The Doomino Effect for the week of Jan 30, 2008

Doom doom doom, doomy doom doom doom. Doom doom!

First up is Action Comics #861, chapter four of Superman’s field trip to the 31st century with the Legion of Super-Heroes. We find out right away that Brainiac was role-playing as a human-hater because it was all part of his plan to save Earth. Unnnnnnnfortunately, the Coluans figured that out a little too soon!

Not only do we see some tension within the Justice League, as Deformed Roy gets shot down by Spider-Girl, hinting at a time when not everything was xenophobically perfect, but interpersonally it might’ve been better. We see how the attempts at revising history are working on Earth and how they’re viewed beyond.

And speaking of revising history, we also are treated to the revelation that this iteration of the LoSH is the same one that appeared in The Lightning Saga. With so many versions of the Legion and its affiliates appearing in the DCU these days, it’s nice to know that at least two of them line up. So one is led to believe that The Lightning Saga was part one of this bigger story, this is part two, and there’s something bigger coming up.

Geoff Johns is noticeably absent from Countdown and Final Crisis, so I wonder if whatever this “something bigger” is will have large-scale ramifications in Infinite Crisis fashion or more like The Sinestro Corps War. And man, Gary Frank draws really ugly kids.

Speaking of characters crossing over with implications for big crossovers, that leads me to Daredevil #104. The guy behind the counter at the comic book store read my mind and spoke my language when he said “Brubaker’s first arc was amazing, probably even a step up from where Bendis left, but it really kind of tapered off after that.”

He said that to let me know that he thought this issue of Daredevil restored his faith. It is subject to the previous transition due to The Hood’s appearance. He popped in a few issues ago, but he plays slightly more than a cameo role here, taking the upper hand against Mr. Fear, who has the upper hand on Daredevil. That’s like double upper hands against Double-D, and when Matt Murdock’s life is crazy and out of control, that’s usually when this book is most fun.

Not to mention that, in spite of how little I know about The Hood and Mr. Fear, pretty much any villains are going to be cooler than The Matador and Melvin the Gladiator. I also found myself kind of feeling for Matt and Milla the couple, which is good for me as a reader, because lately I’ve just been waiting for Milla to get killed or disappear or something. But now, I’m like “Man, that sucks. Won’t you jerks just leave these two lovebirds alone?”

And The Hood is rapidly climbing on my list of favorite villains.

Speaking of him, that leads me to New Avengers Annual #2. Look at that – Marvel releases an annual that acknowledges one came before it. I’m really sick of annuals that are just numbered #1 even though a ton of them came before. Like Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 coming out last year? Whatever.

But what’s the deal with sticking crucial parts of stories in annuals? This was a pretty important part of the ongoing New Avengers saga, with The Hood breaking his posse out of SHIELD custody, leading them into a huge fight with the New Avengers, resulting in Dr. Strange quitting the team because of some demon that’s out of his control. Sheeeooot, this is practically equivalent to DC making really important things start to happen in Countdown and then putting the actual important things in other comics without telling you. I pity the fools who read New Avengers and decided to skip the annual.

Important stuff here: Jessica Jones fled the scene (at Spider-Man’s direction) and went to Tony Stark to protect the baby. The Hood is getting more and more bold at taking the fight to the heroes. He’s got the level of cockiness of someone wielding incredible power; he’s got the charisma to rally superthugs who’ve never had much direction; he’s naive enough to not know when to fear the good guys, and that’s proving to be problematic for them.

Also, Carol Danvers let the renegades get away, showing a little love and cooperation between the two sides. I don’t think she’s a Skrull anymore. And Carlo Pagulayan is no Leinil Yu, but he’s still pretty good.

But speaking of cooperation between the two sides, that leads me to Captain America #34, the debut of the new shiny, pistol-wielding Captain America. There was no shock for any regular readers to find that Bucky is now Captain America; the payoff for this issue was seeing how he did in his debut.

We’ve seen Bucky be all kinds of badass in the past few years, but I thought it was worth mentioning that he’s still only about a fifth of Captain America when comparing a highly-trained person to someone that took the Super Soldier serum. His bionic arm lets him toss the shield, but he simply has to rely on things like the body armor and the pistol to make up the difference.

Another thing I like is that Brubaker is joining Bendis in making Tony Stark look like a hero. He’s trying really hard to fight the bad guys; he simply sees the world differently.

And Red Skull is so freaking old, I give Brubaker credit for making him the centerpiece of a story that I’m really excited about. He’s managing to take an old villain and put him in a modern context so that in no way does this read like “Oh great … another Red Skull story…”

Speaking of bringing back old villains, that leads me to Mighty Avengers #8. The Sanctioned Avengers take on – and are taken by – the Venom symbiotes let loose on New York City. Turns out, they were sent from Latveria! Doctor Doom HEY Doctor Doom looks to be the man behind this, and even if he isn’t, they’re going to go fight him!

