James Jesse/The Trickster
Hartley Rathaway/The Pied Piper
Floyd Lawton/Deadshot
Danton Black/Multiplex
Edward Nigma/The Riddler
Mary Batson/Mary Marvel/Black Mary
Holly Robinson/Catwoman II
Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn
Ryan Choi/The Atom IV
Donna Troy/Wonder Girl/Troia
Jason Todd/Robin II/Red Hood
The New Earth Monitor
Bruce Wayne/Batman
Val Armorr/Karate Kid
Lois Lane
James Olsen/Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen

(written by Paul Dini with Sean McKeever & Tony Bedard; pencils by Carlos Magno)

This week starts off with the continuation of Trickster's and Piper's capture by Deadshot and Multiplex. Now, bound together by a taser-inducing gauntlet, the two sort-of villains find themselves in confined quarters. Always one to jump before he looks, Trickster pulls one final trick out of his sleeve (actually, his tooth!) in a last ditch effort to free himself and Piper. The plan works in freeing the two from their predicament, but takes them from the frying pan to the fire - they blew their way out of a speeding jet and the issue closes with them freefalling to certain doom.

The other major development this issue focuses on the so-called Challengers - Donna Troy, Jason Todd and their erstwhile Monitor. Following up on last week's conversation about the nano-verse, the three find themselves in Ivy Town, the home of the Silver Age Atom, Ray Palmer (just a reminder: he's been missing since the end of Identity Crisis), as well as the home of the current Atom, Ryan Choi! Even a Monitor doesn't have the power to get to the nano-verse alone, and it seems if these new Challengers are going to stop the coming Great Disaster (as predicted by the Source wall back in Issue #51), they have to find Ray Palmer to do it. Who better to take them to that microcosm than the new Atom? Choi readily agrees and they proceed to shrink down to atomic size! While the rest of their story will be touched on in the coming issues of Countdown, to get a more thorough view of their adventures, readers will have to check out the series of one-shots titled, Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer, expected in stores in September.

The rest of the issue checks in on the other players in the story so far: Mary Marvel is still in Gotham, oddly enough teaming up with the Riddler to stop Clayface after a bank robbery. Her enjoyment of her new found Black Adam-induced super-powers garners the attention of Batman, and that's never good.

Speaking of Batman, Karate Kid stops in to tell him that he hopes the Bat doesn't have any hard feelings about the beating the Kid handed him back in Justice League of America Issue #8. If you know Batman, you know how that conversation went!

Finally, both Holly Robinson and Jimmy Olsen get brief page allotments this issue - Holly gets a little more insight into the Amazonian hostel she crashing at from new gal-pal Harley Quinn. Olsen gets caught by Lois Lane while sketching costume ideas for his plan to put his new-found powers to some good use. She tells him not to quit his day job - what a be'atch!

So, while the story of the Rogues and the Challengers brought us to the brink of their previously advertised plots (a/k/a Villains Defiant and the Search for Ray Palmer), the rest of the book was more set-up and throughlines for the entire DCU. It's still only 10 weeks into this yearlong series, so there's plenty of time for things to kick into high gear, but we here at Rundown HQ think the writers on Countdown might want to take a page from the 52 playbook: instead of giving a few pages to every storyline/character arc each week, spend more time on one or three of those plot lines a week, and leave the others out. It worked well in 52. Even if you weren't the biggest fan of, say, the Black Adam/Isis storyline, you knew in the next week or two, you'd be getting a whole lot more about Steel vs. Luthor, or the demise of the Question. It kept you reading, and begging for more.

Right now, Countdown feels like its treading water a bit too much, waiting for other regular DCU titles to catch up, or spin-offs like Countdown to Adventure and The Search for Ray Palmer to kick off.

Next Week: Issue 41 - things aren't looking good for Piper and Trickster in a story that only Tom Petty could call . . . Freefalling!