Saturday, 14 July 2007

Countdown 42: Won't Get Fooled Again

I have now dropped Countdown. The extent to which there will not even be a pretence of a story in this comic has become painfully clear.

Let's look at the series/miniseries spinning out of Countdown:
Search For Ray Palmer
Countdown To Mystery
Countdown To Adventure
Death Of The New Gods
Lord Havok & The Extremists
Gotham Underground

Then there's the stories not promoted as Countdown tie-ins but which have been absolutely necessary to follow it so far:
The Lightning Saga
Death Of The Flash
Amazons Attack

Then there's the other big crossover stories that I would bet good money on tying in in some way:
Sinestro Corps (and its own spin-offs...)

That isn't even counting the issues of ongoing titles that are getting drawn in (like Superman, Blue Beetle and The Atom). Nor is it counting the numerous 52 spin-offs, which will almost certainly tie in.

None of this can possibly be necessary from a storytelling perspective. Fifty-two issues is more than enough to tell any story in by itself. That's Cerebus and High Society put together. It's double Morrison's run on Animal Man. It's Promethea plus Watchmen plus The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (well, a few issues less than that, but still...). It's an expanse of space few comics creators have been able to work with, and almost none have been guaranteed. It's a gargantuan canvas on which a truly epic tale could be painted.

But instead of bothering to do that, Countdown is instead being used as a repository of deleted scenes from other comics. Now, I'm not arguing that the series shouldn't tie into the main DCU - it is, after all, a cross-over, and that's what they do. But nothing at all is happening in Countdown itself to justify its existence.

In this issue, the only things - the only things - that aren't continuations of events that happened in other comics are:
Holly (who we've still not been given any reason to care about) watches Harley Quinn do the splits in the air (and even this may well be coming out of some other comics I'm not reading)
Jimmy Olsen draws some pictures of himself in his old Silver Age costumes
Mary Marvel (who appears to have two watermelons attached to her chest) shows her black leather panties a lot and gets covered with mud.

Oh, and there's a backup feature in which a bunch of near-omnipotent cosmic beings of unstoppable power are so scared of the Siegel family's lawyers that they use the most ridiculous circomlocutions possible to avoid saying the word 'Superboy'.

All the rest is stuff following on from Flash (the Rogues), Atom (the Ray Palmer bit), JLA and JSA (the Karate Kid stuff).

Even that wouldn't be too terrible, were it done competently. To take the Atom stuff as an example, because it's the only one of those comics I'm reading, we have three pages here featuring the Atom and his supporting cast. It sets up nothing that readers of the main title don't already know, so it's of no value to them. But it doesn't actually say who these characters are, either in dialogue or in a caption box of the "For more about Ryan Choi's adventure in the Palmerverse, see All New Atom, on sale in three weeks! - Molecular Mike" type. So anyone who isn't reading Atom will not have a clue what's going on and they won't even be pointed in the right direction to find out.

The most entertaining thing in this comic, by a long way, is the pull-out ad for hot dogs. At least that has some Sergio Aragones artwork. Unless you have a burning desire to see incompetent drawings of the scantily-clad bottom of a teenage girl, there is no possible reason for wishing to read this.

Countdown may well be the biggest mistake DC have made in ten years or more. Because they're turning Countdown into a brand, but what that brand says to me is 'steer clear'.

If you put out Steve Gerber writing Dr Fate, I think "this is something I need to pick up." Put out Countdown To Mystery and I think "Danger! Run away!"

I may pick up some of DC's new titles, but it will be cautiously, and I will not be inclined to take a chance, or give any comic from them the benefit of the doubt. DC have consistently mis-solicited these comics (Keith Giffen is still not working on the title, despite having been solicited as breakdown artist on every issue). They have lied in the promotional interviews (saying the title would be self-contained, when it's anything but). And they have insulted those of us who gave them the benefit of the doubt but pointed out the flaws in the comic (saying we don't understand how it's being paced).

I will keep this URL for a while (a couple of people have asked me to keep it just so they don't have to update their blogrolls) but I will never buy another issue of this drivel, and any comic that requires me to buy it will be dropped (though if the Atom tie-in is anything to go by, nothing of any consequence will ever happen in these tie-in bits). Starting tomorrow I will start talking about comics that are good - or at least interestingly bad - rather than comics whose only function is to waste perfectly good trees and make their readers a tiny bit more stupid.

Everyone involved in the production of this series should be ashamed of themselves for producing such meretricious drivel. But not as ashamed as I am for supporting them.

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me every week for ten weeks straight... well, there's no word for how foolish that makes me, and how ashamed I should be. But even someone as stupid as me eventually learns.


acespot said...

