Donna Troy/Wonder Girl/Troia
Jason Todd/Robin II/The Red Hood
James Olsen/Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen
Holly Robinson/Catwoman II
The Monitors
Val Armorr/Karate Kid
Thom Kallor/Starman V
Nura Nal/Dream Girl
Pieter Cross/Dr. Midnight III
Nathaniel Adam/Captain Atom/The Monarch
Written by Paul Dini with Tony Bedard (incorrectly credited as Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray); Pencils by Jim Calafiore

This week opens right where last week left off – with the Monitor’s agent of destruction, Forerunner, continuing to drop a beating on Donna Troy and Jason Todd. Just as Todd’s about to go down for the final count (again!), Donna steps it up and brings the battle to the mysterious Forerunner. The intergalactic enforcer proves more powerful than even a woman with the powers of the gods, however, and if not for the interference of a rogue Monitor, Donna and Jason would have been toast.

We learn a little bit about the origins of Forerunner from her encounter with the Monitor, and about her races' unique relationship to the Monitors. Mysteries still abound here, but it looks like the Monitors have been active for quite a bit longer than anyone’s previously considered.

We’ll get back to the end result of Donna’s and Jason’s run-in with Forerunner and the rogue Monitor a little later, but first let’s hit the other players of this week’s issue.

Jimmy Olsen is trying to wring some answers out of the wreckage of the building where Sleez was attacked and in so doing gives a brief rundown of the New Gods. Holly Robinson is also still skulking around that same building in Suicide Slum and before the book leaves her, she encounters a mysterious character shrouded in shadow. More on those two in coming weeks.

Next, the book checks in on Karate Kid and his Legion of Super-Heroes compatriots meeting with Dr. Midnight on the Justice League Satellite. This interlude is a bit behind the rest of the DCU books, as over in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, the crossover story, the Lightning Saga, reached its conclusion this week. Check out those books for more info on the appearance of the 30th Century heroes in our time period and the ramifications of that story on the entire DCU – next week the Rundown will take a closer look at those developments.

Finally, this week’s issue ends with a beaten Forerunner and a new alliance forming between the rogue Monitor, Donna Troy and Jason Todd. With the defeat of Forerunner – who is apparently powerless against the Monitors, genetically bred by them over centuries in accordance with a mysterious prophecy – the Monitor disappears with Troia and Red Hood. Alone, stranded on Earth, disgraced by her defeat and failure to complete her mission of assassinating Troy and Todd, the Forerunner severs her physical link with her masters, the Monitors.

Alone, however, isn’t quite right, for in the final panel of the issue, it’s revealed that none other than Monarch is watching over Forerunner! The former villain seems about to put Forerunner to his own uses, claiming she is too valuable to discard. Hmmm . . .

Who is Monarch, you ask? In simple terms, Monarch is Captain Atom. Now he is, at least. But the history of the character is more convoluted than a study of the human genome.

In 1991, DC Comics rolled out its latest summer crossover event, Armageddon 2001. Originally conceived as a simple event comic involving a dystopian future ruled by a former super-hero who had destroyed all of his fellow heroes and become a powerful dictator, the story behind the story became the bigger pageturner!

In the year 2030, the DCU is ruled over by the Orwellian Monarch – a powerful entity that ruled with an iron fist. Once a hero of the DCU, the Monarch had turned against his allies, destroying them all, and taking over the world. The crossover event consisted of two bookends, spanned by stories through that summer’s DCU Annuals. When a rebellious scientist named Matthew Ryder uses time travel technology to escape the world of 2030, he is transformed into Waverider.

Upon reaching the year 1991, Waverider vows to use is temporal powers to discover, and then destroy, the present-day hero who will be corrupted and eventually become Monarch in the year 2001. Over the course of a dozen Annuals, Waverider glimpsed into the futures of DC’s most popular heroes and villains, all the while revealing clues to who would become Monarch. Finally, in the summer’s last annual before the bookend, Armageddon 2001 #2, was released, Waverider encountered Captain Atom and their physical contact ripped a whole in the space-time continuum allowing Monarch to travel from 2030 to the then present-day DCU.

As Monarch rages against the assembled DC pantheon, he beats and kills Dawn Granger, a/k/a Dove of Hawk and Dove! Now without the counterbalance of Dawn's pacifism, Hank Hall, her lover and the warlike Hawk, attacks with the full force of his power. As the battle ensues, Monarch is killed by Hawk and his armour is damaged, revealing that Monarch is really. . . Hank Hall!!??? Suffering a psychotic break, Hank Hall instantly takes the armour of Monarch and becomes him!

Apparently DC had been planning to reveal Captain Atom as the time-traveling Monarch, but word of the decision leaked to the fan press, and an editorial decision was made to change the reveal to Hawk, so as to keep the surprise of the event intact. The problem was that in the course of the summer's annuals, Waverider had looked at Hawk & Dove's future which showed them actually battling against Monarch, therefore ruling either of them out as the future villain! The fan and creator outcry against the change to the story was loud and clear.

The story ends with a guilt-ridden Captain Atom (since it was his power that ripped the timehole open and let Monarch back to the 20th century to kill Dove) takes on the villain one-on-one and the two tumble through time in a battle that was shown to readers in the pages of Armageddon: The Alien Agenda. The two eventually are caught in an atomic blast during WWII and while Captain Atom is sent to the present day by the blast, the fate of Monarch is left open ended.

So, how does that bring Captain Atom to the point where he is wearing the Monarch armour? What happened to Hank Hall/Monarch?? Be here next week for another Countdown Rundown Special Edition looking at the parallel histories of Captain Atom and Hank Hall and their fates within and without the DCU!

And then, be back on Friday for our regular installment: Countdown #44 in stores on Wednesday June 27th! Return of the Monarch!

Oh, and if you are wondering what happened to the Rogues in this issue -- they were a little busy over in Flash #13, the final issue of the series!