Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1

"I can't wait to see someone do annotations on the first issue"--Geoff Johns

At your service. Before I start my own annotations, I should note that Michael Grabois over at The Legion Omnicom has been gearing up to do some scarily complete annotations for this mini (from which I am stealing lots of information)--even before the appearance of this issue, he'd already posted lists of the first appearances and creators of every character in all three incarnations of the Legion.

Three incarnations? Right. The Legion of Super-Heroes has three separate continuities: the first set is the stories published between 1958 and 1994, the second ran 1994-2004, and the third is 2004-present. They're sometimes called the "pre-ZH Legion" (ZH being ZERO HOUR, the miniseries that reconfigured the timestream), the "reboot" and the "threeboot." For the purposes of notes on this mini-series, I'm just going to call them L(I), L(II) and L(III) when distinctions are necessary.

On top of that, Lo3W builds on "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes," which ran in ACTION COMICS #858-864, and featured an older version of L(I) that nonetheless hadn't lived through the events published in the LEGION series that ran from 1989 to 1994. "Superman and the Legion," in turn, builds on several Legionnaires' appearance in "The Lightning Saga," in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #8-10 and JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #5-6. And, in JSA #6, Superman refers to the "Legion of Three Worlds" being "one of the Legion's greatest adventures." That title is of course a riff on "Flash of Two Worlds", the first story to propose the existence of "Earth-Two" (and the source of Libra's headquarters).

Confused yet? This story will allegedly be how all that stuff gets un-confused. We'll see. And, for all that, this is a fairly self-explanatory story; in the same interview linked up top, Johns claims that "[y]ou don't need to know who Superboy-Prime is when you read issue #1. You don't need to know who the Legion are, and you don't need to know anything about their world. You don't even need to know who Superman is when you pick up issue #1." Nonetheless, it's got more Easter eggs than a PAAS factory.

Also, I'm not noting everybody in every group shot, partly because life is short, and partly because Timothy Callahan's annotations already did all the heavy lifting there. Also, you should read them because they're funnier than mine.

Pg. 1:

This is the Time Trapper, created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte, who first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #318 in 1964. (He later retroactively became Time Master, who had appeared in WONDER WOMAN #101 in 1958. This sort of thing happens a lot when he's around.) "The Legion will live no longer" is a riff on the team's catchphrase, "long live the Legion."

Flour beetles are actually likely to survive longer than cockroaches, but the point is made.

The Time Trapper's headquarters may well be Vanishing Point, the HQ of the Linear Men, which is also on an asteroid and also at the end of time; I don't have visual reference for that on hand, though.

Pg. 2:

As far as I know, none of these years (or the ones elsewhere in the issue) have specific DCU implications.

Smallville is Superman's boyhood home, and this sequence isn't just a parodic replay of Superman's origin, it's a parodic replay of a previous Johns parodic replay--ACTION COMICS #858, where the hyper-xenophobic Jun (originally "Juun") and Mara first appeared. Their names, I suppose, are also 31st-century equivalents of Jonathan and Martha. Kind of amusing that cup/saucer/utensil design hasn't changed in a thousand years, I guess, but Jun and Mara seem like traditionalists anyway. "Boys and girls" may be a riff on the "Attribute Boy" Legion naming paradigm.

Michael Grabois identifies the newscaster as Marella Tao, created by Paul Levitz and Greg LaRoque, who first appeared in 1987's LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #36.

Pg. 4:

Ah, Superman-Prime. (Although is this the first time Superboy has been called by that name in a new DC comic since the Superboy lawsuit?) Created by Elliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan, he first appeared--as Superboy-Prime--in DC COMICS PRESENTS #87 in 1985. That 1985 is significant: Geoff Johns writes him as an "evil fanboy" who wants everything to be the way it was when he was reading comics in the mid-'80s...

Prime was last seen, I think, in COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #13, destroying moving part 51. Not sure how he got from there to here.

Pg. 5:

Prime looks rather Li'l Abner in panel 7, doesn't he?

The "Welcome to Smallville" sign should, by rights, be in Interlac, but it was established as being in English in ACTION #858. The sign in the final panel, though, is in Interlac: it says "Superman Museum."

