Comic Book Review: Countdown #51

DC unveils their newest weekly series in Countdown. Dini has been put in charge of this project. That certainly makes me optimistic about the quality of this title. However, Countdown has a tough act to follow in 52. Comic book readers now have higher expectations than they did prior to 52. It shall be interesting to see if Countdown can provide DC without another smash success. Let’s hit the review for Countdown #51.

Creative Team
Writer: Paul Dini
Penciler: Jesus Saiz
Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Darkseid on Apokolypse commenting that he sees a time fast approaching when existence itself shall be recreated and Darkseid shall be its architect. Darkseid has a large chess board with various DCU characters as the pieces. Darkseid moves a piece that looks like Duela into position.

We then cut to Duela at a bar hitting on a rich celebrity female singer named Tracey. Duela kidnaps Tracey. Red Hood arrives on the scene and rescues Tracey from Duela. Duela mentions that she is from a neighboring Earth, but still has her street cred to maintain on this Earth and won’t let Red Hood take her down. Duela then begins to make her escape from Red Hood.

We shift over to Mary Batson checking out of her hospital room. Her magical word “Shazam” no longer transforms her into Mary Marvel. No one has come to visit her and Mary feels abandoned. Mary is told the nurse who discharges Mary from the hospital that Freddy Freeman paid for all of her hospital bills. She is also given a note left behind by Freddy. The note says “Don’t try to find me.”

We zip to the Trickster arriving at Heat Wave’s hideout. Heat Wave tells Trickster that he wasn’t invited to this meeting of Rogues. That Trickster was a turncoat. Trickster responds that he has his head on straight now and that he is ready to help give the Flash a serious beating. Heat Wave comments that beating the Flash is just for starters.

We then see several rats leaving Heat Wave’s hideout and reporting back to the Pied Piper exactly what the Trickster is up to. Pied Piper comments that if the Rogues are truly up to something that the Piper cannot let the Trickster get in his way.

We cut back to Duela on the run from the Red Hood. However, Duela realizes that the figure after her is not the Red Hood. It is a Monitor. The Monitor tells Duela that she does not belong on this Earth and that the penalty is death.

Red Hood then appears on the scene and attacks the Monitor. Red Hood asks the Monitor who is he. The Monitor responds that he is the Multiverse’s only hope. The Monitor then blasts Duela and kills her.

The Monitor then tells Red Hood that Duela was an incongruity, a threat to the sanctity of the Multiverse. That all such anomalies must be purged. The Monitor then says that Jason Todd shall be next.

Suddenly, another Monitor appears and stops the first Monitor from killing Jason Todd. The second Monitor tells the first one that he is acting in violation of his jurisdiction. The first Monitor says he is dealing with world-jumpers, death-cheaters and other criminals who defile the Multiverse.

The second Monitor comments that the first one has acted without authorization and that this will be reported to their society. The first Monitor retorts that the others will agree with him. The first Monitor then teleports away. The second Monitor then leaves. Red Hood then holds Duela’s corpse.

We see a Monitor arriving at the Source Wall, the barrier of each of the respective universes. That it is omnipotent and if the answer is anywhere then the Monitor shall find it here. The Monitor says that there is a rising tension in the Multiverse and they who monitor its borders have felt this. That it has created unrest even among their own ranks. The Monitor asks why is this happening.

The Source Wall responds “Great disaster.” The Monitor comments that the end time that was foretold is fast approaching. The Monitor asks how can this be prevented? What is the solution to the Great Disaster? The Source Wall responds “Ray Palmer.”

The Good: How about that! Countdown #1 was a fantastic debut issue. And I shouldn’t have expected anything else from a writer as talented as Paul Dini. Countdown #1 was a well plotted issue. It is obvious from just the plotlines that we were given in this debut issue that Dini has a clear direction and purpose in mind with this title. Dini is going to give us a technically well constructed and plotted series that is going to lead to a universe rocking conclusion.

I really enjoyed the fact that Dini wasted no time kicking off the various plotlines. Dini stomps on the accelerator from the very first page and gets Countdown off to a fast and exciting start. I found this pace to be fast enough to grab the reader’s attention, but not so fast that Countdown #1 felt rushed. It was just right. And it is important that Dini got Countdown off to a fast start after such a huge dramatic ending that we got over in 52. Dini knows that he had to strike while the iron was hot.

Dini gives us a nice blend of action and drama in Countdown #1. I always appreciate it when a writer takes the effort to give the reader a balanced issue. Dini delivers enough action to get the reader excited and enough drama to give this issue some depth and complexity.

Dini does an excellent job creating plenty of mystery and intrigue with this issue. Dini is creating a story where the reader has no idea what is going to happen next. The reader gets the sense that anything is possible. That is important in order to make Countdown have that “must read” feel to it in order to convince readers to sign on to purchasing this title every single week for the next year.

