So it’s true—all the good names are taken.
Lois Lane, reacting to news of Jimmy Olsen’s other identity.

Title: Countdown #43-40

Writers:Paul Dini with Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Tony Bedard, Adam Beechen.

Artists: Jesus Saiz, Jimmy Palmiotti, J. Calfiore, Mark McKenna, Carlos Magno, David Lopez, Tom Chuet al.

Special features by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund.

Premise:

  • The world reacts to the death of Bart Allen, the most recent Flash, which occurred in an entirely different title. The Rogues Gallery members responsible are on the run, and the Penguin reluctantly takes them under his wing. At the end of #40, one of 52‘s stars appears poised to bring the pair to justice.
  • Jimmy Olsen adopts a new superhero identity that should resonate with old-time comic fans: Mr. Action.
  • We see fragments of the Amazon storyline that’s crossing over into other DC comics. Mostly, the Countdown segment consists of women lounging around in terrycloth robes. Presumably, the Holly Robinson/Harley Quinn plot will go somewhere, but whether it will arrive their in this series remains in doubt. People are angry, however, and Wonder Girl and Supergirl appear to have turned against America.
  • Jason Todd, Donna Troy, a Monitor, and the new Atom head into a nanoverse to locate Ray Palmer.
  • Mary Marvel continues to turn dark and edgy, and seeks help from Zatanna.
  • Darkseid, the Legion, and some ape-men all have something to do with this series or perhaps one of its crossovers.
  • The last Forerunner receives an army to train, and vows to destroy the Monitors.
  • The Monitors continue to relate the history of the DC Universe, and their own problematic origin. They also realize—surprise—”a crisis may be in the offing.”

High Point

The appearance of the Question seems a hopeful sign, and the overall sense of movement in #40 is long overdue.

Low Point

For all the fighting, the Mary Marvel plot plays as forced and static.

The Scores

Originality: 2/6. A crisis may be coming. Good thing that DC hasn’t overplayed that card.

Artwork: 5/6. They’re doing well for a weekly series.

Story: 4/6. 52 worked because, while it referenced the entire history the DCU, its plots, for the most part, were contained to the series. It also featured some strong characterization. With Countdown, one never knows if any given plot strand will develop internally or in some other comic book. However, #40 shows some signs that the plots may cohere.

Characterization: 3/6. It’s passable, but the series remains too fragmented for effective character development, even of the four-color variety. In the case of Mary Marvel, the writers seem to have mistaken forced edgy attitude and stubbornness for characterization. I’m hoping that the writers will handle the Question as effectively here as they did in 52.

Emotional response: 3/6.

Flow 3/6.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, Countdown #43-40 receive a score of 24/42.