Thanks for trying. I too have now stopped reading this title. It was so dreary a read, and I honestly believe that reading comics should be FUN! So sue me. I haven't even been able to read an issue straight through since the beginning. That's how little patience I've had for this insult.

Andy G said...

Don't feel so bad about buying the first couple of months. 52 bought a lot of good will, although the immediate follow on to Countdown without Keith Giffen on board should have set off more alarm bells for us (which was probably when DC editorial was so vague/sneaky about clarifying his involvement).

The final straw for me was reading the Newsarama catch up where the editor (I can't be bothered going back to check the names) explained away the absence of Wally from Bart's funeral as having happened prior to Wally and family's return from the Speed Force. Even though the preview pages for All New Flash show Wally's return and Bart's death taking place almost simultaneously. Now I now he was the Flash, but you can't arrange his funeral so fast it happened before he died, surely.

The Countdown editorial explanation was clearly made up on the spot, a nice way of saying "we don't give a shit, so why should you?". Not that continuity should stand in the way of a good time. But as you point out, when all your comic contains is continuity as opposed to drama or anything original, the least you can do is keep it in CONTINUITY.

A shocking, greedy failure on all terms. Cheerio Coundown.

Is Grant Morrison writing the big New Gods event this is counting down to in 2008?

Andrew Hickey said...

Morrison has stated he's doing at least one big DCU project next year, involving at least some characters he's worked with in JLA. Rich Johnston's reporting that Countdown itself is counting down to something called Final Crisis by Busiek. We probably won't know for certain until January or so. Remember that next year is also Superman's 70th...

Anonymous said...

Hey! What if issue 41 is good? ;(

And the Flash conundrum could tie into another miniseries - Wally West: The Countdown for the Search for Why I Missed My Cousin's Funeral.

Or maybe Flash: Total Bastard!

WildCard said...

So much for being the spine of the DCU, where everything flows in and out of it. Basically a summery of what is currently going on everywhere in the DCU. I think they should have stuck with what worked for 52: set stories that are contained only in the series. I don't mind the Search for Atom one-shots that showcase some of the other worlds, they are NOT manditory and just there for fun and the oldtime fans (see what the new Earth-3 and Earth-10 are like). But as a reader of a good portion of the DCU, I am still lost with this series. VERY poor writing, not what I expected from Paul Dini at all.

Chris Sims said...

Right on!

John Foley said...

There just wasn't any reason for Countdown. Whatever story it is attempting to tell is sketchy and ill-conceived at best. And it's being done badly.
Obviously DC was flush with the success of 52 and decided to try the same thing again. Which would have been fine, except there wasn't any other reason for it. It was a case of "well it worked once, maybe it will work twice!"
52 had its flaws, but it was rarely boring. The story was interesting, and filled in the missing year in the DCU. Whether or not it was a good idea to kill the Question, or turn Black Adam into a genocidal maniac, or make Mr. Mind into a dimension-devouring still felt like a fairly well thought-out piece of work.
Not so this time around.
But please keep writing about other comics.

Leigh Walton said...

High five! Bring on the good comics!

Scratchie said...

Obviously DC was flush with the success of 52 and decided to try the same thing again. Which would have been fine, except there wasn't any other reason for it

The problem wasn't that there wasn't any reason for it, the problem is that they didn't actually do anything like 52. There's always a need for a well-written, entertaining story, but the only characteristics DC chose to retain from 52 to Countdown were the weekly publishing schedule and the branding

Oz said...

Not sure how they could be flush with happiness about 52, when it really didn't do a spectacular job. It did an ok job, but the ending was really rushed (let's just not even talk about WWIII *shudder*), and left many things hanging out there, or solved months-old major plot angles with one word balloon.

Apparently Black Adam's power has made Mary into an adult movie star?

Lastly, have you seen the massive cancellations DC is putting out? Aquaman, quirky and somewhat cartoony is ending abruptly. Hawkgirl was interesting, but now was cancelled ala Flash - insta cancelled, without letting the retailers or fans know. Flash, well, that one ended stupidly. I was actually enjoying the Bart story.

I'm disappointed in lack of story telling in DC's comics lately. The Superman series is almost impossible to follow (1 part of a story, then a standalone, then another part, then 2 more standalones), and reads more like watching an episode of Power Rangers. Big explosions! Yay!

Paul said...

I'm very sorry that you continued to buy it. I stopped after issue 52 did nothing but confuse me. I love Paul Dini, but I consider this book a huge mistake. I bet it was conceived as a tryout title, somewhat like Showcase or Action comics was for a time.

Dr. K said...

I think one thing DC failed to account for is that 52 may have exhausted the good will of readers for a weekly series. Personally, I wasn't enthusiastic about committing to another 52 issues unless it proved to be outstanding right out of the gate. Clearly it wasn't.

And Andrew, I do hope you keep going with the blog--I enjoy your reviews and insights.