Dini serves up plenty of solid dialogue. Again, this is no surprise. Dini has always turned in quality dialogue and strong character work on other titles he has written. The well done dialogue quickly establishes the different personalities of the various characters in this issue. Each character is nicely developed and we can expect Dini to provide some good character growth with this title.

With the exception of Duela, I dig the characters used in this first issue. What I like the most is that DC decided to follow the same format as 52 by focusing more on B and C-list characters rather than the big name heroes like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. That is a brilliant move.

The DCU is full of great characters with plenty of potential. All these characters need is some panel time and some character growth in order to move up closer to the A-list. 52 certainly did that for Ralph Dibny, Booster Gold, Will Magnus, Black Adam, Steel and Renee Montoya.

Dini started off Countdown #1 with an opening scene that appropriately set the stage for this entire series. The scene with Darkseid immediately grabs reader’s attention and serves the reader notice that there are many cosmic and powerful forces at work in this story. It also places this story on a universe spanning grand scale.

The Mary Marvel plotline was interesting. Like Black Adam, Mary has been stripped of her powers. I wasn’t expecting that move. I like it. This should provide a nice literary vehicle for Dini to have Mary search her own soul and allow for some quality character growth. It was also interesting that Billy and Freddy are avoiding Mary. I am curious to find out why Freddy is so adamant that Mary not bother to try and find him.

And what is going on with the Rogues? I used to be a massive Flash fan and I have always liked the Rogues. I dig that Dini is going to be spending some time focusing on these wonderful characters. Evidently, getting back at the Flash is just the beginning. That the Rogues have something much greater planned. I’m definitely interested in seeing where this plotline goes.

The Trickster was a reformed villain, however, the Top reverted the Trickster back to his villainous way a while back. I’m glad to see that Dini is going to follow up on this heel turn by the Trickster.

And what is Piper up to? I’ve always liked the Piper as a reformed Rogue and I hope that he doesn’t take a heel turn during Countdown. I’m curious if this Pied Piper is Hartley Rathaway or if this is someone else.

The Red Hood and Duela scenes were great. I absolutely did not expect to see a Monitor appear out of nowhere and blow away Duela! What a great move. It grabbed the reader’s attention and did an excellent job establishing the largest of all the plotlines in this title.

I’m glad that Duela was the character that DC chose to kill. And not just because I don’t care much about her character. It was a good idea because enough readers know Duela’s character so it isn’t the death of a totally unknown character. However, Duela isn’t a big name character with lots of fans who will immediately howl in protest and refuse to continue to support Countdown. Plus, killing off major characters is a waste of time since they always come back to life.

I think I may be the only fan of the Red Hood. I’m glad that Jason Todd has abandoned the “evil” Nightwing persona and is back to the Red Hood character that I enjoyed so much when Winick first re-introduced Jason Todd to the DCU prior to Infinite Crisis. I think Jason Todd’s character has tons of potential and I am interested to see what Dini has in store for Jason.

The entire Monitor plotline is absolutely riveting. I love the role of the Monitors as the police of the Multiverse. That they are to make sure that Earth-jumpers are caught and that anomalies are taken care of. Of course, Dini has to ratchet up the intrigue by showing that there is a serious split within the Monitors on how to police this new Multiverse. I am already completely enthralled with this plotline.

Dini delivers one fantastic hook ending in Countdown #1. We learn about the Source Wall that is the barrier between each of the respective multiple universes. We also learn that about the “Great Disaster.” This is going to be the main event in Countdown that all of the smaller plotlines are going to revolve around. And I definitely and completely intrigued by this “Great Disaster.”

And then Dini drops a bomb on the reader with the final page of Countdown #1 with the Source Wall telling the Monitor that the only way to prevent the Great Disaster is Ray Palmer. I am a huge Ray Palmer fan. I absolutely love his character. To me, the Atom is Ray Palmer. Period. Accept no substitutes. And I honestly kept an open mind and gave this new Atom a try. The new Atom does absolutely nothing for me. So, of course, I’m thrilled to see that Ray Palmer is going to play a central role in Countdown.

Jesus Saiz delivers plenty of great artwork on this issue. I have always liked Saiz’s style of art and Saiz creates one nice looking comic book. Saiz certainly gives Countdown better artwork than any issue of 52.

The Bad: It is tough to complain about much with Countdown #1. However, as excited as I am about Ray Palmer playing a central role in Countdown, there is also a sense of impending dread.

Personally, I absolutely loved Ray’s exit from the DCU at the end of Identity Crisis. After all the trauma of having his wife turn out to be the killer of Sue Dibny, Ray shrinks down to microscopic size and has not been seen since. That is a fantastic, tragic and powerful exit for a hero to take.

Now, I’m worried that DC is just brining back Ray in order to rape, defile and then kill off his character. And probably have him get killed like a total bitch in the same manner that Blue Beetle got killed. I would much rather that DC let Ray have his dramatic exit from the DCU rather than bring him back just to kill him off. I could see DC having Ray sacrifice his own life in order to prevent the Great Disaster.

