Saturday, 16 June 2007

Countdown 46: Nice And Sleezy Does It

So, as I said in my last post, I am going to pick at problems with this comic as I go through it, but I don't want people to think that this means I disliked this issue. It's actually an above-standard superhero comic, though still patchy. If this had been the general standard of this series, I would have been much less scathing than I have been.

In fact, I advise anyone who hasn't been reading Countdown, who's in two minds about it, to pick up this issue. This is as good as it's been so far, and it does a good job of filling in the information needed to understand the story.

The cover is horrible. It's not badly done or anything, but that early-90s Image style art, all tiny noses and scratchy lines, is ugly as sin. It's also nothing like the art on the inside - Jesus Saiz' pencils coupled with Jimmy Palmiotti's inks actually look more like a less-detailed Rick Veitch.

The art is actually the best in the series so far. Saiz' poses look stiff - sometimes they look traced from photos rather than drawn freehand, there's a general lack of dynamism there - but the storytelling is clear, there are subtle shifts in the art style in the different sections (almost ligne claire in the Rogues sections, dirty and gritty in the Suicide Slum sections (the pages that first brought the Veitch comparisons to mind, looking very like Veitch doing Eisner in Greyshirt).

p1 - You'd think if Amazons Attack were 'the hottest story going', and given that it was the big cliffhanger at the end of the last issue, it would be dealt with in this issue in some way. Having said that, this page does a good job of delivering a lot of exposition in a relatively unforced way, and of showing the relationship between Jimmy and Lois.

pp2-3 - Ten thousand? Assuming she's using Beijing as poetic shorthand for 'the other side of the earth' so she can feel every thunderstorm happening on the earth, assuming as well that her figure of 44,000 thunderstorms a day is accurate, and that the average length of a thunderstorm is about half an hour, there should be just under *one* thousand happening, not ten...

p4 - "Five pregnant women on the roof of a hospital praying in pentagram formation beneath a floating rock while singing Echo And The Bunnymen's Killing Moon". I don't know what's funnier - that image or the fact that Mary Marvel knows the song...

p5 - OK, a demon made of dead babies. That's revolting.

pp6-8 - Oh dear. These pages are terrible. Alan Moore talks in Writing For Comics about how Eisner taking ideas from Orson Welles in the 40s was an innovative idea, but people still using those panel layouts and transitions in the 80s was unimaginative. In the same way, Garth Ennis writing dialogue in obvious imitation of Tarantino was entertaining in Preacher. Just copying the argument about tipping from Reservoir Dogs is both unoriginal and passe.
Secondly, the writing for Mirror Master has been uniformly awful in this series. In general, there's a problem when comics try to represent any form of dialect phonetically. Even the greats get it wrong - Dave Sim managed perfectly to capture the rhythms and vocabulary of Liverpool dialect (and more specifically the rhythms of Alun Owen's screenplay for A Hard Day's Night) in his Harrison Starkey and Richard George characters in Guys, but his attempts at rendering the pronunciation phonetically were hopeless. In less skillful hands the results are much worse - no-one who has ever heard a real Australian speak could ever read a comic featuring the original Captain Boomerang .
Mirror Master's dialect, in every issue in which he's featured, has been just horribly wrong. And worse than wrong, it shows a contempt and a patronising attitude to non-USians that I find offensive. It's as if I were to write dialogue for an American character and have them saying "Howdy pardner, ah'm a good ole cowpoke from a li'l ol' village name o' Brooklyn, New York, in the great state o' Minnesota, y'all". It pulls me out of the story, and gives the impression that the people writing this stuff don't actually care about getting details right - everyone not from the US is just a funny foreigner.

pp9-12 - These pages are well done, apart from the "Yoda" reference (another fault in Countdown has been the film references. This was bad enough with Karate Kid, but at least there the comic character came first. Saying Sleez looks like Yoda is just pointing out the derivative character design and breaking suspension of disbelief). However, I'm unhappy that they brought back Sleez at all.
For those who don't know, Sleez was part of John Byrne's comprehensive plan to slime up the Superman mythos (the plan that ended with Superman becoming a murderer). Sleez came from Apokolips, and psionically controlled Superman and Big Barda into appearing in a porn video together.
Sleez was killed off many years ago, and the story seemed to be one of those 'we shall never speak of this again' moments, which I was more than happy with - as far as I was concerned, it was Zero-Hourased/Superboy-punched/eaten by Mr Mind , and it never happened This section of the comic brings Sleez back, thus establishing the story firmly in current continuity, before killing him again.

p13 - We really did not need an upskirt shot of Mary Marvel's panties. Mary's 'darkening' is more than conveyed in the captions. The sexualising (or increase thereof) of the character is both unnecessary fanboy pandering and conveys/reinforces some pretty horrible messages about female sexuality.

p14 - Devil Day Care is a nice phrase.

pp15-16 Jason Todd and Donna Troy hold my interest not one iota. There appears to be no reason for them to be in Washington other than to promote DC's hot new miniseries Amazons Attack, on sale at a comic shop near you...

p17 - Forerunner to go with Harbinger? What's next? Precursor? Augurer?

