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Comic Book / Countdown to Final Crisis

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Countdown to Final Crisis (2007–2008) was a 51-issue weekly series, written primarily by head writer Paul Dini and a rotating roster of writers consisting of Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tony Bedard, Adam Beechen, and Sean McIver, initially meant as the leadup to Final Crisis for which it was named. However, much of the events were retconned or ignored after the book’s negative reception.

The Multiverse has gone wonky. The Monitors have come back into existence with the return of the parallel universes, and they foresee a "Great Disaster" — and one Monitor, consulting The Source, is told that Ray Palmer (currently in self-imposed exile since the events of Identity Crisis) is the answer. From here, the script splits into a variety of plot threads:

The plot threads often overlapped as the result of the search for Ray Palmer, with heroes of one thread waylaid by villains of another, which resulted in a lot of multi-sided battles and several assassination attempts before Darkseid, The Monitors, Monarch, and Superman-Prime start slaughtering characters en masse. Multiple other plot points were also introduced, but these were resolved in other titles, as well as multiple spin-offs.

Countdown to Final Crisis provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Many plot points introduced as important are never mentioned again—including the series itself.
  • All for Nothing: The Hunt for Ray Palmer ultimately turns out to be this - he's supposed to be the antidote for Morticoccus virus, since he's never been sick a day in his life, and the Ray Palmer he replaced had been working to make sure each universe would have at least 1 person immune to the virus. However, the virus ends up infecting Karate Kid, who thanks to being from the future (and having different genetics), causes the virus to grow beyond Ray Palmer's immunity, which leads to the virus spreading and wiping out the entire universe. For that matter, because the finale stays in Earth-51, it doesn't even impact Prime Earth.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Una for Karate Kid, even though she knows he's in a relationship with Princess Projectra.
  • All There in the Manual: Much of the coherency of Countdown hinged upon a familiarity with the multiple tie-in titles. This contributed in part to its unpopularity.
  • Apocalypse How: Earth-15 gets a Class X. Earth-51 gets a Class X-4. Earth-51 version 2.0 gets a Class 4.
  • Ax-Crazy: Superman-Prime, true to form, is completely unstable and murders people for the most trivial offenses.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Jason Todd notably gave Batman grief during the Under the Hood arc for never avenging his death at the Joker's hands by killing the Joker. In this comic, Jason enters a universe where Batman did kill the Joker in retribution for murdering Jason Todd, but quickly escalated to wiping out all the other supervillains as well as his fellow heroes the moment they disapproved of his methods.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jimmy Olsen gave us a rather impressive variant; when Ray Palmer crawls into his brain to give Jimmy control over his superpowers, allowing Jimmy to transform and rescue Superman, who had been exposed to a healthy dose of Kryptonite Jimmy by Darkseid.
  • Canon Discontinuity: A good portion of the whole mess was rendered non-canon within weeks of its completion. Everything concerning Superman-Prime, for example, was tossed out of the window, with the character going from his role in the Sinestro Corps War directly into Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds. Likewise none of it is even alluded to in Final Crisis. However, Superboy-Prime annihilating Earth-15 is still canon, according to The Multiversity, and the JLAxis of Earth-10, who are recruited by Monarch appear in a dream-sequence.
  • Catching the Speedster: When the Monitor Solomon finally tracks down Ray Palmer on Earth 51, that Earth's Barry Allen charges him. Solomon easily clotheslines Barry, incinerating his body at the same time.
  • Character Filibuster: Solomon the Monitor spends half the series repeatedly hijacking the Monitors' conference with constant, doom-prophesying horror stories about Crisis on Infinite Earths, in order to convince the other Monitors that they have to kill Bob and stop his interdimensional joyride, justify his murder of Duela Dent, and get everyone to help him wipe out all the people who were originally from Earth-2 and the other pre-Crisis parallel universes.
  • Chained Heat: Trickster and Pied Piper find themselves handcuffed together for a good amount of the plot. And then Trickster dies and Pied Piper has to carry around his corpse since they are still chained together.
  • Continuity Snarl: You bet. Plenty of the plots or stories it references were never meant to interact, and Countdown itself doesn't help.
  • Crisis Crossover: The maxi-series was touted as the lead-in to Final Crisis (as of its mid-point, issue #26), itself another "Crisis" event in DC's history: a threat to the multiverse, the presence of monitors (themselves holdover from Crisis On Infinite Earths), even Darkseid (perennial cast member of DC crossovers).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Superman-Prime's cry of "I'LL KILL YOU! I'll KILL YOU TO DEATH!"
  • Depending on the Artist: The fact that all the issues were drawn by different artists caused many, many abrupt shifts not just in character models, but in basic layout and props throughout particular arcs.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Superman-Prime kidnapped Mister Mxyzptlk, imprisons him in the Source Wall, and tortured him into recreating Earth-Prime.
  • Discontinuity Nod: Geoff Johns actually put "Don't worry about Countdown" on Rip Hunter's chalkboard in Booster Gold.
