Saturday, January 19, 2008

Countdown to Chaos – A view of DC’s Countdown Series

I was told and found it to be true that you should start with a positive. I still love DC characters and think that on the whole produce better stories then Marvel.

Recently I have started to enjoy Countdown and then one of our semi-regular commentators Bjooks stated that it was still a chaotic mess and he is right.

Going back to Infinite Crisis when we had the horrible Rann-Thangar stuff and then all of these consequences that never really played out and up to Countdown DC has really thrown logic and cohesive continuity out the window for some concepts and ideas. DC did WWIII and tried to explain a bunch of things really quickly, but ultimately that was just another huge morass. The whole Hawkgirl thing with her getting back to normal size was never explained and many other little story ideas were just dropped.

Countdown is taking that even further and some other ancillary events are enough to make anyone trying to determine if there is any continuity in DC to make your head explode. I will try to address the major elements that spring to my mind and I’m sure I will miss some, but hopefully hit some of the lowlights.

The biggest problem DC has is Monarch. Captain Atom has a breach in his shell and has to be put into the Monarch Armor so he does not explode. He takes off and floats out into the bleed and decides that he wants to rule the multi-verse. He drafts Forerunner to gather an army of heroes. Then he goes and gathers his own army of heroes and has them fight to see who is the toughest. Then he shows up on Earth 51 to battle the monitors for control of the multi-verse. Okay can anyone explain why Captain Atom, a hero in good standing for many years decided to be the dictator of the multi-verse? How long has he been putting together this organization? How did he become so damn powerful? It really makes no sense whatsoever. We have been given a six part mini-series for background on Lord Havok and the Extremists, but suppose to accept Monarch with no rationale.

Jason Todd is now one of the good guys again? First he gets resurrected in a way that is barely a notch better then Spider-Man’s marriage being dissolved (the infamous Superboy-Prime punching the cosmic TV). He becomes this tough as nails bad guy fighting for control of the gangs of Gotham and becoming possibly the best foe Batman could ever have. Then along comes Countdown and now he is almost Mr. Nice Guy and back to being one of the good guys again. I thought we were going to find out he is from the Crime Syndicate Earth and that could retro-con out the horrible resurrection. Instead we just have Jason Todd running around with a domino mask and a leather jacket and again no rationale for the change in his personality.

Does anyone have a clue what is going on in Paradise Island? Granny Goodness I thought was posing as Hippolyta, but I guess she is posing as Athena. Yet at the same time she is running this scam all the New Gods are being killed by a mysterious someone. How this ties to Amazon Attacks and Wonder Woman is beyond me and has me relatively confused.

The whole story of Ray Palmer has left me also slightly confused. They are searching for him on all of these worlds and can’t find him. When they find him apparently he has been posing as Earth-51’s Ray Palmer for many years. Years? I know comic book time and our time is different but I never got the sense he was gone for years and time travel was never mentioned. Again we have limited or poor rationale for what is happening.

I have also heard the higher ups at Warner Brothers are nixing Bruce Wayne dieing, which means how can Final Crisis have any actual impact if nothing is allowed to change.

I love DC comics and I follow a lot of it. Marvel has almost destroyed the love I had for most of their characters, but DC’s poor execution of some interesting concepts and ideas is starting to push me away from these characters.

Superman’s continuity is very confusing lately. Since one year later I’m no longer sure what Superman’s back story is anymore and if the Superman in Action is the same as the one in Superman.

Batman does a story line that while flawed, brought back a great Batman foe of Ras As Ghul. Then they summarily throw him into Arkham and took him out of the picture. What the heck was the whole resurrection for then? I would love to have had Ras in the background as a major foe always crossing swords with Batman, but an eight issue cross-over is almost made null and void by one issue of Detective.

DC has screwed up the re-launching of Wonder Woman, Batman and the Outsiders, Flash and had huge delays with two important Superman story lines.

Bottom line Countdown to Final Crisis is a chaotic jumble of some good ideas and some okay ideas and some bad ideas, but it is just a jumbled mess as opposed to a wonderful puzzle that is falling into place.

The good news I hear Final Crisis is to be relatively self-contained and will not be frelling with all the other DC books, but then how can it be a status quo changing event. I hope that we still have a multi-verse at the end of the day or the whole Infinite Crisis and 52 series were for nothing.

I hate to be just negative so let me state for the record that Blue Beetle, Birds of Prey, Superman, Action, Batman, Detective, Justice League, Justice Society, Catwoman, Green Arrow / Black Canary, Green Lantern, Atom and some other mini-series are all good comics almost every month. The individual worlds of many series are in good shape, some of the overall continuity of the DCU is in crisis mode, but only because they throw out changes to characters with no rationale and having more unexplained plotlines then Claremont’s run on X-Men (okay that maybe impossible, but you get the point).

I hope final crisis can deliver the goods and effect some actual change and I really hope that the next weekly series is something I can collect, because I only hung on Countdown because I keep thinking, next week something will happen. Now it is happening, but it still really does not make any sense.

For those of you saying, well it is only comics, I agree, but if I invest in a fantasy setting I expect some cohesion and logic to still be at play.

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