Color me skeptical, but I have a feeling that we’re seeing something akin to faulty intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. This smells to me like someone is trying to lure the Mighty Avengers into an unwarranted attack on a sovereign nation. Lucky for us, Doctor Doom will do more than hide in an underground cubbyhole and send Latverian Lou out to claim that the Americans have failed.

Another thing I liked about this issue was the double-page spread of Tony Stark’s internal monologue as he waited on the computer. He gets to catch up and take a breath and assess the situation. It’s good from a reader’s perspective, because this book has been shipping strangely and it allows us to know where we are in the story. It also shows us that Tony Stark is not a Skrull. It also shows that, in spite of the fact that he’s a hero in these pages, he still thinks Captain America “was so insane during the Registration War.” I think it’s good to point out that even though Iron Man is back to being a Marvel Hero, those issues that created the divide haven’t been watered down. I also appreciated the little line acknowledging that shape-shifting Skrulls could easily act like they’re being possessed by the Venom symbiote to cover for themselves.

Bendis succeeds where so many writers fail, like on Countdown, for example, by placing the readers’ questions and concerns within the thoughts and speech of the characters. It lets us know which questions are there by construct and which questions are there by carelessness. For all we know, Countdown’s gaping holes may have been there by design, but there were no cues from the writers to tell the readers that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead, we’re left to suspect the obvious – they’re simply poor writers stumbling their way through the thorough damaging of a brand.

But hey, speaking of the damaging of a brand, that leads me to Death of the New Gods #5 in which we get THE BIG EXPLANATION FOR WHAT IS HAPPENING. Doom DeLuise’s prediction was off a little bit, but he still hit on the major player: The Source. I was going to devote an entire blog post to this, and maybe I still will, but here’s the story:

The Source created gods. They ganged up on it, resulting in a division between the light and the dark halves of The Source. Apparently the light half kept the identity. This created “a rend in the fabric of reality,” and the dark half “was sucked into this trans-dimensional injury.” This wounded the Source, but when it got back to full health, it waged war against the Old Gods, killing them off. It then created New Gods, but with only half its strength, the New Gods were “a lesser and flawed creation.” So the Source has decided that it’s time for “yet another new ending and beginning.” It wants to kill off The New Gods and create a Fifth World by reuniting with the Darker Half.

Here’s where it gets kind of screwy for me. The Crisis on Infinite Earths (referred to here as “The Infinity Crisis”) merged the infinite planes of existence into one. Apparently this was like making really really thick plywood or something, so The Source couldn’t break through.

Well get this – it turns out The Source Wall blocks reality from The Bleed. It doesn’t have anything to do with The Source. And if The Bleed seeped into reality, it would further cut off The Source from The Dark Source. Meanwhile, The Dark Source evolved into The Anti-Life Entity. Its power is accessed via The Anti-Life Equation, which is currently consuming Mr. Miracle.

We then learn that the restoration of the multiverse was all The Source’s plan. It manipulated Alexander Luthor, Conner Kent, Rip Hunter, Booster Gold and The Monitors. The Source is still powerful enough to create gods, yet it has to manipulate Conner Kent to fly into a big machine apparently.

But by creating 52 alternate realities, that extra-thick plywood got a little bit weaker, so now the Source thinks it’ll be easy to reunite with The Dark Source. Never mind that, in comparative terms, 52 is waaaaaay closer to 1 than it is infinity, so really, 52 universes shouldn’t be all that beneficial if one is too thick to pass through.

Anyway, this all seems really stupid to me, and I think it’s just because DC has overdone it. There are only 52 dimensions, yet The Fourth World, The Bleed, and all these other places exist outside of those. The Light Source and the Dark Source are in these two polar planes of existence, not unlike the Monitors and the Anti-Monitor or the universe and the anti-matter universe.

I’m absolutely sick of hearing about things tearing a hole in the fabric of the universe. It’s gotten to where it happens so often, I’m inclined to believe that the universe is made out of Old Navy denim. It’s just all so played out, and maybe it would have worked better if they would have waited longer. But they didn’t, and so I find myself remarkably unimpressed and not the least bit excited for Final Crisis.

At least this explanation implies that Scott Free is not The Source’s agent of soul-stealing.

But speaking of soul-stealing, that leads me to Green Lantern #27 where a handful of Green Lanterns get combined with Manhunters and get turned into these disturbingly creepy Alpha Lanterns. Good stuff. I like where it’s going and I really like how this series hasn’t slowed down since the end of the Sinestro Corps War. It just keeps on building.

I’m tired of typing, so speaking of disturbingly creepy, how ’bout them rats in Mice Templar #3? This is at the end of my rant, but I really enjoy this comic and it’s amazing that it’s $2.99, has no ads, yet has art and a story that far transcend the crap that Marvel wants to peddle for $3.99.

In this new age of comics speculation and excess, it’s absolutely refreshing to see a comic book so committed to telling an amazing, timeless story.