Pp. 6-7:

The golden statue in the middle is of course a riff on the cover of ACTION COMICS #1, with exploding Krypton and the Discovery of the El Child behind it. Left, top row, we see Ma and Pa Kent with little Clark; Clark and Lois on their wedding day in SUPERMAN: THE WEDDING ALBUM; Jimmy, Perry and Clark at the Daily Planet offices; Lex Luthor being led away. The second row is an early Joe Shuster-style Superman, the DC One Million version (wait--isn't that still in the far future of this timeline?), the Kingdom Come version, and the TANGENT COMICS: THE SUPERMAN version. Bottom row: Jonathan Kent, Martha Kent, Pete Ross and Lana Lang. Anyone know who that is in the crystal structure?

Right, top row: Power Girl, Steel, Lori Lemaris and the seven core members of the Justice League. Middle row: Krypto, Superwoman (as seen in the pre-Crisis DC COMICS PRESENTS ANNUAL #2 and #4), some version of Supergirl, and Connor Kent/Superboy. Bottom row: Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White.

Pg. 8:

"Strange visitor" is a phrase that dates back to the very early days of Superman. Apparently the Jimmy-guide speaks in 21st-century American English.

"Hall of 1,000 Olsens" is a riff on JIMMY OLSEN #105--"The World of 1000 Olsens!" In evidence: the Super-Brain Olsen from JIMMY OLSEN #22, the Elastic Lad incarnation of Jimmy who first appeared in JIMMY OLSEN #37, Jupiter Jimmy from JIMMY OLSEN #32, the Wolf-Man of Metropolis from JIMMY OLSEN #44, the Giant Turtle Man from JIMMY OLSEN #53, the Human Octopus from JIMMY OLSEN #41, the Human Flame-Thrower from JIMMY OLSEN #33, the Human Porcupine from JIMMY OLSEN #65, the Fat Boy of Metropolis from JIMMY OLSEN #49, Jimmy the Gorilla Reporter from JIMMY OLSEN #24 although the cover of its reprint in JIMMY OLSEN #116 is funnier, and... who else? Anyone recognize the chicken-footed one or the tornado-like one?

Pg. 9:

The caped figures are Nightwing and Flamebird, from SUPERMAN #158 and many times thereafter, although, as Jimmy indicates, that's now out of continuity. Ow.

Interlac in Panel 2: "Olsen Photo..." In panel 8, the portrait gallery says "Portrait Ga...," and below the Supermans in the case: "...ster," "Boring," "Swan," "Garcia-Lopez," "," and "L...feld." Those Supermans are drawn in approximations of the styles of Joe Shuster, Wayne Boring, Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, John Byrne--although mostly obscured--and... could the one where almost all you can see is feet be dedicated to Rob Liefeld? [ETA: I misread it: it's actually "H... feld," a tribute to Al Hirschfeld, apparently inserted by inker Scott Koblish: there is a "Nina" on each foot. Thanks to Michael for catching it...] Below the left figure, "Bu..."; below the right figure, "Pérez."

Pg. 10:

Panel 2: the Interlac does indeed say "...hantom Zone" and "on loan."

Panel 3: L(I), in the incarnation that appeared in "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes."

R.J. Brande first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #350, by E. Nelson Bridwell and Curt Swan, referred to only as "the richest man in the universe"; the story of his attempted assassination (and the beginning of the Legion) appeared in SUPERBOY #147, a few years later. Leland McCauley (only two Cs!) first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #374.

Panel 7: This is the Legion as they appeared in the late '80s, before the "five years later" period. Which segues nicely into reader Joe G.'s question: "Is 'five years later' no longer in continuity? When in Legion continuity (by which I mean assuming 5YL is tossed out) does 'The Lightning Saga' start? When are these Legionnaires from? I guess the Levitz Baxter-paper run?" Glad you asked, Joe G.! I have no idea what the answer is. In ACTION COMICS #864, Batman notes that this Lightning Lad was the one he'd met in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #148--as opposed to the L(II) version from THE FINAL NIGHT and the L(III) version from Waid/Pérez's THE BRAVE & THE BOLD. On the other hand, supposedly "every Legionnaire to have ever existed" is going to appear in this story. Which means that once we see, e.g., Kent Shakespeare and Laurel Gand, things may become clearer. See also the note on Karate Kid II, pg. 22 below.

My best guess right now is that the three Legions are from parallel universes, but the Johnsverse version, the 5YL version, and the original Jim Shooter "Adult Legion" story from ADVENTURE COMICS #354 (which incidentally includes an offhanded reference to Dr. Light!) and #355 are all alternate timelines from a single universe. But who knows? Any speculation is welcome.

