Somebody tell me how this isn’t a massive waste of time?
–Batman, Countdown #36

Title: Countdown #39-36

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

Artists: J. Calfiore, Keith Giffen, Jay Leisten, Jimmy Palmiotti et al.

Special features by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Scott Beatty, Stephanie Roux, Tony Daniel, et al.

Premise:

  • Batwoman and the Question let Piper and Trickster go, convinced that the pair didn’t kill the Flash (“Trust me. Those two idiots couldn’t kill time”). The wanted Rogues soon face other dangers, from character less likely to be forgiving.
  • Jimmy Olsen establishes his “Mr. Action” identity, and tries to join a group of superheroes. The Teen Titans are full, but Olsen uses his famous connection and wins the chance to pitch to the Justice League.
  • Karate Kid has a virus that cannot be identified; its origins lie off-world or in the distant future. Oracle sends him to the one man who might be able to help, but that way lies danger.
  • Jason Todd, Donna Troy, a Monitor, and the new Atom find a world of trouble, but little sign of Ray Palmer.
  • Holly Robinson continues to win over the Amazons and the supposedly reformed Harley Quinn.
  • Mary Marvel’s newfound friendship with Zatanna takes an ugly turn—- but we realize in #36 that someone else may be controlling her.
  • The impending “crisis” foreshadowed in previous issues is now a future “Great Disaster.” We do not know if this has any connection to the old Kamandi comic, or if DC just tired of using the word “crisis.” It does appear that Darkseid will play some part, but information on the New Gods plot comes so infrequently that I fear it may be another crossover tie-in event.

High Point

Fifty-two‘s sense of its own comic-book-ness reappears now and then in Countdown, in Zatanna’s return to her ancestral home, for example, and in Mr. Action’s quest to be taken seriously as a superhero.

Low Point

Author, cartoonist, and illustrator Jules Feiffer calls comics a childlike “booze.” They’re not great literature, but a fun momentary escape (I recognize that some graphic work achieves something more, but Countdown lacks such aspirations).1 However, the series generally fails to capture my interest even on the level Feiffer describes. Batman’s comment, quoted above, may be more relevant to the series than DC intended.

The Scores

Originality: 2/6.

Artwork: 4/6. The art is perhaps at its most inconsistent in these issues, an ongoing problem with a weekly series.

Story: 4/6. Finally, the plots appear to be going somewhere. Slowly.

Characterization: 3/6. >.

Emotional response: 3/6.

Flow 4/6. They have created a sense of flow across multiple plots.

Overall: 3/6.

In total, Countdown #39-36 receive a score of 23/42.

1. Even mainstream superheroics may aspire to more, but their minimum standard is as pulp fiction “booze.”