I sure as hell hope this isn’t another Zero Hour

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Even though the final numbers aren’t in yet, 52 was a huge success for DC, which means if the formula works once, it will surely work again with the brand new series Countdown. I’ve read through the first issue, and while I’m excited about following yet another weekly series, one comment in the entire issue has me worried just a little bit.

I was rather upset we didn’t get to see Darkseid during 52, because I think he would have been a great character to react to the reintroduction of the Multiverse. But like we’ve seen before, Darkseid is one that sits back, observes, plots, and then strikes. With this first issue, it seems Darkseid is ready to act and take advantage of the situation.

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It also looks like he likes to play Heroclix.

Is anyone else concerned about this as much as I am? From his comments, I’m afraid DC has introduced the Multiverse, only to have it revert back to a single universe. This series is counting down to #0 after all, and having a total cluster F rehash of Zero Hour all over again is not something I’m looking forward to. However, Rip Hunter did say the Megaverse was coming and perhaps this is what Darkseid is referring to.

Darkseid also seems to be the Rod Serling of the series, introducing us to characters and storylines. Issue #51 gets started with the introduction of Duela Dent – the Joker’s Daughter.

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“When did The Joker find time to have a family? Were there some missing pages from Mad Love that I don’t know about?”

03.jpgRemember dear reader, we are dealing with the Multiverse, a universe where different versions of Earth have been created, each with their own history. In the case of Joker’s Daughter she really isn’t the spawn of the Clown Prince of Crime, but rather the offspring of one Harvey “Two-face” Dent. She first appeared way back in the 70s in issue #6 of Batman Family, but has had her identity and mind rebooted more times than my recent install of Windows Vista. Random times throughout the last 30 years, Duela has appeared in Teen Titans quite a bit, but never had her origin story set in stone. If you’ve only been reading DC titles for a short time, most of you are probably familiar with The Joker’s Daughter popping up in Kingdom Come and again in the Titans Tomorrow storyline. She’s also made a recent appearance in Titans East.

For the most part, Duela has done the right thing by being on the side of good any number of times including Infinite Crisis and 52, but Countdown finds Duela trying to make a quick buck by kidnapping a tween-idol for millions of dollars. Duela grabs the girl and jumps out a multi-story window, but the parachute gets a nice big hole shot in it by none other than Jason Todd, aka Robin II, aka Red Hood, aka I Can’t Believe They Brought Him Back From the Dead!

Todd has been a rather strange character since his return. Sometimes he appears to be one of the good guys dealing vigilante justice to the extreme, other times, he comes off as true villain antagonizing the heroes to get his way.

The effects of Infinite Crisis created a lot of problems, by allowing characters we don’t like who died long ago to come back, and leaving other characters we love still six feet under. Personally, I wish DC would have left Jason Todd rotting in the ground as he has done nothing to move any storyline along that couldn’t have been done with other characters. For now, Todd appears to be on the side of good again, and after rescuing the kidnapped girl, takes a couple of shots at Duela as she makes her escape.

There is a great transition from the Duela/Todd chase to Mary Batson being dismissed from the hospital. One of the problems with Countdown, is there are so many characters and character developments that have happened in other books, new readers stepping into this series are going to be very confused. Remember, Countdown is not a direct follow up to 52, but rather a year of events happening in the One Year Later timeline. In order to know what has happened to poor Mary Batson, readers would have had to choke their way through the first issue of Trials of Shazam! which finds both Mary and Freddy stripped of their powers and Mary in a coma.

Countdown #51 finds Mary awake, but still without her powers, and to make it worse Freddy paid for her hospital bill, leaving a message for her not to find him. As obsessed as Mary has been to say the magic words and return to her superhero role, the next year will be very interesting to see how the Seduction of the Innocent storyline plays out.

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Apparently the Flash’s Rogues Gallery like to gather to crack open a few brewskies while they plot their next devious scheme (which probably explains why they fail so often), which just goes to show villains like to party like everyone else. Again, if you haven’t read the Wally West Flash stories, you aren’t going to know The Trickster and Pied Piper turned their backs on treachery to help Flash whenever possible. Their turncoat ways don’t sit well with the other Rogues, so when The Trickster shows up at one of their keggers, Heat Wave is a little suspicious of his intentions.

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Hmmm… my guess is Trickster is just as upset over DC getting rid of Wally West as the rest of us are. And that little rat near the window? Yup, he’s a spy for the Pied Piper who is also trying to find out what the Rouges are up to.