Pg. 11:

Panel 1: Steel's hammer, Superboy's jacket, the Guardian's shield, various varieties of Kryptonite.

Panel 2: Gaston Dominguez-Letelier co-owns Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. Interlac: "...olitude." The exhibit is the key to the Fortress of Solitude, and I think that's Dubbilex in the lower left-hand corner.

Panel 7: He's looking past the Cyborg, Toyman, and... is that the Psycho-Pirate?

Pg. 12:

That "parallel Earth long dead" is our world!

The fight with the Titans happened in TEEN TITANS #32 in 2006; he actually killed Connor Kent in INFINITE CRISIS #6; the fight with Sodam Yat happened in GREEN LANTERN CORPS #18. Prime is considerably tougher than Jimmy is letting on here. And Neutron is, really, fairly minor, although I'll take this opportunity to link to the cover of his first appearance, ACTION COMICS #525, by Marv Wolfman and Joe Staton.

Pg. 13:

The diorama is Connor/Superboy out in front of the Titans.

Pg. 14:

Helmets: "SPD." Vests: "Police." Since when is freezing-breath one of Prime's powers?

Pg. 15:

Panel 3 includes insets of Comet the Super-Horse, Mary Marvel or Captain Marvel's cape, and some stuff I don't recognize.

Pg. 16:

Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl were all created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, and debuted in ADVENTURE COMICS #247.

Pg. 17:

Interlac in panel 9: "Saturn."

Pg. 18:

This sequence, with Mon-El being yanked out of the Phantom Zone, is sort of a recurring motif in Legion comics. In current continuity, he first went into the Phantom Zone in ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #10, and has spent a lot of time in there; as of "Superman and the Legion," he's been re-banished to the Phantom Zone by the Justice League of Earth.

Phantom Girl, created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney, first appeared in ACTION COMICS #276. Lightning Lass, created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte, first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #308. Shadow Lass, created by Jim Shooter and Curt Swan, first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #365.

General Zod, created by Robert Bernstein and George Papp, first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #283. Ursa first appeared in the 1978 SUPERMAN movie, although she didn't appear in comics until ACTION COMICS #845 in 2006.

Pg. 19:

Mon-El, created by Robert Bernstein and George Papp, first appeared in SUPERBOY #89. Brainiac 5, created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney, also first appeared in ACTION COMICS #276.

Pg. 21:

Sun Boy, created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney, was yet another ACTION COMICS #276 debut. Polar Boy, created by Edmond Hamilton, Buddy La Vigne and John Forte, first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #306.

The structure in panel 6 is a building, loosely based on the Legion's original "clubhouse," that appeared in "Superman and the Legion."

Pg. 22:

Panel 3: Karate Kid II, here, was created by Paul Levitz and Steve Lightle, and first appeared in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #13. But he didn't actually join the Legion until the Five-Year Gap period, which indicates that the Lo3W history diverges sometime after that.

Panel 7: Ah, Dr. Gym'll. Created by Paul Levitz and Pat Broderick, he first appeared in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #284 in 1980.

Panel 8: Taltar is the home world of Spider-Girl (!), although I don't know if Taltarians have previously been established as having green skin. (The Taltarian in ADVENTURE COMICS #368 doesn't, anyway, which is not to say that others don't.)

Panel 11: Nullport appeared in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #285.

Panel 12: Kaffar appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #343. Durla is a can of worms, as we'll see.

Pg. 24:

Takron-Galtos first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #359; it was destroyed in 1986's LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #18. Hence, it's been rebuilt.

Pg. 26:

Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen and Cosmic King, created by Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan, first appeared in SUPERMAN #147 in 1961. They all turned up relatively recently in an alternate-future-history story in SUPERMAN/BATMAN #14-18.

Just as Superboy inspired the LSH, Prime inspired the LSV...

"A dark being whose name was never spoken": Interesting. Cain? Darkseid?

Pg. 27:

Uh, Earthgov has kind of made "the American way" as a phrase obsolete, hasn't it?

Pg. 29:

As we all know, when you kill a Skrull, they turn back to their--Durlan. Durlan, sorry. R.J. Brande, by the way, was initially revealed as a Durlan in SECRETS OF THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #3, back in 1981. (Which also revealed that he was indeed Chameleon Boy's father.)

