Well, it’s finally here. This took a bit longer than I expected to get up, frankly because there was just a Hell of a lot more to digest in this issue than I expected. I’ve gone through this page by page trying to bring up all the stuff I’m seeing below the surface, and hopefully clarify a lot of the more confusing points for newer readers/people not masochistic enough to read Countdown.
Without further ado.
NOTE: For an alternate take, Douglas Wolk has his annotations up – you probably know him from Reading Comics and the 52 Pick-Up blog, so check it out; he catches stuff I didn’t.
Pg. 1 – Establishing shot, as Anthro faces the reader from Metron’s perspective. While Anthro is holding his weapon in a defensive stance, clearly confused, he distinguishes himself in doing so from the animals, lesser beings fleeing this harbinger of knowledge.
Pgs. 2 and 3 – That first shot of Anthro and Metron from the original Christmas 2007 Didio interview, now colorized by Alex Sinclair. Metron, in what I presume is his new look due to the color scheme change, is wearing the same pattern on his outfit (this circuit pattern is important) and riding a slightly modified Mobius chair from Kirby’s original design. And, of course, he’s a smooth silver and enamel white – which implies that this is Metron in his Fifth World form, traveling back in time. Or maybe it isn’t, since the examples in the Sketchbook had Metron with the New Gods symbol on his chest – which seems odd, since the other pattern plays a part later. We’ll see.
Pg. 4 – On this page, Metron does the Prometheus routine. This is interesting, because in the Sketchbook, Morrison equated him to Mercury, even asking for the new design to have wingtips on the feet. Still, this kind of meddling is definitely in character for him, especially considering Turpin’s later statements and what this meddling causes. Either way, this page starts the issue’s longrunning fire motif, something we’ll get back to later.
Pg. 5 – Aw shit, Powers, eat your heart out. There’s really not much to say about this page other than “cavemen beating the shit out of each other.” That said, something I’m not sure about – I suspect the caveman in the center of this page might be Vandal Savage, but his eye color is blue, which seems to conflict with Savage’s orange eye color later on in the issue.
Pg. 6 – Savage? beats some dudes up and takes Anthro’s women. This is presumably before the events of the actual Anthro series, due to the lack of speech – perhaps it’s the gift of fire that makes Anthro the “first boy”?
Pg. 7 – Anthro, the first pyro! Heat Wave would be so proud. This also features a transition to Turpin’s narration, where he calls fire “OUR first big mistake” – an interesting choice of words, considering in reality man’s use of fire wasn’t the fault of man at all. While Metron’s fire was the fire of inspiration, this is the first fire of war – another major motif in the book.
Pgs. 8 to 12 – I already dealt with these back when they were released as the Entertainment Weekly preview, so you can take a look at my rather lengthy commentary here. A few extra comments, though: obviously, the fire of smoking is destroying Turpin’s lungs, and serves as the transition from the previous panel.
Pg. 13 – Turpin, stoic hardass as always – this is something I’ll get back to. Renee mentions that the six kids that got taken were metagene active, which is interesting in conjunction with Boss Dark Side’s references to kidnapping “Forever People” in recent Dark Side Club tie-ins (such as Birds of Prey #118, Flash #241 and Teen Titans #59) – if Earth is really the cradle of the Fifth World of the New Gods, perhaps he’s trying to corrupt the young early. It’s also worth mentioning that Darkseid wanted all six of the Teen Titans, and wouldn’t settle for less – perhaps he’s searching for a specific group? More on this later.
Pg. 14 – John razzing Hal over always being late due to his constant horndog status has been a running joke in Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern ongoing. Also note the Shilo Norman Mister Miracle poster on the wall in the first panel – since this series takes place after Seven Soldiers, it appears Shilo’s return from the dead is now public knowledge. 1011 is revealed, as I suspected, to be the GL police code for deicide, and Hal and John split up to contact the Guardians and JLA respectively. Note the odd scar on Hal’s left temple in the lower-right panel – I’m not sure if this is just a random detail Jones threw in or a fold of skin being pulled back by the mask or what, but Hal hasn’t had a scar in recent issues of his own book.
Pg. 15 – The Guardians of the Universe, enigmatic as always, plot from their command center on Oa and dispatch the Alpha Lanterns (Green Lanterns with surgically implanted power batteries that serve as Internal Affairs for the Green Lantern Corps – see Green Lantern v4 #26-28 and Green Lantern Corps #21-22 for further information). They’re also sealing off the planet – a measure which, if things go to Hell, should prevent Darkseid’s influence from escaping Earth (theoretically) – or, worse, prevent Earth from receiving aid.
