Saturday, 9 June 2007
Countdown 47 - Delenda Est Donna
I'm beginning to think Countdown isn't for me.
This issue has precisely one thing I could call an event - Black Adam giving Mary Marvel all his powers. This has been telegraphed so far in advance that nobody could have been surprised (although Black Adam's new word was actually quite a good twist).
Other than that, here's a breakdown of what 'happened' in Countdown:
Jimmy Olsen had a dream
Someone from a comic I don't read angsted about something I don't know, then kicked someone in the face
The Monitors don't like Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner or Jason Todd
Piper and Trickster have a chat
And there's a big commercial for another comic I'm not reading.
I hate 'reviews' that are just plot summaries (as far too many reviews online are), but I'm just finding it harder and harder to say anything at all about Countdown.
When I started doing this blog, I wanted to use Countdown as a hook to write about what's happening in the DCU generally, and to analyse anything new and interesting in itself. Unfortunately, the comic is giving me nothing to say, and I don't want to keep posting what amount to attacks on it over and over for another 47 weeks - that's pointless. The comics medium is small enough that it's far more important to praise the good than to attack the bad, especially when it's bad work by generally-good creators. I'll be buying Countdown for another month or so - giving it a decent chance - but if it doesn't start going somewhere fast I'll be dropping it.
If that happens, I'll also be dropping this blog, for obvious reasons, but I'd be interested to know how many of the people reading this would carry on reading a general comics blog if I were to do one instead of this? There's a poll at the side - please let me know.
Anyway, on to the other DC comics I bought this week, and thankfully they're much better.
Paul Dini proves in Detective 833 that he can write the kind of story I wanted Countdown to be. Detective features an appearance by Zatanna, and everything you need to know about the current state of relations between her and Batman is put across in the story without it feeling forced. You could give this comic to someone who'd never read anything featuring the character before, and they would be able to get the basics - stage magician, wears fishnets, talks backwards, can do real magic as well, did something bad to Batman a while back that she's sorry for and he's angry about. All that comes through without any problem. The story ends on a cliffhanger (one that almost demands a "Tune in next month, same bat-time, same bat-channel!" caption, in fact) but feels satisfying - there's a mystery which gets solved, it's one which plays fair by the readers (I didn't spot the T-shirt as a clue until the second reading) and it fits with what's been happening in other comics.
There's not much to say about Don Kramer's art, but in a good way - it's good, solid storytelling with recognisable characters. It's the kind of art that the Bat-titles should have all the time but generally haven't had in fifteen years or more. Competence is a very underrated virtue.
Curiously it doesn't fit with what's happening in Countdown right now, although Countdown editor Mike Marts appears to suggest this is deliberate.
Another comic that doesn't fit with Countdown is Superman #663, by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino, which features a character who died a week ago in Countdown. At least now that DC have brought back the editor's box they can acknowledge this - "This story occurs prior to Countdown 48".
I've been in two minds for a while about Busiek's Superman. The overarching story he's doing is tedious in the extreme - dark, dystopian futures are soooo 1985 - while the theme behind it was done better and in many fewer pages by Elliot S! Maggin in Must There Be A Superman?
Then, on top of that, the cliffhanger suggests we're about to do a story again that's a perennial Superman staple, and that was last done less than two years ago.
But on the other hand, his Up, Up and Away! (with Geoff Johns, not usually a favourite of mine) last year was one of the best Superman stories I've ever read. And when he's doing single-issue stories, he gets Superman. Marc Singer has attacked Busiek's penchant for the 'little epiphany' story, and Busiek has been guilty of that, too, with some of these issues... but the 'anniversary' story last year was so good a friend described it to me as 'the missing issue of All Star Superman'. And the 'aliens are stealing our stuff' story was just priceless.
While I couldn't have less interest in the big picture, in other words, Busiek gets Superman and his supporting cast. He gets the potential of the powers (Lana's speech to Superman in this issue suggests Busiek has half a mind to take him in a Julius Schwartz direction) and also gets the effect the man has on the people around him. I can put up with a couple of pages of continuity-fixing (explaining the discrepancies between Arion's appearances here and in Day Of Vengeance) if I get the Young Gods of New Genesis chorusing "Sorry, Superman..."
The All-New Atom #12 though, I'm in only one mind about. This is just pure fun from beginning to end. I was disappointed with the last storyline in this comic - the return of the bullies from beyond the grave to battle the nerd who couldn't get a date to the prom just felt like fanboy pandering - but this, part one of The Search For Ray Palmer is a textbook example of what a good superhero comic should be. Fanboy pandering of the good kind (Lady Cop!) , robot taxi-drivers who speak in anagrams, a giant floating head, subplots moving forward, a big last page reveal, the Ivy Town Chamber Of Commerce brochure ("Our only known serial killer hasn't been seen in days! Take that, Gotham City!"), a fight scene that's actually exciting...
There's very little to say about this other than that it's excellent, and a welcome return to form in a comic that started out great but has been coasting a little. This is the thing that's given me most hope that Countdown will become something I'll remember fondly - this story is tied deep into the bowels of Countdown, and it's just wonderful.