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Out for the Count: Trading Places Special

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Out for the Count is off on a winter break this weekend, so we’ll be playing catch-up in seven days with a double helping of OFTC outrageousness. But fear not, for despite our regular programming being interrupted, we still have a special Countdown-related column for you regardless. Join me as I look through some of the trades and collections that may help clue you in on that ever-elusive Countdown Bigger Picture.

Before we begin though I want to underline that this is in no way meant as a comprehensive list and it doesn’t include scheduled, but as yet unpublished, volumes. The Suicide Squad, Great Disaster and Captain Carrot Showcases that never appeared a few months back mean I’m not going to draw your attention to anything that isn’t actually on the shelves now!

It’s also meant to be Countdown-specific: the collections mentioned should, in some way, help enhance your understanding of the background to featured events and characters as we approach the Final Crisis. I might bend that definition a little here and there but that’s the general rule of thumb. So let’s take a peek at those potential stocking filler goodies on offer from the good folks at DC. For more info on these publications go to DC collected editions

First of all though it’s time for a slightly amended version of that OFTC tradition. Here’s our…Spoiler Warning: Read no further if you’ve not had your DC fix this past 70 years and don’t want to hear about key story elements.

The Players
(Countdown-related material on our principal cast)

Donna Troy – So why did the Monitors consider Donna an anomaly? The answer can be found in Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Death and Return of Donna Troy, filling us in on Donna’s pivotal place in the Multiverse.

Kyle Rayner – Kyle’s recent Ion series played a big part in the buildup to Countdown. Ion Volume 2: The Dying Flame reprints issue #s 7-12 of that book and includes the Monitors taking an interest in Kyle’s status as an anomaly, an early sighting of Monarch in The Bleed and the Tangent Universe’s incursion onto New Earth.

Jason Todd – The third of our anomalies from the ranks of the Challengers from Beyond. The Monitors hate "death-cheaters" and the story of how Jason escaped death to become a thorn in Batman’s side can be read in Batman: Under the Hood Volumes 1 and 2.

The Atom – The Search for Ray Palmer began in the South American jungles where the race of miniature aliens that the Atom once lived with reside. If you want to learn more about this period in Ray’s life then pick up the trade paperback collection of Sword of the Atom.

Holly Robinson – Holly is on the run from the authorities in Countdown. The reasons why, and the fallout from her brief stint as Catwoman , can be gleaned from the trades Catwoman: The Replacements and Catwoman: It’s Only a Movie.

Monarch – So how did the once-good Captain Atom become the army-building Monarch? The seeds are sown in Wildstorm’s Captain Atom: Armageddon trade paperback and events take a more sinister turn in Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Blüdhaven. This latter also gives a debut for the new version of the Atomic Knights, seen in recent issues of Countdown to Final Crisis.

Pied Piper and Trickster – Why are these former Rogues fugitives from justice? You can get the full story on their part in Bart Allen’s death in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive – Full Throttle.

Jimmy Olsen – Lots of slapstick fun to be had in The Amazing Transformations of Jimmy Olsen gathering together all those classic Silver Age tales that were the inspiration for the goofy powers Jimmy has been exhibiting since the Countdown began.

Elsewhere in the DCU/Continuity Corner
(collections that may, or may not, help clue you into the Bigger Picture)

The Death of the New Gods - If you’re not reading these already then shame on you! Countdown aficionados will know how important the New Gods are to the overarching story structure. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus is now up to its third volume reprinting those seminal stories of The New Gods, Mister Miracle, The Forever People and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

Also worth mentioning that Cosmic Odyssey, the events of which were referenced in the first issue of Death of the New Gods, was collected for the first time in some years recently. This may well tie into the Fourth World subplots in the months to come.

The Great Disaster - Earth after the Great Disaster was originally the setting for Kamandi’s adventures and a new incarnation of the Last Boy on Earth (Buddy Blank’s grandson) appears to be making his mark in current issues of Countdown to Final Crisis. There are two volumes chock full of Kirby magic in the Kamandi Archives series.

The Outsiders - The house ads imply the lineup change of the Outsiders is a piece of the Countdown puzzle, although I’ve yet to work out how. Should you wish to learn more about the history of this team then Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1 is a cheap way to do just that.

The Architects – I keep wondering if the metafictional meanderings of the Dr. Thirteen backup from Tales of the Unexpected are going to have greater significance in the months ahead. Probably wishful thinking but Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Morality has the inspired lunacy of the good Doctor meeting the bizarre likes of Anthro, I… Vampire, Infectious Lass, the Primate Patrol and many others! Certainly one of my favourite DC reads this year.

Earthwatch

(A guide to the Earths of the 52 and where you can read more on them in trade format)

It’s important to remember that many of the Earths in the 52 are based on pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths worlds or Elseworlds realities and are not 100% copies of them. With that in mind, here’s a few collections that may give you a better understanding of some of the new Multiverse’s worlds. Expect updates on this list in the months to come as DC releases more tie-in trades…

Earth-12 – This resembles the reality of the Batman Beyond animated series. If you’re lucky you may still be able to hunt down a copy of the cunningly-titled Batman Beyond softcover collection in your local comics shop for more on the Batman of the future.

Earth-17 – We should have had a Showcase that would have reprinted the adventures of the Atomic Knights, the inhabitants of this locale, by now. Sadly, that was cancelled some months back and it remains to be seen when, and if, it will be resolicited. If you’re really desperate to find out more about the original versions of these heroes, one Atomic Knights story was printed a few years back in Pulp Fiction Library: Mystery In Space (alongside decades of wonderful DC sci-fi material). Good luck finding a copy of that one though. And no, you can’t borrow mine…

Earth-19 – The Earth of the Batman of the original Elseworlds publication (think Batman in the Victorian era). Both stories set on this Earth were reprinted in the trade Batman: Gotham By Gaslight last year.

Earth-21 – The DC: New Frontier characters reside at this destination. Plenty of choice for those interested in these heroes! You can plump for the high-quality Absolute New Frontier hardcover or the more affordable two volumes of DC: New Frontier in trade paperback format.

Earth-22 – Similarly, fans of Alex Ross’s painstakingly created DC future can choose between the lavish Absolute Kingdom Come or the trade version to learn more about the Earth playing such a significant role in current issues of Justice Society of America.

Earth-30 – What if Superman’s rocket from Krypton had landed in Russia? That was the premise of Mark Millar’s popular Elseworlds a few years back and the storyline that inspired this Earth is re-presented in the Superman: Red Son trade paperback.

Earth-40 – A Justice Society plunged into the darkest government operations of World War II provided the premise for the series this Earth is based on. Immerse yourself in this alternate history in the JSA: The Liberty Files trade.

Tangent Earth – Not sure where this fits as yet into the numbering of the 52 but the first volume of this series of re-imaginings (in the very literal sense!) of DC heroes has been out for a while in the guise of the Tangent Comics Volume 1 collection.

What no mention of Earth-50? It’s a fair question but there is a reason! Expect an Out for the Count look at the extent to which the Countdown is, or is not (I always like to hedge my bets…), affecting the Wildstorm reality in the not-too-distant future. This is one alternate Earth that deserves a column to itself.

Next week we’ll be back with a look at a whole fortnight’s worth of events, clues and plot threads. Until then, I hope this slightly different OFTC has been of at least some interest for those looking for background info on the worlds and characters of the 52. And a belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all from the other side of the pond…

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