As with Wednesday night's West Wing, I have to admit that I was somewhat underwhelmed by Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Not disappointed, exactly, just underwhelmed. As a story touted to be a sequel to Identity Crisis, Countdown felt to me to be painting by the numbers. Many would claim that Identity Crisis lacked heart, but I felt Countdown lacked heart. And not in the characterization, per se—I thought the Beetle and Booster scenes were especially effective, and I'm glad that if Beetle's really gone, we got to see him with Booster one last time before he went. And certainly, the authors did a fine job paying tribute to the Justice Leagues of yore. But maybe this was spoiled for me by the fact that I knew that the authors had vetoed the idea of doing a "travelogue," or maybe this was spoiled by knowing that four miniseries were already coming after—but by about the second or third chapter, I had a sense that this was really about taking Beetle from place to place to advertise the Countdown to Infinite Crisis miniseries. The chapter on Day of Vengeance, especially—I hope the beetle scarab becomes important in the future, because otherwise, it was simply a plot device to take Beetle to the Wizard Shazam and back again—and it just felt too much like the seams were showing. Not to mention the shoehorned Adam Strange appearance.
There were good parts to the story: Batman and Alfred confronting Identity Crisis, for instance, and the aforementioned look back to the old Justice League. But I couldn't wrap my head around the story's main villain—I hope it's mind control, because I think the old Justice League stories are too tightly plotted to convince us that Maxwell Lord was truly a villain back then, let alone in the Formerly Known as the Justice League stories. Max's betrayal is a good story, and I do look forward to both the miniseries and Infinite Crisis, but overall, for a story that killed Blue Beetle, I wasn't moved like I was with Identity Crisis.
That said, I thought the art was good overall, with the artists doing a nice job emulating one another as well as remaining distinct. Phil Jimenez' art looked different than usual—I'll have to go back and look again, but I though the colors, especially, in his chapter opened up what often seems like very narrow faces and bodies in his work. Phil's a younger guy, but he's been in the DCU for quite a while, and I recall fondly his work on JLA/Titans; I'm glad to see him get this mainstream exposure, even though he's really already pretty well-known. It'll be interesting to see him teamed up with Geoff Johns.
And, by the way, does it creep anyone else out to see Hal Jordan in these pages, smiling and laughing like nothing ever happend? Of course, we poor "wait for traders" haven't read Green Lantern: Rebirth yet, but to see Hal just there, and no one blinks an eye ... brrr.
So there you have it. We're official counted-down. What did you all think?
(And as for West Wing, the bit with Charlie and the President was great, but for the-episode-before-the-season-finale, there wasn't a lot of, well, action. No one kidnapped, no one killed in an explosion or car accident. And there was one tense moment where I wondered if Santos would take the VP seat or not, but really, was it ever a possibility? Not to mention, even as CJ seems to have committed treason, I'm a little cynical after both the President's economic reforms and Leo's trip to Cuba both seemed to have disappeared as soon as the week was up. So I'd like to believe CJ's in major trouble now, but I could just as easily believe we won't hear about it in the finale. So again, as I said, not disappointed per se, just underwhelmed.)