Pg. 31:

It's time for a big round of the "begats." Colossal Boy, created by Otto Binder and Wayne Boring, first appeared in ACTION COMICS #267, and the same goes for Chameleon Boy. Night Girl, created by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte, first appeared in ADVENTURE COMICS #306; Hamilton and Forte also created Element Lad (ADVENTURE COMICS #307), Dream Girl (ADVENTURE COMICS #317) and Timber Wolf (ADVENTURE COMICS #327). Shrinking Violet: Siegel, Mooney, ACTION #276 again. Invisible Kid II, created by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen, first appeared in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES ANNUAL #1. Ultra Boy, created by Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan, first appeared in SUPERBOY #98. Blok, created by Gerry Conway and Joe Staton, first appeared in SUPERBOY #253. Dawnstar, created by Paul Levitz and Mike Grell, first appeared in SUPERBOY #226. Wildfire, created by Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum, first appeared in SUPERBOY #195.

Also on the screen in the last couple of panels: the White Witch, Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy... is that Rond Vidar?... Quislet... Sensor Girl/Projectra?... Tellus and Tyroc.

Pg. 33:

Superman got the "ripcord" ring in ACTION #864.

Pg. 34:

Prime killed one of the Guardians in GREEN LANTERN #25.

Pp. 35-36:

The Legion on the left is L(II); the one on the right is L(III). And no, I'm not going to name all the characters this time. I note, though, that L(III) includes Supergirl in the same outfit she's wearing on pg. 7. And the proposed redemption of Prime is an interesting parallel to the proposed redemption of Inertia over in ROGUES' REVENGE.

Then there's the matter of "a long time ago" (perhaps that was the first "Legion of Three Worlds" adventure), and "the first Crisis." Wasn't Psycho-Pirate the only one who remembered CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS? I'm sure this has been tweaked over the years; can anybody explain it? In "The Lightning Saga," Superman also notes "the last time I saw [the Legion] was after the first Crisis, and they never came back." Maybe he means 1987's SUPERMAN #8?


Bits of Non-Legionnaire Business: There are three, count 'em, three Final Crisis-related titles being published next week: ROGUES' REVENGE #2, SUPERMAN BEYOND #1 (there is still no sign of a #2 in the solicitations for November; perhaps it's been abridged back to a one-shot?) and DC UNIVERSE: LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to post anything here until the following week (when there are no FC-related titles scheduled--and here I was hoping for a roughly one-a-week pace), since I will be on my annual vacation, very far away from the Internet (and comic book stores). In the meantime, I bet David Uzumeri over at Funnybook Babylon will have something interesting to say about SUPERMAN BEYOND, at least. See you in September.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Final Crisis: Revelations #1

By way of transition, let's start out with a quote from Darkseid in FOREVER PEOPLE #3, the source of the original Justifiers: "I like you, Glorious Godfrey! You're a shallow, precious child--the Revelationist, happy with the sweeping sound of words! But I am the Revelation! The tiger-force at the core of all things! When you cry out in your dreams--it is Darkseid that you see!"

I have to confess I'm disappointed that the Powers That Be ended up going with "Revelations" instead of "Revelation" for this--what people think the book of the New Testament is called, rather than what it actually is called. And now it shares a foreboding subhead with THE PHOENIX RESURRECTION: REVELATIONS, SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM: REVELATIONS and the uncomfortably recent WILDSTORM: REVELATIONS. (The only American comic that's ever gotten it right, as far as I can tell, is WOLVERINE/THE PUNISHER: REVELATION.)

Pg. 1:

Great opening line. The scene here is the memorial statues of Superman and Superboy in Metropolis that were unveiled in 52 #1; what's being broadcast is Superman's funeral oration for J'onn J'onzz from FC #2. "Homicide: we work for God" is probably most familiar as a line from a 1993 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.

Pp. 2-3:

We seem to have moved away from Metropolis, since the rain raineth chiefly on the just. Arthur is, of course, revising his involvement upwards. And he has more specific tastes in his victims than we ever knew: check out the oversized bracelets on "Donna."

The implication is that Light's party is happening at the same time as, or immediately after, the memorial service, but Light is still around in Libra's entourage as of the scene after the funeral in FC #2. Maybe he's just gone on a multi-day bender. (ETA: The solicitation for #4 mentions "a Justifier siege," so that issue apparently happens after FC #3.)