The writing by Paul Dini is really spectacular in this issue. Each of the big plots are teased (with the exception of Jimmy Olsen Must Die) just enough to get me really interested in finding out what happens next, and the transitions between stories happen so naturally it is surprising when you realize you’ve jumped hundreds of miles between subplots in a single panel.

Which brings us back to Duela running from Jason Todd. As she continues to make her escape, the shots fired get more intense, to the point where Duela decides to stand her ground and fight. Too bad for her it isn’t Jason Todd she’s been running from.

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We haven’t seen the Monitors since the Brave New World issue and unlike Crisis on Infinite Earths, in this new Multiverse there are more Monitors than you can shake a stick at. In his mind, this crazy muther thinks it is his mission to correct the problems of the Multiverse by killing those who have jumped worlds or who are alive when they shouldn’t be.

Since none of the Monitors have names and they all look exactly alike, I’m going to call this one Stinky (Stinky’s suit is purple if that helps you remember him).

Jason Todd shows up and is unable to take Stinky down, and since Jason Todd is one of those who should still be dead, Stinky has no problem pulling his gun and taking aim. Luckily for Jason, Stinky’s brother (I’ll call him Jim) shows up to put an end to the madness.

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Still the self righteous bastard that he is, Stinky makes his escape leaving Jim to apologize for his brother’s actions.

As interesting as Duela may have been, it looks like she’s been taken down for good – at least on this Earth.

Jim seems rather troubled by all the chaos Stinky has caused, and flies into deep space to the Source Wall to find answers. The Source Wall is the all knowing barrier that separates the multiple universes. Jim asks what can prevent the great disaster and a flaming hand appears in space t write the answer.

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The hunt for Ray Palmer is on!

The Good

  • Stinky trying to right the Multiverse
  • Paul Dini writing this series
  • Characters that are self aware they are from a different universe

The Bad

  • X-men-ities
  • Kill a character no one knows/cares about

What you should probably read to really understand who all these characters are:

  • Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files #2
  • Teen Titans #43
  • Detective Comics #524 – 526
  • Batman: A Death in the Family
  • Batman #635
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Infinite Crisis
  • Brave New World
  • Trials of Shazam!
  • Underworld Unleashed
  • New Year’s Evil: The Rogues

Issue #50 is nothing more than stage setting for the rest of the series. While I liked this issue, I have a feeling Countdown is going to suffer from X-Men-ities – too much history, back story, and characters readers need to know in order to understand the current storyline. Still, given a chance, readers will be able to get the main ideas and should be able to enjoy the story without having to dive through the DC Encyclopedia every 10 minutes. Overall I thought this was a good kick-off to another year long event and earns Countdown #51 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

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Parting Shot
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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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4 Comments

  1. Brent F.
    May 13, 2007 at 10:07 pm — Reply

    Mary will become the new bearer of Black Adam’s powers. Bring on Black Mary!

  2. May 13, 2007 at 10:34 pm — Reply

    I was strangely torn by this. The use of Darkseid bugs me (as his mysterious absence was, I thought, the gateway to something new, rather than a step back to ‘Legends’ not that most DC readers are old enough to REMEMBER Legends), the Monitors seeming resemblance to Marvel’s Watchers didn’t do anything for me, I KNOW who Duela is and don’t know why I’m supposed to give a flaming rat’s ass why they offed her, Dark Mary Marvel holds about as much promise for me as “Half-Naked Phyllis Diller” and it just seems like they’re trying too hard to capture the 52 lightning in a different bottle.

    All told, I would have given this issue 2 out of 5, for incoherencies, for nearly everyone speaking in vague mysterious phrases, for not knowing how Mary could have appeared in 52 and yet still have spent a year in a coma, and for Stinky. If you had phenomenal cosmic power and a grand overarching goal, would YOU go all Frank Castle on some Earth-2 refugee? Moreover, TO WHAT END?

    Dini has my attention and the benefit of the doubt (I wasn’t in love with 52 #1 either) but there’s only so many weeks that I’m gonna pay 3 bucks to not know what the heck is going on.

  3. May 14, 2007 at 9:18 am — Reply

    Yeah… 52 was good, but I’m not doing another weekly. I’d rather pick up 4 different monthly titles.

  4. Mark I.
    May 14, 2007 at 10:42 am — Reply

    Ahh, “Stinky”…it’s like getting a name in second grade and knowing you won’t be able to shake it for the whole semester. When “Stinky” is (half-assed educated wild guess coming) one of the last one or two remaining Monitors dealing with Darkseid and Super-Monitor-Boy sometime around, oh, March ’08, he shall still be “Stinky” to me.

    As long as Dick Grayson survives and Wally West returns, all good in the ‘hood.

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