Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Pete Woods
If anything, this issue solidifies my belief that the New Krypton story is nothing more than a moniker or theme for the Superman line, much in the vein of the recent Manifest Destiny and other, similar, non-event tag lines used on recent books.
Case in point, this issue opts to ignore the rounding up of Superman's villains from the last 'part' of New Krypton in favour of focusing on, uh, the Creature Commandos? Yes, it's the return of characters no one asked for.
And it's not like this is the second or third part of this supposed event either. This is the sixth or seventh chapter and we're introducing random characters that have nothing to do with the Kryptonians and do nothing but sidetrack any progress we were making with the non-plot going through this event.
However, this doesn't mean this issue was a complete failure either. I did enjoy it and what little progress was made with the New Krypton story was quite entertaining. For instance, the Lex and Brainiac interactions were brief, yet spot on and the ending with Metallo and Reactron (horrible name for the guy with the gold kryptonite heart), along with the apparent killing of Supergirl's father, appear to be an attempt to rachet this storyline up a notch, assuming it actually gets followed up on properly in future issues.
Verdict - Check It. Another solid outing from Johns, but a rather disappointing continuation of the so-called New Krypton event.
FINAL CRISIS #5 (OF 7)
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino
While not without faults, Final Crisis came out swinging this month with what I consider to be the best issue of the series so far. From the stirring conclusion to the trial of Hal Jordan to probably the villain monologue of the year from Darkseid near the end, Morrison managed to tell a cohesive and thrilling story from start to finish that felt like it was truly building to something for the first time since the series began.
Opening the issue with the trial of Hal Jordan did a great job of setting the tone for the issue. One of the highlights of this scene was the Granny Goodness possessed Alpha Lantern injuring a Guardian of the Universe before attempting (she fails) to destroy the central power battery. While I think injuring Guardians is becoming the new 'SHIELD helicarrier crashing' for DC (it seems to happen every other event these days), I still think it worked rather well here. Hopefully, with the Guardians final line telling Hal he has 24 hours to save the universe means the Green Lanterns will play a huge part in the conclusion to this event, as they skirt the periphery of the main conflict, just getting to Earth by the end of the issue.
From here, we darted over to check on Checkmate, whom I assumed would have a huge presence in this issue after the events of Final Crisis: Resist. Unfortunately, I was left rather confused by what I saw. In Resist, the tie-in ended with Mr Terrific leading an army of thousands of OMACs and the last survivors of the Antarctic base out to, well, resist Darkseid's rule. In fact, the entire, brief, Checkmate segment seemed to be full of continuity errors in regards to what we've been shown so far.
Here, we're treated to a base that wasn't overrun by the Anti-Life Equation controlled forces and Amanda Waller telling the Question, who should be fighting Cain / Vandall Savage over in Revelations still, about their new seven day BIOMACs, a new version of OMAC that look like the old Silver Age versions with the mohawks.
Renee, who has seen all kinds of crazy, especially in regards to the world going to hell in a hand basket and her appearances in Revelations, is seen here complaining about not having much experience with this kind of stuff and how she doesn't 'do the science fiction stuff'.
Finally, still with Checkmate, it appears Mister Miracle was wearing a bullet proof vest and the gunshot he suffered didn't kill him. Oookkaay. What was the point of that again? Cheap theatrics by the looks of it. Speaking of Mister Miracle, contradicting the whole Tattoo Man circuit delivery storyline, it is actually Mister Miracle who delivers the circuit pattern to Checkmate and tells them to all paint it on their faces.
I don't mind small errors or contradictions in most major events, but Final Crisis has like five tie-ins, all overpriced and only one or two actually seemed to have anything to do with the main title. When those one or two seemingly important books get retconned / ignored a month later in the main book, it irks me a lot more than something like Secret Invasion's hundredth tie-in not lining up right with the main title. I just don't see how you can mess up something like that with so few books and, supposedly, three years of planning.
Ignoring this little segue, the rest of the issue goes off flawlessly with my only complaint being some of the scenes felt a little rushed. For instance, we jump into the assault on Bludhaven with Black Adam and Captain Marvel leading the charge against Mary Marvel, who seems to be possessed by Desaad instead of actually being corrupted now. This battle had the makings of something truly special, but was simply far too short to maintain the impact it should have had. After the opening clash, Black Adam is simply tossed into a car and taken out of the fight while Mary moves on to grind her crotch on a beaten Captain Marvel and make some small chat before the scene changes. Another page or two and it would have given time to flesh the fight out a bit more.
Speaking of the rushed feel of this ending, the scene with, what I believe is, Bobo from Shadowpact, a random 'mute' with a rubik's cube and the wayward banished Monitor, now captured by Darkseid's Purifiers. We were told this room was for the people that the Anti-Life Equation didn't work on and they would be experimented on and eventually killed when they were through with them.
