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Countdown To Infinite Crisis
Because Millennial Armageddon Hour Unleashed Come Would Just Sound Silly...

An event so big, so knowingly named, has to stand apart from a regular "Fanboy Planet Spotlight" position. It's just not fair to other books to do otherwise.

Without a doubt, DC Countdown to Infinite Crisis stands as the best buy in comics you can make this week. For one thin, wrinkly dollar, you get 80 pages of comics goodness, just like the old days. Those of us that remember dollar comics can gently shed a nostalgic tear.

But those old dollar comics were never like this. Sometimes they claimed to be earth-shattering, such as when the Earth-2 Batman died in Adventure Comics. The outward ripples, however, weren't much.

Here, however, DC delivers on everything it promised to do. Three of their top writers (and it's nice to realize "hey, they actually DO have more than three top writers") combine skills to pretty much blow the DC Universe apart. Let's face it, though; they're picking up on stress fractures that have been starting to show for months.

Perhaps Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick are merely picking up a ball first thrown into play by Brad Meltzer with Identity Crisis. Certainly bits and pieces of the narrative seem familiar, including the jumping around in time to build suspense. Some of the dangling threads from IC also get noticed. Want to know just how much Batman knows? Well, we still can't be sure, but he's doing something about it.

That previous series, however, was thematically about reclaiming the past, and this one definitely catapults the DCU forward. Even though the writers redefine what has come before (not just characters - entire series now have a disturbing subtext, and some of them will come as a surprise), the real changes remain to play out for months, even years ahead.

Like Identity Crisis, this "final" one restores luster to characters long thought ridiculous. In this case, the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold get their due. Wisely, the writers don't invalidate any of the duo's incompetence; they just give us another look at it. I have a soft spot for the team, whose finest moment for me (and acknowledged in this book) was in facing down Doomsday during "The Death of Superman."

Despite being pretty much incompetent boobs, they didn't shirk in the literal face of Doomsday. The best moment in the "Funeral For a Friend" aftermath was Blue Beetle's worry that Booster Gold would not survive. Here, the realism of that friendship, and the surprising depth of it, comes back to the fore.

Add to this some of the best artists working in comics. The cover alone has sucked people in for months, as it is penciled by Jim Lee with painting over it by Alex Ross. Inside you will find chapters by Rags Morales and Michael Bair (adding to that Identity Crisis feel), Phil Jimenez and Ed Benes. But up and comers Jesus Saiz and Ivan Reis prove that they deserve their growing fanbases. This is one of those rare multi-handed works that transition seamlessly from chapter to chapter, due to more than solid work from everybody.

The matching of artist to chapter makes sense, too. Without spoiling any plot points, it's very clear that Jimenez needed to be on the final chapter, as he marks a subtle but telling difference in facial structure for some major characters. The book lays the groundwork for four already announced mini-series. Actually, that's too coy; the sheer nakedness of the shilling to get us to buy four new books feels almost refreshing. Thank you, DC, for making me your Fanboy toy.

Look out for The OMAC Project, which Paul Pope so cleverly revisited last month in Solo. But Jack Kirby's paranoid vision of the future seems like child's play compared to the glimpses Countdown gives.

Somehow the first Blue Beetle's enchanted scarab will play into Day of Vengeance, though I'll admit it's never made sense to me that Ted Kord wouldn't try using it before now.

Two series get thrown in, but they've been set up better elsewhere. Anybody reading Adam Strange knew The Rann-Thanagar War was coming, and its inclusion here makes the only false note. Villains United at least gives us a chilling preview, and knowing that Gail Simone will be writing it only makes it more anticipated.

All this for just a buck. If only DC could offer more comics at this great a price...but then, how many titles could they guarantee would sell as well as this one will?


Derek McCaw


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