It started slowly and I thought it was my heart, but then I realized: Graeme watches the Countdown start.

And this is where Brian and I disagree again.

COUNTDOWN #51: If you're wondering just how long it took DC's next weekly miniseries to become annoying, the answer is three pages. Sure, I was slightly irritated by the cover, which swallows 52's logo (As dumb as it may sound, that really doesn't sit well with me; 52, due to the cutout logo, news scroll along the bottom of the page, and JG Jones' amazing covers, had a very particular visual identity for their covers. By essentially reusing the logo for this series, it feels like a bastardization of that identity, especially without the scroll and the fact that there won't be any cover auteur to try to give this series its own cover look. It reinforces the half-assed, cash-in feel that this series already had to fight against), but it took me until Darkseid appeared and said the following line that I got really pissed:

"I see the time fast approaching when existence itself shall be recreated, and Darkseid shall be its architect."

Surprisingly, it's not Darkseid's use of the third person when talking about himself that annoys me - that's actually kind of charming - but instead the idea that all of existence is about to be recreated. Didn't we just go through that, last week, at the end of 52? And if we didn't, then we definitely went through it the year before that, at the end of Infinite Crisis. Add that to the cover blurb "So begins the end!" and I wanted to give up already. DC, I am a complete fanboy for your superhero universe, so it pains me to say this but still: Stop with the fucking reboots already. As soon as they become an annual process, they're meaningless - not only do they stop being epic stories in their own right, but they completely invalidate any attempt at dramatic tension in every single story that you publish; it doesn't matter what happens to anyone or anything if you know that "existence itself shall be recreated" before you celebrate another birthday, and even the threat of that doesn't have any real weight whatsoever coming exactly a week after the last time that it happened.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the rest of the issue is, for me, the worst tendencies of recent DC, but moreso - It's full of continuity porn and characters that appear without introduction and act without explanation. A character gets killed, and I have no idea who she is, how she got there, and why I should really care... As a first issue, it's pretty much a failure, because no-one unfamiliar with the characters could really follow just what's going on, and more worryingly, nothing that's happening is interesting enough to intrigue those unfamiliar into sticking around to find out. There's the occasional line of nice dialogue, and the art by Jesus Saiz is solid enough, but it's a mess in terms of giving the reader enough to feel substantial or worthwhile, somewhat surprisingly; In that we know that Jimmy Olsen is supposed to play a large part in the series, why not start the year with him, a character that almost everyone in the world who's heard of Superman knows, instead of Duella, Jason Todd and various mentions of the multiverse? Paul Dini's a smart guy, so I really don't get why this book doesn't put its best or at least most recognizable foot forward, instead of this Crap effort.

It's way too early to say that this series is going to be a failure - 52 also started pretty roughly, I seem to remember, and the second issue of that series was definitely more successful than the first - but after reading Countdown's opener, I am suddenly very worried that this really is going to uphold the standards of World War III, rather than 52. I'll pick up the next issue - Hell, I'm a fanboy, I'll probably pick up all of the series and hate myself for it - but I'm certainly not that hopeful about it...