Sunday, 25 November 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #10

I'm probably as surprised as anyone else here to find that my Cocktail comic this week is Countdown To Final Crisis #23. While I've enjoyed the series so far, it's come in for a fair bit of bad press from both the comic journals and the fans. True, it's never had the must read aspect of the series it grew from, 52, but I've found it to be dependable if nothing else. Maybe I'm just not as discerning as the rest of the comics world?

And it's not as if it didn't have some competition, particularly from The Boys #12. As I've said before, I love Garth Ennis's work but this seemed to be something of a place holder; The Brave And The Bold #8 was a good, solid story, too, though nothing exceptional; both Countdown To Mystery #3 and Countdown Presents The Search For Ray Palmer: Gotham By Gaslight #1 had their plus points but didn't quite get there. So, at the risk of damning with faint praise, Countdown To Final Crisis got the Cocktail this week almost by default.

But it wasn't just that nothing else hit the bar, either. Concentrating mostly on Superman-Prime's torture and questioning of Mr Mxyzptlk it showed the flawed, one-time hero to be a deeply troubled but very powerful character. This is a guy who, back on his home world pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths, was due to grow up and become Superman. Following the disastrous events of Infinite Crisis, and the Sinestro War (which is, confusingly, still going on over in the pages of Green Lantern) he has turned into the self-named Superman-Prime. Determined to find his perfect world, his Earth-Prime, he isn't above destroying people or whole worlds - as shown in Countdown #24, he destroyed the entire Earth-15.

With his level of power, conviction that what he is doing is the right thing and his unwavering determination to carry it through to the end, he has truly become a force to be reckoned with. I find myself wondering how much the character will affect the forthcoming Final Crisis and whether he will be one of the major villains of the piece.

In this issue, having captured Mr Mxyzptlk, he needs a way to prevent the powerful imp from freeing himself. To that end, Superman-Prime forcibly ropes in the spell caster from Earth-3, Annataz Arataz whom he tortures into compliance. The evil counterpart of Zatanna (note the backward spelling of the Earth-3 sorceress' name) she receives short shrift from Superman-Prime and rightly so; she admits herself that she had done terrible things on Earth-3.

At the end of the issue, however, there is an element of redemption for her as she helps Mxyzptlk escape, restoring his magic that she has been removing continually. Her redemption is short lived, though, as Superman-Prime - still an immature boy despite his physical stature - destroys the hideout he has been using, killing her at the same time.

There's been a fair few deaths of characters in the lead up to Final Crisis - witness the destruction of Earth-15 as mentioned above - and it seemed a shame to see yet another character who had potential thrown away without a thought, much like the Jokester in Countdown #29 who was worthy of his own one-shot (Countdown Presents The Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society) but was then dispatched mere moments later. Not only did Annataz manage to redeem herself but there was also a nice visual touch that set her aside as shown in the picture above. Not only were her spells said backwards like Zatanna's, but they were upside down as well!

There were brief interludes with both Mary Marvel, who was still teamed with Eclipso, and Lord Havok who reveals he is now Monarch's number two, but this was definitely Superman-Prime's issue and, for once, it makes me really look forward to next week's.

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