Written by Dan Slott
Art by Steve Uy
This special is broken up into two stories. The main story revolves around Hardball and Komodo, two of my favourite characters in the series, and deals with Komodo finding out about Hardball's connections to Hydra from earlier in the series. The second story deals with Trauma's origin, so to speak.
While the main story was satisfactory, I think it was a rushed conclusion to the Hardball storyline, which we haven't heard from since WWH. It's also odd saying that it felt rushed when you consider the fact their story was over 30 pages long, far more than a regular monthly 22 page story.
The special kicked off with a brief introduction to Hardball and Komodo's two teams, whose states border each other, teaming up to stop an old Hawkeye villain named Zzzax. For such a throwaway villain, I thought they spent way too much time with the battle and it didn't really add anything to the story. It was nice seeing Gravity, though, and Telemetry is an interesting character whom I'd like to see more of.
After the fight, Komodo and Hardball spend an evening together and it quickly turns into a, "you tell me your origin and I'll tell you mine", ordeal as Hardball, under Hydra orders, tries to get Komodo to tell him where to get the Lizard formula she used to gain her powers.
These origins are interesting, but really killed any momentum the story had been building and would have served better as simple backups in the regular monthly, similar to Trauma's in this very issue.
From there, we follow Hardball as he goes off to steal the Lizard formula. Komodo, not stupid, realizes something is up and catches him in the act. Komodo gives him a sample of her blood to give to Hydra so as to prevent him from committing a crime and, unknown to Hardball, sets up a sting for Hydra with the other Initiative teams.
The sting goes off without a hitch and the team is winning until the Hydra boss uses the Lizard formula to grow into a giant lizard. Komodo explains to Hardball they'll explain his involvement as him being undercover, but, for whatever reason, he decides to kill the Hydra leader and take his spot as a Hydra lieutenant, leaving Komodo and his life behind. It felt forced to me, as if they wanted to have a resolution to this storyline now and just wrote the two characters off.
However, the ending with Komodo stating she's alright and can heal from anything was quite touching, considering their relationship and how it's been portrayed.
In the backup story, Trauma, still coping with coming back from the dead and how people react to him, has Physique, the doctor with see-through skin, give him a therapy session of his own. This just goes over Trauma's backstory, such as his family life and how he developed powers and so on. Seems his mother ended up in an insane asylum due to Trauma's powers. The ending of the origin showed the super-villain, Nightmare, entering Trauma's mother's cell and asking her about the 'little bastard' and telling us he's his father.
Verdict - Check It. Overall, it's better than the current Avengers: The Initiative Secret Invasion stuff, but suffers from poor pacing and some subpar artwork. It should be interesting to see when this is picked up in the main title, but won't really convert any non-Initiative readers to the flock either.
FINAL CRISIS: RESIST #1
Written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Art by Ryan Sook
My biggest problem with this issue is that it shows just how far Checkmate has fallen since Rucka left the title. Otherwise, this is a great issue that I highly recommend to anyone following Final Crisis.
That is, however, assuming the OMAC army Mr Terrific just created and was leading out of his Antarctic Watch Tower. Because, if this is completely ignored in the next issue of Final Crisis, I will probably bash my head on the keyboard for that review and hope something intelligent comes out.
I don't think I'm being too harsh in this criticism either. Every tie-in issue so far has had little to nothing to do with Final Crisis. All save the most recent Submit tie-in and I hope this issue follows suit in that regard.
The premise of the issue is that Snapper Carr has been teleporting in and out of the Antarctic Checkmate base to deliver news and information to other members of the resistence. This all goes to hell when Darkseid's forces attack the base, effectively trapping Mr Terrific and his fellow Checkmate members.
Meanwhile, Snapper runs into Cheetah, whom he saves and, later, meets up with for some furry sex, which leads to Gorilla Grodd walking in on them with some new Justifier armour for the two of them. Snapper manages to teleport both of them back to the Antarctic base, but, and this is news to me, picks up an anti-super powers virus, which has been floating around since Darkseid took over. This robs him of his powers, thus cutting off all outside contact or the few remaining survivors at the southpole.
This is one of the few issues I had with this one-shot - the lack of communication / cohesion with the main Final Crisis tie-in. Here, there's a mysterious power removing super virus that requires people to wear gasmasks to prevent contamination. This is seen nowhere else (yet) and they all run out of the base at the end without the masks. Cheetah explained it earlier as her having mystical powers, but Mr Terrific should be at risk, shouldn't he?