    • Later on, the Red Robin costume worn by Jason Todd on Earth-51 appeared in Robin and was adopted by Tim Drake.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Jason Todd, except when he uses them not long after.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mary Marvel taking a pole from Zatanna and saying "Ooh, no wonder you wanted to keep this for yourself!" with a look of ecstasy on her face.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Darkseid has Jimmy Olsen kidnapped, intending to kill him to get the power of the New Gods that he's somehow been accumulating, and when Superman comes to the rescue, Darkseid forces Jimmy to transform into living Kryptonite and mocks him by forcing him to watch as his powers slowly poison his best friend against his will. When Ray Palmer manages to destroy the mechanism allowing Darkseid control, Jimmy immediately takes on his Giant Turtle Boy form to lay a beatdown on the Lord of Apokolips.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Many characters. Duela Dent, The Jokester, Triplicate Girl, Trickster, Karate Kid, the version of Batman who might have redeemed Jason Todd, and three alternate-universe Earths.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Superman-Prime becomes one of these during the miniseries. Having been displaced from his own universe, he tries to find his way back—repeatedly flying into a rage at the inferior copies of Earth he finds in the alternate universes and destroying them.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Monarch conquered Earth-51 and wouldn't stop there. Then Superman-Prime attacked him...
    • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Again, Mary Marvel. Girl comes dangerously closer to the dark side, first by being given Black Adam's powers and gaining a dark version of her Shazam Family outfit. Then, she becomes Eclipso (Jean Loring)'s apprentice. Later, she returns to her normal heroic self, albeit powerless, until she meets Darkseid sitting on her couch and is offerred her powers back.
  • Fan Disservice: Forager, a huge-breasted bug lady.
  • Faux Action Girl: Una. You'd think someone who's been a superhero all her adult life would be a little better in a fight.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: One of the monitors is named "Bob".
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Countdown is an easy contender for having some of the most convoluted, incomprehensible series of plot structures in comic book history, and a big factor in it is that there are way, way too many stories going on in it. There are at least seven main plots in the main comic alone, and they frequently intertwine with each other and have their own individual subplots as well. And then, you have several tie-in comics with their own plots that directly overlap or also intertwine with the main comic, including the Amazons Attack! standalone story, tie-ins in other comic series such as Justice League of America, The Flash, Outsiders, Birds of Prey, Death of the New Gods, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, and five more tie-ins directly tied to Countdown—Countdown Arena, Countdown to Adventure, Countdown to Mystery, Countdown Presents the Search for Ray Palmer, and Countdown Presents Lord Havok and the Extremists. Plus, the series broadly factors in events going on in the main series comics of the characters.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Mary Marvel smacking around Donna Troy using Kyle Rayner's body provides the current image on that page.
  • Idiot Ball: Passed about like a hot potato. Mary Marvel pulls off a Face–Heel Turn twice; Monitors Bob and Solomon's plan; and Renee Montoya's decision to release Trickster and Pied Piper (both suspects in a murder investigation) upon Trickster's demonstration of their innocence (puppets were involved), even though they both aided in the murder of Bart Allen, The Question's reasoning for letting two potential criminals walk ("The puppets convinced me."), and the future humans keeping an ill Karate Kid in the past where he won't infect them.
  • I'll Kill You!: Famously used by Superboy-Prime: "I'll kill you! I'll kill you to death!"
  • The Immune: Ray Palmer is immune to a virus that "mutates DNA, mixing human and animal DNA together." (It was supposed to be an illness that blocks out the metagene.)
  • Improvised Weapon: Jimmy in Kaiju form smacks Darkseid with a bridge.
  • Interspecies Romance: Jimmy Olsen, human reporter, shacks up with insect lady Forager, one of the New Gods.
  • Irony: Countdown shoved Renee Montoya into the story to leech off of 52's popularity even though Countdown was made because the editors hated 52.
  • Last of Her Kind: Forerunner, whose entire race was subjected to a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness from Solomon.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the later issues, some of the characters start to make comments about the ordeal's length and nonsensicality.
  • Living MacGuffin: Ray Palmer. One of the plot threads explored in the maxi-series is Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, Jason Todd and monitor "Bob" traversing the multiverse to locate Ray Palmer, for only he can prevent a coming "Great Disaster".