While this is all fairly straight forward, we then jump back and forth between a few scenes and the so-called mute solves the rubik's cube in 17 moves, which is supposedly impossible and was said by Bobo to be the number of God, and the room and the Purifiers are engulfed in light. We cut back later to Darkseid's men grovelling to him and each blaming the other for what happened and, as far as I can tell, it has something to do with Batman and his 'psycho merge clone army', which I assume is what happens next week in the Grant Morrison Batman tie-in. Here, it just felt like I was missing pages where this was supposed to be explained.
However, this still didn't really nag at me like some of the more disjoint and jarring scenes from earlier issues did and it was all made up for with the emergence of Darkseid and his speech about taking everyone to a hell with no exits and crushing their very souls. It was definitely one of the best monologues from a villain I've read in a long, long time and worth picking up the issue alone for.
This was all contrasted with the rebirth of the Monitor and he is being heralded as the judge of all evil. I'm curious as to what this will mean and does this tie into that evil Monitor from the Superman Beyond tie-ins or will that even spill back into Final Crisis?
Verdict - Must Read. While not a perfect issue, the few flaws I do talk about, seemingly at length, didn't affect my enjoyment of this issue in the least and Final Crisis may just deliver on much of the hype. However, the art, which I didn't really mention in the review, looks terrible in comparison to earlier issues and it's a shame.
SECRET INVASION DARK REIGN #1
Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
New Avengers: Illuminati this is not. Where the Illuminati special was one of the more entertaining premises and was executed perfectly, Dark Reign failed to deliver on any of the promise such a grouping of villains should have had. Add some of the worst art I've seen in recent memory and the fact setting this scenario up was apparently the only reason for Secret Invasion's existence and that adds up to one disappointing issue which should have sold me on the entire Dark Reign premise.
At the very least, coming into this issue, I was hoping for some explanations as to why each of these characters were chosen and why they would even give Norman "I'm crazy and lose to Spider-Man every other week" Osborn the light of day. Thankfully, Bendis actually attempts to address these concerns, albeit a little less than satisfactory for my liking.
Let's start with the obvious one - Emma Frost, a good girl for the past 15 years or more and current girlfriend of Cyclops and member of the X-Men. Bendis simply glosses over this in favour of playing up her ties to the Hellfire Club, happily ignoring any of the current goings on with the Hellfire Club and Emma's complete turn around as a character over the past few decades. While, yes, she doesn't play a villain here and her waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats at the end of the issue plays up the guilt she feels over being associated with these people, I still don't see how or why she would play along with them or even be chosen as a member in the first place.
But, if this was the worst part of the issue's premise, that wouldn't be all that bad. However, we have Namor acting like a complete neanderthal, in both his dialogue and how he was drawn in the issue, the Hood acting like some common thug, waving his guns around while jumping on the table, and Norman being the main focus and Tony Stark of this evil Illuminati group while Dr Doom and Loki simply play bit piece background characters to him.
In fact, Norman has the entire team under his thumb with the threat of a mystery character, whom we aren't even shown on panel. This character would have to be one hell of a power house, as Loki is a god and Doom has stared down the Beyonder and Mephisto, among others. The whole mystery man keeping these characters under Norman's thumb comes off as a cheap, fanfiction-like writing ploy from one of the biggest names in the industry.
As for my guess as to who this is, I'm going to go with the Void Sentry that was last seen (unless I missed the tie-in it was taken care of in) taking over for the Sentry, who took off for the outer space for some quiet time thanks to some Skrull mind games. After the Sentry ripped Doom a new one in Mighty Avengers, I figure an evil version is the only one that could possibly make him reconsider laughing Osborn out of the room.
The final miscue this issue has is the killing off of Swordsman. While not exactly the most beloved character in the world, Bendis simply kills off a character for pure shock value and with as little fanfare as the recent Wasp killing. And for what? To show that Norman is crazy and can kill anyone at random? This could have been accomplished by killing a random guard or secretary in lieu of killing off a character that has seen a fair share of development in Thunderbolts over the past year or more.
The only really surprising and interesting part of this issue was after the meeting ended and Doom and Namor were left to themselves. It was only here that the characters actually felt like the real Dr Doom and Namor as the two discuss what they would do about this situation, which ends with Doom proclaiming they will simply eliminate them all if it came down to it. I was a little surprised Loki didn't stick around with them as Doom was seen making an alliance with her in an earlier issue of Thor, much like he did with Namor at the end of Namor's recent mini-series. Maybe World War Doom for the next big event?
Verdict - Avoid It. The villains teamed up. Emma Frost tagged along for no real reason. Norman is keeping them in line with a mystery character, whom we only see in shadow. This just sort of went through the motions and it lacks any of the impact or entertainment value that the Illuminati specials had. Nothing happens here that needs to be seen. These characters are teamed up and that's about all you need to know in my opinion, making this issue redundant.