Monday, December 17, 2007

3... 2... 1... Kill Me

from volume 1, issue 1, mid-October 2007

Countdown #34-30(yes it’s in backwards order)
Written by Paul Dini (and other occasional co-scripters with barely any merit)
Drawn by various artists (of varying talent who’ll wish they’d spent their week drawing new costumes for Dawn instead)

I tried. I swear to all the gods that are and ever were, I tried to accept this as the worthy successor to the admirable, almost-completely-wonderful 52. However, 52 was written by four of the best writers on the DC beat today—Geoff Johns, Grant “Mother-Effing” Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid, with Keith Giffen as the mainstay artist who contributed a lot to the actual story. Countdown is written by Paul Dini, who was a major creative contributor the Batman Animated Series from the ‘90s. I don’t know what’s happened since then, maybe I’m looking through rose-colored glasses, but I thought that Batman: The Animated Series was good.
Admittedly, Dini has a tougher job than the Big Four who did 52. That series was made to cover the “missing year” in DC where Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all went AWOL for various reasons after Infinite Crisis. They had free reign to do whatever they wanted as long as it would feed into the way things were going One Year Later in DC continuity. Countdown has to serve as a “companion” (or as we in the business like to refer to it, “filler”) to what’s going on in today’s DCU. That means connecting Jimmy Olsen, Holly Robinson (Catwoman’s best friend, who actually was Catwoman for a little while), the Trickster and the Pied Piper (two second-rate Flash villains) and Mary Marvel to godawful crossovers like the Lightning Saga (which I’ll get to later) and “Amazons Attack” (which I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole even if it was the first comic to be printed entirely using ketchup).
This is to say nothing of the “Challengers of the Beyond” story, featuring Donna Troy, Jason Todd, Bob the Monitor (not kidding, Jason named him Bob), Kyle Rayner, and the Jokester (the Joker in an alternate world where the good guys are bad and the bad guys are good; Earth-3 to those of you “in the know”—“in the know” here meaning “one who has way too much time on his/her hands”). That story, I have to admit, I actually like—hopping across worlds, searching for Ray Palmer, the original Atom, who’s apparently the key to stopping the “Great Disaster” scheduled for next May once Countdown’s over—like Exiles in Marvel, or Sliders, if you want to get a bit more old-school (the fact that I can refer to something from the ‘90s as “old school” now makes me want to hang myself, but anway…). I might pay to read just that part—and although they do publish “Countdown to Adventure” specials each time the Challengers journey to a new yet familiar world (like the evil Earth-3 or the, uh, more-evil Earth-7?), I don’t feel like shelling out four extra big ones just for that. I might even keep just picking up Countdown if it wasn’t the full $2.99 of a regular comic, whereas the superior 52 was only $2.50. The Pied Piper/Trickster story is mildly amusing, as the two are chained together by high-tech handcuffs that shock them if they stray too far apart and they’re on the run since everyone thinks they killed Bart Allen; likewise, the transformation of Mary Marvel into an evil minion of Eclipso could be awesome if handled by a more capable writer. As it is, we’re just going through the motions, waiting for DC’s next event to rear its questionable head and set up a brand-new status quo for the third time in five years. DC wanted to cash in on 52, so they slammed out Countdown and wondered if we’d bite. I did. And I regret every second of it.

Rating: One Shot of Bacardi 151.

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