Also, the Justifiers in this issue, Ice, Fire and several others, do not wear the Justifier helmets. Isn't that required for the Anti-Life to spread? Well, that or some form of electronic equipment, like television or internet? Ice simply walks up to Fire and Mr Terrific's Knight, spouts some Anti-Life justifies babble and we cut to the inside of the base, where the three are now killing everyone in the name of Darkseid. How did they get infected by Ice? Where's the helmets? Grodd wears one later and has them for use on Snapper and Cheetah, so they must still be required fashion statements.
It may seem like a minor thing to spend a couple paragraphs on, but it just annoyed me for some reason. It's similar to the way the Skrulls are portrayed so differently in the SI: X-Men special and other tie-ins. With so many SI tie-ins, it's easy to gloss over, but FC's relatively few tie-ins only accentuate the mistake.
In the end, Mr Terrific's solution to their problems comes in the form of OMACs. There are thousands of normal humans running around with dormant OMAC tech embedded in their systems. They decide to wake them up (sure, that's not gonna come back to bite them in the ass later or anything!) and use them as their army against Darkseid in what I can only assume will be the main form of resistence in the next few issues of Final Crisis.
Verdict - Must Read. Solid read with a few minor quibbles on my part. Nothing worth skipping or even docking this issue over, so feel free to grab another excellent Final Crisis tie-in. Bonus: this issue actually ties into Final Crisis!
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #20
Written by Geoff Johns and Alex Ross
Art by Dale Eaglesham
I'm really not feeling the whole Earth-2 JSA nor the sidetracking of the Gog storyline by throwing a random misunderstanding / fight sequence into what amounts to 22 pages of filler.
To be honest, I don't even see the point, storywise, of this entire issue. There's that one or two panel scene of Mr Terrific and Alan Scott interacting with their dead wife and daughter, respectively, and the final panel with Scott asking Terrific if Gog might be able to revive their loved ones and that's the only progression we got out of the entire issue.
Oh, I suppose there's the whole Silver Age pandering aspect for people that are clamouring for more of that. However, for the rest of us, we don't know nor care about any of them and just want to get back to the Gog stuff. Well, that's not completely true. I'd care a little if they didn't waste an Annual and this issue on them simply to write them back out of the story and send them back to their own Earth after the mandatory fight sequence.
One thing that puzzled me about the issue, though, was the Earth-2 Power Girl being completely pyscho and unaffected by Kryptonite, which she was standing right next to as the Earth-2 JSA tortured our Power Girl with it. Shouldn't that PG be in agony as well? I take it she's a doppleganger / imposter of some sort and this will be picked up on in the Power Girl series they hint at in this issue (or maybe that's a hint at a future return to the pages of JSA for the Earth-2 versions?).
Verdict - Avoid It. While nothing glaring or overly wrong with the art or writing, this is just filler and side tracks the Gog story so they can have some one-shot specials and a mini-event next month. Skip this and you won't even notice next month when the actual story continues.
SECRET SIX #3
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood
I really like the characters featured in Secret Six and I like the way Simone writes them and I'm reading it, primarily, for the characters, as opposed to the storyline, but I'm getting the feeling I may not like the direction the book is heading, despite my overall enjoyment of it.
To understand, I suppose I should elaborate on the direction I see it heading in first. That would be dealings with magical objects, such as the mysterious card they've been tasked with retreiving, and how said card was created by Neron, the devil in the DCU, as a 'get out of Hell free' card. If you found that premise as ridiculous as I, you can probably see where my concerns arise.
Presently, the story has been kept focused on the characters and the task at hand - retrieving the card and delivering Tarantula to their employer. With the revelation of Neron's involvement and a magic card that lets you get out of Hell, this comic's premise just became that elephant in the corner that no one wants to talk about.
As I've made my dislike for most magical based stories known previously, I won't dwell on this much longer, as it hasn't negatively affected the book as of yet, but it's going to need addressing in the future and I hope Simone avoids the pitfalls of most magic based stories.
Regarding the actual issue, Catman continues to impress with another flashback to his time in Africa and how he dealt with the poachers, whom he caught in a flashback in previous issues. Bane's dialogue is still ridiculously funny, which is both good and bad, depending on how much you know / care about the character. Ragdoll is equally funny, but in his own disturbed way and the new member of the group the previews spoke of turns out to be non-existent. I assume it will end up being Tarantula, whom they've dressed up in her costume (which was a funny scene as Catman tries to find out who dressed her).
Verdict - Check It. I'm tempted to say Must Read, but the whole Neron / magic card deal left a sour taste in my mouth. Otherwise, great issue.