  • Manchild: Superman-Prime. It's just Superboy-Prime but with an adult's body.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: Monarch, who gathered an army of supervillains from the whole multiverse to fight its protectors, the Monitors. At the same time one of the Monitors, Solomon, plotted with Darkseid to conquer the multiverse. It's hard to say which one was worse.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: DC promoted the series with the hint that Jimmy Olsen was going to be killed off by The Joker early on. They handed out buttons at conventions reading "Jimmy Olsen must die!" and even did a cover for Wizard showing Superman mourning a dead Jimmy, complete with grisly Joker Venom smile. Countdown #51 has The Joker holding Jimmy's press pass on the cover. And in that issue, Jimmy... interviews the Joker for a news story, and nothing much else happens.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job bringing along a deadly plague that destroys an entire universe, then leaving without trying to solve the problem, "heroes". Special mention goes to that universe's version of Hal Jordan. The plague would have been confined to Earth, if he hadn't had the genius idea to go out into space to warn other planets... without realizing he was already infected.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In his introductory one-shot, Jokester bore an uncanny resemblance to Jim Carrey.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Monitors, who spend almost the entire series arguing if they should do something or not. It's worth noting that later in the series the main characters have to decide if they should kill Karate Kid, annihilating his disease before it will kill him and turn into a pandemic, or look for another way to deal with it. Instead of doing something, they spend the entire time bickering at each other, until it's too late.
  • Paint It Black: Mary Marvel's evil costume.
  • The Power of Rock: One of the better received moments is Pied Piper destroying Apokolips and driving off Brother Eye with Queen's "The Show Must Go On".
  • Pre Showdown Oneliner: Jimmy Olsen, before fighting Darkseid: "You want the power in me? Come and take it!"
  • Previously on…: Issue #26 recaps the first 25 issues (along with a name change from Countdown to Countdown to Final Crisis.)
  • Random Events Plot: Between having seven intertwining main plots with their own subplots, excessive reliance on 12 different tie-ins, and running incorporation of whatever going on in the DCU at the time, and the story ended up becoming a convoluted, nonsensical mess.
  • Sanity Slippage: As Pied Piper carries and drag' Trickster's corpse (since they are chained together) through the desert, he starts hearing Trickster talking to him.
  • Series Continuity Error: Renee Montoya's first appearance, and many others. Also particularly blatant in an issue that ends with Trickster and Pied Piper falling out of a futuristic plane at sunset, while the very next issue begins with them falling out of a regular jet in daylight.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Superboy-Prime's immortal line "I'LL KILL YOU TO DEATH!" is redundant in itself: to kill someone is to cause their death.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • Several, but Trickster making gay jokes about Pied Piper through half the series with the implication that he will learn a lesson about homophobia due to his adventure, only to be randomly shot through the head in the middle of things probably takes the cake.
    • Will Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl manage to find the cure to his mysterious virus? Nope!
  • Shout-Out:
  • Super Hero Origin: Issues #37–27, #25–13, #11, and #6 feature origin stories of various heroes and villains as a backup feature. Issue #28 is notable in featuring two (one each for the Trickster and the Pied Piper).
  • Swarm of Rats: Una is eaten alive by a swarm of mutated rats, and shows her Determinator street cred by continuing to fight them long enough to pass on her flight ring to another character, who escapes.
  • Take That, Audience!: Superman-Prime is a pretty visible potshot, voicing common reader complaints about the series as though they were First-World problems.
  • The Virus: The thing that Ray Palmer and his friends were meant to stop, the thing that wiped out all human civilization and killed billions? It makes furries. An epidemic of savage, violent furries.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Supergirl runs into this trouble when she comes upon Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl and tries to explain she's also a Legionnaire.
    Supergirl: Well, um, thank you for unblocking my memory. You were... will be... very good friends to me.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Piper. Superboy-Prime, who was turned into Superman-Prime due to events of Sinestro Corps War (keep in mind that he already was at Silver Age power level). Monarch who at the end of Countdown: Arena took fifty one levels at once.
  • Trauma Conga Line: It's uncertain if they were aiming to play this straight or not, as it's visited unto Jimmy Olsen.
  • Unstable Powered Woman: Mary Marvel loses the powers originally bestowed upon her by Shazam, but a dying Black Adam grants her his own powers, which leads to Mary taking on much greater power with a new darker costume to go along with it. The villain Eclipso (herself once the wife of superhero The Atom) uses this to rapidly seduce Mary to evil, only for Mary to turn against her once she realizes she's gone too far. Almost immediately afterward, though, Mary receives a visit in her home from none other than Darkseid himself, who correctly guesses that despite her temporary reluctance, Mary is still addicted to the evil power and tempts her into receiving it once again.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: At the end, Donna Troy asks "Who monitors the Monitors?" (loosely translated from "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?")
  • Wolverine Publicity: In Countdown Arena, the winner of the battle between the three Green Lanterns was an Alternate Universe Bruce Wayne, meaning that the best Green Lantern is... Batman. Particularly galling since the other two GLs (a Hal Jordan from a Fawcett Comics–style universe and a new GL from the Batman Beyond timeframe) were a lot more interesting.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Donna, Kyle, Jason and Bob the Monitor, with regards to Ray Palmer: they keep leaping from reality to reality, in hopes of finding Ray Palmer, and are only able to find him on the paradisiacal Earth-51.

Alternative Title(s): Countdown