Beginning as simply COUNTDOWN, the weekly series’ numbering ran backwards, starting with #51 which was released the week after the final issue, #52, of the previous weekly series 52. As 52 had followed on from INFINITE CRISIS, so COUNTDOWN would eventually work up to FINAL CRISIS.
From issue #26 the series changed its name to COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS. Notes on the earlier issues can be found from the link above.
As the individual stories progress, Solomon holds a council of Monitors and tells his fellows what is happening and how it can be stopped. He reveals Monarch’s ambition to cause a Crisis that will reduce the Multiverse to a singular universe which Monarch himself will rule. Eventually the Monitors agree that they will unite under Solomon and wage war against Monarch.
Karate Kid, in Bludhaven, breaks into the underground complex with the ad of Firestorm.
Forager has brought Jimmy Olsen to Apokolips in search of the New Gods’ killer.
On Earth-8, Bob transports Donna’s body away as Kyle and Jason fight before returning and taking them away as well. When they are all together, Donna is revealed to be alive and Bob insists they find Ray Palmer as soon as possible.
On Earth-15, Lex Luthor is abducted by a mysterious black clad figure.
In Bludhaven, Karate Kid and the others are confronted by the Atomic Knights who demand they leave the ruined city. Firestorm and Karate Kid attack the Knights and overcome them, allowing them to enter the sealed bunker below the city. There they find Professor Stein being tortured by Desaad who then manages to take over Firestorm.
Charged by the Suicide Squad to capture Trickster and Piper, Deadshot deliberately mishears his orders and plans to kill them both.
Captured on Apokolips, Jimmy is separated from Forager and put to work.
Elsewhere on Apokolips, Eclipso presents Darkseid with Mary Marvel.
Earth-15’s Superman is confronted and killed by Superman-Prime, who still carries Lex Luthor around before taking him into the atmosphere and killing him. He attacks the Justice League and kills them one by one before destroying the entire world.
Desaad, as Firestorm, threatens to kill Karate Kid but is stopped by the Atomic Knights, allowing Firestorm to regain control and force Desaad out of his body and into a Boom tube to Apokolips.
On Apokolips, Mary rejects Darkseid’s offer to join him as his sorcerer and the two battle just as Desaad arrives, allowing Mary to escape, forcing Eclipso to take off after her.
Superman-Prime is determined to find his home world, Earth-Prime, as it existed before the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and is holding Mr Mxyztplk prisoner within the Source Wall where he has held him since capturing him in COUNTDOWN #31. Also his prisoner is Annataz, the sorceress of Earth-3 who is preventing Mxyztplk using his magic while Superman-Prime tries to force him to either join him or give him his powers. Ultimately betraying Superman-Prime, Annataz returns Mxyztplk’s powers and allows him to escape before Superman-Prime destroys the Source Wall hideout and kills her.
Sat on an asteroid, Eclipso attempts to coerce Mary into returning to Apokolips, promising her power if she will simply put up with Darkseid for the time being. The asteroid is suddenly destroyed by Lord Havok commanding Monarch’s fleet as they pursue a Dominator fleet as a training exercise.
Floating in the ruins of the asteroid and the Dominator fleet, Eclipso attempts one last time to convince Mary to return with her to Apokolips but Mary turns Eclipso’s own black diamond against her.
On Apokolips, Jimmy is still forced to work and mercilessly beaten before being rescued by Mr Miracle who, in an attempt to get Jimmy’s powers working, throws him into a fire pit.
Returning to the 5th dimension, Mr Mxyztplk demands that it be sealed off to prevent Superman-Prime getting in.
Still running from Deadshot, Trickster and Piper hideout on a train before the mercenary finds them again, forcing them to fight him in a last ditch attempt to escape which ends with the death of Trickster.
Desaad plays with the same chess pieces that Darkseid has been using and removes Trickster’s piece now that he is dead. Granny Goodness reveals herself to have been masquerading as Athena in order to train her would-be Amazons and turn them into Female Furies.
On Paradise Island, Holly and Harley decide to break out of the training camp they are held in and seek their own path, finding a cave that they think is uninhabited.
On Earth-12, the Challengers are found by that universe’s Monitor who attempts to kill the Challengers and apprehend Bob, forcing them to flee but not before inadvertently revealing the location of Ray Palmer.
Beneath Bludhaven, Karate Kid and the others find a secret passage and attempt to open it.
