Writer: Keith Champagne
Artists: Scott McDaniel (p), Andy Owen (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Countdown: Arena ends with a bang and although not as satisfying as issue #2 or #3, it still delivered a few solid punches to the senses. Endings can be difficult in a mini-series that is only one part of a much larger saga, and while not completely delivering closure, issue #4 wraps-up this fun concept of super-hero battles and armies of characters.
Let’s talk about how it ends. Writer Keith Champagne closes out the arena battles, seems to write the final bow for a few of the characters, and generally brings the curtain down on the series in competent fashion. Granted, he couldn’t wrap-up Monarch’s larger story and he couldn’t tell us what ultimately happens with the villain’s new army, but he does actually finalize the movements within his smaller tale. I think the problem with this issue, or what I perceive to be a problem, is that things got too overly complicated here at the end. Kind of a “throw in everything but the kitchen sink” feeling, and it served to somewhat muddle what should have been a much clearer ending – and lead-back to Countdown to Final Crisis. I guess I was expecting things to become much more streamlined in issue #4.
The “Last Son of Krypton” Superman gets really, really weird, zillions of Captain Atoms show up and attack Monarch, Breach is sort of a traitor, and nobody who’s a good guy really gets anything resembling a few good licks in on evil’s ass. It's all very BIG, you know, and Champagne doesn’t let it get too muddled as I said, but I’ll admit my head swam a bit and suddenly I was wondering how it would end – and then BAM, it ended. Again, not too satisfying an ending, but when I look back at what was accomplished and what the writer had to work within, it's an overall good job.
Couple of memorable lines to call out: “You’re full of it and I’m sick of the smell!” and “What a strange life this is that I’m having” to name a few.
I’m also glad there was some camaraderie present between Communist Superman and Dark Knight Returns Superman, as I had said last week that their feud was beginning to sound cliched and stale. Their “zen” brother was really quite annoying though, and I was glad to see him dispatched. Maybe there was too much focus on the Supermen all together; I do now realize I would have liked to see more of Vampire Liberty Files Batman, as he was set up previously as a break-out character in Arena, only to fall to the wayside here in #4.
I guess these are all just quibbles. I can tell what happened in a general sense, and I think I’ll get an even better feel for it on subsequent readings. That in itself is a compliment to the series: I will be reading it more than once.
So, good job to Champagne and McDaniels on a cool super-hero comic, one that illustrates the better aspects of the genre. Let’s just hope the writers of Countdown itself don’t drop the ball that’s been handed them, i.e., Monarch’s spankin’ new Arena Army.
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