- Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #56, by Tad Williams & Shawn McManus (DC)
- Countdown #32 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard, Keith Giffen, Al Barrionuevo & Art Thibert (DC)
- Countdown to Adventure #1 of 8, by Adam Beechen, Eddy Barrows & Julio Ferreira, and Justin Gray & Fabrizio Fiorentino (DC)
- Countdown to Mystery #1 of 8, by Steve Gerber, Justiniano & Walden Wong, and Matthew Sturges & Stephen Jorge Segovia (DC)
- Ex Machina #30, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
- Armageddon Conquest: Quasar #3 of 4, by Christos N. Gage, Mike Lilly, Bob Almond & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
- World War Hulk #4 of 5, by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson (Marvel)
- The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite #1 #1 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
Gee, it’s a new artist on Countdown! Too bad he got stuck illustrating this piece of cow flop, which largely involves a bachelorette party for Black Canary, who’s getting married to Green Arrow soon, in what is surely one of the most pointless company-wide events in recent memory. Countdown has been pretty widely panned in the blogosphere, and for good reason: There’s really no coherent story in it, and random events from the DC universe – like the GA/BC wedding – intrude on it for no good reason and to no good effect. It’s everything that 52 wasn’t, and that’s not a good thing.
Meanwhile, I broke down and decided to try both Countdown to Adventure and Countdown to Mystery, which are both sorta-kinda tie-ins to Countdown, each with two stories.
Countdown to Adventure focuses on the “space heroes” from 52: Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal Man. Adam Strange gets some competition in his role as protector of Rann, while Animal Man’s wife isn’t too wild about the buxom Starfire crashing in their house since she lost her powers. The art is very pretty and the story has promise, although honestly I get tired of writers dumping on Adam Strange all the time. Can’t the guy ever catch a break? I think the best Adam Strange story in the last 15 years was the JLA story in which he manipulated the Justice League to save Rann, showing that, yes, he really is just really clever and he can think rings around other heroes (and villains).
The back-up story is about Forerunner, a supporting character in Countdown, and it’s basically a good tale about a completely uninteresting character.
Countdown to Mystery was originally going to be Steve Gerber’s relaunch of Doctor Fate, but I guess DC decided it might sell better if tied in to the current ongoing event of Countdown. Who knows if it does, but the story here has absolutely nothing to do with Countdown. In it the helmet of Nabu lands on the head of Dr. Kent Nelson, failed psychiatrist. Does he have any relationship at all to the Kent Nelson who was the original Doctor Fate? Who knows? Gerber’s trippy, stream-of-consciousness narrative doesn’t really work at all – the thing feels entirely by-the-numbers, like one of the glummer moments of a Doctor Strange run over at Marvel. Justiniano and Wong’s artwork sometimes feels like Tom Mandrake, and sometimes like Kevin O’Neill, which is a bizarre mixture. It’s not bad, although the tweaks to Fate’s costume look kind of silly.
The back-up here is about the current incarnation of Eclipso, a silly DC villain from the 60s who’s now in the body of the ex-wife of The Atom, for reasons which emerged in DC’s event of a couple of years ago, Identity Crisis, which was a series which had very pretty artwork and a completely nonsensical story. All of which means that this series probably would have been better if it had been left as just a new Doctor Fate series.
I think I see how World War Hulk is going to end: The Sentry is going to finally join the fray, try to talk the Hulk down from his rampage, they’ll get into a fight, and then the Sentry’s evil opposite number, the Void, will get released. In the ensuing chaos, the other heroes get free and try to contain the void, the the Hulk slips away somehow – possibly injured and taken by his allies out of reach of Earth’s heroes. And the Hulk’s story diverges from that of Earth again. Which would leave the question of: What happens next?
But first there’s the even bigger question: Can Greg Pak surprise me and pull off a different ending from this?
Fans of Hellboy must check out The Umbrella Academy. Gerard Way is the frontman of the band My Chemical Romance, one of those rare alt-rock bands that I’ve actually heard of. Irrespective of that, the comic is actually quite good. The book has a strong Victorian-era feel, although details of the story suggest that it takes place in sometimes between 1920 and 1960 (after the death of Gustav Eiffel, for one thing). In it, a number of infants are mysteriously born to women across the globe, and a prominent man named The Monocle goes out to collect them, but finds only 7, whom he raises himself in The Umbrella Academy. The seven each have one or more unusual powers, but their father dotes on Number One, who is a Superman-like figure, and denegrates the others. The first half of the issue takes place when the group is 10, and the second half focuses on Number One, now called Spaceboy, 20 years later, when an accident has left him with the body of a giant gorilla.
The book has heroes in domino masks, a talking ape, a boxer beating up an alien, and one of the kids reappearing after a long absence. Ba’s art is reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s work on Hellboy, and the whole thing is creepy and eerie and provocative. A very neat start, I’m very much looking forward to the next issue!
(You can read some previously-published solo adventures of adult members of the Umbrella Academy on the comic’s MySpace page.)
On a completely different note, if you’re interested in any incarnation of the Justice Society of America of the last 35 years, you might be interested in the extended debate Kalinara and I are having about them on her blog. We have completely different points of view on the subject, which is amusing even if I do find her point of view rather incomprehensible! 🙂