Pg. 16 – This is a heretofore unseen group, the League of Titans, apparently following a vision given to Empress, a former member of Young Justice whose powers come from a family history of voodoo practice. Empress also, very notably, has a piece of the Anti-Life Equation in her brain. Either way, the visions – through either voodoo or Anti-Life – drew her towards Metron’s Mobius chair, apparently lying in an unidentified landfill. Her companions are Sparx, a former member of Superboy and the Ravers and “Mas y Menos”, a Guatemalan speedstar twin duo.
The villains involved on this page are Dr. Light and Mirror Master. This is Arthur Light, the first Dr. Light, created as a Justice League (later Teen Titans) villain and notably retconned into the DC universe’s avatar of rape in 2005’s infamous Identity Crisis. The second Mirror Master, Evan McCulloch, was created by Grant Morrison for his Animal Man run and either fleshed out or ruined in Geoff Johns’s Flash, depending on whether or not you are either Chris Eckert or Jon Bernhardt – his story is basically that he’s a Scottish dude who hides his innate sentimentality behind a veneer of crime and snorting cocaine up his nose like a Hoover.
Note that they seem to take Mas y Menos with them – likely because they’re young enough to be used at the Dark Side Club for whatever nefarious purposes kids are getting sent there.
Pg. 17 – The first panel here is a supervillain protest against vigilante brutality, at least according to the dude in the yellow cape with the symbols (I have totally drawn a blank on identifying this dude, and nobody else seems to know either). Captain Cold, perennial Flash villain and consummate professional of the supervillain set, is apparently doing his best Ollie Queen impersonation by screaming about fascists. This march is evidently a distraction so that Mirror Master and Dr. Light can grab the Mobius Chair and roll out of Dodge. Dr. Light performs a light trick with the mirrors, and the chair disappears, most likely to Libra’s location; the final three panels are just a characterization-illustrating conversation to show that Mirror Master likes coke and Dr. Light likes fucking.
Pg. 18 – Around the table, clockwise: Lex Luthor, Talia al Ghul, Dr. Sivana, Gorilla Grodd, Libra, the Human Flame, the Ocean Master and Vandal Savage. For more on Libra and the Human Flame, check out my post here.
Luthor and Savage, who are traditionally the kinds of master manipulators who put these sorts of groups together, aren’t taking very well to Libra’s self-confident approach to taking over the biz, nor his lack of respect towards his “elders”. This is where Libra posits that the reason these villains have lost so thoroughly over the years is due to the heroes’ moral fortitude. This directly links up with Grant Morrison’s previous JLA: Earth-2 OGN with Frank Quitely, which showed that good always wins in the positive matter universe and evil always wins in the antimatter universe – this is a universal constant. Libra’s reappearance, and Darkseid’s (still-unseen) victory – not to mention the events in two pages! – indicate that this rule has changed, or, perhaps, even completely flipped.
Pg. 19 – Libra makes his pitch: Follow him, and you get your heart’s desire. The chair he’s sitting in, obviously, is the Mobius Chair, and the book open is the Crime Bible from 52, a tome given from Darkseid to Bruno “Ugly” Mannheim, head of Intergang, to preach the religion of crime. The Human Flame is recording this whole thing on his cellphone camera because he’s a total loser; however, note the brand name on the cellphone – “DAMRUNG” – a play on real-life electronics manufacturer “SAMSUNG” as well as a shortened form of “GÃ¶tterdÃ¤mmerung”, or “Twilight of the the Gods.” The rest of the page is fairly self-explanatory, as Libra powers up his staff and prepares to put his homicidal tendencies where his mouth is.
NOTE: None of Libra’s original Injustice Gang from Justice League of America v1 #111 are present, likely because they’d warn everybody that Libra is a complete fucking liar, since he screwed them all over.
Pg. 20 – In the single most telegraphed superhero death in comics since Superman – whose death was advertised ahead of time as the name of the arc – J’onn “Manhunter from Mars” J’onzz goes down like a total bitch, as Mike “Human Flame” Miller is ecstatic and even Luthor and Savage look impressed. The two guys carrying his body up to the sacrifical spot are Dr. Light, from earlier, and Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern villain Effigy.
The word J’onn screams out as he dies, “M’yri’ah”, is the name of his long-dead Martian wife.
Pg. 21 – Bludhaven was destroyed in Infinite Crisis, tragically(?) razed when the last iteration of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, back when they were getting duped by alternate reality Lex Luthors, dropped Chemo the, uh, man-shaped chemical mass onto the city and killed everyone inside. It is your Katrina Metaphor Stand-In For The Story(TM).
