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Countdown to Final Crisis (2007-2008) is perhaps one of the most baffling things to come out of DC Comics. It was meant as the leadup to what would have been the biggest events in the DCU, but ultimately, it fell short, not even bearing connection to the Final Crisis for which it was named. Trying to summarize it is a difficult task, as the plotline is essentially a very shaky patchwork of loosely connected plot threads. But someone has to try:

The Multiverse has gone wonky. The Monitors have come back into existence with the return of the parallel universes, and they foresee a "Great Disaster" — and one Monitor, consulting The Source, is told that Ray Palmer (currently in exile since the events of Identity Crisis) is the answer. From here, the script splits into a variety of plot threads:

  • Donna Troy and Jason Todd end up traveling the Multiverse with Bob, one of the Monitors, searching for Ray Palmer, initially joined by Ryan Choi (the fourth Atom), but joined by Kyle Rayner instead when Choi gets whisked out of the plot. They search multiple universes and come up empty-handed most of the time.
  • Mary Marvel, seemingly abandoned by the power of Shazam, goes out searching for answers. She ends up stealing Black Adam's power, turning evil not once, but twice.
  • Jimmy Olsen ends up developing superpowers and tries to become a superhero — or at least find out why he has them. In typical Jimmy Olsen fashion, he soon gets sucked into an investigation into the death of the New Gods, winds up toe-to-toe with Darkseid, and has sex with a bug girl.
  • The Trickster and Pied Piper go undercover to gather info on the other Rogues, and get framed for murder. They wind up in a situation not unlike "The Defiant Ones" save for a surplus of homophobic potshots and unpleasantry.
  • Holly Robinson and Harley Quinn end up in a women's shelter organized by Athena (actually Granny Goodness in disguise), who trains them as warriors without telling them why.
  • Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl end up stranded in the past because Karate Kid's infected with a strange virus; they try to find a cure...unsuccesfully. Both of them die.
  • The Monitors mull over whether or not they should intervene, before ultimately taking actions that are... morally questionable.

The plot threads often overlapped as the result of the search for Ray Palmer, with heroes of one thread waylaid by villains of another, which resulted in a lot of multi-sided battles and several assassination attempts before Darkseid, (who is shown playing with superhero action figures at points) The Monitors, Monarch and Superman-Prime start slaughtering characters en masse. Multiple other plot points were also introduced, but these were resolved in other titles, as well as multiple spin-offs.

The series came under pretty strong fire, from the near Cry for Justice-levels of excess to the awkward introduction of multiple plot points. A common complaint was that the comics did not make sense, with multiple plot threads leading more-or-less nowhere, and there was much objection to the portrayal of many of the characters.

Tropes associated with Countdown to Final Crisis:

