Now we’re cooking


I can’t believe Countdown has been such a slow burn in getting to the action, but finally, finally, Countdown 44 begins to deliver on the goods that make a great story. As hard as I have been on the series to date, I think everyone – writers, editors, artists, and most importantly the readers are finally starting to settle down and get comfortable with the series. Issue #45 received four stars, how will issue #44 fare?

What I liked most about 52 was the huge number of third-tier characters that kept making appearances. While you didn’t need to know everything about them in order to appreciate the story, it did make for plenty of “oh wow” moments. What sets Countdown apart from 52 is you actually do need to have some familiarity with the background history of the characters, even if that history goes back some 40 plus years.

For example, we’ve seen Jimmy Olsen become Speed Demon, the brief reappearance of Elastic Lad, and this issue, while trying to figure out what is causing his powers to manifest, Jimmy picks a fight with a gang from Suicide Slums, which cause his Human Porcupine powers to appear.


Check out that great eye in the pyramid reference. On second thought – ignore that. Fnord! Fnord!!

I don’t have a problem with which surprise powers are going to manifest next (he still has Giant Turtle Boy, Flamebird, Radioactive Boy, Gorilla, Monster Beard, Alien, Wolf-Man, Jimmy the Hippie, Viking Jimmy, Transgender Jimmy, and many, many more) but readers who didn’t read Jimmy Olsen #22 from 1957, are going to be scratching their heads. Fortunately, like the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus, DC will be releasing The Amazing Transformation of Jimmy Olsen on July 5. One must applaud DC for being able to whip out these trades at the most convenient time possible as it is a simply brilliant way to bring in the bucks. If you check your reading list, I have a feeling we’ll see Super-Brain Jimmy toward the end of the series, when he figures everything out.

Speaking of figuring everything out, the last time we saw Mary Marvel, she disappeared in a blaze of lightning while fighting the dead baby demon. As suspected, Billy Batson summoned Mary to the Rock of Eternity, where he explains what has happened to him, where Freddie is, and his concern for how violent Mary was in taking down Pharyngula. When he tells Mary she should never have accepted Black Adam’s powers and instead should have just lived a normal life, she reacts like anyone would – she lashes out. I can totally understand where she is coming from, and my guess is everyone reading this review understands her frustration of wanting her old life back. Angry and upset, Mary leaves to find her own destiny.


Unlike Jimmy-powers, Mary’s story is not one that requires a lot of delving into the quarter bins. Mary is the sister of Billy, she became Mary Marvel, at some point during Infinite Crisis, or 52 (depending on what timeline you are following), she lost her powers and wants them back – end of story. Her story is an easy jumping on point.

countdown44_01.jpgThat can’t be said for Monarch. When DC tried a mini-reboot of the DCU way back in 1991 in the form of Armageddon 2001, the Anti-Monitor-esque character took the form of Monarch, a despot from the future. It wasn’t until late in the series when it was revealed Hank Hall – Hawk of Hawk and Dove fame – was the Monarch. Or was he? There is certainly the ongoing controversy of Monarch’s identity being swapped at the last minute when word leaked the original Monarch was going to be Captain Atom and not Hank Hall. That really screwed up continuity, and caused everyone to scratch their heads in confusion when the big reveal was made. Of course in One Year Later: The Battle for Bludhaven, Captain Atom returned from a parallel universe with a rupture in his atomic suit, which required the Atomic Knights to outfit Atom with Monarch’s armor.

See what I mean by confusing characters?

So this begs the question, “Is it Hank Hall in the Monarch outfit, or is it Captain Atom?” That is a mystery that will sure to be unveiled over the remainder of the year, but for this issue, it looks like Monarch has a plan up his metal sleeves, and he needs Forerunner to help him out. It is a very scary moment if you consider the power the nearly indestructible being has. After being kicked to the curb by Monitor Jim last issue, Forerunner is very vulnerable, making her easy pickings for Monarch, who may or may not be the good guy he claims.


Adam Beechen jumps on board this issue, and his ability to weave a tale still amazes me. From the parting shot of Monarch and Forerunner walking off that harkens back to the closing shot of Casablanca, to the movie serial setting of the Rock of Eternity, Beechen continually draws from motion pictures to tell a tale that makes sense verbally as well as visually.

And the visuals really work in this issue as well. While Mary Marvel looks all shiny and new, Billy/Shazam/Captain Marvel (for now) is starting to show his age. I have only one complaint about Jimmy looking a little weird, and there is an occasional panel that is pushing the Greg Land boundary, but Carlos Magno’s pencils, Jay Leisten’s inks, and Rod Reis’s colors more than make up for a weird panel or two when the Amazon’s appear.

The mysterious figure that approached Holly Robinson (not that Holly Robinson) last issue is decked out in Greek garb, which should cause a lot of problems for an attractive woman walking down the streets of Suicide Slums. The woman invites Holly to stay at a nearby women’s shelter which turns out to be run by bevy of sorority sisters having a toga party.


Actually, that would be the Amazon’s hangout, but does this part of the story take place before or after Amazon’s Attack, and what is their interest in Holly Robinson?

This brings up another problem I have with Countdown. Well, not a problem, more of an issue. 52 ran in near real time, with each issue taking place during a real week. So when I referred to 52 – Week #44, I could easily say, last week instead of last issue. With Countdown, each storyline is fragmented to fit in with the other stories taking place in the DCU.