It's worth mentioning that Dr. Light hasn't always been Mr. Rapey-Rape--I don't think that was part of his profile until IDENTITY CRISIS, actually. For a long time, the deal with him was that he had no particular arch-enemy: he got his ass handed to him by everybody in turn, first by the Justice League, then the Atom, then Green Lantern (although now I have to wonder if a "Missouri mule" would be some kind of sicko sexual reference), then the Flash (on one of those famously wide Central City sidewalks), and eventually Superman and Batman together, Superman on his own, Batman with Supergirl, Aquaman, Teen Titans both old and new (he's totally checking out Starfire's butt there, the bastard)... the punch line to all this was a story I still remember from FLASH #12 in 1988, in which he gets taken down by the children of Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys.

Pp. 4-5:

Well, this one's been a long time coming. (And, of course, now Arthur's revising his involvement downwards. Weasel.) The out-out-brief-candle bit is another example of the Spectre's fondness for punishments that fit crimes; Dr. Light has been given the same weakness that J'onn had...

But, if you'll forgive a bit more Dr. Light biography: he is well familiar with the DCU afterlife's revolving door, because this is in fact the fourth time he's died. A Parademon killed him in SUICIDE SQUAD #36, which you'd think would have taught him not to mess with Apokolips; having gone to Hell, he was resurrected three times (and killed twice more) in the course of SUICIDE SQUAD #52.

Pg. 7:

St. Faustino (and his friend St. Giovita) are the patron saints of Brescia, Italy; Faustino was a 15th century martyr who's often considered the patron saint of singles, too.

I don't think Dr. Tochioka has appeared before.

Pg. 8:

I also couldn't tell you who Sister Clarice is (or, uh, was). But one important Clarice in the Spectre's life was Jim Corrigan's fiancée Clarice Winston; the Spectre had been keeping her alive for a long time, and severed her lifeline in 1995's SPECTRE #30. Also, thinking of "Clarice" and "Spectre" together led me to think of the author Clarice Lispector.

Pg. 9:

Martyn Van Wyck was Effigy, the flame-based villain who helped kill the Martian Manhunter in FC #1. First Cris snuffs the candle, then he snuffs the wick...

Pg. 10:

I really wish Cris would avoid conflating the concepts of crime and sin. (Crimes are committed against secular laws, sins against divine laws. Jaywalking is a crime; violating the Sabbath is a sin; murder is both.)

Effigy burned the "Hollywood" sign in, I think, 1999's GREEN LANTERN #113.

Pg. 11:

Montoya became the leader of the Order of the Stone at the end of what I prefer to think of as THE QUESTION: FIVE LESSONS OF BLOOD (a.k.a. the CRIME BIBLE miniseries, which led out of the "crime religion" plot of 52).

Pg. 17:

The Hangmen--Killshot, Shock Trauma, Provoke, Stranglehold and Breathtaker--were created by Jay Faerber and Paul Pelletier, and first appeared in 2000's THE TITANS #21. They were roundly mocked by Scipio in 2005, and apparently killed by an angry mob under the direction of Dr. Psycho in 2006's MANHUNTER #21.

Pg. 19:

How many mortal shells has the Spectre worn? Was there anyone before Jim Corrigan? Anyone know?

Pg. 20:

You know, killing off characters loses something of its dramatic impact when they were already dead last time we saw them.

Pg. 23:

I know I've been crying wolf about this particular artifact a lot in the course of these notes, but I'm going to guess once again that what we're seeing here is the Spear of Destiny, which was introduced to the DC Universe in 1977's WEIRD WAR TALES #50, by Steve Englehart, Dick Ayers and Alfredo Alcala. "In the ocean off the coast of England" isn't something I'd previously imagined as a likely spot for the Spear, seeing as how the last time it popped up it had been hurled into the sun; is there a story I missed? [ETA: Yes there is. Commenter narm00 points out that the Spear ended up in the ocean in JSA CLASSIFIED #8-9.]

The business with the "First" etc. is the standard invocations of the Crime Cult. The First is Cain (although more the Biblical Cain than the keeper-of-the-House-of-Mystery Cain, although that house appeared in 52); the Red Rock is not actually named in Genesis 4, although it's semi-traditional that Cain killed Abel with a rock. Commenter Ragtime points out that red + rage could be cues toward "Rage of the Red Lanterns."

