Comic Book Review: Countdown #36

The last issue of Countdown was a real disappointment. Dini has failed to build up much excitement or momentum with this title. I honestly thought that Countdown was going to be a good read that would rival 52. I was absolutely wrong. However, I’m still holding out some faith that Dini will be able to get this title on track and deliver some quality issues. Plus, any comic book that has Mary Marvel with Zatanna tied up in chains has got to be good. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Countdown #36.

Creative Team
Writers: Paul Dini & Tony Bedard
Penciler: Jim Calafiore
Inker: Jack Purcell

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Jason, Donna, Ryan and “Bob” the Monitor battling with the large insect creatures who can also cast magic. Bob tries to teleport our heroes from this plane, but discovers that someone or something is jamming his abilities.

We cut to Pied Piper and Trickster trying to talk their way out of trouble with Poison Ivy. Piper is obviously immune to Ivy’s pheromones unlike the Trickster. Poison Ivy believes that someone sent the Rogues to spy on her and tells them that once her partner gets here that he will get the two Rogues to admit who sent them to spy on Poison Ivy.

However, the Trickster manages to bullshit his way into making Ivy think that Trickster and Piper work for her partner and that her partner wanted to meet them at Ivy’s place. Trickster refuses to say the name of Ivy’s partner since her partner is the type of man to kill people who reveal his identity.

We shift to Mary Marvel reading through a bunch of boring old magic books. Zatanna is amazed that Mary can even read these ancient languages. Mary demands to ditch the books and start playing with some of Zatanna’s powerful talismans in the library. Zatanna says that Mary is not ready and such an action would be akin to giving a child a loaded gun.

Mary snaps and says she isn’t a child. Mary grabs a magical scepter and feels its great power and accuses Zatanna of wanting to keep all this magical power to herself. Zatanna uses her magic to wrest the scepter away from Mary. Zatanna says that Mary is just a brat who is about to get spanked. (Oh, yeah! That is what I’m talking about!)

We cut to Jimmy Olsen and Superman in the JLA satellite and standing before the assembled roster of the Justice League of America. Batman is irritated and demands for someone to tell him why all of this isn’t just a total waste of time. Jimmy nervously asks for just one chance to show the Leaguers what he can do.

We hop to Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl entering what appears to be an abandoned military base which was the location that Oracle said that Orr was located. We see a man watching the young heroes via security cameras. The man directs his super thug, Equus, to go deal with the intruders. Equus attacks Karate Kid. Karate Kid then opens up a can of whup ass on Equus. Equus then takes a different approach and grabs Triplicate Girl and threatens to kill her if Karate Kid doesn’t surrender.

We zip back to the brawl between Mary Marvel and Zatanna. Eclipso watches from afar and mentions how Mary doesn’t realize that the lust for power that she is suddenly experiencing is Eclipso’s gift to Mary.

Zatanna is purposely pulling her punches and trying not to hurt Mary. On the other hand, Mary is going all out and is trying to take out Zatanna. Mary blasts Zatanna to the ground. Zatanna asks Mary to stop. Mary then flies toward Zatanna saying that this will be over before Zatanna knows it.

We cut back to Jason, Donna, Ryan and “Bob” the Monitor all falling in defeat to the magical insect creatures. We see mysterious figure watching our heroes fall in defeat. The mysterious figure says that it would be rude for the heroes to depart without first visiting his palace.

We slide back to Poison Ivy freeing Trickster and Piper. Ivy’s partner shows up and it is none other than the man himself, Deathstroke the Terminator. Deathstroke is pissed and demands that Ivy explain to him why the two Rogues are here or should Deathstroke skip that part and just kill the two Rogues. End of story.

We then get a two page back-up story dealing with the origin of Deathstroke the Terminator. End of issue.

The Good: Countdown #36 was a good read. This issue was much better plotted than previous issues. Dini nicely blends the various plotlines together with well crafted transitions. The pacing on this issue was also a big improvement over recent issues. Countdown #36 moved rather briskly and featured plenty of action. Dini and Bedard deliver some solid dialogue. As always, the best dialogue is found in the banter between the Trickster and Piper.

The Mary Marvel plotline continues to be one of the strongest plotlines on Countdown. If it already isn’t obvious, let me say it again, I love Zatanna. I dig that Dini included her in this storyline and is giving her plenty of panel time and establishing her character as a major player within the DCU. Zatanna always has had lots of potential. It is great to see Dini making the effort over in Detective Comics and in Countdown to try and further flesh out Zatanna’s character and give her a power boost and a more important position within this New Earth.

This Mary Marvel plotline has been slowly building to the inevitable moment where Mary Marvel completely snaps. And this issue is where it finally happens. Mary is completely drunk with power and has now totally gone over to the darkside. Dini really begins to increase Eclipso’s role in this plotline as we see that Eclipso’s powers have finally fully rooted inside of Mary’s soul. Poor Mary seems like she has a real rough ride ahead of her. I’ll be interested to see if Mary is able to reach down deep inside and become the hero that she used to be.

The Ray Palmer plotline wasn’t great, but it was all right. I am curious to find out who would be powerful enough to jam a Monitor’s powers. And just who is this mysterious person who had the magic insects take down Jason, Donna, Ryan and Bob? For the first time in many issues, this plotline is finally starting to show some promise and has recaptured my interest.

The Jimmy Olsen scene was funny. Dini and Bedard go a nice job conveying the sense of awe and intimidation that an ordinary person would have in the face of such famous and great heroes. Batman is certainly going to be one tough customer to convince that Mr. Action deserves a spot on the JLA’s roster.

The Karate Kid scene was cool only because we got to see Val in action kicking some ass. I’m still not sure where this plotline is going or how it will tie into the bigger picture.

The Trickster/Piper plotline continues to provide some quality comedic relief while at the same time giving us a fun adventure as these two bumbling Rogues stumble from the frying pan into the fire. Piper and Trickster are an excellent team. These two Rogues have wonderful chemistry and routinely steal the spotlight of ever issue of Countdown.

The Trickster/Piper plotline serves up one awesome hook ending with the appearance of one of my all time favorites in Deathstroke the Terminator. I’m anxious to find out what Slade and ivy are up to and just how our two loveable Rogues can get their way out of this latest predicament.

The Bad: Dini still isn’t paying attention to the New Gods plotline and the Darkseid plotline. These two plotlines are supposed to be two of the biggest plotlines and should certainly take center stage more than they have up to this point. Also, these two inter-related plotlines are extremely fascinating and would serve to boost reader interest in Countdown.

The artwork was very average. I like Calafiore’s pencils; however, I’m just not crazy about Purcell’s inking.

Overall: Countdown #36 was a solid read. It was certainly the best read that we have gotten in the past several weeks. Dini smartly picked up the pacing and provided the reader with several plot twists as well as plenty of action. I have come to terms with the fact that Countdown will never live up to the legacy of 52. So, I have let go of those expectations and am just enjoying Countdown for what it is. And there is plenty to enjoy with Countdown.