Sunday, October 13, 2013

What It’s Been Leading To: Why Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume 3 Succeeds. . .

The Good: Plot progresses exceptionally well, Actual character development on the important fronts
The Bad: Some of the artwork, Still has some ridiculous tangents.
The Basics: Blasting toward the conclusion of the countdown crossover event, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three starts to end some of the plot threads and, in the process, it starts to actually present interesting characters doing compelling things.

As one who was not a fan of Final Crisis (reviewed here!) , it might seem strange that I am bothering with the massive saga that connects Final Crisis to its vastly superior predecessor, Infinite Crisis. Thus, I found myself trudging through Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Two (reviewed here!) and not at all excited about Volume Three. But, for a change, life tossed me a pleasant curveball; Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three was actually pretty incredible.

Volume Three of Countdown To Final Crisis is the book where writer Paul Dini and his team begin to actually prune several of the plot branches they created in order to lead into the final volume. But more than feeling like the exceptional number of problematic plot threads were simply being trimmed out of existence, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three has a feeling of momentum and an organic plot and character progression.

In Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three, the secondary characters in the DC Universe are focused on, with a significant progression of story moved mostly by the search for Ray Palmer and the abrupt and powerful entrance into the narrative of Superman Prime. Outside a brief appearance from another universe’s version of Batman, Volume Three is all about the secondary characters.

Just as in the first two volumes, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three has multiple threads, none of which are fully developed, but some of which actually have a feeling of resolution to them.

The bulk of Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three is in four main plotlines. Mary Marvel has teamed up with Eclipso, the evil version of Jean Lorring who has been possessed by an evil gem. After Eclipso turns Mary Marvel over to Darkseid, Mary Marvel turns her life around. Fighting against Eclipso’s attempt to steal even more power, Mary Marvel makes a profound choice that has the potential to forever change her.

Mary Marvel’s choice is a truly heroic one and while on a plot front, there seems little point to her story other than to end up on Themyscira where Holly Robinson and Harley have ended up, but the journey there finally turns the good girl gone bad back onto a more positive direction. Mary Marvel was briefly turned into a wicked sex symbol, but in Volume 3 she turns it around in a compelling way.

Jimmy Olsen’s story actually develops as well. On Apokalips, Jimmy Olsen finds himself the brunt of the wrath of various paradamons and cruel overlords. Fighting against the forces of evil on the evil New Gods’ planet, Olsen hunts for Forager and, in finding her, he begins to learn the clues about what is happening to him! Almost resolved in Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three, the Pied Piper and The Trickster run for their lives from Deathstroke. There is a fatality and the last one standing is left almost crazy and alone in the Mexican desert.

The other major enduring plotline in Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three focuses on Donna Troy and Jason Todd searching with Bob the Monitor for Ray Palmer. In Volume Three, they actually succeed in finding Ray Palmer and where he is hiding out overlaps with the compelling plot that is added to the storyline. Ray Palmer actually explains how he is supposed to be the key to the coming Crisis and why and the answers are all good.

That storyline intersects with the reappearance of Superman Prime. Cutting through the Multiverse killing Lex Luthors in search of his origin, perfect, universe, Superman Prime is a pretty badass villain. He also comes to introduce some of the book’s useless plotlines, most notably a diverging story with Mr. Mxyztplk being tortured by Superman Prime while an alternate version of Zatanna watches on. But between Ray Palmer and Superman Prime, all-out war breaks out in one of the universes in the Multiverse and that makes for an incredible ending that makes the reader want to come right back.

Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three has mostly 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. Ralph Dibney, notably, looks like anyone but Ralph Dibney or the Elongated Man. There are panels late in the book that have a poor sense of movement and some that are simplified, but otherwise, Volume Three looks good.

In the final analysis, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three stands alone better than the earlier two volumes and encourages the reader to keep reading . . . and read on. This might be the peak of the storyline; it certainly feels like a worthwhile ascension, even if it is not an ending. This makes the minor characters extraordinary and paves the way for a powerful finale . . . if only the fourth volume can get there.

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
52 – Volume 1
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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