If it is happening in Countdown, it’s happening in Gotham City

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I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Countdown #41 this week to see if the creative team could go two for two in giving readers a story that didn’t cause massive brain hemorrhages from confusing storylines, and more importantly didn’t suck. Unlike some bloggers, I’m here to stay on Countdown and won’t be punking out after just a couple of issues. It’s too bad there are those leaving the series in droves, because right now the series is starting to take off.

countdown41_cover.jpgThere are many reasons people have been dropping Countdown, ranging from “DC told us we wouldn’t need to buy a bunch of tie-in issues, and now we do”, to “the series is nothing more than rejected pages from other series thrown together”, and “DC should have been happy with the success of 52 and not jumped into another weekly series so fast”. For the first month and a half, I tended to agree that the series stumbled out of the starting blocks, but with 10 issues down, Countdown is picking up speed, and the writers all seem to have gotten the problems (mostly) worked out and are starting to realize readers don’t want to buy 20 other issues just to enjoy what is going on in the DCU. The individual storylines are becoming more self-contained in the pages of Countdown, but I have a feeling we’ll still be seeing some spillover here and there.

Piper and Trickster: In the last issue, Trickster pulled one final trick out of his sleeve (his mouth actually), hoping he and Piper could make their escape. Unfortunately, Trickster didn’t know they were in a plane flying at 32,000 feet.

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In the confusion, Trickster grabbed a bag that luckily contained all their gear. Trickster’s flying boots happen to be tucked away inside, and the duo have just enough time for each put one on to help slow their decent. With a little maneuvering they land in a nearby body of water. It isn’t until the duo – still shackled together via electrified handcuffs – climb out that they realize they’ve landed in Gotham City.

For whatever reason, Paul Dini has it bad for Gotham and everything Batman. So far in this series we’ve seen Mary Marvel regain her powers, and solve a crime with the Riddler while in Gotham. Batman has made a couple of appearances, as has Harley Quinn, Holly Robinson (not that Holly Robinson), and Jason Todd. Even Karate Kid is hanging around a bit longer, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find Danny LaRousso Karate Kid hooking up with Batman a few more times before this is all over. With the hint we are going to see the Penguin showing up next, Gotham City seems to be a focal point for a lot of the series. This might bother some people, but I’m a big Dini fan and everything he does with the Batman universe, so I’m interested to see where he is going with this.

Harley and Holly: For the time being Harley and Holly aren’t in Gotham, but they are just across the river in Metropolis kicking it in the home of the toga party that never stops. As I’ve pointed out in previous reviews, time in Countdown is not linear and we are only getting bits and pieces of stories that may not be happening at the same time as other DCU events. With this issue, Harley and Holly’s story finally catches up to the Amazon Attacks storyline with the downing of Air Force One and the mobs converging on the Athenian Women’s Shelter.

Instead of staying safe inside the confines of the shelter, Harley decides it’s up to her to go out plead her case.

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For now this sequence does nothing more than clarify continuity and shows at what point their story is taking place. Other than that, there isn’t much going on with these two this week, which is a shame, because a Catwoman/Harley team-up could be more fun and interesting than anything Harley and Ivy ever did.

Jimmy Olsen: Jimmy’s made the commitment to be a superhero, and since every hero needs a name, Jimmy has settled on Mr. Action, a name he used in the 70s while an investigative reporter. He’s even made his own costume.

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As much as he wants to be a superhero, Jimmy realizes there are some drawbacks to wearing a cape. The first is he discovers he’s late for work. He also quickly finds out that if he plans on wearing his costume under his regular clothes, he going to have to wear a full suit, and that’s a problem when it is the hottest day of the year. Poor guy, maybe he should use his connections to figure out a way of getting a cooling fan put in.

The Hunt for Ray Palmer: Well, we finally figure out the names of the Monitors.

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That is kind of a mouthful, so Jason Todd decides to call Jim the Monitor, Bob. Bob? I like Jim better, but I guess if they’ve given him the name in the comic, then we’ll have to honor it here…for now. Jason, Donna Troy, Bob, and Ryan continue to shrink until the reach the Palmerverse, which looks a lot like jungle realm Ray Palmer spent time in during the Sword of the Atom storyline, and most recently in the pages of All New Atom #13 – but this world has robot frogs and angry inhabitants. Guess we’ll have to read All New Atom #14 to get the rest of that story.

