The Players:

Duela Dent/Joker's Daughter
Jason Todd/Robin II/Red Hood
Mary Batson/Mary Marvel
James Jesse/The Trickster
Hartley Rathaway/The Pied Piper
The Monitor(s)

Issue 51

And so it begins.

A year-long adventure across the entire DC Universe from New Earth to Earth-52 and beyond. In the wake of DC's last weekly series, 52, the world that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman inhabit has just gotten a whole lot bigger. Not since 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths has the DCU been home to a multiverse.

And it is within this new DCU, that Countdown begins.

Barely 24 hours after the release of the inaugural issue and the chatter on the interweb is that this was a humdrum opener. The general consensus is "meh."

Here, at Forces of Good, however, we celebrate pop culture; we revel in it; we take joy in the things we love. And, in that vein, let's look at the first issue of Countdown with a little more critical eye.

Weekly comics are a much different animal than the standard monthly, or more common in this era of late books, the bi-monthly. They move at a different pace. There's much more collaboration and coordination. The books DC is producing in this area focus on much larger casts, universe spanning stories, and line-wide events. Not every page is going to be knocked out of the park in every issue. That's not because the creators aren't giving their best. It's because the structure of a weekly year-long series demands something more.

It demands that the reader, like the characters, become invested in each facet of the stories contained within each issue's covers. It asks readers to invest more time and be more patient for the big pay-offs. In order to reach all the corners of a vast universe of fictional stories with a 70 year history, readers have to be willing to go a little further; dig a little deeper. If the look, attitude, and actions of a character intrigues the reader, but that same reader isn't quite familiar with the very character their intrigued by, well, find out more.

Each week this column will try to help interested readers do that. We'll delve deeper into websites, resources, and key stories to get new readers up to speed and long-time fans re-invested.

Countdown is going to be a wild ride. A roller-coaster of ups and downs, amazing cliffhangers, gut-wrenching plot twists, and sometimes, slowed down hikes up steep inclines. But the higher we go, the faster and more exhilarating the descent.

One thing this column will dispense with is Spoiler Warnings. Here at Countdown Rundown HQ we're going to assume you've read the issue, or just don't care if we talk about every detail of what happened in it. So right here, right now, is your one and only SPOILER WARNING!!

Still with us? Great . . . into the breach we go!

With all signs throughout the last year pointing to the return of Jack Kirby's New Gods and the villainous Darkseid, it was with great joy that the title/splash page of this issue featured a menacing and diabolical Darkseid in full evil-mode. Brooding over a chessboard-like tableaux filled with miniature versions of the DCU's most famous characters, the metaphor of Darkseid as the grandmaster of the universe's events was none to subtle. And there's no way it should have been.

Darkseid is the end all-be all of DCU super-villains. He is a MEGA-villain. As Grant Morrison once wrote in the seminal JLA storyline, Rock of Ages: DARKSEID IS.

This re-introduction of one of the DCU's biggest bads was a fine setup for the series, promising a return to grand story-telling on a universes-spanning scale.

The solicitations for this issue promised a major/shocking death. The shock in this case was not with who died, but rather at whose hand they died. Joker's Daughter has never been a major-league player in the DCU. A former villain turned Teen Titan, the girl known as Duela Dent, finally re-appeared in the DCU a handful of times over the last year after a nearly 20 year absence. Fans of the character were overjoyed that she was back in play in recent issues of Geoff Johns's Teen Titans. Those fans must not have been in touch with fans of Giffen & DeMatteis's Bwa-Ha-Ha Justice League.

Needless to say, Duela buys it this issue. In the midst of once-again turning to a life of crime and coming up against the recently-returned from the dead Jason Todd in his Red Hood persona, Duela is shot and killed by one of the new Monitors.

The Monitor, a character that was pivotal to DC's COIE, is now back in the DCU. This time, though, there are a lot of him. Their job, much like their counter-part in the Marvel Universe Uatu the Watcher, is to observe, record, and protect the many different Earths of the multiverse.

Observe. Record. Protect.

Not act. While the death of Joker's Daughter nee The Scarecrone nee Harlequin may not have sent shockwaves across the DCU, the fact that a Monitor committed that murder should. This isn't your daddy's DCU. This is the new Multiverse. And the rules have been re-written.

There was a lot more that went on in this issue, mostly set-up for the year ahead - things like Mary Marvel's new "take action" attitude, the coming rivalry and conflict between the Trickster and Pied Piper, and most enigmatically, Dr. Ray Palmer's connection to the Great Disaster that all this is counting down to. But mostly, this first issue, gave each and every one of us a view of the DCU that we don't usually see. The seedy underbelly where two-bit criminals, forgotten heroes, and confused former-teen sidekicks reside.

Its not a pretty place, certainly.
But it sure promises to be a lot of fun.

Be back next week for our second installment,
plus the debut of the Countdown Rundown logo!

Countdown #50 in stores
Wednesday May 16th