The DCU is getting crossovered to death.
I read a fair chunk of the main DCU titles - this month, for example, DC released 32 titles in 'current continuity' (i.e. not non-DCU, Confidential or similar ) of which I bought twelve (the four issues of Countdown, Detective, Blue Beetle, Atom, Action, Superman, Brave & Bold and Shadowpact). Many months I buy more than that (there was no Batman this month, and I'll be buying All-Flash next month, for example).
I can not realistically afford more than this - I also buy several non-continuity titles like All-Star Superman, some Wildstorm titles, a few Marvels and a few from smaller companies. Even if I could afford more (and there is a little leeway there - I will, for example, be buying JLA when McDuffie comes on as writer) I don't like many of the comics they're publishing. I'm not going to spend a significant amount of money on something from which I'll get no pleasure.
This wasn't a problem last year. DC had a cohesive universe, but you could read most DC titles without having to read twenty others. Awareness of events in, say, Aquaman might make Superman more interesting, but you could read one title without the other with no problem. That's no longer the case.
Every comic in the DC universe now appears to be telling one incredibly complex yet banal story. The following information is what I've been able to find out from the internet - The Flash died in Flash, his funeral was in (or will be in?) Teen Titans, which crosses over with Amazons Attack, which in turn crosses over with Wonder Woman (as far as I can tell, the story in Amazons Attack so far is that some Amazons are attacking somewhere. Whether it's just the US or 'man's world' in general, or maybe even just some cities, I'm unsure). Meanwhile the previous Flash comes back to life and learns of his successor's death in a crossover between JLA and JSA. That's six titles telling what appears to be one story.
There was also over the last few months a 'CheckOut' crossover between Checkmate and Outsiders which is, as far as I know, contained only in those titles. Then there's the separate 'Sinestro Corps' crossover which started in the Sinestro Corps special and appears to be going between Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. That will almost certainly play into whatever the Big Cosmic Event coming up is, as the last splash page of Sinestro Corps was just a reveal of every characterless crossover Macguffin villain ever created for a DC crossover (I was amazed not to see Doomsday there).
In the space of 18 months the Johns/Meltzer/Winnick axis of DCU writers seem to have gone from trying to recreate the mid-80s to bringing back everything from the early 90s. This week saw two separate Dan Jurgens crossover villains come back - Monarch from Armageddon 2001 and Cyborg Superman from the return of superman/Zero Hour. I thought everyone had agreed to pretend those disasters never happened. Next Marvel will be doing The Return Of The Clone or something...
These crossovers are, from what I can tell, incomprehensible if you've not read a bunch of decades-old, out-of-print not-very-good superhero stories, but that's fine - obviously some people like that kind of thing. But they're starting to encroach on the comics I like - Blue Beetle this week seems to be setup for things to happen in Countdown this year, and we all know that Atom is going to tie into it very heavily. From a sales point of view that makes sense - Blue Beetle, Atom and Shadowpact, my favourite three DCU titles not starring Superman or Batman, are also the three lowest-selling DCU comics not yet cancelled. Doing anything at all to get them readers makes sense at this point.
And if this event were being structured like DC's last megacrossover, I would have no problem with that. While the main Infinite Crisis title was a mess, you could read any of the four minis leading up to it without having to read the others, and while every comic acknowledged the events of the crossover, most could be read independently (there were crossovers within 'families' of titles, but that was about all). There was a through-line through the events of the crossover, and while that crossover may have been a horrible unreadable mess, it was easy to know what you needed to read if you wanted to follow it.
Countdown has been being promoted as something along the same lines. The line they've been using in interviews is 'the spine of the DCU'. It's not. It's more like the toenail clippings. It's a collection of random, rather repulsive, bits of detritus which once taken away from their context have no function, and even in context are near-useless. This issue, like almost every one before it, is nothing but a series of snippets, each gesturing at some other story apparently being told in some other comic, with no hint given as to what comic this might be or why we should care. There's no narrative here in any sense that anyone outside of the comics hardcore would use the term, no story, nothing one could review in any reasonable sense of the word. One can enumerate events - though not give any reason as to why these events are important - but not review this as a work of art or craftsmanship because it isn't one. No thought has gone into this, no love, no excitement or inspiration. It has no reason whatsoever for existing except to alert that tiny number of existing comics readers who are reading some but not all of DC's titles that they are missing out, but it does not even do that properly - nothing could be more likely to put me off from trying a new title than the knowledge that it's tied into this soulless mess.
I will be reading Countdown for two more issues, but at this point those two issues would have to be by a creative team of Alan Moore, J.H. Williams and the ghosts of Jack Kirby and William Shakespeare to rescue the title from the morass into which it has sunk. It's simply not telling anything like a story (and not in an innovative avant garde way but in a can't-be-arsed way).
Without a through-line, crossovers become a matter of all or nothing - you either buy everything that company does, or you buy nothing. DC's recent creative team announcements and announcements of new projects have been exciting ones - I would buy almost all the new comics they've announced (Waid back on Flash, Crime Bible, Milligan on Infinity Inc, and so on) in a heartbeat. But if they make it so that only the hardest of the hardcore can follow their comics, they'll lose not only the casual fans but even those like me who go to the comic shop every single week without fail, read a dozen comic sites regularly, but just buy with some sort of discrimination.
Do these people not know what happened directly after all the huge 'event' comics they're so keen to emulate now? Do they not remember what happened after Death Of Superman, Knightfall and Zero Hour? No? Nor do I. Because I, like millions of other comics readers, stopped buying them then. I wonder if the industry can survive another crash like that...