From within the Norad mountain, Brother Eye senses Karate Kid’s position and breaks free, intending to fly to Bludhaven before the release of what it calls the Morticoccus virus.
Unseen and undetected by the Earth’s heroes, Brother Eye flies to Bludhaven where Karate Kid and Una attempt to enter the secret chamber. Brother Eye extends a wall around the city, sealing them in.
The Challengers prepare to enter the Earth where Palmer is living.
On Apokolips, Jimmy’s powers were forcibly manifested, allowing him to find Forager who temporarily attempts to kill him.
Trying to hone his army of recruits, Monarch finds that some of the heroes in his arena are not playing by the rules.
Carrying the dead body of Trickster with him, chained as they are by the wrist, Piper leaves the train and heads out into the nearby desert.
Mary and Eclipso battle with Eclipso regaining her black diamond and stranding Mary alone in space.
Delirious with the desert sun, Piper talks to Trickster as though he were still alive and, using his flute, attempts to find an animal that can carry Trickster’s corpse. Traveling with a donkey into the night, Piper cannot bring himself to cut off Trickster’s hand and thus the chain that connects them.
On Earth-51, the Challengers attempt to find Palmer who seems to be hiding out on what is the perfect world.
Holly and Harley find the cave they discovered is not uninhabited; the resurrected Hippolyta has been biding her time before taking back the Amazons from Granny Goodness who has been pretending to be Athena. Attacked by a hunting dog, Hippolyta recommends Holly and Harley return to Athena with the dog’s body and await her return.
On Apokolips, Forager is brought to her senses and stops attacking Jimmy before Bernadeth appears and attacks them. They escape via Boom tube, though, and the New Gods’ killer appears to strike down Bernadeth.
On Earth-51, Ray Palmer is living the life he feels he deserves. He and all his friends have retired from the superhero business as there is next to no crime on the world. They congregate at his and Jean’s house to celebrate Christmas but are disturbed by the appearance of the Challengers. Confronted by them, Ray tells his friends of how he came from a different Earth and traveled the Multiverse until finding Earth-51 and his counterpart who died during an experiment. He took his place, continued his work and married his Jean Loring. Having found Ray Palmer at last, Bob the Monitor attempts to kill him.
In outer space, Eclipso returns to Mary’s body intending to take her power. Mary has been playing possum, however, and attacks her.
Finally taking responsibility for her actions, Mary forces Eclipso down to Earth, fighting with her all the while. In the skies above Paradise Island, Mary gives up the power given to her by Black Adam, extinguishing Eclipso’s power at the same time. Plunging into the sea, Mary washes up on Paradise Island and is found by the Amazons.
On Earth-51, the Challengers try to restrain Bob while Ray tries to escape with Jean. Cornered by Bob, however, Ray is unable to prevent him killing Jean. The Challengers rescue Ray and escape.
Moments later, the rest of the Monitors appear, led by Solomon, and surround Bob who reveals he has been working with Solomon all along to find Ray. Solomon drains his energies, attempting to subsume him, but they have been individuals too long and do not join while the other Monitors demand to know what is going on. Solomon’s plans to become the sole Monitor are revealed just as Monarch and his army invades Earth-51.
With the invasion of Earth-51 by Monarch and his army of superheroes pulled from different worlds under way, Monarch himself confronts Solomon forcing him to flee to the Nexus. There some of his fellow Monitors berate him for the way in which he treated them before returning to Earth-51 in order to help stop Monarch and his army. As he wonders whether he has lost, Superman-Prime confronts him.
The Earth-51 Batman rallies his forces, capturing Jason.
Kyle and Ray talk while they have the chance and Ray says that the Earth-51 Ray Palmer was supposed to stop the Great Disaster, not him. The other Challengers are attacked by superheroes under Monarch’s control, including Queen Belthera.
On Earth, Forager tells Jimmy that he is a soul catcher which explains his powers.
On Paradise Island, Mary has been found by Holly and Harley and brought before Hippolyta who asks her to join them.
On Earth-51 Kyle and Ray battle Monarch’s forces. Ray tells Kyle that this Earth’s Palmer had discovered the Morticoccus virus and realised that it might exist in the other universes. As he was immune to it, he planned to seed the other Earths with his own immunity, providing an inoculation. After he died, Ray continued his work and where he inoculated someone, he left them with a mark like his Atom symbol (see THE SEARCH FOR RAY PALMER)
Batman allows Jason to go free and reveals the reason there is little crime on the world when he shows him evidence of having killed most of the super villains of Earth-51.
