Saturday, April 12, 2008

Countdown #52 - #3 - A Review and A Rant

I have tried to see the good in this series and I have tried to be positive about this series, because I kept thinking that it had a point or that we would get some payoff somewhere along the line, but I give up.

52 gave us Elongated Man’s death and his rejoining with his beloved wife Sue. Apparently they will be ghostly detectives in the DCU and have shown up in Batman and the Outsiders. It gave us a new Question and we saw the journey of the prior Question and the forging of Renee into the new Question. We were given an examination of a villain who is now one of the most complex and richest villains in any super hero Universe. While we may hate Black Adam we understood his love for Isis and we understood the pain of his loss. A villain who is not a villain in their own mind is the best type. The Booster Gold / Nova saga, the reason why we have 52 Universes and why they are all different and many, many other story ideas and concepts that have already enriched the DC Universe. 52 was a hit and a great effort and usually a good read each and every week.

Like Rocky 2, Countdown loses all the charm of the original idea of a weekly series and instead gives us a string of stories about second and third and fourth tier characters that so far has yielded nothing. Yes I said nothing. Absolutely zero, nada, zilch a blank space.

I feel like DC owes me about $100 dollars at least. A few issues here and there had their moments, but ultimately the whole series meant nothing and had no impact whatsoever.

Let’s take it by some of the stars of the series. I’ll start with Holly and Harley. Two Gotham girls who were both costumed characters. Harley was Joker’s sidekick and Holly was the replacement Catwoman for a short period of time. If I remember their journey correctly they were recruited into a woman’s club that espoused the teaching of Athena and the Amazons. The best of the group was invited to Paradise Island and were being trained to be warriors. Granny Goodness was in fact posing as Athena and was trying to recreate her female furies. Mary Marvel (sans powers) shows up and they all end up fighting Granny. They jumped to Apokolips and then are caught up in a major fight with Omacs and Apokolips being destroyed. They managed to be part of the group that makes it to another earth which is destroyed by a virus, then make it back home and leave the group and head back to Gotham. NOTHING HAPPENED TO THEM. The temporary powers (I forget to mention) are gone and Holly and Harley are in the same spot they were when we stared.

Maybe I’m being harsh, let’s look at Jason Todd. Here is a character that was great. He was the second Robin and was killed by the Joker. Due to a convoluted and inane retro-con he was revived and had become one of Batman’s worse enemies (Red Hood) as he knows almost everything Batman knows. Also how can Batman fight someone who is essentially a son to him. In this series we see Red Hood and Dulea Dent hanging out. She is killed and then Jason dumps the Red Hood, wears a red domino mask and just goes by Jason. He joins up with Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner and a Monitor to tour the multi-verse to find Ray Palmer. Jason is struggling to be more of a good guy and proves himself to be a steady ally for the most part although he has some rough edges. After jumping around the multi-verse he encounters another Batman and dons a new costume and is Red Robin. Then we watch Jason as Red Robin be a more violent hero. Then after bouncing to Apokolips, watching a virus destroy another Earth he comes back home. We see he takes off back to Gotham and has ditched the Red Robin outfit and says he wants nothing to do with being a hero. NOTHING HAPPENED TO HIM. He is the same character coming in and same character going out.

Just to keep count, that’s three characters, zero change.

Okay there were some characters that went through a change. Well Mary Marvel went from good girl to semi-bad girl, to redeemed good girl and now back to a really bad girl. This is the new sexier and more of a slut like Mary Marvel. She is now fighting with Darkseid. The whole process from redemption back to evil was too easy and in my mind disrespects the character. I’m not buying Mary would go bad for a taste of power. She is a hero and in my mind either has to redeem herself or will have to die. I’m guessing she is back to normal in two issues. Since I don’t believe the change the writers made, the net effect is zero change to staus quo.

