In A Mirror, Darkly, it felt like an excellent dark, twisted version of Star Trek. I'm also an incredible fan of the Crime Syndicate, from their initial appearanceto Grant Morrison's reinvention, and I even enjoyed Busiek's Syndicate Rules arc in JLA.
(For the uninitiated, Earth 3 is the "mirror universe" of the DCU, where assassin Abraham Lincoln shot President John Wilkes Booth; our evil is their good; and According to Jim is a well-written, well-acted television classic).
So, with some trepidation, I picked up the Crime Society edition of Countdown: The Search for Ray Palmer. Much of it is the shop where I chose to purchase it (A place near home with a sign on the door that said, "How is a comic book like a girl? It costs too much money and you can't have just one." Go figure.), but primarily, I haven't been following Countdown.
This book, however, has led me to one conclusion:
We need a Crime Society monthly. Now. And I want to write it.
Sean McKeever writes a simple story - the origin of the Jokester, one of the "heroes" of Earth-3. (Fortunately, Earth-3 does not automatically negate the Crime Syndicate...do I smell set-up?). It's an interesting variation on the "one-bad-day-can-drive-you-nuts" theme of The Killing Joke...or to put it another way: if Paul Dini believes that the Joker's raison d'etre is to make Batman laugh, the Jokester's is to laugh at Owlman. The story is filled with some clever twists, including a nice little pop culture reference that nobody else might get.
It's also one of the few done-in-one stories that actually works, with only a few missteps. (Like, if the Jokester only has facial wounds - how did his coloring change?). However, it's a rather solid story, and one that is a refreshing change from the rest of DC's usual books.
The art by Jamal Igle, Rob Hunter and John Kalisz is simply sublime - in fact, one set of flashbacks takes us through the various "looks" of Owlman. There is also a cool sequence which reframes Golden Age Batman covers to "highlight" classic Jokester/Owlman skirmishes. (Normally, it would seem rather hokey - however, it works in this context, telling us tons of story with a minimum of exposition).
Now, several reviewers on the blogosphere have all mentioned that they felt this was out of step with Countdown. However, as someone who has not been following Countdown, and is unsure what the weekly series is about (except "$3 an issue"), that the tie-in sequence feels forced. (Plus, if someone could please give me a legitimate reason for the revival of Mary Sue, er, I mean "Jason Todd", I would greatly appreciate it).
So, please go out and buy this issue, if only to support a possible "Crime Society" series. Heck, I've got an idea for a four issue mini...and Dan DiDio, if you're reading this, please drop me a line. You won't be sorry.