A lot of people have been talking about Countdown as being a good jumping on point for the DCU, so I thought I'd try that out. My wife Holly isn't a superhero comics fan, but is comics-literate. She's read most of Alan Moore's stuff and a handful of the more self-contained Grant Morrison things, and quite liked Sandman and Cerebus, so I thought she'd be a good test case. Last year I gave her the first few issues of 52 to see how well she could follow them, and she found them fairly comprehensible (she liked 'the big dumb guy with the sarcastic flying robot' and 'the guy with no face' and thought Black Adam and Steel tedious). So I thought I'd try the same with the first few issues of Countdown and see how they appear to someone who's not got 20 years' experience of reading these things. Here's her reviews, unedited except for my comments in italics:
The first one, or Nobody Talks Like This
They all have different numbers at the top! It looks really stupid. But then the covers look kind of stupid generally.
Ooh, a fold-out cover. Room for more ads. Hooray.
People don't talk like this, you know. Even bad guys shouldn't rhapsodize like this. The analogy is not nihilistic, unless nihilists are idiots. It's overly simplistic about chaos theory and it calls
people "souls" instead of people. What good is putting people on hooks and trying to look sinister if you're going to talk like that? (Sadly, Holly doesn't get Kirby...)
"I try to make a bid for individuality... I gotta keep my bad girl cred." Nobody talks like this!
"Simmer down sparky. I don't know about the fancy lad..." You know I have no idea what's supposed to be going on here, if anything, because nobody can string together a sentence that doesn't put me off.
"Treating the Flash to a righteous beat-down"?
Dude, whole pages are going by and nothing is happening. For a while people were talking about purging the multiverse of stuff, which sounds promising, but they're just standing there saying "This is a gross violation of your jurisdiction, brother." Bah!
At least this doesn't have that appalling rubbish in the back like 52 did! But then that meant a few pages I didn't have to read, which is a good thing actually.
The second one, or It's a Good Thing the Internet Stopped Working or I Never Would've Finished This
Hey, here's somebody I recognize, at least! On only the second page. And -- I went back and checked -- the events of the first page made sense and nothing too stupid was said. I'm feeling better already.
Er, so this old Robin is a darker, grittier Batman who kills people?
Now, I remember how loudly Andrew shouted "They killed Jason Todd!" in the kitchen at somebody's housewarming party, but I'm beginning to think being dead would still be better than this. (I actually shouted about bringing him back).
Never mind; it's gotten so boring I've gotten up to take my dirty dishes to the sink, turn on the radio, look at the internet, anything.
I don't have any idea what people who see the future in crystals actually sound like, because all anybody seems to offer in any book or movie is this. "Be careful what you wish for." "The future is cloudy." Oooh, "there's a reason we aren't supposed to peer into the future." All this means your money would be more constructively spent on ice cream or going to the movies.
I like the way the martial-arts dude is just a regular freakishly-muscled comic book guy except with a permanent scowl. I guess that's more socially acceptable than making the eyes any
I feel like I should be saying less superficial things, like you comics guys do, but I just realized that I can only talk about the way people look and the crappy dialogue because I still have no idea what, if anything, is going on.
"You flip flop more than a Massachusetts senator"!? Where to begin? I'll settle for a re-match of Nobody Talks Like That. People who also want to "hit some Kryptonian" (without it meaning "get someone to murder") especially don't.
The last few pages were okay though. I like the Joker.
The third one, or If I Don't Get Hopeful I Won't Get Disappointed
Jimmy Olsen's pretty stupid though, isn't he?
Oh, I get it. There are Auditors here too. Only more ugly and violent and thus more boring.
"Must another crisis move us to action?" Ha ha. "Just look at all the loose ends left by the last crisis!" Oh, such subtlety, such wit.
I have a lot less to say about this one because it's going a lot faster. Either because it's actually almost okay or because, as now, I'm thoroughly confused by whatever's going on on the JLA satellite.
Spoke too soon. This is getting irritating again. The Rogues are boring.
Ah, I'd forgotten this about 52, when I had to read the first few issues of that. They're trying to tell nineteen stories at once or something, so you only get a few pages of each, and nothing really
happens, and you have to pay another £1.50 for this every week?
"Limey"? There's a "limey" here? Is that the guy who keeps saying "yeh" instead of "you"? I was wondering about that. I think I recognize him from Animal Man, but he didn't talk so strangely in that. What about "ye perfect wee bastard" then is that the same person? It's unfair that more than one of them wears green.
The chick with lightning in her thought bubbles? Also boring.
Argh! I spoke too soon! History of the Multiverse! Not reading that.
So there we go. This is how the first few issues of DC's flagship title appear to one casual reader. While I'm still expecting it to get good, it does highlight how little the title so far has to offer those who don't have Roy Thomas levels of continuity knowledge...