Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The Black Racer's Death Song


So this is the big New Gods event that Countdown is leading up to. How dull.

As huge a Fourth World fan as I am, I'm not getting worked up over the 'death' itself - we all know those characters will return within five years. I may even buy the series - Starlin's done quite a bit of good work (although the artwork in this article looks absolutely wretched, I have to say).

I'm not even going to take part in the outrage when the female (Big Barda & Granny Goodness) and black (Vykyn, Shilo Norman, The Black Racer) characters 'die'.

What I do find wearisome, however, is the rationale for this series' existence:

"Since Kirby's initial run on the characters others have presented them with mixed results. Looking back I'd say at least half of the past New Gods series have done more harm than good. So for me, Death of the New Gods is half honoring Jack Kirby, half mercy killing."

This is, of course, completely true. The New Gods have rarely been handled well. But then, you could say the same for Superman, Batman, whatever character. Most superhero comics through most of their history have been pretty terrible, and completely missing the point of an established character seems to have been par for the course for at least the last twenty years.

But that's not the point. The point is, the characters still have tons of potential, as Grant Morrison proved in Seven Soldiers and Rock Of Ages. I'm sure Mark Waid, or Dwayne MacDuffie, or Gail Simone, or Kurt Busiek, or Starlin himself, or Keith Giffen or any of a hundred other pretty good superhero writers could do some interesting fun stuff with the characters. And if you can't get a good comic out of the characters, just don't use them, and wait until the next Morrison or Moore or whoever comes along with the Perfect Big Idea for them.

Because whether it's the latest hot young creator wanting to use them, or a change of editorial policy, or even just people forgetting this series was written and using Darkseid without remembering he's dead, these characters will be used again. The only thing this series will achieve in that respect is to make a Geoff Johns Special continuity wank-fest miniseries necessary before anyone with a good idea for the characters can use them.

Like I say, it may be a good comic on its own terms, and I'll probably pick up the first issue at least, but it's indicative of a fundamental error in DC's editorial stance (and I'll repeat, I think they're doing more right than wrong overall). With these 'sandbox' characters - the characters that don't have their own titles but which provide part of the shared background for the DCU - the policy should be 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Instead, the policy in recent years seems to be "if it ain't broke, break it".

Incidentally, the interview suggests that Lightray's death (and Darkseid's plot?) will be things that won't be dealt with in Countdown at all, but will be dealt with in this mini. Is Countdown going to have any plot of its own, or is it only going to be trailers for miniseries and deleted scenes from ongoing titles?

Geoff Johns has essentially built his career on fixing mistakes made by DC editorial in the 90s. DC seem bent on giving him, or someone like him, plenty to do for the next decade.


Anonymous said...

In answer to the question, is Countdown going to have any plot of its own? After reading today's release, the answer is "no".

The closest it will come is with Mary Marvel and Jimmy Olsen, it seems... but "Mary turns morally ambiguous" and "Jimmy is from Silver Age Earth 1" isn't exactly a plot now, is it? F'in Clayface is the cover teaser that's supposed to make me buy the issue? CLAYFACE? WTF?

Bubba said...

For the sake of completeness, how many spin-off mini-series have been announced or released so far, regarding 52 and Countdown?

- World War III
- Infinity Inc.
- Suicide Squad
- Countdown to Adventure
- Countdown to Mystery
- The Search for Ray Palmer
- Death of the New Gods

Am I missing any?

At least 52 itself told a fairly self-contained story.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Walt Simonson's Orion series was one of the best series DC put out in the last, well, ever.

The New Gods can be great, dang it. No, they don't play well with others in the DCU, but they weren't meant to. Give them their own little corner to play in and set the toys loose, man!

Kirby intended the NG stories to be finite. You could build up a big ol' ragnarok for 'em without violating their essences. I hope that when Starlin wipes 'em out, he does so with gusto, with a solid story, and without intrusions from the DCU. (Okay, Superman can stick his head in, but no more.)


Countdown has no story of its own? Are you kidding? Wow. That's sad.

Oz said...

Reading the newest Countdown episode last night left me completely baffled. Mary wasn't just changed, she was outright coarse (and I'm guessing there was some point in showing her from underneath at least half a dozen times floating in mid air showing she has black underoos, perhaps that she's now lewd or something?). I felt like I missed a week somewhere.

The issue has so many jumps, even in the monitor's monlogue section in the back, that I kept thinking my copy was missing pages.

Andrew Hickey said...

Bubba, as far as 52 spinoffs, there's also the new Booster Gold series, Black Adam, Four Horsemen Of Apokolips, and the Crime Bible, so far. And Amazons Attack and the Lightning Saga tie into Countdown enough that they must count.

Harvey, you can guarantee that the whole DCU will be involved - it's almost certainly going to tie into Countdown in a major way. And no, Countdown has no plot of its own at all. There's not even a pretence at it...

Anonymous said...

If this New Gods series lead to something based on Morrison's Mr. Miracle (the gods had 'lost' the war, and were working through human avatars) I would actually have something to look forward to.

Unfortunately (based on past performance) I have absolutely no faith that anything like that is planned.

badartdog said...

I'm out - not even gonna skim it in the shops. Countdown seems like a receptacle fr deleted scenes from comics I'm not following.

I too thought I'd missed an issue.

DC's taking the piss.
I'm pissing off.

Jordan said...

I kind of liked the latest issue of Countdown. Actually I re-read all of them and I kind of liked most of them. It's frustrating that it has no plot of it's own and is completely scatterbrained, but there's a lot of good dialogue and unique moments between some of the characters...

Anyway, are you going to post about your last issue of Countdown, or no?


Andrew Hickey said...

Jordan, I'm going to post tomorrow night. Was going to do it today but something came up and I'm working tomorrow, but it'll be up by about 11PM UK time...

Bubba said...

Oh, hey, another spinoff miniseries:

"Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists"

Great. Perfect. Just what we needed.


The 4th world and the 5th dimension never get the story telling justice they deserve.