's main reason for doing evil, it's interesting to see what cold path the creators will take Victor.

4Back-Up Art - 4: The art was fine, though I would've liked to see Derenik illustrate the transformation of Victor Fries into Mister Freeze with more than a panel of him drowning in coolant. The design of Mister Freeze is a little off by the size of his musculature. This is a cryo-suit meant for survival rather than a muscle suit so I don't see the point of perfectly articulated muscles in the arms for a much slimmer man. Also, the Batgirl figure (obviously Cassandra Cain) was off in the fact that her mask has no opening for the mouth. Other than that everything was a good summation.

5Cover Art - 5: An homage to a cover by Jack "King" Kirby, Kolins' composition perfectly captures the essence of freedom and liberty dying and the cause - Karate Kid - drowning in a blood-red sea. There is no need for any superheroes to make any appearances because the true focus is on the beginning of a dystopian era. The Statue of Liberty toppling is self-explanatory. It's the end of all things. It's on the level of Planet of the Apes, The Day After Tomorrow, and of course, I Am Legend.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2008

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