Donna battles one of her counterparts who lets slip that she is working with Queen Belthera (see Countdown #33 – #35)
At the Nexus, Superman-Prime attempts to force Solomon to help him before they are interrupted by Forerunner who has arrived to kill the Monitor.
In Bludhaven, Brother Eye continues to assimilate the city using Firestorm as a power source and Karate Kid wonders whether, because of Desaad’s presence, it now has Boom tube technology.
Solomon delights in informing Superman-Prime that his much sought after “perfect Earth” is the one the armies of Monitors and Monarch are currently destroying: Earth-51.
Donna, disguised as the Wonder Girl who attacked her, confronts and defeats Queen Belthera, gaining the loyalty of her insectoid servants through right of ascension by combat just as Kyle and Ray arrive.
Batman gives Jason the Red Robin costume that his counterpart once wore before they launch an attack against Monarch’s super army. While they are quickly over-run, Donna arrives commanding Belthera’s army to attack Monarch’s forces.
Before Monarch can intervene, Superman-Prime attacks his command ship and faces off against him.
Superman-Prime battles Monarch, angered at the destruction of his “perfect Earth” with Monarch opening his containment suit and causing a nuclear explosion. The pair continue fighting until Superman-Prime rips apart Monarch’s suit causing an explosion that wipes out the entire Earth-51 universe, leaving only the Monitor alive.
The Challengers manage to survive before Donna sees a message written by the Source, commanding them to go to Apokolips. The Earth-51 Batman is killed in front of Jason’s eyes by Ultraman who is sent flying by Kyle. The Monitor of Earth-51, having heard the call of the Source, arrives and opens a portal for them to Apokolips.
In the Nexus, Solomon is about to kill Forerunner when Darkseid appears and requests he finish the chess game they have been playing since COUNTDOWN began.
The Challengers appear on Apokolips, escaping the carnage of Earth-51.
In Metropolis, Jimmy finds a message in his bathroom that he and Forager should go to Apokolips.
On Paradise Island Holly and Harley are still posing as trainee Amazons while Granny Goodness, as Athena, prepares to bring the whole exercise to a close.
On Apokolips, Darkseid and Solomon continue playing their chess game.
Athena proclaims the Amazons will become Female Furies before Mary Marvel rejects her. Hippolyta arrives and attacks Athena, revealing her to be Granny Goodness to the Amazons and forcing her to escape via Boom Tube back to Apokolips. Holly, Harley and Mary follow after her, leaving the Amazons to Hippolyta.
In the desert, finally having cut Trickster’s arm off, Piper is surprised to see a Boom Tube appear for him.
In Bludhaven, Brother Eye activates a Boom Tube and takes Karate Kid and Una to Apokolips, leaving Buddy Blank and his grandson behind.
Brother Eye arrives on Apokolips and begins to assimilate its technology.
Karate Kid and Una attempt to escape and find out where they are.
The Challengers argue and Jason leaves the group, finding Brother Eye and OMACs in the streets and decides that it at least will be able to get him back to Earth.
Piper, trying to hide on Apokolips, is approached by a stranger.
Granny Goodness and the Female Furies hold Harley, Holly and Mary at bay for a while before they manage to find weapons and defeat the Furies, Mary hearing the voices of Gods in her head.
Jimmy and Forager take a detour to the Habitat to take reinforcements to Apokolips.
Trying to escape, Una is taken over by an OMAC before Karate Kid can stop it happening.
Mary, Holly and Harley find the prison where the Greek Gods are being held captive by Granny Goodness and, by saying “Shazam” Mary not only frees them but regains her original powers as well. As a show of thanks, the Gods also grant Holly and Harley powers.
Brother Eye finds it is unable to assimilate Karate Kid as an OMAC while the OMAC that was Una tries to capture him. Jason appears and tries to help but Karate Kid is captured.
Mary, Holly and Harley find Granny Goodness fleeing from the scene but before they can get to her, she is killed by the New Gods’ killer. They are then found by the Challengers who had been following the magic lightning Mary called down when she freed the Gods.
Desaad, having found Piper on Apokolips, tries to convince him that by playing his pipe he can elevate himself to godhood. Before he can start, Brother Eye finishes assimilating the entire planet and causes explosions to interrupt Piper.
In the wreckage, Desaad and Piper are found by the OMAC carrying Karate Kid and Desaad reveals that he has been behind the troubles of Piper and Trickster from the start, simply to bring Piper here so that Desaad can access the Anti-Life Equation that exists within him.