Pg. 26:

Cris, as the Spectre, killed his son (who had killed the crooked cop, coincidentally named Jim Corrigan, who had killed him) in CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE #3--a story that, as Rucka has noted, doesn't exactly echo Genesis 22. Which leads Cris to echo Matthew 27:46 here.

The "mercy/vengeance" thing that's being batted around this issue, in combination with the reference to the "Angel of Mercy" in that interview and Rucka's mentioning a new character who'll show up in #2, makes me wonder if the mysterious Clarice might not turn out to be a Spirit of Mercy of some kind.

(ETA: The solicitation for #4 mentions a character called Radiant; the light-vs.-shadow implications of that name w/r/t "Spectre" makes me think such a character might be something along those lines, too. DC already has a different character called the Radiant, but that's never stopped anyone before.)

The DCU's Hell, of course, has its own problems right now--cf. REIGN IN HELL.

Pg. 30:

Hey, it's the old GOTHAM CENTRAL team back together!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Final Crisis #3

Pg. 1:

Frankenstein! This incarnation of the character first appeared in SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #1, created by Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke; besides the obvious Mary Shelley source, the first version of the Frankenstein monster to appear in a DC comic was in DETECTIVE COMICS #135, back in 1948.

S.H.A.D.E., the Super Human Advanced Defence Executive, first appeared in SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #3.

Apparently Darkseid has managed to burn out Puff Daddy's body.

Pg. 2:

In keeping with DCU New York's being full of planned-but-not-yet-executed architectural projects from our world, the building Überfraulein is crashing through here is 200 Greenwich Street.

Pg. 3:

"Know evil": the bit with the moving finger writing is similar to the way the mysterious hand used to write messages on the Source Wall. This time, though, the digit in question is more... digital. (In the comments, Renegade Photography also notes the should've-been-obvious Biblical allusion.)

Father Time here is the version we saw in FRANKENSTEIN (who had his face ripped off by Black Adam during World War III II), not the reborn version(s) we saw in UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS. Curious.

Taleb is Taleb Beni Khalid, the Black King of Checkmate, created by Greg Rucka and Jesus Saiz; he first appeared in CHECKMATE #1 in 2006.

I'm guessing what they found is the Spear of Destiny, not the Ark of the Covenant, but that doesn't stop Taleb from making a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" joke. (You know, that movie Philip Tan thinks is nothing special... amusingly, an actor named Philip Tan appeared in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"...)

Down in the comments, Matt/Kyle makes the excellent point that the Question's involvement with S.H.A.D.E. could be a nod toward the faceless Global Peace Agency operatives from Jack Kirby's OMAC.

Pg. 4:

You'd think, given the extra week this issue took for production stuff, somebody could've fixed the computer-font problems here. Which is to say: this isn't "berfraulein," it's gotta be "Überfraulein"--the Nazi Supergirl. What she's saying, translated from German, is "No. It's the... the bleeding heavens. Hell... is... is here." Which is probably a reference to the red skies as the Bleed from THE AUTHORITY, if that recent Morrison interview is any indication. Also, Chris Eckert unpacks the run-up to "Nazi superheroes from Earth-10" over at Funnybook Babylon.

Pg. 5:

Calvin "Cave" Carson and his team (Bulldozer Smith, Christie Madison and Johnny Blake), created by France Herron and Bruno Premiani, first appeared in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #31 in 1960. The "cave art" is the Metron design/sigil, and doesn't it look like the scales of justice too? In fact, since the "director's cut" of FC #1 notes that the Anthro sequence happens in what is now New York (so the Statue of Liberty bit is a time fluctuation, not time-and-space), this might well be the version of it we saw Anthro drawing near the end of #1.

Nix is about to get recruited by Zillo Valla, one of his old Monitor comrades; we'll see her again on pg. 13.

Pg. 6:

The woman with gray hair is Jay's wife Joan Garrick, created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert, who first appeared in FLASH COMICS #1 in 1940.

Pp. 8-9:

"Red-shifting toward the speed of light": This is almost certainly a reference to the relativistic Doppler effect and an allusion to the red/black color scheme, but wouldn't it be great if it had something to do with the Khunds from SUPERBOY AND THE RAVERS?

I totally love the line "it's a little-known fact that death can't travel faster than the speed of light."