I love world-building and shared universes but when things are THIS closely connected (or supposed to be) the cracks start to show.

52's real strength was it's inherent ability to be self contained in it's own year.

Stephen said...

Stick to Detective Comics. It's the best book DC are putting out at the moment, not connected to any others, self contained stories in one issue (for the most part) and it never goes near 52 or Countdown.

I tried first 5 issues of 52, but it wasn't my cup of tea. After what I've heard about Countdown, I'm so glad I didn't bother. If, halfway through 52, they realised hey, this is going well guys, we should really try and do another one, but let's start working on the story now - that might have worked. I don't think they planned it that way though. A weekly comic book is a great idea, both for fans, and for shops to get people coming in more often who wouldn't normally visit, but it has to be a damn strong story from the get go.

Avi Green said...

Personally, I didn't even read 52, and why not? When I discovered that they were otherwise continuing with the demonization of Jean Loring, I was glad I didn't dare to pick up an issue. Another reason - I have no desire to see Ralph Dibny in an inappropriate situation like mean-spiritedness. I buy much more trade paperbacks today, but even if I still could afford pamphlet issues, those are exactly the reasons why I didn't want to waste any time on this garbage.

I'm saying that in part to make clear that I stand behind both the Elongated Man and the Atom and BOTH of their wives. Why should I want to read something that expands on the mess they made? "Jeanclipso?!?" Now that is sick, and having once made the discovery of what kind of dialect they forced into Jean's mouth in 52, when the Spectre lets Ralph host him, I was simply repelled.

And I have no interest in reading about Mary Marvel possibly being turned evil in Countdown either. What's the whole point?

So let me just say now that I think you're doing the right thing to drop the book. DC doesn't deserve our hard-earned money for as long as they do anything that comes within even miles of desecrating their heroes, which even this series is doing, from what I can tell.

Jacob T. Levy said...

On net I loved 52, even if there were some rough spots. I loved it enough that it really changed the experience of comics-buying for me-- for a year, I was excited to get to the shop every week, and I felt constantly engaged-- six days isn't long enough to lose momentum.

Countdown #52 got included in my pull list because my retailer automatically did that for subscribers to 52. I went back the next day and said "please don't sell me any more of these." I've continued to scan them on the shelves because I have a *ton* of goodwill for the idea of a weekly spine series for the DCU. But I haven't bought any of them since 52.

To me, the Monitors/ Multiverse plotlines are the heart of the problem. They take up so much space that there's not enough left to treat other subplots as actual stories; they're boring; and they make metatext into text in a particularly dreary way. ("Donna, I think you might be a continuity mistake; what do you think?" "Well, Jason, I think that you really shouldn't have been superboy-punched back into existence yourself." Blech.)

Waid and Morrison were always big cheerleaders for making the multiverse or its analogues (e.g. Hypertime) sites of wonder and endless possibility. 52 # 52 delivered that in spades, goofy as it was. With the Monitor-Watcher Corps, all that's gone. The multiverse is no longer an opening to telling exciting new stories; it's a way to yak-yak on-panel about old ones.

Ami Angelwings said...

I've dropped Countdown too! >:|

It's just.. so bad... and the "what if the next issue is good?" thing is the trap I fell into and why I lasted 10 issues at all :\

And yus, Dini keeps saying that ultimately Countdown in all 52 issues will be a work of art. :\ Which sounds like "dun worry, keep buying!"

But Countdown was completely created just b/c 52 was so successful and that's it. >.> DC is even saying now that after Countdown they're going to have ANOTHER weekly series =_=;;

I'm not buying Countdown JUST b/c of that, b/c if Countdown is even a moderate success, it means more of the same... >:|

brisey said...

To me DC's main problem is"Jam Tomorrow".

They seem to be saying "If you make it through this,your patience will rewarded" and then advertising another vital mini-series.

Final Crisis-don't you believe it

Anonymous said...

I don't mind Countdown ... I'm intrigued by Jimmy Olsen's plight ... and how he is tied into the Anti-Life Equation ... but he should just have his own mini-series as it seems his space in the comic is getting shorter and shorter.

I also enjoy Pied Piper and The Trickster ... I think that is perhaps the best thing about Countdown.

But ... in the end the only reason I buy the comic is that because I'm a collector of Catwoman and Supergirl (and I count Holly as a Catwoman and Mary Marvel as an original incarnation of the latter) I feel I should keep getting it for my collection.

For the exceptions above, I find it confusing. Especially the Karate Kid in the Present redux (remember his Pre-Crisis series?). I thought I knew the Legion but when did Triplicate Girl go by "Una".

Suddenly we have Brother Eye back and a reincarnation of Buddy Blank, and what seems to be Kamandi.