The last time we saw the Rouges was in issue #46 as they were about to embark on their takedown of the Flash. Finally, the Rouge storyline in Countdown catches up the end of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, and Piper and Trickster know they are in trouble. If Holly Robinson’s story takes place before Amazon’s Attack, and the Forerunner/Monarch story takes place during Amazon’s Attack, where and when does the Flash/Rogues story take place? What is really needed in Countdown is an editor’s note box that points readers to the tie-in issues and includes information as to when this story takes place.

Again going back to the film analogy of Beechen’s writing, he does it again here as Piper and Trickster decide to go underground and on the lame hiding out from all superheroes ala The Defiant Ones. Granted they are not handcuffed together, but the idea is the same.

The Good

  • Can’t wait for the Jimmy from Jupiter appearance
  • Adam Beechen
  • Mary Marvel seeking her own destiny
  • Villains Defiant

The Bad

  • Timeline, I need a timeline

Your Reading List

  • JIMMY OLSEN #22: The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen
  • JIMMY OLSEN #28: The Human Skyscraper
  • JIMMY OLSEN #31: The E-L-A-S-T-I-C Lad
  • JIMMY OLSEN #32: The Jimmy Olsen from Jupiter
  • JIMMY OLSEN #33: The Human Flame-Thrower
  • JIMMY OLSEN #41: The Human Octopus
  • JIMMY OLSEN #42: Jimmy the Genie
  • JIMMY OLSEN #44: The Wolf-Man of Metropolis!
  • JIMMY OLSEN #49: The Fat Boy of Metropolis
  • JIMMY OLSEN #53: The Giant Turtle Man!
  • JIMMY OLSEN #59: Jimmy Olsen, Freak
  • JIMMY OLSEN #65: The Human Porcupine
  • JIMMY OLSEN #72: The World of Doomed Olsens
  • JIMMY OLSEN #77: The Colossus of Metropolis!
  • JIMMY OLSEN #80: Jimmy Olsen, the Bizarro Boy
  • JIMMY OLSEN #85: The Adventures of Chameleon-Head Olsen
  • JIMMY OLSEN #105: The World of 1,000 Olsens
  • SUPERMAN FAMILY #173: Menace of the Micro-Monster
  • Armageddon 2001 #1 and #2
  • Batman: Year One
  • Batman #404

I finally feel all the stories being told in Countdown are starting to make sense and we’ve moved from the introduction, to the meat of the Countdown story. Now I’m excited. Now I can’t wait until the next issue. Now I feel like I’m getting my monies worth. Regardless of the main problem of needing to know your DC history, I give Countdown #44 a solid 4.5 Stars out of 5.


Parting Shot


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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  1. Brent F.
    June 29, 2007 at 3:43 pm — Reply

    Didn’t Billy’s parents ever teach him it’s not polite to look up your sister’s skirt?

  2. June 29, 2007 at 5:13 pm — Reply

    I’m glad the Monarch is finally a badass, mysterious character. Before? He looked like a nerd imitating Night Thrasher.

  3. June 29, 2007 at 7:13 pm — Reply

    I’m just happy that the book is GOING someplace. The first four issues seemed to be exercises in exposition with no real story coherence.

  4. Brent F.
    June 29, 2007 at 8:55 pm — Reply

    He doesn’t look any different…

  5. Jerry S.
    June 29, 2007 at 11:12 pm — Reply

    Just adding some details regarding Monarch…

    Hank Hall (Hawk) became Monarch during Armageddon 2001… later on he “lost” (more on that later) the Monarch armor, absorbed Waverider / Matthew Ryder (a part, or another version of him), gained time travel powers, and became Extant during Zero Hour… this version, Hank Hall/Monarch/Extant later DIED in the JSA series.

    There is, however, another Monarch, revealed to be Nathaniel Adams (Captain Atom’s alias), in Extreme Justice. It is said that Captain Atom was his clone, not the other way around. During Armageddon Alien Agenda, this Monarch (sans suit) was said to train Hank Hall/Monarch, enabling the latter to gain Waverider’s time travel powers, and when Hank Hall became Extant, he returned the Monarch suit to Nathaniel Adam/Monarch. This version of Nathaniel Adams/Monarch, is NOT dead, and STILL at large.

    After Infinite Crisis, Captain Atom’s skin was leaking, hence the Atomic Knights incorporated him into another Monarch suit. This 3rd Monarch appeared in the Ion series, but does not seem to have evil intentions in mind.

    So which one’s the Monarch appearing in Countdown…?

    Honestly speaking, my opinion is, with the DC Universe mythos more or less completely junked by the creative teams handling DC lately (which sucks), the current one would probably be Monarch v3, and they’ll somehow retcon the other two. The worst thing to happen to DC was getting Geoff Johns aboard. He has no respect for history.

  6. June 30, 2007 at 3:17 am — Reply

    It’s all in the drawing style. For instance, the lines of the armour flow together rather than acting like clunky pieces of metal that have just been glued to him – and the eyes have also been whited out, giving a sense of mysterious anonymity. That was one of the problems with Civil War, we kept etting closeups of Iron Man’s face to see his little eyes peering through the helmet…

  7. Brent F.
    June 30, 2007 at 10:12 am — Reply

    It’s still the same costume and it doesn’t look anything like Night Thrasher’s…

  8. June 30, 2007 at 12:29 pm — Reply

    POV, my friend. POV…

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