Issue 50

This week started with a strong appearance by the Man of Steel, as he guides Daily Planet reporter/photographer Jimmy Olsen through the back alleys of NYC. Coming to a locked door, Superman uses his heatvision from a low space orbit to melt away the doorhandle and lock! It continues to astound that creators can find new, unique, and interesting ways to use a 70+ year old character's powers and abilities.

After a brief encounter between the Red Hood and Olsen regarding the circumstances of last week's murder of the Joker's Daughter, the story continues covering the beats hit in last week's issue with Mary Marvel's search for her powers and her family (which are, in essence, one and the same) and then more of a look at the party the Rogues are throwing for themselves. Tensions are rising on both of those fronts with Mary's heroic journey of discovery apparently begun, and the building up of a major assault on the Flash by the Rogues.

The other major acts in this issue were Jimmy's visit with the Joker at Arkham Asylum, and a replay of the initial confrontation between Batman and Karate Kid - of the Legion of Super-Heroes - in the Batcave!

Olsen heads to Arkham to get the Joker's take on the death of his daughter; the twist being that the Joker claims he doesn't have a daughter! Throughout Duela Dent's appearances in the DCU, she's claimed varied parentage - from the Joker himself to Harvey Dent to the Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and others. No definitive parent was ever defined. Apparently, however, Jimmy Olsen was under the impression that there was no question as to her heritage. The Joker's reaction is typical and the meeting sets up a future conflict between Olsen and the Clown Prince of Crime - no one should be foolish enough to put themselves into the Joker's sights. Not even Superman's Pal! The scene ends with Killer Croc loose in the asylum and Jimmy looking like lunch.

The Batman/Karate Kid scene was a panel-for-panel re-showing of the scene from Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America, issue #8, the first part of a major crossover with the Justice Society of America, titled, The Lightning Saga. That story focuses on the two teams trying to solve the mystery of a number of members of the Legion of Super-Heroes of the 30th Century stuck in our present time. Karate Kid, having lost any memory of who he was or why he was in the present, fights Batman under the guise of the super-criminal, Trident. The inclusion of the scene in Countdown was a way to introduce yet another character to this series that will be playing a major role in the run towards next year's major DC event.

A few things from this issue stick out to Rundown HQ: This is the second issue in a row that began the action in New York City. While it was established in Bruce Jones's One Year Later story arc of Nightwing, that both Dick Grayson and Jason Todd were working out of NYC instead of Gotham or the destroyed Bludhaven, it still seems interesting that the issues start there - especially considering that NYC was where most of Jack Kirby's Kamandi took place post-Great Disaster.

Second, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen was the one mainstream DC title that Jack Kirby was allowed free reign on when he came to the company in the 1970s - it was the fourth of his Fourth World books and it stood as his foothold to tie the New Gods into the main DC Universe. Jimmy playing such a huge role in Countdown is yet another tie to the DC/Kirbyverse. Can the Guardian, Cadmus, and the Newsboy Legion be that far behind?

Finally, while many have complained that the scene from Justice League of America was shoehorned into this issue only to establish that Karate Kid will play a major role in the series, that opinion seems a bit short-sighted. From the beginning, both Vice President/Editorial Dan Didio and Head Writer Paul Dini have said that the weekly series will reflect the major events that are happening throughout the DCU. While the scene probably could have been written/drawn in a more dynamic way, instead of the almost xerox of the original that it was, it was important to showcase it in this week's issue of Countdown for a number of reasons.

Clearly, The Lightning Saga and Amazons Attack are the two biggest Spring event comics for the DCU. They both promise major conflicts and team/character changing moments. To not include them in some way in Countdown would be ridiculous. The JLA/JSA cross-over is a tradition of the DCU back to the early 60s and this time around reaches across time to include the Legion. It is not only a major event for diehard fans, but should be marketed across the line to pull in new readers. If readers are looking to Countdown as the spine of the DCU, the inclusion of this scene and scenes like it should serve to get readers to try new books.

In closing, this week's issue felt again like a set-up issue, running with some of the seeds planted in Week 51 and introducing a few new plot-lines. With a full year of stories ahead there is a lot of time built-in to the series to introduce and run with long, involved plots and the book feels like it is just scratching the surface of the DCU. While Rundown HQ looks forward to the "real" action, we are quite pleased with the setup thus far.

Next Week: Week 49: Enter the Monitors!