Countdown to Adventure #1- I'd buy this for a dollar (and I did!)

Burgas brings home comics he's mildly interested in for free in the shop he works at me. Me, I don't have that luxury. I was, however, able to pick up a copy of Countdown to Adventure #1 for a dollar because of a nasty tear in the fold, which is pretty much the next best thing. Was it worth said dollar, or would have I been better of further clogging my arteries with cheap fast food instead?Read on to find out!The answer here would be yes for the dollar, but I wouldn't have paid the full asking price for the whole issue. The main story, which follows the aftermath of 52, is all set up. However, it's good set up, even for someone like me, who studiously avoided that story during its run. I was less enthused by the back up strip, which is sort of like a cross between the Intergalactic Senate scens in the Star Wars Prequels (except with J'onn J'onz making a came instead of E.T.), "the hot chick who can kick ass" sub-genre of action/adventure fiction (in this case, it's a hot blue chick), and a really boring infodump. What with the Monarch hanging around, I'm sure it's tying in to something big in Countdown, which could be why it alternately made my eyes glaze over and just mildly bored me. I don't want to dwell on it, though, because I just told you much everything I could possibly say about it, and the main story is worthy of more, snark free, attention.

I always liked the fact that Animal Man had a nuclear family and that his domesticity was as much a part of his character in Morrison's run as his role as a superhero/environmental activist (well, at least until the fourth wall breaking stuff took over completely). The subplot he shares with Starfire in this issue is all about that, as he's still trying to adjust to being home after his year long adventure in 52, while his gorgeous orange alien pricess of a travel companion crashes on the couch. It makes for an interesting development later in the issue, and I found the tension over Starfire's presence between Buddy and his wife to be well done; it was there, and writer Adam Beechen made it obvious, but he didn't resort to melodramatics to do so. The set up he leaves for the rest of the series could be comedy gold, if for no other reason than that it makes me think of an ongoing Stafire: Intergalactic Space Nanny ongoing. I don't know, that title amuses me, despite the redundancy. But I'm interested in seeing where that set up heads regardless of any goofy spin off ideas I have.

The main plot of the story revolves around Adam Strange's retrun to Raan. Again, I'm impressed that Beechen, who I've only previously encountered as the writer of Justice League Unlimited, was able to balance the back story (in this case both 52 and the Raan/Thanagar War) while still keeping this story accessible and engaging for those of us who didn't jump on board the crossover train.

Anyway, Strange's set up for the series is a familiar one. He's being replaced by a hotshot new hero who's more than a little unstable and openly hostile to Adam's attempts to help him out. It's close to a stock plot "replacement hero" story; the last page is a cross between "Spider-Man no more!" and Sting's "stick it" speech in WCW (and thus my contracturally obligated pro wrestling reference quota is fulfilled). However, Strange's status quo offests some of that familiarity; Beechen acknowledges his "big fish in a small pond" status in the superhero world and is able to deal with Strange's family life pretty well. While it's not quite a theme, I don't think, it's still interesting to see both Strange and Buddy dealing with family issues. Who can't relate to not wanting charity from your father in law or your wife being threatened by a pretty co-worker you've spent a lot of time with at work? Sure, the father in law happens to be a pulp fiction-esque intergalactic super scientist, and the other woman is a curvaceous orange princess who wears a bikini most of the time, but still; this is stuff you can relate to! The art on the main story comes from Eddy Barrows, Julio Ferreira, and colorists (colorist? Are they a collective entity?) the Hories. It does a good job switching between the fantastic setting of Rann and Buddy's home life without doing anything really stunning with either. The only action scene of the issue, where Adam and his replacement fight giant sand creatures, feels claustrophobic and oddly lacking in splash pages, given that they're employed elsewhere in the book. That aside, the art team puts together a perfectly attractive book, and while they don't get to show off much in the Animal Man/Starfire scenes and don't go over the top with visual splendor when the story's set on Rann, they tell the story well, and that's all you can really ask for.

The Hories show up to do the color work for Fabrizio Fiorentino's art in the back up strip. Fiorentino gets more of a chance for action sequences than his counterparts in the front of the book, as we get a decent amount of alien on alien ultraviolence, including a big fight between headlining blue chick Forerunner and some aliens that vaguely resemble Marvel's the Brood (who, of course, vaguely resembled Ridley Scott's Aliens). There's a lot of action here, and again, it's all perfectly fine but not spectacular. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the fact that John Romita Jr. is drawing issue long fight scenes these days while JH Williams and Darwyn Cooke are drenching Batman and the Spirit in style, but I found this stuff perfectly functional but not particularly inspiring. Given that it's a back up, you can't ask for more than what the presumably Italian artist provides here, but there's an embarassment of richers out there in the kinetic action department these days, and it spoils it for everyone else.

Okay, I did find something else to say about Justin Gray's script, even though it has little to do with the story he's telling; as a DC Crossover-phobic, this would be the first time I've seen them acknowledge the Bleed, and I assume the Wildstorm Universe, as part of the Multiverse. That's not really relevant to the story in play here too much, but it does give me hope that Tao could wind up a Batman villain someday. Sure, it would screw up the ending of Sleeper, but it would be so damn cool!So, I'd say this first issue was an interesting bit of set up, even for someone who has yet to read the vast majority of 52, and was bemused by what they did. Sure, that's like judging 24 by two stray episodes, but I never said I was fair (although I'll probably read the damn thing eventually, if for no other reason than that Matt Fraction seemed to really liked it. Maybe I'll wait for the Absolute Edition).  The price tag and the back up are the sticking point for me in following this in the future, especially because I assume that they are intertwined. That said, the blue chick is fighting the Nazi JLA next issue, so I might just part with the four dollars for it. Or just hope that another copy with a nasty tear in it winds up in the bargain bin. If I were at the Savage Critic, I'd have no qualms with giving the main story a Good, and the back up an eh, averaging out to an okay. But I'm not. So I probably can't legally use their rating system. But hey, Cronin's a lawyer, so I'll let him clean up this mess. Me, I'm off to write for my other blog! Maybe!

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