The Al Sharpton-looking preacher is identified in the news ticker as “Rev. G. Godfrey”, implying that this is Glorious Godfrey, Darkseid’s propaganda man and cosmic Goebbels of the Evil Gods. How Darkseid’s goals and stirring up popular sympathy for the lack of federal aid to Bludhaven intertwine, I have no idea yet, but solicitations imply Bludhaven will play a major role in Final Crisis #2. We last saw Bludhaven during good old Countdown, when Buddy Blank was transformed into the final-model, self-aware OMAC and escaped with his son Tommy Blank (later to become Tommy Tomorrow; on Earth-51, Buddy dies and Tommy becomes Kamandi, who we’ll see later. Kamandi is a pulp hero dude with jean shorts and a gun who fights for civilization with a bunch of talking animals. It’s pretty awesome). There are mutations in Bludhaven due to residual radiation.
The scene switches to a bar in Manhattan (due to its proximity to the Dark Side Club), where Turpin is approached by Mark Richards, the third Tattooed Man from Green Lantern v4 #9. He avoided being sent to Salvation Run, and as a result, he seems to have established a relationship with the Dark Side Club; he guides Turpin to the location and introduces him to…
UPDATE: Outside the Dark Side Club, below a word balloon, you can see a “LOST DOG” poster – Orion is the War Dog of New Genesis.
Pg. 22 – Boss Dark Side himself, Darkseid’s overbearing, Suge Knight-esque mortal form. This continues Morrison’s interpretation of Darkseid from Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle, where after winning the war in Heaven he became a crime lord on Earth, surrounding himself with thugs and goons that were reincarnated versions of his old affiliates – Granny Goodness has been showing up in her Seven Soldiers form in recent Dark Side Club tie-ins. As a matter of fact, her mortal body was destroyed by Black Alice in Birds of Prey #118, so it seems that these bodies the Evil Gods are inhabiting are far from permanent, as Darkseid’s claim that “bodies *kurrf* – they wear out hard in here.” The two goons are Kanto the assassin and Kalibak, Darkseid’s brutish son.
It’s also worth mentioning how much Boss Dark Side’s appearance lines up with the villains from Morrison’s The Invisibles – from the sweaty, clammy skin to the belabored walking, in both of these works mortal bodies were worn like skins by the divine.
Darkseid mentions he was “hurt in a FALL” – a reference to his fall from Heaven in DC Universe #0, an effect whose cause is still unclear due to the considerable narrative disconnections between Final Crisis and its predecessors Countdown and Death of the New Gods. Turpin mentions that Darkseid’s credo – “What we endure makes us strong” – was also used by his father, a fact which will tie into a theory I’ll discuss at the end of the issue.
Pg. 23 – Darkseid takes off his glasses, revealing the enhanced aging around his eyes as well as the fact that he seems to still have mastery over the good old Omega Effect that allows him to erase things from existence. He also claims that he taught the children how to say the Anti-Life Equation, which implies, naturally, that Darkseid actually knows the Anti-Life Equation – another piece of knowledge he was not in possession of as of the end of Death of the New Gods. And hey, talking about really bizarre continuity hiccups…
Pg. 24-25 – The Justice League are visited by John, and everybody, for some damn reason, pretends they didn’t watch New Gods die left and right for the past year, or that Superman himself didn’t watch Darkseid get killed by Orion in Countdown #2. I really can’t speak to these glitches, because they seem to be just that, unless events in the interim occurred that we will get caught up on (like, I don’t know, some sort of Earthwide mindwipe of knowledge about the Fourth World or something).
The second half of the spread is the Alpha Lanterns using the Lantern equivalent of yellow tape to seal off the crime scene. and then, after its sealing, a view from the Monitors’ perspective within the Orrery of Worlds.
Pg. 26 – Speaking of the Orrery of Worlds, here’s the establishing shot. The pyramid structure of the worlds is in accordance with their depiction in Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special, where we were first informed of the cosmological structure whereby the other worlds “rest” upon New Earth.
Terms on this page:
- NEW EARTH – The foundation stone of reality, and the mainline DC Universe since Alexander Luthor’s Vibratory Fork Tower got blown up by Superboy and Superboy-Prime in Infinite Crisis #6.
- BLEED DRAINS – The Bleed, formerly WildStorm’s multiverse model, has been adapted into DC’s by establishing it as the space between the universes, held in check by Source Walls. The Crisis-style red skies are an effect of the Bleed, well, bleeding through.
- Young UOTAN – the youngest and most idealistic Monitor, Nix Uotan (“Nix Wotan” = “No Gods”) of Universe-51, who we’ll meet soon.
Pg. 27 – Nix Uotan is being punished for the two-time clusterfuck that is Earth-51, which got completely annihilated once in a battle between Captain Atom/Monarch and Superman-Prime, and then got screwed up AGAIN as Morticoccus spread throughout the the entire universe, leading to the alternate future of Jack Kirby’s Kamandi. (This all occurred within the pages of Countdown).
