And all paths lead to a single conclusion: Graeme falls for the questionable charms of 7/18

I don't know if it's the comics equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome or something, but is it just me, or was COUNTDOWN #41 kind of... less sucky than usual?

Don't look at me like that; I'm not saying that it was very good or high art or anything, but there definitely seemed to be an uptick in quality in this latest issue in almost every department. I mean, there was actual plot development on multiple storylines for the first time in, what, ten issues or something, as well as a sense of humor (and, because of that, potentially individual writer identity; not only was the writing in this issue funnier than usual, it also had a better sense of pacing and juggling plots - there were only a couple of scenes that acted as filler this time around, for once - than earlier issues as well. I don't know if this speaks to the idea that the book is beginning to find a voice eleven issues in, or just that Adam Beechen had a good week, mind you. Maybe it's just a fluke, even. Who knows?), and the art was actually good for maybe the first time in the entire series (Plaudits go to new-to-the-book artist Dennis Calero, who used to work on X-Factor over at Marvel; his work here is an interesting and odd mix of Ryan Sook, Stuart Immonen and, weirdly enough, old Suicide Squad artist Luke McDonnell, if you remember him, and it's easily the best this book has looked since its launch. I hope he becomes a regular on the series) - Is this the influence of new co-editor Mike Carlin, a few issues into his run, or a sign that I've been reading this for so long that even an Okay issue is beginning to look like a miracle to me? You be the judge.

Something that's easier to judge is that Countdown is currently the big problem at DC. I was thinking this the other day, writing up the solicits for the latest newsletter and realizing just how many books DC is spinning out of this not-as-popular-as-they'd-like series, as if each new book that comes from it will somehow increase the core book's popularity... And not only that, but each successive spin-off seems more and more unnecessary and existing only to take up shelf space ("Lord Havok and The Extremists"? Who wants to read that?!?) - DC is trying so hard to brand itself around Countdown that it's eclipsing its other, better, books; we're at an unusual point where the Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern books are all pretty good, but DC still seems to be in terrible trouble because they're forcing the public face of the superhero line to be a series that readers are practically running away from. You'd think they'd know better, but then you remember that this is comics, and nothing makes sense here.