Pg. 10:

Oh hey, it's the Hall of Doom! (But why have Libra and crew relocated here from the community center/strip club? Per Dwayne McDuffie's Injustice League storyline in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, the Hall is located in Florida swampland, which is quite a commute from Central/Keystone City.)

The helmet is a variation on the one that Glorious Godfrey's Justifiers wore in FOREVER PEOPLE #3. The Justifiers aren't named here until the flyer on the last page, but it's clear that's what they are.

One of Luthor's bodyguards may be Mercy Graves (created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini for Superman: The Animated Series; first appeared in comics in CATWOMAN #74 in 1999). (Or maybe not; E points out in the comments that they've had a falling out in INFINITY INC.) Anyone recognize the other one?

Pg. 11:

See Glorious Godfrey's banner in FOREVER PEOPLE #3: "Judge others! Enslave others! Kill others! Anti-Life will give you the right!"

I'm still wondering where ROGUES' REVENGE fits into this timeline: when does Luthor start "eating out of [Libra's] hand"? There's only a sub-24-hour window when that might have happened before the transformation of the world, and you'd think that telling Luthor to "renounce science" would be the very best way to tick him off.

Pg. 12:

I'm pretty sure a Metropolis Memorial Hospital has only previously appeared in fan-fiction.

Dirk Armstrong is a conservative opinion columnist for the Daily Planet, who first appeared in 1996 in SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF TOMORROW #6.

Jimmy knew that Clark is Superman as of a few issues into COUNTDOWN, right? Has anything reversed that?

Pg. 14:

The Celestials, created by Jack Kirby, first appeared in THE ETERNALS #1--no, wait.

Pg. 15:

Hey, Black Lightning finally gets a speaking part! So now I get to mention that he was created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden, and first appeared in BLACK LIGHTNING #1 in 1977.

The All-Star Squadron first appeared in 1981's JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #193, but I'm pretty sure this is the first we've heard of Article X. I thought FDR assembled the A-SS the way all subsequent super-teams have been assembled: by spreading out a bunch of photographs on a tabletop.

Pg. 16:

Oracle, as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, was created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, and first appeared in 1967's DETECTIVE COMICS #359. She became Oracle in 1989's SUICIDE SQUAD #23, by John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell. As for the mysterious new Aquaman... he's mysterious. But perhaps he's the one who turned up in REQUIEM. (The original version, created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, first appeared in 1941 in MORE FUN COMICS #73.) Is the seahorse he's riding Storm?

Ah, here's Mr. Tawky Tawny, created by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck, who first appeared in 1947's CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #79. I know of no Marvel Family story involving "tiger tea"; maybe he's thinking of this? (And can someone please document his jet pack? That would make me happy.)

Freddy used to be Captain Marvel Jr. (created by Ed Herron and Mac Raboy; first appeared in WHIZ COMICS #25 in 1941) and is now going by Shazam (thanks to DCUboy for the correction). "Billy's gone": well, actually Billy Batson, the original Captain Marvel, is occupying the old job of the wizard Shazam now, per THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM! The "change to somebody stronger than me... and never come back" routine really is amazingly reminiscent of the Kid Miracleman business, isn't it? And is his magic word "Shazam" or "Captain Marvel" these days? (If it's the latter, would that be Mary's lips in the inset?)

Pg. 17:

Wait, so they need to round up all the superheroes they can in a hurry... so they send a printed draft notice? In the mail? Nightwing got practically every superhero in the DCU off-planet in about 20 minutes in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD two weeks ago...

There have been a... whole lot of variations on Supergirl over the years--the Wikipedia page on her does a decent job of untangling the Kara Zor-El - Matrix - Linda Danvers - oh whoops we meant Kara Zor-El after all mess. For brevity's sake, let's just say that she was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino and first appeared in ACTION COMICS #252 in 1969, and that this version of the character first appeared in SUPERMAN/BATMAN #8 in 2004. (The Linda Danvers version turned up in REIGN IN HELL #1 last week.)

Morrison has mentioned that his take on Supergirl was inspired by Jessica Abel and Dylan Horrocks' Supergirl story, "The Clubhouse of Solitude," in BIZARRO COMICS, which features Mary Marvel in a very different sort of role from the one she has this issue.

Streaky the Supercat, created by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney, first appeared in 1960's ACTION COMICS #261, and also popped up in our old friend ANIMAL MAN #24. This version of Streaky first appeared in SUPERGIRL #10. I don't think she's super yet.

