(2005) Greg Rucka, Jesus Saiz and Cliff Richards, Titan Books, £9.99, trdpbk, 236pp, ISBN 1-845-76229-0
So, this is the first of seven "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" volumes, continuing what was started in Identity Crisis and satellite tales such as Green Lantern: Rebirth. The book opens with a page of 'Crisis Counseling' (o ho ho) explaining who Checkmate are (covert ops org), who Sasha Bordeaux is (one-time Bruce Wayne bodyguard), who Maxwell Lord is (sometime villain, sometime hero, one time head of the Justice League of losers, back when it was crap and all the founder members of the JLA had left, turning the title into a joke), and "what's happening to the DC Universe" for people late in at the back. This volume contains The Omac Project six-issue mini-series, plus Wonder Woman 219 which itself is, confusingly, "Sacrifice" part 4, even though the forthcoming Superman: Sacrifice is the sixth of the seven 'countdown' volumes and will, presumably, contain at least parts 1-3 (which appeared in various Superman titles and are summarised here when WW219 is dropped into the middle of the series - which is chronologically correct, but annoying as its the culmination of a plotline involving Superman nearly killing Batman, which event does not take place in this book). In other words, from a let's-make-sense-of-the-latest-Crisis perspective, not an auspicious start. Which is, of course, the problem with these cross-over events. Plotwise the idea is, Bats (following his ten minute mind wipe courtesy of his friends) is paranoid enough to invent Brother I, an all-seeing satellite that's meant to keep tabs on everything. Maxwell Lord, now head of Checkmate, and using his metahuman power of mind control in the service of the soon to be Villains United (which include Lex Luthor, late the President of the US, Black Adam, Talia, the Calculator, who has become something of a Bad Guys equivalent of the heroes' Oracle, and Deathstroke the Terminator, among others) has taken control of Brother I and is somehow using it to create super-soldiers (Omacs, who get nothing really from Kirby's original One Man Army Corps except design tips) from existing meta-humans (though no one big), of which it is now estimated that there are 1.3 million on the planet. Still with me? Don't worry I'm getting to the good bit (which is a SPOILER ALERT by the way). For now, cue the new roll call of the dead (don't forget, this is a Crisis, time for the nice characters to go bye-bye): The Omac Project manages to kill, among others, the Blue Beetle (of the 'loser' League, brains blown out by Maxwell Lord), Overthrow (never heard of him, Omac'd), Rocket Red Seven (minor Russkie hero, Omac'd), and Maxwell Lord himself (and this is the good bit) killed by Wonder Woman! Indeed, the best part of the plot is the fact that Lord was using his mind-control powers on Superman (which is why he nearly kills Batman, though we don't see this) and, under the influence of Diana's truth-compelling lassoo, tells her that he will never relinquish his control over Superman and that the only way to stop him (Lord) is to kill him. So she does. No hesitation, snaps his neck as calm as you please. Which, of course, depending on your point of view, is exactly the right thing to do. Though this event takes place in the inserted WW219, "Sacrifice" part 4 (will they print it again in Superman: Sacrifice do you think?). Anyway, the kick in the tail of The Omac Project is that Brother I recorded the event and, on the last page, broadcasts it to the world. Where things end in a somewhat unsatisfying way, presumably as a hook for Infinite Crisis itself. The nice thing, from the perspective of 'putting things to rights' is that the whole Lord plot supplies the rationale for why the Justice League of America became the crap-loser Justice League full of nobodies. It was deliberate all along. Max was still a bad guy and not a good guy. He deliberately neutralised the League by making it totally crap! So simple, so convincing. Another score for the Silver-Age-Mafia! I can't really recommend this book, though completists will want it, because although the first three issues are quite good (leading up to and including Blue Beetle's death), and though WW219 is quite good (with a severely brutal punch-up between Supes and Diana and her killing of Lord), the final three issues just don't really hang together and end, as I've indicated, unsatisfyingly (Brother I and the Omacs run away to fight again another mini-series day). Perhaps it will all come good when the total Infinite Crisis event has unfolded...
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