Something happened to Jimmy Olsen too but I have faith that Jimmy Olsen will be back to normal. This storyline made no sense as why would Darkseid use Jimmy Olsen to put all the power of the god into him as they were killed. Plus how did Darkseid circumvent these killings by the Infinite Man (or whatever his name is) who is killing the new gods. This issue ending with Giant Turtle Boy Jimmy Olsen fighting Darkseid is absurd. . Although, Lee mentioned that the sheer stupidity of Turtle Boy Olsen made it amusing to read. I don’t care what Lee says, it was still stupid. Jimmy will be back to normal after this is over. Net change zero.

I know Karate Kid died, but we have three Legions and he was dead in the original Legion anyway. Trickster died, wow there is a character that everyone is still clamoring about dying, oh no, no one cares and he was already replaced by a new Trickster, never mind. Net change zero.

We got a nice origin of how the Great Disaster occurred, but otherwise nothing happened that has any impact has actually happened. Worse is all of these characters instead of being enriched, enhanced, given new dimensions too, were essentially borrowed and return in the condition they were borrowed at. Let’s add up all the changes I pointed out, zero + zero + zero + zero equals… wait for it… zero. And that’s my point, NOTHING HAPPENED. NOTHING!!!! A nice thing if I loan you a book, but a waste of my money in following a series.

What is amazing to me is I missed what the point of this book was supposed to do. Didio said it was the spine of the DCU. Based on what I read then I have to wonder how DC can stand I when the spine lies shattered and broken. The final proof of how inane this series is come in this week's issue as the one character is trying to explain what happened to another character and gives up.

Oddly enough I think DC has learned and the next weekly by Busiek and Bagley looks to be a good project and DC has promised that Final Crisis stands alone (with a few ancillary add on books, but nothing mandatory), Trinity starting Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman stands alone. This is the best concept. Let each book tell the best story it can and try to reflect any major impact into continuity when it fits and don’t force stuff. I can read about Batman in JLA and BATO and not care what happens there and how it impacts his adventures in Batman and Detective. Telling good stories is the first job and Countdown missed the target by a mile.


  1. Hey.... Don't throw Rocky 2 into this horrible mess of a series. I'm just glad I came to my senses on issue 35. This may well be the first time my instincts paid off. Only took 30 years to learn this lesson.


  2. And I felt bad about wasting my money and dropping the book at issue 47. Thanks for making us feel better, Jim!! :)

    I agree with Ken, don't associate this with Rocky 2 (I liked that one).

    I'm on the fence about Trinity. I wish it were cheaper.

    Oh, FX #2 was awesome!!!

  3. Rusty and I had this exact same conversation on Wednesday.

    I think that TRINITY will suffer for exactly the same reasons you pointed out. But I also think, with these 3, what story are you going to come up with that has not been done in some form before?

  4. Ken & Matt - Rocky II was horrible.

    Ron - I think Trinity will be good. Often we see similar stories told, but if executed well can still be highly enjoyable.

  5. Hey, it was the first Rocky film I ever saw. Plus, he actually wins. I didn't say it was the best one, just that I liked it. Of course, I haven't re-watched it in a long, long time, so my memory might be poor.

    Hope things are going well with you Ron. I haven't had much time to blog lately. Today, Charlotte and I were with her GT art class at Sandy Point? State Park, making sand sculptures. Even though it rained on us, it was fun.

  6. You're thinking many of the same things I am: one of the biggest flaws of this series is there has been no real theme or character development, just plot. Little did we know a year ago in that opening scene that chess game Darkseid was playing was a metaphor for this book - Countdown was solely about moving the pieces in to place for Final Crisis.

    Well, that's not true; it was also about advertising other miniseries -- Death of the new Gods, Salvation Run, Arena, Extremists, Amazons Attacks, Search for Ray Palmer.... Have you read any of those (or others I forgot to name), and if so, how much did those stories have to do with Countdown?

  7. Bjooks - I read all of them and I can not think of a single one that meant anyhting to the main series. While some of those series were good in and of themselves, they actually served to set the table for what is to come more then Countdown has.