Incidentally, seeing Sleez killed off by the Continuity Cops (bring back Jonni DC!), the conjunction of continuity-fixing death and Fourth World character, made me think of something that no-one else appears to have mentioned, which I think may be a big part of the plot to Countdown.

It's been established that the Monitors want to destroy 'anomalies' - people who shouldn't be in the universe they're in; continuity errors. Now, I think I know how the Fourth World characters fit into this - the Omega Beams.
For those who don't know, one of Darkseid's established powers is the Omega Beam, which can be used to kill or teleport victims. But it's been established in the past that the Omega Beam can make it so that the victim never existed in the first place.
Now, doesn't that sound like something the Monitors might be interested in?


Anonymous said...

My only complaint is the second use of the cover to tip the final page of the issue--between this and Lightray's 'death.' It's called suspense, people!

Desaad said...

Hi, i'm from Spain and all the stuff about non-americans speakers is ten times worst for us, the spanish speakers. If you find offensive the way they treat non-US "ENGLISH" speakers, you can't even began to imagine the way they treat my language. Is more than ofensive, it's disgusting. I like the New Blue Beetle series, but every time them change to speak in spanish, I skip these panels. Awful, simply awful.
Sorry if my english is not quite perfect,but I learned reading comics. Keep the good work.

Garrie Burr said...

Re: the Omega Beam...

In Kirby's prologue to "The Hunger Dogs" -- "Even Gods Must Die" in issue 6 of the New Gods Baxter reprints from 1984 -- Darkseid was able to bring people back, even those like Desaad who were destroyed by the Omega Beam.

Though, "They don't -fully- they?" Darkseid mused -- a beautiful and sad statement that implies to me "Yes, these characters are back, but they're only watered-down copies of the original." They may look like Kirby characters, but without Kirby himself at the helm they're only shadows of the real thing.

Re: the Monitors and Forerunner...

Last issue they asked "Why kill? Why destroy when we can repair? ... If we do with these other anomalies what has been done with Duela Dent then we are no longer Monitors. We are monsters!"

So this issue they send out their "weapon" Forerunner to take care of Donna and Jason. If we take them at their word from last issue, how does a weapon "repair?"

For that matter, how do they repair anomalies at all? From their past statements it would seem they do not kill the misfits, so a dangling question of the series-so-far would be: what's their method of repairing the anomalies?

pittmonster said...

Thanks for the great write-up this week, particularly the conjecture on the Omega Beams (I've been reading comics for 25 years, and am familiar with many of the references that have abounded in 52, Countdown and elswhere in today's DC ... but struggle with putting those references together). Thanks for keeping the blog going!

Ami Angelwings said...

Great commentary :D That's about how I felt about the issue too. >.>;;

I'm getting a little tired of the fact that DC seems to want to bring EVERYTHING from the past back now, even the stuff that was prolly best forgotten and ppl just assumed it was retconned out. >.>;;

Like Sleez >:|

Anonymous said...

I would expect that forerunner is supposed to grab people so they can be returned to their home universe, thus repairing the damage.

andy G said...

More I think about it, the dead baby demon was just wrong. A cheap bit of grotesquery, and Mary's quipping, presumably there to show her dark side and give the scene a Buffy feel, was tastelessly misjudged.

But I do like that the original Monitor was a noble creature who sacrificed his life for the universe, and these new Monitors are a squabling senate of meddlers, banging on about the 'problem' in oblique terms and prone to knee jerk contradictory solutions with little concept of or concern for their outcome.

Current US administration anyone?

The Mirror Master needs to "Get tae f**k".

Lisa said...

The rabid Monitor, the one who wants to destroy all the anomalies... he's going to wind up travelling back in time and becoming Darkseid.

badartdog said...

I'd forgotten about the Bunnymen reference - that seemed completely out of place to me.

I agree that the demon seemed wrong, too, Andy. I liked it, but it felt far more Vertigo than DCU (or is it DCM - I'm confused?)

I've just read the next issue which is complete toss and will comment after you've updated.