Sunday, 3 June 2007

Issue 48 : Gotterdammerung

Before we begin, I'd like to apologise for the comparative lateness of this post - we got our comics even later this week than usual, thanks to the bank holiday, and my job requires me to work weekend shifts on occasion.

The consensus on this week's issue of Countdown seems to be that it's more of the same, but a very slight improvement, and I have to agree. Over at The Savage Critics they said the issue "did mark the first time that the series didn't feel like a terrible mistake", which is a little harsh, but which seems to sum up the overall reaction.

This is the blandest issue so far, in both bad and good ways. It has nothing to match the great moments in the last couple of issues (the "no umbrellas" sign, Elastic Lad),
but it also has none of the obvious errors and bad writing we've seen in the earlier issues - where things seem wrong, they seem to be plot points rather than errors.

This leaves comparatively little to say about the issue, but to cover the key points:
p3 - Even Perry White knows who Jason Todd is...this is one mystery that could actually play out rather interestingly.
p8 - The composition in panel 3 here looks very familiar, but I can't think where from - anyone know? (It's going to be something incredibly obvious, isn't it?)
pp10 & 11 - This Karate Kid story still makes no sense whatsoever. It's only comprehensible if you're reading two other comics, JLA and JSA, which in turn are only comprehensible if you've read some other comics from 20 years ago that haven't been reprinted. Further, there's not even any way to know where to look for the information without looking online. Several other DC titles have (finally) brought back the "See Othercomic #7 - Ed" box, and I can't imagine a comic that needs it more than this one...
p12 - The transition between these two pages is very awkward
p13 - As Scipio points out, Jimmy Olsen has had superspeed before, just like the Elastic Lad powers. I would hope this was pointing to the return of Hypertime, but I suspect not...
p15 - For those of you who don't know, Lightray was a character whose primary function was to appear in crowd scenes, say things like "Orion, your impetuous nature needs to be tempered by wisdom" , and not much else. Also, he was in the JLI for about six issues...
The History of the Multiverse is still comprehensible, amazingly...

In other DCU comics this week, Action 850 was a pretty decent flashback issue of the 'important moments linked by a framing story' type. It did a good job of filling in the back-story of the current iteration of Superman (the Supermullet is officially out of continuity now) though Clark's reaction to his mother's bereavement rang false, and I found Supergirl's 'nice' and 'cute' comments about her cousin a little unnerving.

Anyway, now a few issues are out, I thought I'd engage in some speculation as to what Countdown is counting down to. All we know for sure at this point is that it's to be another Crisis along the lines of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the title Final Crisis has been mentioned, and the names Kurt Busiek and Grant Morrison have both been bandied about.

Now, if it really is a Crisis type story, DC have a big problem - their universe is getting rebooted every few minutes at this point, and another reboot could quite possibly kill their comics line stone dead. So we can assume it won't be a reboot.

The most popular opinion among fandom seems to be that it will be leading to an Ultimate-ised DCU - the start of a second line set in a fresh universe, uncluttered by continuity baggage. I suspect that this isn't the only thing happening, if it's happening at all - you don't start your new continuity-free line with a 52-part story plus tie-ins referencing a 20-year old comic.

Other people have suggested that the "Ultimate DCU" would provide a chance to have the grimungritty characters and stories in one Earth, while having more Silver Age-esque stories take place on New New Earth. Depending on how the Earths were split up, Earth Bronze could be the private fiefdom of Geoff Johns while Earth Silver could be the playground of Mark Waid or whoever, in the same way Roy Thomas used to have Earth-2 to himself.

This separation of storytelling styles could seem a good idea short term, but one of the big strengths of the DCU is the fact that Mr Mxyzptlk and Swamp Thing both live there, as do Batman and G'nort. The real world contains tragedy, horror, humour and hope in equal measures - the DCU should do likewise, and for all their occasional missteps, I think the DC editorial team have shown they understand this in the last year.

But there is one way such a separation could work, and I think I got this idea from my friend Tilt, but all my instincts tell me this is what they're going to do. You make one to throw away.

At the end of Final Crisis the multiverse is left intact, but we concentrate on two Earths - call them Earth-Silver and Earth-Bronze. Earth Silver is the shiny neo-Silver Age rebooted universe with no continuity, Earth-Bronze is our current DCU. As a result of the Crisis, Earth-Bronze is going to die.

Set it up so that the superheroes of Earth-Bronze know, for a fact, that their universe has, say, three years left before it is totally destroyed, and use those three years to tell every end story the writers ever wanted to tell. Superman pounding the walls of reality, trying to change things and fighting to the end, Batman keeping order to the last, policing a Gotham whose citizens have nothing to fear because they know they're going to die anyway. You can do these stories and have them 'be real'. A Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? for the whole DCU. Meanwhile, if the new Earth-Silver doesn't work out, at the last minute they could always pull a Macguffin out of a hat and find a way for Earth-Bronze to survive.