There is absolutely no way that DC will ever replace Choi as the Atom. Ray is a blanco male and DC doesn’t want more of them in their DCU. So, I just don’t see DC allowing Ray to assume the mantle as the Atom from Choi. And I don’t see DC having two Atoms running around the DCU.

Plus, as long as Ray is alive, many fans will continue to view Choi as a fraud and not the real Atom. And that is reflected in the abysmal sales numbers of the Atom. So, DC can use this opportunity to kill of Ray and cement Choi as the only Atom and force readers to accept Choi as the one true Atom.

Overall: Countdown #1 was an incredible debut issue. Dini smashed one out of the park with this issue. With such a strong first issue, I feel re-assured that Countdown will certainly be able to match the success and excitement of 52. I definitely recommend giving Countdown a try. This is going to be one hell of a ride.

3 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Countdown #51

  1. The Duela- Jason exchange included one of my huge pet peeves in fiction: that just because the reader has been let in on an important mystery or secret, suddenly everyone else knows it, too. It takes Swamp Thing a decade to learn that he’s an elemental; after he does, he meets a person every month who drops it into casual conversation. Wolverine is suddenly “James” everywhere he goes. And even though Batman himself took some serious time to find out who was under the red hood, now a very minor character who’s never met him before knows that he’s Jason Todd and that Jason Todd used to be Robin, etc., etc. Even beyond the Meltzer rule that every established super-hero knows the identity of every other established super-hero, this just seemed crazy.

  2. Wow! They said in the Nightwing book that he should have been dead but nothing ever happened with that. I’m glad they explained why he was told that but no action was ever made against him.

    Also, the adds talked about innocent being seduced so it will be good to see how that happened to Mary and what will become of her.

    I agree this was a great read and I really look forward to another stellar run.

    ps, shouldn’t the title be countdown 51 despite being the first issue?

  3. Getting an extra copy of this title for my brother, who only knows the DC characters featured on JLU, and the shows prior. Hopefully, this’ll be a good introduction to the major, and minor players of the DCU.

    Good read. Only wish this damn thing was animated, and on Fox, like in the good old days.

    You’re not alone in liking Jason Todd, Rokk. I think he’s a great character with huge potential. However, I think he’s been marred by overexposure in any and all books written by Judd Winick. Aside from the Under the Hood arc a couple of years back, his appearances seem to have been arbitrary attempts at playing with a new toy at DC. Nothing’s as bad as his guest-spot in OYL Nightwing, but his appearances in both Green Arrow and Outsiders feel like wasted opportunities to do anything of value with the character. His cameo in WW3 was pretty insulting, as well. Granted, it could be argued you can only do so much with a character guest-starring in someone else’s title, but Winick just seems to like using him as strictly either a ‘can you trust him or not’ foil, or as a public service announcement warning of sidekick’s gone bad.
    Dini takes this character and instantly cleans the Winick stench off him to give us a simple, defining introduction of who this guy is, and how he does his job. Luckily, in Countdown, we’re graced with an artist who doesn’t turn in thumbnails as final artwork, unlike Winick’s titles (which admittedly isn’t Judd’s fault, but that of his editor).

    Unfortunately, as Winick is writing Trials of Shazam, I pretty much had to drop that after the third issue, as the title simply wasn’t going anywhere, and seemd to have no intention of being relevant whatsoever. I’m betting even money that maxiseries could’ve been done in four issues tops by any writer worth his salt.
    Good thing Paul saves us the trouble of reading that steaming pile by not even alluding to it, and instead gives us a quick intro to Mary, who I believe was shortchanged this issue by at least one more page. Damn, Paul. Billy and Freddie are already ignoring her; don’t you do it, too. She might go bad, or something. Lol.

    Aside from the Darkseid appearance, the best part of this issue is the Monitor just walking the Earth in broad moonlight with a gun. That’s some good $#!?. No disguise, no hidden weapons; just the equivalent of Arnold, as DC’s own Commando, with the incredible comeback line ‘Have a problem with my methods? Take it up at the next union meeting, bee-yotch!’ Good times.

    Jacob, I’m with you. Seemingly everyone magically knows who JT is now. Is it safe to assume they can infer Bruce is the Bat? Probably not, but it is something I’d like to see addressed.

    Brant, I’m waiting to see what role, if any, Nightwing will play in this, too.

    Only bad thing about this issue? Not a truly effective cliffhanger, unless you’ve somehow avoided every DC house ad in the last month, or two. The search for Ray Palmer is the only plotline I think they really should’ve kept quiet on.
    Please, Rokk, don’t depress me with your premonitions. I sincerely hope they don’t kill Ray off, but at least with Dini at the wheel, it’ll be respectful and worthwhile. I hope Ray doesn’t drop right before the huge event coming next year, but, either way, this is gonna be good…

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