Jason follows the OMAC with Karate Kid and Piper while the Challengers, now including Holly, Harley and Mary, try to find him.
Brother Eye begins to examine Karate Kid while the Una-OMAC attacks Jason who manages to wake Firestorm who, as a captive, had been powering Brother Eye. The Challengers attack Una-OMAC as the Atom attempts to free Karate Kid and discovers he carries the Morticoccus virus. Brother Eye uses a Boom Tube to send all of the heroes out of the command chamber and into path of a horde of OMACs.
Desaad finds Piper and tries to get him to play but instead, Piper kills Desaad before turning his music against Brother Eye, causing it to explode and flee Apokolips.
Atom finds himself in Darkseid’s throne room, hidden as a piece of the chess set while Darkseid and Solomon play. Darkseid reveals that it was Solomon who corrupted Captain Atom and turned him in Monarch and claims to have controlled the game from the very start, while Solomon aims to use the Morticoccus virus to wipe out the superhumans. Atom makes his way back to where the Challengers, along with Jimmy, Forager and the Hairies from the Habitat.
The heroes argue as to what is the best course of action with the Atom insistent that Karate Kid has to die to end the plague before it begins and Jimmy planning to confront Darkseid.
Solomon appears to them and tells Jimmy that his powers are the result of Darkseid storing energies within him. As the heroes continue to argue over what should happen to Karate Kid, Solomon transports them all back to Earth where the Atom realises that they have brought the Great Disaster with them.
Holly and Harley, powerless now they have returned to Earth, decide to return to Gotham while the Challengers take Karate Kid and Una – freed from the OMACs control – to the JLA to ask for help. When they arrive, though, the JLA has no idea who they are and Firestorm teleports them away as they quickly realise that this world has no memory of them.
They fly to Cadmus where they find Jimmy, Forager and the Hairies waiting for them along with Harley and Holly who have also realised they’re not remembered.
Jimmy helps them gain access to Cadmus and they are met by Dubbilex who allows them to explain why they have arrived but before they can help Karate Kid, Dubbilex proclaims him dead.
Despite being left in Bludhaven when Brother Eye Boom Tubed to Apokolips, Buddy Blank appears to work for Cadmus which may show that the heroes are not on their Earth of origin. (It is revealed in COUNTDOWN #4 that this is a reconstituted Earth-51.)
Despite the best efforts of the scientists, Karate Kid’s viral infection cannot be contained and while the other heroes watch and wait, Buddy is witness to the Morticoccus virus escaping from Karate Kid’s body.
While the virus was free for only a matter of seconds, it mutated and became airborne and managed to get out of the facility, Gotham falling prey to a mass outbreak. A limited number of inoculations are created from the Atom’s immunity and shared amongst the heroes while Buddy notices that the infection has a mutational effect on animals, making them more humanistic.
The Challengers argue with the Justice League and each other and eventually Buddy decides to leave the facility and look after his family; Una convinces him that with Karate Kid gone she has nothing else to live for and accompanies him.
Green Lantern, in an attempt to get help from space, unwittingly takes the virus with him.
Una accompanies Buddy Blank through the riot infested streets of Metropolis as more and more people succumb to the effects of the Morticoccus virus, helping him get to the apartments where his daughter and grandson live
Across the world, the heroes attempt to combat the effects of the virus but most of them, as well as the super-villains, contract it, turning on each other.
The Challengers can do little apart from watch the city and the planet fall to pieces.
Buddy and Una find his grandson alive but the apartment has been infested with rats which attack Una. Reaching the roof to escape, they discover Buddy’s daughter who has mutated due to the virus and attacks them. Una sacrifices herself, giving Buddy her flight ring so he can escape with his grandson while she dies protecting them.
Buddy travels to the Command D Bunker where he had worked on the Brother Eye project and from there he watches the world powers blame each other for the virus and, eventually, launch nuclear weapons against each other.
The Challengers, realising there is nothing they can do, leave the Earth via Boom Tube.
Arriving back on their Earth, the heroes split up, some leaving under a shadow, others just eager to return to their lives.
Mary Marvel returns to her apartment to discover Darkseid waiting for her. He offers her what appears to be a globular Eclipso diamond, claiming it is the rest of her power. He says that the Olympian Gods do not entirely trust her and had only returned a fraction of her power to her. Though hesitating, Mary takes the jewel.