So my prediction for what we're counting down to? Two lines of comics - one small (to start with) line featuring all the icons at their most iconic - what All Star was originally promoted as (and I think it likely that All-Star Superman would become continuity there) starting fresh and building up a new continuity, while the other, larger, darker line would be heroes raging against the dying of the light.

What do you think we're counting down to?


Kim EM said...

Hmmm. That could well be. I'm wondering if what this leads to for "New Earth" is Kirby's "Great Disaster". It makes sence, what all with what we've seen to date.

I'm not so sure about a "New New Earth". I'm thinking that a lot of the heroes (and their loved ones, along with a bunch of other folks) end up pn Eaeth-1, which, if I remember the end of "52" correctly, is the Levitz/Staton JSA's earth. That seems about the right jumping-off point for a brighter, more optimistic DC Universe.

I'm not sure this scenario is what I want things to be, but if it works as a fertile setting for stories, it's fine by me.

Just, please let this "Final Crisis" BE the final crisis. I'm starting to get a bit overwhelmed by all the universe-bending over the past few years.

- Kim ;)

Blood E. said...

First off, let me say thanks for providing a place for me to transition to after following Doug Wolk's 52Pickup on and off for it's title's duration.

I think the amount of effort and experience you all show is encouraging to someone like me, who basically rediscovered the DCU in his 40's after not paying attention to anything other than Marvel up to about the 90's and pretty much only Love and Rockets after that.

That wordy intro being said, I have to admit that I was compelled to follow Countdown to IC and much of the DC since because of the (overall) really fine storytelling and the much needed stitching together toward a single universe. To answer your query, I find myself sliding back to not caring anymore.

As much as I've enjoyed all the stories up to now in my old favorites (pretty much the JLA mainstays) and especially The Spectre, I find that the whole thing reeks of too much marketing to force my purchases.

I find your prediction interesting, but wonder why it has to happen right off the heels of the last (make that 'previous') crisis - other than to keep my cash flowing. I enjoyed the changes and the risk-taking. Is it really necessary to overdo it all by undoing/redoing so everyone gets what they want? None of the rebooted titles have even had a chance to settle in and I'm supposed to be looking forward to more change or, worse from my perspective, a renege on change?

The multiverse is there, so use it.

It just smacks of really trying to make the "tie-in" universe of commercial comic success the New Earth of comics. Sure, I want crossovers, but I want to breathe with my favorite characters for awhile too. Let's keep the "See ish #..." boxes alive as well so we can catch up where we want.

I've enjoyed much of Paul Dini's career behind the TV schenes - especially Krypto the Superdog which was great for my young kids. But the COUNTDOWN seems forced upon him. Whatever his creative mission, this appears to be a misstep for the whole creative continuity that IC set up in the first place.

Hope I'm relevant here.

Blood E.

pittmonster said...

I like the idea of an Ultimate DC. I actually hope we see something like that emerge, regardless of whether this is where Countdown is heading.

As a "review of review", I really enjoy the way you're writing this, Andrew. The book doesn't lend itself to the same critical review as did 52, so discuss the action and do what comes naturally - what the very title of the book is begging us to do - that being to speculate on where we're Counting Down. So, well done. Look forward to more!

Jeff R. said...

I think that it's going to be much tamer than that: the countdown is to the return of the Anti-Monitor (who's essence, according to my wild-dog theory, currently is split between Superboy-Prime, the Paralax Entity, and Lady Styx. Eventually all three are going to be in prison on Oa, at which point the band gets together and really bad things start to happen.), a new version of the classic crisis, this time on a finite number of earths, and ending up with around five or six survivors. (1,2,New/52,S/5,4 and X/10 being the main contenders.)

The auspices are not good for the series: 'Final Crisis' was the title of the inarguably worst JLA/JSA crossover ever (in which the Detroit league and Infinity Incorporated fought for no particularly good reason), and the last time Busiek did an company-wide crossover was Shattered Image, about which the less said the better....

hilker said...

I haven't read Shattered Image, but Busiek's JLA/Avengers is awesome, especially considering how many layers of editorial and legal oversight must have been involved, and the limitations of the giant-crossover genre.


I'm hoping that 'Final Crisis' will just be an awesome cross-over without silly continuity consequences.

Final Crisis should be the crossover where all the lessons of Identity and Infinite are applied and the heroes come out victorious.

Digging the blog. Keep up the good work.

jake said...

Page 8, panel 3: I'm not sure if it's the original, but the angle, blowing hair/capes and cloaked figure all evoke a panel towards the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths where Harbinger, Pariah, and a few others look down from a floating rock onto the heroes being prepped for the frontal assault on the Anti-monitor.

Actually that image is a staple of Perez--I remember other scenes from that series...