  • Aborted Arc: Many plot points introduced as important are never mentioned again--including the series itself.
  • A God Am I: Superboy-Prime. Not necessarily a mature god, but still...
  • All the Myriad Ways: Played straight with Earth-51. Twice.
  • All There in the Manual: Much of the coherency of Countdown hinged upon a familiarity with the multiple tie-in titles. This contributed in part to its unpopularity.
  • Apocalypse How: Earth-15 gets a Class X. Earth-51 gets a Class X-4. Earth-51 version 2.0 gets a Class 4.
  • Ax Crazy: Superboy-Prime.
  • Big Bad: At first, Monarch. Much later, Darkseid takes the center stage.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jimmy Olsen gave us a rather impressive variant; When Ray Palmer crawls into his brain to give Jimmy control over his superpowers, allowing Jimmy to transform and rescue Superman, who had been exposed to a healthy dose of Kryptonite Jimmy by Darkseid.
  • BLAM Episode: The entire series, depending on who you ask, but special mention goes to Paul Dini's issue, in which Superman-Prime imprisoned and tortured Mr. Mxyzptlk with the help of a Mirror Universe Zatanna, only to have her do a Heel Face Turn and Redemption Equals Death free the imp.
  • Canon Dis Continuity
  • Character Filibuster: Solomon the Monitor spends half the series repeatedly hijacking the Monitors' conference with constant, doom-prophesying horror stories about Crisis on Infinite Earths, in order to convince the other Monitors that they have to kill Bob and stop his interdimensional joyride, justify his murder of Duela Dent, and get everyone to help him wipe out all the people who were originally from Earth-2 and the other Pre Crisis parallel universes.
  • City of Adventure: Metropolis.
  • Chained Heat: Trickster and Pied Piper find themselves handcuffed together for a good amount of the plot.
  • Crisis Crossover
  • Dark Magical Girl: Mary Marvel.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "I'LL KILL YOU! I'll KILL YOU TO DEATH!"
  • Depending on the Artist: The fact that all the issues were drawn by different artists caused many, many abrupt shifts not just in character models, but in basic layout and props throughout particular arcs.
  • Discontinuity Nod: Geoff Johns actually put "Don't worry about Countdown" on a chalkboard in Booster Gold.
    • Later on, the Red Robin costume worn by Jason Todd on Earth-51 appeared in Robin and was adopted by Tim Drake.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mary Marvel taking a pole from Zatanna and saying "Ooh, no wonder you wanted to keep this for yourself!" with a look of ecstasy on her face.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Many characters. Duela Dent, The Jokester, Triplicate Girl, Trickster, Karate Kid, the version of Batman who might have redeemed Jason Todd and three alternate-universe Earths.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Monarch conquered Earth-51 and wouldn't stop there. Then Superman-Prime attacked him...
  • Face Heel Turn: Twice, first by Mary Marvel, then by one of the Monitors.
  • Faux Action Girl: Una. You'd think someone who's been a superhero all her adult life would be a little better in a fight.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Bob the Monitor.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Hoo, boy.
  • Got the Call on Speed Dial: Mary Marvel attempts to invoke this trope.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body
  • Idiot Ball: Passed about like a hot potato. Mary Marvel pulls off a Face Heel Turn twice; Monitors Bob and Solomon's Xanatos Gambit; and Renee Montoya's decision to release Trickster and Pied Piper, (both suspects in a murder investigation) upon Trickster's demonstration of their innocence (puppets were involved), even though they both aided in the murder of Bart Allen, The Question's reasoning for letting two potential criminals walk, ("The puppets convinced me.") and the future humans keeping an ill Karate Kid in the past where he won't infect them.
  • I'll Kill You!: To death!
  • The Immune: Ray Palmer is immune to a virus that "mutates DNA, mixing human and animal DNA together." (It was supposed to be an illness that blocks out the metagene.)
  • Interspecies Romance: Jimmy Olsen and Forager.
  • Irony: Countdown shoved Renee Montoya into the story to leech off of 52's popularity even though Countdown was made because the editors hated 52.
  • Joker Immunity: Subverted via All the Myriad Ways.
  • Kill'Em All: And boy, do they all get killed.
  • Kudzu Plot: The characters even Lampshade Hanging it!
  • Last of Her Kind: Forerunner, whose entire race was subjected to a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness from Solomon.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In the later issues, some of the characters start to make comments about the ordeal's length and nonsensicality.
  • Living MacGuffin: Ray Palmer.
  • The Mole: Bob the Monitor.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: DC promoted the series with the hint that Jimmy Olsen was going to be killed off by The Joker early on. They handed out buttons at conventions reading "Jimmy Olsen must die!" and even did a cover for Wizard showing Superman mourning a dead Jimmy, complete with grisly Joker Venom smile. Countdown #51 has The Joker holding Jimmy's press pass on the cover. And in that issue, Jimmy... interviews the Joker for a news story, and nothing much else happens.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job bringing along a deadly plague that destroys an entire universe, then leaving without trying to solve the problem, "heroes". Special mention goes to that universe's version of Hal Jordan. The plague would have been confined to Earth, if he hadn't had the genius idea to go out into space to warn other planets... without realizing he was already infected.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In his introductory one-shot, Jokester bore an uncanny resemblance to Jim Carrey.
  • Paint It Black: Mary Marvel's evil costume.
  • Panty Shot: Mary is subject to several particularly blatant ones through the series.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Superman-Prime.
  • Random Events Plot: Not really meant as this, but the Four Lines, All Waiting, excessive reliance on tie-ins, and running incorporation of whatever going on in the DCU at the time caused this.
  • Series Continuity Error: Renee Montoya's first appearance, and many others. Also particularly blatant in an issue that ends with Trickster and Pied Piper falling out of a futuristic plane at sunset, while the very next issue begins with them falling out of a regular jet in daylight.
  • Shaped Like Itself: I'LL KILL YOU TO DEATH!
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Several, but Trickster making gay jokes about Pied Piper through half the series with the implication that he will learn a lesson about homophobia due to his adventure, only to be randomly shot through the head in the middle of things probably takes the cake.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Super-Hero Origin/Start of Darkness: Issues #37-27, #25-13, #11, and #6 feature origin stories of various heroes and villains as a backup feature. Issue #28 is notable in featuring two (one each for the Trickster and the Pied Piper).
  • Swarm of Rats: Una is eaten alive by a swarm of mutated rats, and shows her Determinator street cred by continuing to fight them long enough to pass on her flight ring to another character, who escapes.
  • Take That, Audience!: Superman-Prime is a pretty visible potshot, voicing common reader complaints about the series as though they were First-World problems.
  • The Power of Rock: Queen to be more exact. Pied Piper explodes Apokolips by touching "The Show Must Go On" while powered with the Equation Anti-Life. Maybe the series' finest moment.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: She's Donna Troy, by the way.
  • The Virus: The thing that Ray Palmer and his friends were meant to stop, the thing that wiped out all human civilization and killed billions? It makes furries. An epidemic of savage, violent furries.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Piper (see Moment of Awesome). Superboy-Prime, who was turned into Superman-Prime due to events of Sinestro Corps War (keep in mind that he already was at Silver Age power level). Monarch who at the end of Countdown: Arena took fifty one levels at once.
  • Trauma Conga Line: It's uncertain if they were aiming to play this straight or not, as it's visited unto Jimmy Olsen.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Hal Jordan.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Darkseid, the ultimate evil in the universe, one of the biggest Big Bads to ever have set foot in comics... is found lounging on a couch in Mary Marvel's apartment.
  • Who Dares?: Don't ever beat Ultraman in place of Super-Woman.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: At the end, Donna Troy asks "Who monitors the Monitors?" (loosely translated from "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?")
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Donna, Kyle, Jason and Bob the Monitor, with regards to Ray Palmer.