Holly and Harley together is cool, but it's getting closer to a finale and we still haven't seen Granny Goodness as Athena. That was a cool but rather upsetting ending to "Amazons Attack!" Ultimately, I knew we'd see what the future had in store for this New God, but it's getting kinda boring.

I mean, what's up with Hercules in "Wonder Girl"? Does this mean that's out of continuity?

And back to to Amazons Attack, whey didn't Donna refer to Hippolyta as "Mother" when the Post-Crisis2 Donna grew up on Paradise Island?

We're still no closer to finding out why Donna was spared, for instance, instead of Jade ... other than editors against Didio. And ... shouldn't Nightwing be included in the actual hit list and thus Challengers of the Beyond?

How long has it been since the Challengers left New Earth? Aren't any other heroes wondering about where they are?

It's true, that Countdown (and so many other modern comics it seems) fails to include and "see _ comic for more details."

It's only now in Action that we're going to see why there's been a revival of the "original" Legion ... "original" since there's variants ... Triplicate Girl and Karate Kid in 1970's costumes, but there's Sensor Girl, and for some reason Wildfire is in Red Tornado's body from the future?

The "Fall" of Mary Marvel is convuluted ... she's been seduced by an evil Jean Loring but Eclipso to her now Xtreme power ... and giving the idea that if one possesses power of Black Adam one becomes dark and evil? If that was the case, why didn't Isis, for example. Doesn't that mean people should be more lenient with poor Adam? It's not his fault after all, just the raging hormonal power he possesses.

Apparently at some point along the way in what will soon be entitled "Countdown to Final Crisis" is Jason Todd becoming Red Robin. What is DC trying to do, keep Alex Ross as long as possible by having Kingdom Come be in every aspect of the DC Universe.

I was nine years old when they killed of Supergirl and then the Multiverse. It really was not fun for me for years until they brought Kara back, and I was excited about a new Multiverse ... although I had come to accept Hypertime as a nice equivalent.

However, unless DC is just going to set all these Earths up as potential story lines and crossovers and then destroy them, they really need to tone down how much they put out. Couldn't they have had a "Challengers of the Beyond: The Hunt for Ray Palmer" as a mini-series and explore the universes that way? Instead of "number one" issues and recaps or jumping off points in Countdown?

It's getting a bit much even for this diehard Multiverse enthusiast.

Because not only do we get that treatment in Countdown ... which would make sense, but because they've got so many other things going on...

we also get it in "Countdown to Adventure" with Forerunner (who is so not an exciting character).

Furthermore, we got to see the the neo-"Earth-X" it seems with the Nazi Justice League, but does that mean the one we saw with the Quality heroes ia another Earth-X equivalent, or were those not heroes shown because they have to put out the Big Three and Friends to try and get more money?

Monarch is confusing. I mean they've never shown just how Captain Atom suddenly came into all this other power or Storm Troopers or anything. I understood the containment suit and some extra power, but now he's just like the original Monarch ... er ... readjusted Monarch since Atom was supposed to be him to begin with until that leak ...
and does Hawk/Monarch even still exist?

I think DC could have made Countdown a bigger hit too if, for instance, they brought back Linda Danvers and she has to wrestle not only with this new DC Universe around her, but the fact that Kara Zor-El exists, and the Multiverse exists again and she went through all that she did for apparently nothing.

But instead, Peter David has to put her in his Fallen Angel series as "Lin".

There's still never been any wrap up to "Little Barda" or any of the other Teen Titans that apparently contributed enough to allow them to join the team, albeit briefly.

Why aren't the Monitors ... and what was with the Anti-Monitor shown at the end of Brave New World or whatever Countdown to Countdown was called ... for I'm to tired to look it up ... why he was shown there all happy with the others then existing again?

Why isn't Power Girl a part of the Challengers if she's probably the biggest anomoly to the Multiverse? Why hasn't "Bob" gone to "save" her?

Yes, why are the Monitors not monitoring? Why are they all the same save for bad hair cuts or gender, save a few long neck "alien" creature Monitors skulking around in the background?

If Renee Montoya/The Question was ever needed, she should have been a part of Countdown. It would have seemed more of an actual continuation from 52 if we saw some of the same characters in it, and not just "who cares" story elements like Karate Kid. I love Val Armorr, and aside from generating interest in his old series again, and as much as I'm happy to see the Silver Age Legion again, I was quite happy with the latest incarnation of the group.

I've come this far with Countdown so I'll be going to the end, but I will not buy the next weekly series they've planned. It's like three extra comic series I could be getting in a month instead of one mediocre one.

Still, I don't find DC as money hungry as Marvel is ... as far as I know we haven't gotten ad placements from the US Army or Nike in various locations in Countdown ... just a bittersweet series that's let us down (emphasis on the bitter).