Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist(s): Jamal Igle, Rob Hunter (i), John Kalisz (c)
Published by: DC Comics
The multiverse hopping exploits of the Challengers from Beyond continue as the Search for Ray Palmer rages on. Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy, Jason Todd and Bob the Monitor visit Earth-3, home to the Crime Society. Countdown #30 was actually pretty interesting in my opinion. I think it’s special when DC, or Marvel for that matter, produces “what if?” stories. While the “What if?” title is Marvel’s shtick, DC has a unique opportunity to do exactly that. The stories involving the Challengers could technically fit under the “Elseworlds” imprint, but Countdown #30 still provides a very interesting “what if?” scenario. However, those who read Countdown may have noticed a new Challenger, the Jokester of Earth-3. Because most things are backwards on Earth-3, the Jokester is one of that Earth’s heroes who battles against the Crime Society. Readers may wonder where he came from and the answer lies in The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society.
There was something about The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society that I felt was special. Ron Marz did an excellent job showing the edge and the violent nature of the Wildstorm universe as well as providing an entertaining look at how the Challengers from New Earth reacted to the extreme crime-fighting techniques of the Midnighter. But one of the things that was most enjoyable about that issue was that it worked very well in the context of Countdown. The Challengers were scouring the Wildstorm Universe looking for Ray, cameos by the likes of Gen13 and Wetworks were well done, and of course, the Authority and the Midnighter were used appropriately. Marz didn’t waste time trying to explain the Wildstorm Universe, rather his story showed the differences between it and the DC one, and even piqued my interest in becoming a much more regular reader of Wildstorm.
After checking out Countdown, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this issue. I was assuming the Challengers would battle it out with the Crime Society and receive help from the heroes of that Earth who resemble the villains of their Earth, sort of like Countdown #31. But after thinking about this issue I realized something; the Crime Society and the Crime Syndicate are two entirely different entities. I didn’t believe it at first, but then I realized that the Crime Society is a “redo” of the original Earth-3 Crime Syndicate pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths. While I was a bit confused, it would appear that the Qwardian Crime Syndicate is no longer around. Once I had that little mess sorted out, I began to wonder, does this mean that Alexander Luthor was reborn during the re-creation of the multiverse? That is a theory definitely worth considering.
However, rather than explain to readers that this is the new version of the original Crime Society and it’s not the modern Crime Syndicate of the anti-matter universe, this story focuses in on one of Earth-3’s heroes, the Jokester. Don’t get me wrong it’s a decent story and it’s well written but it’s most definitely not what I expected. The cool thing about Earth-3 back in the day was that everything was reversed. Columbus was an American that discovered Europe, Abraham Lincoln assassinated the President John Wilkes Booth, Alexander Luthor was that world’s hero and so on. It would have been very cool to see the reestablishment of such a place and see the events unfold by means of one of the Challengers flipping through a history book. But instead this story is much more a true tie-in to Countdown as it explains the origin of the Jokester.
It’s interesting to see the world around the Jokester and the “reversed” origin. I’d be a liar to say I wasn’t intrigued by this story and McKeever’s writing is strong, but it should have featured a bit more exploration of Earth-3. There was hardly any interaction between the Challengers and the Crime Society or the heroes of said Earth and that really left a lot to be desired here. The Wildstorm issue was all about visiting different locales and people to find evidence of Ray Palmer and there is hardly any of that in this issue. For those following Countdown, this story is important because it explains who the Jokester is and how he got roped into traveling with the Challengers. I do rather enjoy the immediate tension between Jason Todd and the Jokester as this could lead to some interesting moments in the coming months.
The artwork is one of the highlights of this issue. Jamal Igle, Rob Hunter and John Kalisz compliment each other very well and bring out a very realistic looking feel to the story while maintaining a classic “comic book” style. They do an excellent job with consistency and detail, as well as bringing the level of darkness on Earth-3 to life.
Overall, I was a little disappointed with this issue. While the writing and artwork is strong, there was some initial confusion and I was expected something a little different. However, it is an interesting take on an alternate reality and it won’t stop me from checking out the next installment of The Search for Ray Palmer, when the Challengers go to the vampire world.
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