Never to part since the day we met, down on interstate 91: Graeme looks for the Atom.

I'm not dead; I missed Monday and Tuesday due to insanity at the day job that saw me pull 12-hour days without breaks and with stress that caused episodes that may have included vomit.

That's what I get for working as PR flack for Britney Spears in the shadow of her VMA performance, I guess.

Nonetheless, COUNTDOWN PRESENTS THE SEARCH FOR RAY PALMER: WILDSTORM is pretty much of a wasted opportunity. I know, I know; you kids are reading this and all "Dude! Where was the opportunity in this cynical cash-in to a flawed mini-series that you're always complaining about?" (Admittedly, you may not be using those exact words, but still), but here's where I get optimistic about what the series could have been... I mean, I love crossovers and alternate earth stories. If you're looking for the sap who kept buying all those Crisis on Multiple Earth trades, even as they got into the lesser, '70s, reprints, then look no further. There's such potential in bringing characters from different versions of the same place together, in terms of comedy and drama and mindfuckery, that it's almost impossible to ruin entirely (Hell, even Exiles manages some glimmer of entertainment on a regular basis). Imagine a series of one-shots that managed to trade on that potential and show off the particular alternate universes in such a manner that made you actually want to read more about them, making the most of their particular quirks and variations while also advancing the overall Ray Palmer plot and amazingly not feeling like a sales pitch.

And then ignore that imagination, because there's nothing in this issue that doesn't feel cynical or the result of someone(s) in editorial telling Ron Marz what to do; as much as Wildstorm isn't the universe of wild imaginings and unrestrained ambition - not that that's a bad thing - this is a lifeless book that has nothing at all to do with Ray Palmer or a search for him at all; any character could be plugged into the Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner or Jason Todd roles here, and any McGuffin could be used in place of Ray's disappearance. There's no genuine character on display (the dialogue is beyond generic) and it's not even because it's been sacrificed for plot, because there's not even a plot here - the closest we get to that is a stand-off between the DCU heroes and the Authority, but even that goes nowhere, and exists purely as a situation to show how bad-ass the Authority is meant to be - except that they're neutered in the event by having Majestic show up and tell everyone to stop fighting.

It's an entirely depressing experience, reading this book; everything feels not only unnatural, but also somewhat unpleasant in its openly cynical pointlessness. I came out of it and felt as if it had not only not shown the Wildstorm books off to their best potential, but missed everything about them that had been interesting in the first place. Crap.