52 was special in a way because it was the "first of its kind" -- I think a pretty significant percentage of the comics buying population "bought into the experiment"' that is to say, once you reached, say, Week 12 or so, you decided whether you were "in for the year" or not. That's pretty much what my sales charts say -- there's peaks and valleys (and some absolutely unexplainable dips, but wait for those until I have all 13 weeks I'm capturing on 52, before I present the data, probably in a Tilting), but the through-line of week-to-week sales is really remarkably strong. I really really thought we'd lose half of the readership between #12 and #30, and that simply didn't happen.
I think I made the comparison here, earlier, between 52 and COUNTDOWN, and LOST and HEROES -- HEROES upped the ante for what a long-form drama (on Network TV, because, of course, THE SOPRANOS, or THE WIRE, or even, really, THE SHIELD and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA showed what the promise actually was) could be. That's pretty much the expectation of the audience, that each thing will be better and stronger that what proceeded it.
LOST really needed to step up its game (and, yeah, it pretty much has with the last few episodes -- I'd personally put the turning point back at the Tales From The Crypt one), but who knows if, because of the downtime, the audience it once had will come back?
So, I've thought, since the moment they announced this book, that COUNTDOWN needed to launch really really strong, in order to overcome the innate suspicion of the audience.
And yeah "#51" is a pretty good first issue.
There's action, there's mystery, there's a lot of universe building, and I like a fair amount of the initial characters, and/or underlying continuity enough to be happy.
I had problems, though, of course. First, I thought it was pretty left-field to have Duela Dent and Jason Todd be the main players in this first issue, particularly with the whole casual "I may be from a neighboring earth, but..." comment. I was ready to chalk that up to "well, yeah, she's claimed 20 different identities since her first appearance" (and there's never really been any real resolution to who she really IS, for the 428 of us who actually CARE), but then there was the whole Monitors-with-guns thing (which is, really, stranger than strange.... I already want them to go away!), and they cack her, and, WTF, THERE'S STILL NO CLARITY ON WHO SHE EVEN WAS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I mean, doubleyou-tee-eff, to the extreme.
The Mary Marvel scenes were nice, but, huh? when was she in a coma? Did I skip over some stray line in 52 Week 50? She was in that, right? I don't remember her getting hurt that bad?
Dramatically, I'm not sure if the plot works. The Countdown is to the Great Disaster, and only Ray Palmer can stop it. Well, OK. So he will. Certainly, we're not going to end up with a post-Great Disaster DCU. Who would want to read that? So, there's not a lot of underlying tension to this.
And my big worry is, like 52, they don't actually have fifty-two comic books worth of story for this. Again, to go back to the (wrong-headed) Television analogy, I don't think that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA or LOST actually has 22 episodes worth of "story" any given "year" -- 12-16 episodes seems like the much smarter way to go. 52 maybe had twice that range of actually interesting-within-themselves issue. And the other third was "filler".
I won't pay $3 for plate-spinning (not that I pay full retail, but you know what I mean), so I'm not willing to embrace COUNTDOWN the way I embraced 52 -- I decided I was ON the ride real early. COUNTDOWN I will be taking week-by-week.
And based on week 1, I'll be getting week 2. A tentative (and low) GOOD.