Pg. 18:

I suppose event comics aren't really event comics without crowd scenes, huh? Let's see:

Top corner: dunno, Bombshell (who, as E points out in the comments, was evil, de-powered and throat-slit the last time we saw her).
First full row: Cyclone, Firestorm, Raven, Blue Beetle, Starfire, Batgirl, Metamorpho, Geo-Force, Blue Devil.
Second row: Red Devil, Amazing-Man, Zatanna, Mysterious New Aquaman, Red Arrow, Supergirl, Thunderbolt.
Third row: Wildcat (Jr.), Green Arrow, Liberty Belle, Hourman, Black Lightning, Vixen, Mr. Terrific, Animal Man--hey, I guess Morrison wasn't quite done with him after all!--Enchantress, Ragman.
Fourth row, by which point my definition of "row" is getting a little ragged: Black Canary, Wildcat, Sasha Bordeaux, Dr. Mid-Nite, Katana, Hawkgirl.
Fifth row: Steel, Damage, Nightwing, Wonder Girl, Red Tornado.
Sixth row: The Atom, Robin, Stargirl, The Flash/Jay Garrick, Power Girl, somebody who looks an awful lot like Jade who was still dead last I checked (kevings suggests this might be Argent)
Front row: Donna Troy (shouldn't she be off monitoring the Monitors?), Huntress, Captain Marvel, Hawkman, Detective Chimp, and of course Green Lantern/Alan Scott out front

(Thanks to Blogenheimer, Jmizz505 and kevings for the assist!)

Pg. 19:

"I crawled out of my own grave": see the end of SEVEN SOLDIERS #1.

Pg. 21:

The Wonder Wagon: yes! Guess that's the upgraded version of the Whiz Wagon from JIMMY OLSEN #133 etc.

Pg. 22:

Renfield is also the name of the bug-eating freak from Bram Stoker's Dracula--a good name for a street in Blüdhaven.

Sgt. Grayle has to be Gardner Grayle from the original Atomic Knights stories.

Pg. 23:

Marene Herald appeared in those stories too, along with her brother Douglas, who we'll see in a few pages.

Pg. 24:

Duncan, commenting over at Funnybook Babylon, points out that Replika appeared in SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #3; Strange Visitor, in the same comments, notes that Wonder Woman did indeed see someone turned inside out in WONDER WOMAN #247.

And speaking of Otto Binder creations, Mary Marvel was created by Binder and Mark Swayze, and first appeared in 1942's CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #18. Her story has been a mess for the last few years, but as far as I can tell, she was de-powered thanks to the death of Shazam in DAY OF VENGEANCE #6, although for some reason Black Adam wasn't; he gave her his powers, and she turned all bad and stuff and started wearing a black costume. She lost those powers in a fight with Eclipso, then turned all good and stuff again, got back her original set of powers and a gray costume, then met Darkseid, got Black Adam's powers, got the black costume again... this would mean, by the way, that her current set of powers come from Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury, Shu, Heru, Amon, Zehuti, Aten, Mehen and Isis. Her outfit here takes her costume's evolution to its logical conclusion and riffs on Jack Kirby's designs for the Female Furies; not bad! (Although this scene does make me wonder where all those "she's never really killed anyone, not reaaally" conversations during COUNTDOWN were meant to go.)

Pg. 28:

By "the world," does Mokkari mean "the Fourth World"? And does this make him the King of All Spammers?

Mr. Terrific here was created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, and first appeared in 1997's SPECTRE #54. He's got ties to the first Mr. Terrific, created by Charles Resizenstein and Hal Sharpe, who first appeared in SENSATION COMICS #1 in 1942.

Pg. 29:

David Uzumeri points out the visual resonance with the opening of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS here.

Pg. 30:

So we've got the Four Dogswomen of Apokolips here, in the roles of the original Female Furies from MISTER MIRACLE #6. Catwoman's obviously in the Lashina role, Giganta (I guess) is Stompa (compare the skull-and-crossbones motif on their foreheads), Wonder Woman is Bernadeth, and... would that be Batwoman as Mad Harriet? Looks like a similar bat motif on her chest, and long red hair. (The original Mad Harriet was killed in COUNTDOWN #11.)

Anybody recognize that vehicle up in the sky?

Okay, what'd I miss?