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Countdown #51

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2007
By: Jim Beard



Writer: Paul Dini
Artists: Jesus Saiz (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i), Tom Chu (colors)

Publisher: DC Comics


Counting down everything you NEED to know about Countdown #51...

6. There’s a concept at the core of this first issue of Countdown that I think is both noteworthy and interesting, that of the Monitors as “continuity cops.” Taking over from Jonni DC (the curly-haired cutie who used to flit through issues of Ambush Bug screaming “You’re messing up my nice, neat continuity!”), the Monitors, glimpsed in “New World Order” and “World War III," et al, seem to be taking it upon themselves to keep the 52 Earths each in their own lock box. That’s intriguing. Add in a rogue Monitor (yeah, yeah, something of a cliche; the Guardians have been there and done that), and we have a premise that ratchets the new Multiverse up a notch or two. If this concept plays out throughout “Countdown,” I’m up for it. “World jumpers, the death-cheaters, and the other criminals who defile the Multiverse” is a great line and a great opening for this series. But...

5. ...despite that, this inaugural issue lacks a bit of luster. Often seeming padded, and in some places yawn-producing, Countdown starts with more of a whisper than a shout. For one thing, the insides do not live up to the cover. Here we have what could possibly be the anti-thesis of 52, a series running NOW, concurrently with the rest of the DCU, and with the ability to utilize the Big 3 or 4 or 5, and we start off in the lower ranks. Way lower ranks. Hey, 52 showed you can have an engaging story with characters who aren’t exactly household names. I get that, but it’s a bit of a surprise that DC didn’t match the cover by giving us a “State of the DCU” page or two. Why not set the scene? Why not call out immediately that this is NOT 52? If that’s not what it's all about, then it’s a bit odd to blast us with the Big Guns on the cover (beautiful as it is). The confrontation between Duela Dent and Jason Todd could have stood some editing, cutting down on panel after panel of repetition, and allowing more space for the story with Mary Marvel, for example. At the very least, we could have been given some small idea of what the Flash Rogues segment had to do with anything. Again, lacking a bit of luster. A bit of “oommph!”

4. The art by Saiz and Palmiotti was very nice and head and shoulders above much of what 52 had to offer. Smooth and descriptive, the visuals set a nice mood, and I rarely had to wonder what was going on, art-wise. My main complaint about it is the handling of the “Source Wall” segment. I guess I may be used to Jack Kirby when it comes to the New Gods and their milieu, but the grandeur and spectacle of the Wall has been diminished, giving little reason for neophytes to get an idea of the scope of the concept. Tiny panels and limited page weight overall did not do it any justice, and the more I think of it, the re-grooving of the Wall into simply a barrier between the multiple Earths didn’t help much, either. Kirby set up the Wall as barbed wire of a sort between us and the Unknowable (i.e. “God”). The Source was a magnificent thing, an oracle that Highfather of the New Gods drew strange messages from, written out in towering, blazing letters by a mysterious disembodied hand. Here in Countdown we get hard-to-read scribbling by a tiny, muppet-like extension, over convoluted backgrounds. If only the space needed to convey this concept was blocked out in the book, something that could have been easily achieved by weaning down the Joker’s Daughter/Red Hood fight and eliminating the Rogues sequence all together. I suspect the Source Wall and the Monitor’s devotion to it are key to the series, but why it was downplayed here in the first issue is a mystery perhaps even the Source cannot answer. Maybe Countdown needs a Keith Giffen on layouts.

3. Mary Marvel’s story could be really, really something to keep an eye on. DC’s shown us that the original Marvel Family concept is no longer sacred (more’s the pity to us Old School fans) and though I hardly believe they’d mutilate her character in irredeemable ways, there is that hint that the wringer they’ll put her through could be harsh and painful. She’s a paragon of virtue in the DCU, one of the few left, and I hope they can give a us a solid story of innocence and seduction that still leaves us with a Mary that we can all recognize.

2. I was intrigued by Duela Dent here. I was introduced to her back in the 70s and lost track of her in the 80s. By then, DC had decided to treat her as nothing more than a comedy character. I’m not too up on the current Joker’s Daughter, but I was struck by her admission of being from a “neighboring Earth.” I guess she should’ve kept info like that quiet, and socializing with a “death-cheater” like Jason Todd wasn’t helping anything, either, especially where rogue Monitors are concerned. I’m not mourning her demise much, but I will admit that she had a certain something about her. Maybe one of her dopplegangers can show up somewhere.

1. Now, don’t get me wrong about Countdown #51. I think the good and the potential outweigh the bad and the detractions. The idea of the Monitors patrolling the Multiverse looking for line-jumpers and what-not is a good one, absolutely, and wanting to know what Ray Palmer, the long-lost Aton, could possibly have to do with an impending “Great Disaster” is enough to keep me around and curious. I can also assume that DC has learned many lessons from 52, not the least with storytelling, and I expect Countdown to be a culmination of all they’ve learned. I’m not concerned at all about them being able to keep it on a weekly schedule, but I am a bit trepidatious about all the other connecting DCU titles coming out on time. Maybe this series will be exactly what DC needs to streamline their efforts and get one of the greatest comic book companies back on a serious and timely schedule. Here’s hoping. Countdown may prove to be too cool of a thing to mess up with late books.

Liftoff!



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