52 WEEK 52: And so, it's over. I found myself bizarrely excited about this issue, ahead of time - Not because it's the end of the series and thank God, but because it's the end of the series and I'm all fired up and excited to see how and if they wrap it up. I've been rereading the series in chunks over the last few nights, and was surprised by how well it holds together, despite the continual and ever-present mad rush on behalf of the creators to keep all of the balls in the air at once. I'm already in the nostalgic break-up mourning period about 52; the book was never perfect, I think to myself now (Hell, sometimes it wasn't even good, when taken in individual issue servings), but that was half the fun - The creators were present throughout the whole series, in their missteps (Ralph Dibny going insane in week thirteen, which wasn't only never followed up on, but pretty much ignored as soon as he appeared next, for example) and their biases and familiar tics (Greg Rucka taking Montoya through the end of a storyline that started, what, way back in his Detective run; Grant Morrison's humanism from his Animal Man run influencing whoever decided to give Buddy another happy ending) and even at the very worst, the whole thing sang of the wonderful joy and uncertainty of creation.
That feeling comes through strongly in this final issue. Like the conclusion of other plots, it's practically a full issue following one plot thread, and like the conclusion of other plots, it's somewhat unsatisfying, with plot beats coming from nowhere and not being explored fully. But - and maybe this is because I know that I'm really going to miss this series - it's one of the more enjoyable issues that we've seen in the series for a long time. By the time we hit the conclusion of the main plot (and, yes, a lot of the smaller threads and hints from the beginning of the series go unanswered, but that's fine; it's almost more fun that not everything gets tied up nicely), the promise of a kindler, gentler DC Universe has almost been fulfilled - For all the characters that died, we have a conclusion that gives happy endings to almost all of its main players (Vic Sage aside); the epilogue to the Dibny story alone is enough to make you want Mark Waid to write a sequel almost immediately, and that's not touching on Booster's story, the miraculous-but-welcome end to Montoya's journey (Yes, she should have died but when it comes down to it, I don't care), or Steel's pretty-much-reboot. Even Black Adam lives to rip-people's-arms-off another day.
When it comes down to it, the end of the main story isn't new - It's exceptionally similar to the end of Waid's The Kingdom, from, what, ten years ago or so? - but it's fun and offers both a reset and the offer of new possibilities. Whether or not those possibilities ever get followed up on is unlikely (Hello, cynic!), but there's something wonderfully optimistic and entirely welcome about such a massive Big Two event having an ending that doesn't involve someone's tragic sacrifice or wholescale death. This issue may be Good, but the series as a whole is an uneven, unusual, and unexpected Very Good novelty.
Countdown won't be the same, of course. But maybe it can be its own version of good, who knows?