Sunday, January 1, 2012

Crisis Update: Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1

Crisis Update
Volume 1, Entry 1

Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1
Various - Writer
Various - Pencils

When I first read Countdown to Infinite Crisis, it was at a time when I was coming back to comics after quite a long break. Up through my junior year of high school, I regularly visited the small comic shop only seven blocks from my house and regularly bought or ordered Green Lantern trades from the Kyle Rayner years. He was always my favorite GL and DC had finally seen it fit to collect his adventures on some sort of regular time table.

Then, in January of 2005, as a freshman in college, I saw a poster for Green Lantern: Rebirth, a six-part mini-series chronicling the return of Hal Jordan. I immediately ran off and bought the second printing of Rebirth #1 and put my name down to receive each subsequent issue. I honestly believed I would collect Rebirth and be satisfied, that I wouldn't be lured back into the enticing world of superheroics and Earth-shattering events. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn't long after Rebirth wrapped up that DC was prepping it's fans for Infinite Crisis, the 'sequel' to 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, the crossover event that pioneered crossover events, killed off many DC characters (including fan-favorite Flash, Barry Allen), restructured the universe to answer for timeline inconsistencies and changed the DC universe permanently going forward.

The first in a blitzkrieg of tie-ins and mini-series leading up to Infinite Crisis came in the form of Countdown to Infinite Crisis, an 80-page prelude providing the catalyst events leading for everything else to come.

Countdown tells the tale of the second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, as he investigates money laundering and stolen kryptonite that seems to be leading toward something more sinister. The only problem: no one important wants to give Beetle the time of day. The exceptions are Wonder Woman and Booster Gold, both who can't offer help for their own reasons.

Beetle goes out on his own and connects the dots until they lead him to a mysterious castle. Inside, Kord discovers a computer with any and all pertinent information regarding every metahuman on Earth. Within a few pages, Maxwell Lord reveals himself as the culprit. For those who haven't read their DC history, Lord was the business mogul who created the Justice League International back in the 1980s. At the time, he was just a regular human who wanted to do his part to protect humanity. In Countdown, Lord has become a criminal mastermind who has taken control of Checkmate, an international espionage organization. In the end, Lord murders Ted Kord in cold blood.

Like Identity Crisis before it, Countdown takes a character-driven approach to telling it's story. Ted Kord as the Blue Beetle has been one of the long-running jokes of the DC Universe. Along with Booster Gold, Kord had a reputation as a screw-up. With good intentions and bad luck, Kord was always a second-tier hero often relegated to the sidelines, not only in narratives, but in publishing practices as well.

Countdown addresses Kord's standing in the superhero community, showing how the decisions made by even the greatest of heroes can lead to devastating consequences. Superman and Green Lantern humour Kord before zooming off to something more important, Batman becomes aggressive and hostile, and the Martian Manhunter immediately blocks out Kord as soon as a JLA alert comes in. Even without any assistance, Kord strikes out on his own, knowing he probably has neither the ability nor the means to really succeed. It's a testament to Ted Kord and his persistence, his heroism.

Countdown is an excellent beginning to a rather lengthy lead-in to Infinite Crisis. At 80 pages in length, it gives a great overview of the DC universe before everything goes to hell.

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