  8. Jim said: While some of those series were good in and of themselves, they actually served to set the table for what is to come more then Countdown has.

    Okay, remember I told you I was working on a review of the whole series? I still am (and FYI will likely incorporate some of my thoughts/words from here in them). You're thoughts are right on track with mine, so hear me out about this and tell me what you think.

    I have this half-baked theory (half-baked because I've not read most of these other books): the real story that SHOULD have been told in Countdown was actually going on in all these other books -- specifically Death of the New Gods, but others as well. If they'd have included many of the main story points from these minis in Countdown instead of whoring them out into their own series for more money, then Countdown might not have felt like it was all set-up and no follow-through, like all the action was taking place elsewhere (*that is, unless a hell of a lot of follow-through takes place in the last 2 issues).

    You're right -- Harley, Holly, Donna, Kyle, Jason, Karate Kid, Piper & Trixter... none of them really did anything except fill space and move us from point A to point B over a year's time. So that pretty much leaves us with Ray Palmer, Jimmy Olsen and Mary Marvel as characters who seem important to this story.

    Mary is obviously being set up as evil for Final Crisis (see recent Didio column in back of books). Ray's story was just a sob story continuation of his running away after Identity Crisis (which happened years ago our time), and the hunt for him took place over multiple issues in both All-New Atom and the Challngers one-shots. That leaves Jimmy, who was really a byproduct of Darkseid and the Death of the New Gods mini.

    So think for a moment, what Countdown could have been if only it had incorporated all that material -- the Death of the New Gods, the Search for Atom stuff, some Trials of Shazam stuff (to better explain why the hell Freddy & Billy have been AWOL while Mary was acting batshit insane and out of character), more of the Arena and Extremist stuff so the Monarch battle didn't seem like such a waste of time. Hell, even some of Amazons Attacks (if it had been reworked so the plot made sense). You know... include the actual stories these characters were carrying water for.

    Now the Kamandi build-up, while a big part of the Donna/Kyle/Jason/Atom and KK stories, still felt like a non sequitor as far as the main Countdown plot -- so much so that the Buddy Blank and grandson that we spent multiple issues with at the beginning weren't actually the same characters we saw later in the Kamandi world. The point seemed to be, "wouldn't it be cool in the middle of all this to see how the Kamandi world came to be?" Unless that, too, was setup for Final Crisis. I've not reached the second half of the series in my re-read, but other than giving the Challengers a destination and a battle, I can't see how this story fits in with anything else here.

    Remember in all the 52 interviews where the writers said that, even though that book was supposed to show what happened to cause all the OYL changes, they realized that the story of their central characters was a better story, that the stuff Didio wanted just didn't fit? I get the feeling Didio said, next time we'll do it my way, we'll have a big book which crosses over and explains EVERYTHING in the DCU.

    If so, he got what he wanted, but at the expense of Countdown making any sort of sense.

  9. Bjooks - Good points. Countdown would have been better if it told the other stories you mentioned. I did not think about it until after you said it, but I think you are right Countdown is the book Didio wanted 52 to be and he got his wish. Look at WWIII they shoe horned in a bunch of crap to explain OYL things. We never did get how they shrunk Hawkgirl back to size and how did Alan Scott get his eye back?

    Anyway the Kamandi origin was nice, but I'm not even sure that was needed for Final Crisis.

    If those mini-series (except for Countdown to Adventure (worthless) and Countdown to Mystery (Eclipso's story could have moved to Countdown)) were in fact the Countdown series it would have been an excellent book.

    Really good point. I now appoint you executive editor of DC and Didio can be your assistant if you want to keep him on.

  10. I reckon readers are arent sure about 52countdown to just skip it and go straight to final crisis, cause it was a waste of time reading 52countdown. Right now i am hawking my collection of countdowns in ebay.. WHAT A WASTE OF $$