Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Loping Toward Coherency, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two Is Still Engaging!

The Good: Moments of character, Artwork, Generally interesting plot progression.
The Bad: Largely secondary characters who do not captivate one’s full attention, Huge gaps in the storytelling.
The Basics: Continuing the countdown crossover event, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two finds the minor characters in the DC Universe moving toward the potential end of the Multiverse.

With so many recent major crossover events in the DC Universe dealing with the potential end of the universe, it is somewhat surprising to me that the company did not use one of their many Crisis events as a way to reboot the DC Universe for the New 52. It seems like Final Crisis (reviewed here!) could have conceivably been an intriguing end to the story of the main DC Universe. So, knowing even as I read Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two that this was not actually leading to the end of the DC Multiverse, I found it hard to be as engaged as – I am sure – readers were when it was originally released five years ago.

In leading up to Final Crisis, the Countdown event acted as a second transition between the main crossover story that was coming - 52 followed up on Infinite Crisis and as the title suggests Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two continues to lead from Infinite Crisis into Final Crisis. I had a big problem with Final Crisis in that it had huge gaps in its own narrative, especially near the resolution, and Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two does not seem to be leading as directly into Final Crisis as one might hope as it remains firmly focused on peripheral characters in the DC Universe. Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two picks up where Volume One (reviewed here!) left off, but because so many plotlines were left dangling at the end of the first book, it is unsurprising that Volume Two is scattered, though as the book progresses, it does begin to take some focus.

In Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two, the secondary characters in the DC Universe are focused on, save brief cameos from the Flash, the Justice League and Wonder Woman (with Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern becoming more important as the story progresses).

Just as in the first volume, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two has multiple threads, none of which are fully developed. Some, like the inclusion of the members of the 31rst Century Legion Of The Super Heroes, are entirely under-developed and when they pop to the forefront of the story, they are at a completely different place (often with additional characters) than they were when they were last seen.

The bulk of Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two is in four main plotlines. Mary Marvel continues to be edgy and she makes her way to Zatanna’s domain where the magician begins to teach Mary how to use her powers. Unfortunately, Mary quickly loses patience and Zatanna exiles Mary Marvel from her magical home. Feeling isolated, Mary Marvel goes in search of power and an easier way to use the abilities that are no longer easily accessible to her (her word-based magic was taken away). She ends up in a secret magic market in China where she confronts a new adversary who wants some of her power for its own!

This incarnation of Mary Marvel continues to be edge and more of a butt-kicking wet dream as opposed to a naïve girl who is used occasionally as comic relief. This version of Mary Marvel is essentially lost and she falls prey to those who recognize her power and want to take it for their own.

Just as Mary Marvel struggles to define her new powers, Jimmy Olsen continues to try to find out what the limits of his own powers are. He keeps putting himself in danger and after failing to join either the Teen Titans or the Justice League Of America, he turns to John Henry Irons to learn what is going on with him. Unfortunately, his quest turns toward the unfathomable as he heads toward CADMUS Labs and becomes a target from powerful enemies.

Continuing to progress through Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two, the Pied Piper and The Trickster run for their lives from all of the heroes in the DC Universe. The heroes fall back after the pair ends up at the mercy of Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, and Batman. When the Wally West version of the Flash returns (not at all explained in this book), they try to convince him that they were working undercover to foil a plot surrounding the wedding of Oliver Queen and Black Canary. The two men go completely rogue to flee both heroes and villains alike.

One of the other major plotlines in Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two focuses on Donna Troy and Jason Todd in the Palmerverse. Along with the Monitor, Bob, they are joined by Kyle Rayner (and lose Ryan Choi) and they leave the submicroscopic Palmerverse in favor for the Multiverse. As targets for the Monitors, who believe that because Todd, Troy and Rayner should not be alive in the main DC Universe, the small band of heroes flees to an alternate universe where they are prey to the alternate universe’s Justice League!

Elsewhere, Holly Robinson and Harley Quinn survive an Amazon Battle Royale to get a chance to emigrate to Paradise Island. At the same time, the Karate Kid continues to search for why he is back in the 21rst Century and he learns that he might be carrying an evolution of the OMAC virus!

Despite never settling on a single actual plotline or truly developing the characters involved, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two has consistently good artwork. The characters look good and – outside the fact that several are b or c string characters seen in these pages out of costume/make-up – are generally recognizable. Some of the new characters, like those in the Multiverse or Palmerverse sequences, look good and continue the quality level for modern character designs.

In the end, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two finally pushes the stories along in ways that makes one feel like the Final Crisis the various plotlines are leading to might actually be worthwhile. Still, given how many gaps there are in the storyline that forces the reader to accept jumps in the plot and characters between sequences, this book does not hold up on its own as well as readers trying to get the whole story would want it to.

For other major DC Universe crossover events, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Idenity Crisis
The OMAC Project
Infinite Crisis
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Brightest Day, Volume 1


For other book reviews, check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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