07 June 2017

Faster than a DC Bullet: All-New All-Different DC, Part XIII: Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer

Comic trade paperback, 158 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2007-08)
Borrowed from the library
Read March 2017
Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer

Writers: Ron Marz, Sean McKeever, Peter Johnson, Matt Cherniss, Brian Augustyn, Alan Burnett, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencillers: Angel Unzueta, Jamal Igle, Kelley Jones, Eric Battle, Greg Tocchini, Travel Foreman, Kalman Andrasofszky, Jeremy Haun, David Hahn, David Baldeón
Inkers: Oliver Nome, Richard Friend, Saleem Crawford, Trevor Scott, Rob Hunter, Kelley Jones, Derek Fridolfs, Vicente Cifuentes, Jonathan Glapion, Jesse Delperdang, Paul Neary, Lorenzo Ruggiero, Kalman Andrasofszky, Norm Rapmund, Álvaro López, Rick Ketcham, David Hahn, Steve Bird
Colorists: Allen Passalaqua, John Kalisz, Mark Chiarello, Art Lyon, Rod Reis, Pete Pantazis, Kanila Tripp
Letterers: John J. Hill, Steve Wands, Travis Lanham

I read this because I thought that it would tie-in to The All New Atom in some way. I still assume it does, because the next volume of The All New Atom is called The Hunt For Ray Palmer!, but "all-new Atom" Ryan Choi does not put in an appearance here. Instead, this volume follows the so-called "Challengers from Beyond" from Countdown to Final Crisis, expanding on their multiverse-hopping search for the original Atom, Ray Palmer, covered in volumes two and three of that series. Honestly, though I know it would have inflated that series to five volumes, and no one out there wanted more of Countdown to Final Crisis, DC should have included these issues with those ones somehow, because they don't stand on their own in any way.

I will never ever care about Monarch, DC, no matter how hard you try.
from Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1 (script by Ron Marz, art by Angel Unzueta and Oliver Nome & Richard Friend & Saleem Crawford & Trevor Scott)

The various issues collected here mostly show visits by the Challengers from Beyond to different worlds in the multiverse while they look for Ray Palmer, giving us extra adventures that went unseen in the main Countdown to Final Crisis series. As such, there's no real set-up (just a text page to recap salient points from the main series) and no resolution beyond an ad for Countdown to Final Crisis, Volume Three. And some parts are just confusing; for example, the Jokester from Earth-Three joins the Challengers at the end of one issue, but is nowhere to be seen in the next; that's because Countdown #30-22* took place between these two issues, and the Jokester died in #29, but there's no indication whatsoever of that here. And obviously I read Countdown to Final Crisis, but so long ago that I didn't remember this. C'mon, DC, at least try to make your collections readable. (Thanks to Cosmic Teams for being the only people on the whole Internet invested enough in Countdown to write an issue-by-issue timeline for it. Most of The Search for Ray Palmer occurs between issues #22 and 21 of Countdown, so during the middle of volume three.)

Well, it kind of is your last bow, as you're never heard from in this book again.
from Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society #1 (script by Sean McKeever, art by Jamal Igle & Rob Hunter)

Anyway, leaving aside all that, this is in theory a series of interesting snapshots of worlds of the DC multiverse, most (if not all) of them from preexisting stories: the Challengers visit the worlds of the Wildstorm comics and Superman: Red Son, for example. But that turns out to not be the case. Revisiting those worlds should hopefully add something new to our understanding of those stories, but it doesn't really happen. I really enjoyed Red Son, and it's a really interesting story, and a very compelling meditation on who Superman is and how he works. The Challengers visiting the world of Red Son is just a generic superhero escapade that's resolved too easily.

Grifter vs. Jason Todd. No matter who wins... I don't care.
from Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm #1 (script by Ron Marz, art by Angel Unzueta and Oliver Nome & Richard Friend & Saleem Crawford & Trevor Scott)

Part of that is down to the characters, I think. The Earth-Zero Superman meeting his "evil" counterpart could make for compelling storytelling. But the Red Son Superman meeting Jason Todd, Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, and "Bob" the Monitor... like who cares? It's the match-up no one demanded, with nothing interesting say about any of the characters involved.

The various Gotham-set tales could in theory do more, since Jason meets different versions of Bruce Wayne, his one-time mentor, but they don't. So I guess part of it is just down to the writers being terrible, all eight of them. The characterization is as subtle as being hit in the head with a brick labeled "KYLE AND JASON BICKER BECAUSE THEY'RE BOTH SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO DONNA," and each done-in-story rushes through anything of interest in favor of fights fights fights. Jason spent weeks on a nineteenth-century whaling ship? No time for that, gotta kill some vampires!

There's actually a core of a good idea in the Red Rain storyline-- but the Kyle-is-a-vampire-in-steampunk-Gotham story that ties it up is way less interesting than my capsule description implies.
from Infinite Halloween Special #1 (script by Peter Johnson & Matt Cherniss, art by Kelley Jones)

The only high point of this volume is that they got Kelly Jones to draw some of the Red Rain Batman-is-a-vampire bits. The book manages to look good for a few pages, at least. I did like the glimpse of the genderswapped world, only because it was the only world where people (aside from Wonder Man) actually seemed nice.

Next Week: The All New Atom joins The Hunt For Ray Palmer!

* Issues of Countdown to Final Crisis were, appropriately enough, numbered in reverse order, from #51 to #1.

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