- Prime Monitor Tahoteh (“The Oath”) – a rules stickler, hence the name, and apparently head of the Monitors (a position that did not exist in Countdown). Multiversal assignment unknown.
- Weeja Dell (?) – Nix Uotan’s girlfriend, multiversal assignment unknown.
- Solomon (“Solo Monitor”) – Not named in this issue, he was one of the two major antagonists of Countdown (along with Darkseid), sabotaged Nix Uotan’s world, and is a master manipulator and huge prick. On this page, you see him making a half-hearted attempt to stand up for Uotan, obscuring his villainy. His assignment is Earth-8, Angor, home of Lord Havok and the Extremists.
Pgs. 28-29 – YMIL: Young Monitors in Love! Weeja Dell is very sad that Nix Uotan is gone, and is being comforted by yet another heretofore-unseen Monitor, Zillo Valla (“Zeal for Fortification”? – she seems to support the Orrery, which seems involved with maintaining the Source Walls). Another Monitor named Ogama, according to Zillo Valla, feels that the Monitors, as entities outside of time, have become corrupted by the passage of time within the Orrery and the lifeforms they care for, which definitely places the Monitors as the “fifth-dimensional cosmic abducting aliens” of the work, feeding Morrison’s continuous theme of interactions between those inside and outside perceivable reality. As a result, the Monitors are gaining stories, beginnings, endings and individuality – “once faceless” – perhaps this will thematically link up with Renee Montoya’s character journey, where in recent years she has moved *towards* facelessness? The final panel, of Solomon, is just him being conspiratorial and evil as usual (although considering it worked out horribly for him in Countdown, God only knows why he’d try to again, but oh well) – who he’s speaking to is unclear; it could be Darkseid, or it could, in fact, actually be the reader. Due to the necessity of getting Nix Uotan out of the way, I’m assuming Solomon has plans for the very top of the multiversal stack – perhaps to bring the machine crashing down, or use it to introduce something new.
Pg. 30 – Anthro is completing a drawing of a sigil on the ground, a replication of the pattern on Metron’s chest. This action, apparently, opens up some kind of gateway to either the future, Earth-51 (the world of Kamandi – and Nix Uotan’s world), or both, as the final panel shows Anthro’s look of surprise as the Statue of Liberty shows up behind him.
Pg. 31 – This is probably the most obscure page in the book, although undeniably important. Kamandi approaches Anthro and implores him to use a weapon against the Gods given to him by Metron. Anthro’s response is to draw another sigil, and replicate Metron’s face symbols on his own face. Could Metron’s gift against the Gods – other than fire – perhaps have been language, which is, in Morrison’s terms, magic? The use of sigils certainly backs that up.
UPDATE: Actually, come to think of it, is this man imitating the Gods, and therefore becoming Them? I mean, Anthro is basically making himself up like Metron, with the Kirby “circuit” (that’s the term Kirby used for those designs all over the Fourth World Saga).
Pg. 32 – The final page. Nix Uotan wakes up after his “absolute sanction”, apparently inhabiting the body of an existing person due to the change in vernacular – in a room surrounded with posters of astronomical bodies, reflecting his previous job as the curator of part of an orrery. He wakes up, looks at his own hands, notices he’s apparently both mortal and black, and watches as Ollie effectively declares war on the supervillain population for what they did to the Martian Manhunter. End issue.
TITLE: D.O.A.: THE GOD OF WAR!
This is a pretty telling title for a number of reasons – the most obvious, of course, being the fact that the instigating event is the discovery of the body of Orion, New God of War. However, J’onn J’onzz also dies in this issue – the Manhunter from Mars, Greek God of War. And then there’s Turpin, whose rough-and-tumble stubborness more than reflects Orion’s own temperament as the Dog of War – could he, perhaps, be holding that spirit? The big trigger for this thought is the conversation with Darkseid, where Turpin reflects that his own father had a similar philosophy in life. Orion, of course, was Darkseid’s son.
- The sigil Anthro was drawing on the ground was adapted from a pattern on a New God costume. Does anyone know if the same applies for the sigil Klarion uses to control Grundies in Seven Soldiers?
- What the hell is going on with this and Countdown? There’s basically no narrative path between the two, and the whole Darkseid-falls sequence in DC Universe #0 didn’t do much to clarify things. This might be dealt with, or it might be DC (probably wisely) just saying fuck it and blazing forward.
- Barry Allen’s on the cover of next issue, so his return seems likely – however, where? If the universal good/evil balance has shifted and Libra came to bring evil to Earth, then perhaps Barry will land on antimatter Earth? I mean, that’s where he died, too, so…