The Monitor named Solomon admits that it was he who moved the Great Disaster from New Earth to Earth-51 in order to thwart Darkseid’s plans but knows Darkseid is still likely to win.
The Challengers arrive at the Justice League’s headquarters in order to speak with them and work out what’s happening but Mary, clad once again in black, arrives and attempts to kidnap Jimmy Olsen. Though the Challengers put up a fight, Mary manages to snatch him from them.
Following the capture of Jimmy Olsen by Mary Marvel, Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner attempt to get the Justice League to help them.
Elsewhere, Mary delivers Jimmy to Darkseid who reveals that the souls of the dead New Gods reside within Jimmy and his powers are reliant upon Darkseid. Before he can kill Jimmy, Superman arrives and battles Darkseid.
Donna, Kyle and members of the Justice League arrive and attack Mary who manages to defeat them.
Darkseid turns Jimmy into Kryptonite which almost kills Superman. Hidden inside Jimmy’s brain, however, is the Atom who manages to disable the Apokoliptian technology that Darkseid had planted, allowing Jimmy to gain full control over his powers for the first time.
The Justice League help rescue the civilians of Metropolis as Darkseid and Jimmy Olsen battle, both grown to enormous size, amongst its buildings.
Hidden in Jimmy’s brain, the Atom discovers the repository of New Gods’ souls and, as Darkseid is about to kill Jimmy, takes it out of his head and crushes it, releasing a huge plume of energy.
As Darkseid threatens to kill the Atom, Orion appears having obviously survived his apparent death in DEATH OF THE NEW GODS #5.
The heroes watch as the father and son battle each other to a stalemate until Orion rips out Darkseid’s heart from his chest, killing him.
With the crisis over, Forager and Jimmy Olsen talk about what they are going to do next.
Ray Palmer is visited at his old home by Donna Troy, the pair of them also at a loss.
Pied Piper materialises back on Earth in Gotham, having survived the fall of Apokolips.
Also in Gotham, Jason Todd returns to a life which skirts the edges of criminality.
Solomon visits the Source Wall and proclaims himself the winner in his game against Darkseid.
Palmer and Troy are visited by Kyle Rayner; Donna suggests that they monitor the Monitors.
Mary Marvel finds Black Adam and attempts to join him; he spurns her, however, leaving her to face her recent actions alone.
In the ruins of Bludhaven, Buddy Blank is freed by Brother Eye and transformed into a new OMAC, one with free will.
Joined by Jimmy Olsen and Forager, Troy, Palmer and Rayner are visited by Nix Uotan, the Monitor of Earth-51 who takes them to the Monitor’s ship and backs their claims to the other Monitors that they will be watching them.
On Earth, Holly Robinson and Harleen Quinzel reflect on what had happened to them.
DC UNIVERSE 0
The intention was for COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS to finish with a zero numbered issue; as the series went on, however, this changed and instead DC UNIVERSE 0 was produced, co-written by Geoff Johns (who had written INFINITE CRISIS) and Grant Morrison (who would write FINAL CRISIS.) It appeared to pay little attention to many of the events of COUNTDOWN, rather serving as a preview of what was to come in the DCU.
The issue is narrated by a mysterious voice; note that the captions start off black but as the issue progresses, they slowly change to red. The narrator comments on the Earth being the foundation of the Multiverse and comments on the three crises: CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, INFINITE CRISIS and the then-forthcoming FINAL CRISIS.
A glimpse of the Legion battling Shadow Demons (a mainstay of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) foreshadows the FINAL CRISIS tie-in, LEGION OF 3 WORLDS.
Batman faces the Joker who warns him that someone is coming to hurt him, a glimpse of the Batman R. I. P. storyline written by Grant Morrison.
Wonder Woman battles the Minotaur, unaware that her enemies are gathering against her and that the gods themselves are plotting to replace her, leading to Whom The Gods Forsake.
The Green Lanterns discover Black Hand has escaped and, as other Lantern Corps begin to form, Black Hand hears the call of the Anti-Monitor, leading to BLACKEST NIGHT.
The Spectre is shown dealing out vengeance upon petty criminals which leads to REVELATIONS.
A figure is seen falling through the Multiverse; this is Darkseid, following both COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS and DEATH OF THE NEW GODS. The villains gathered before Libra are unaware that the god he talks of is Darkseid himself. As if to balance Libra’s machinations, the narrator finally becomes aware of who he is: Barry Allen, the second Flash, who died during CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
This leads directly into FINAL CRISIS #1.