Mary Marvel: Mary’s single page appearance this issue finds her sitting around contemplating her actions. And those actions have her in Eclipso’s sites.

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Karate Kid: This issue also finds the JSA/JLA/LoSH crossover event getting its final footnote as Karate Kid is told to stay behind instead of going back to the future. I’ve already seen this event play out in the other related issues, and some have said these scenes are nothing more than rejected filler pages. I can appreciate that viewpoint, but I view these scenes as the director’s cut that actually adds a bit more to the overall story. In the case of “Deleted scene #546: Karate Kid is left behind”, there is a huge reveal that will spill through the rest of Countdown.

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Una? What happened to Triplicate Girl? Why is she all alone now? If you have done your research (while waiting for Matthew to put Triplicate Girl on his Hero History line-up) it appears as if this is the surviving third of Triplicate Girl. During Computo the Conqueror storyline, one of her selves was killed (this was actually the mirage created in the JSA/JLA issues for what it’s worth), so she renamed herself Duo Damsel. Later, another of her selves was killed by the Time Trapper, leaving only one.

Since we haven’t seen Una and Karate Kid in any DC titles since the end of the Lightning Saga, I wonder what they’re up to.

The Good

  • Dini and Beechen do it again
  • The art is solid throughout the issue
  • Everyone gets a moment in this issue

The Bad

  • It still isn’t the best read of the week
  • Time compression and decompression in storytelling still causes confusion

Your Reading List

  • Action Comics #852
  • Adventure Comics #341
  • All Flash #1
  • All New Atom #13
  • Amazon’s Attack #4
  • Legion of Super-Heroes v. 4 #42
  • Major Spoiler’s Hero History
  • Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #163

Dini and crew stepped up to the plate, and swung hoping to hit the ball over the big green wall. Unfortunately there are still characters I really don’t care that much for, and story points that were either too short (Mary Marvel) or too long (Holly and Harley). As much as I want to see Harley and Holly in action together, the slow plodding of their story is causing me to care about them less and less each week. Likewise, I really like the Legion of Superheroes, but rehash after rehash of stuff we’ve already seen with very little additional content drags too much. Instead of two pages of exposition, the Karate Kid scene could have been reduced to one and those following along in the other books would have understood completely what is going on.

That being said, I like the writing, I like seeing Gotham appear again and again each week as a focal point. I’m okay on the art. It’s solid. Dennis Calero art is good, but I’m not a fan of merging photo realistic backgrounds (clouds, etc), with drawn art, it gives me the Greg Land heebie-jeebies, and that isn’t good for anyone. I wish the Dodsons had the time to do all the interior pages instead of contributing the cover. I want Geffen back on breakdowns. I want a book I can love, but to date, I’m still flirting with this new thing that has captured my attention. The stories really picked up this week, but 22 pages just isn’t enough to get readers hooked. If DC would drop the damn hotdog ad insert, and give us something a little more interesting than the retelling of 52 in four pages, then there would be plenty of room for this series to spread its wings and fly. Still, this week continued to move in the right direction, and earns Countdown #41 a solid 4 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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6 Comments

  1. Baal
    July 22, 2007 at 4:10 pm — Reply

    Thank you for covering this. I can’t stand actually reading Countdown anymore and I was hoping you’d be reviewing it.

  2. July 22, 2007 at 10:25 pm — Reply

    Hmmm… The use of Una (kinda hate the name) is interesting, as Luornu’s original incarnation is one of the more underutilized of the old-school Legionnaires. Any takers on a a Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel/Triad type Hero History?

  3. July 22, 2007 at 10:33 pm — Reply

    I’m all for a complete triplicate girl breakdown – she is one of the more confusing characters – her and shrinking violet. But I just can’t wait until that Brainiac 5 Hero History is released ;)

  4. Mark I.
    July 23, 2007 at 2:06 am — Reply

    All right! Una, the Legionnaire with the power to, uh…use her Legion flight ring?

  5. July 23, 2007 at 2:54 am — Reply

    What with Holly’s ‘Violence is not the way’ thing, do you think that (judging byt he Second Countdown Teaser) she might hand over the reins to Ms. Quinzel?

  6. Jerry S.
    July 23, 2007 at 8:53 am — Reply

    im not sure if this is the real source for the “Una” name for the lone Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel/Triad character,
    but…
    “Una” means One, or more specifically, “The First”, in our local Filipino language. =)

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