Down/Not Down: For Countdown

FSD’s very own Brady and Erik, regarding Countdown. Part One of a Two Part discussion.

BRADY: I’ve been reading D.C.’s Countdown since it started a few weeks ago, right after the end of (soon to be classic and entering the halls of fandom’s most revered comics) 52. I admit that I got going on Countdown after the high of living and breathing 52 for the previous year. How could I quit now? A weekly comic had become an addiction.

Countdown is totally different, but it’s also simply not as good. I’ll get into the less superficial stuff about it later in this conversation, but let’s run through some of the reasons why I am sticking with it for now.

1) Mary Marvel and Marvel Junior. The latter is on a quest and the former has gone to the dark side. Just what is going on? All we know is the Marvel family is in some sort of internal fight and it’s the first time they’ve been really dynamic in a long time. The question is, which side will Mr. Tawky Tawny come down on?

2) Jimmy Olsen faces front. I’m a sucker for minor characters getting lead roles. Solving the mystery of the murder of a New God is a pretty sweet story. I love it when comics approach superhero stories in the way of other genres, like the reporter stories in Frontline or the crime stories in Bendis’s Daredevil. We loved Ralph Dibny’s mystic detective story in 52 and I think this promises to deliver in a similar fashion. Like Dibny, a part of the mystery here is inside Olsen.

3) The Rogues. I think big things are ahead for Pied Piper and Trickster, coming off the big end of the Flash series and the death of the Flash. They are rapidly becoming three dimensional in this book, and I am intrigued.

Most importantly, though, Countdown represents an effort to tie the whole of DC continuity together with some big, overarching themes. It’s almost a literary endeavor. Countdown has not been as fun or as engaging as 52 was, granted, but it’s also a different effort.

I’m still in.

ERIK: I’m totally out. The year that 52 spanned was one of the wildest and worst and best years of my life — my actual life — and the one thing that kept me sane was the wildest and worst and best year in the DCU: the missing year that 52 covered in all its ragged and crazed glory. I can’t think of a book since Claremont’s X-Men where I truly felt like I was checking in (on a weekly basis no less!) with my friends; albeit friends as truly weird as Adam Strange, the Question, Black Adam, and Egg Fu. Countdown just feels like Paul Dini playing with a bunch of action figures in his bathtub: even Superman’s pal Jimmy Olson doesn’t feel remotely like my pal when I read this thing. Yes, the Rogue’s gallery seem cool, but dude they’ve always been cool. And if this was 52 we’d have have seen a full on Rogue’s reunion, with dusted off zanier Rogues like Weather Wizard, Gorilla Grodd, and the Turtle (“the world’s slowest villain.”)

52 proved why DC is not Marvel (and doesn’t want to be) and why that is awesome, because DC has a massive history of Truly Far Out characters and they’re no longer afraid to admit it. And sure, only DC would do Countdown — a story (I guess?) about a Pan-Galactic Police Force trying to manage 52 realities and punishing those who jump from one to another.

But let’s face it Brady: the art is mediocre and the writing sucks. 52 wasn’t exactly Eisner-Award winning artwork either, but the writing is some of the best I’ve read in comics, anywhere. Paul Dini’s story for Countdown is certainly compelling and ambitious, but the actual scripts seem literally phoned in and some of the fights remind me of the worst of 90’s Image.

Finally, you can’t kill my boy Lightray if you’re going to do it in a comic book this shitty. Seriously. Dude deserves like Death of Captain Marvel treatment.

(Of course we all know he’s not dead. He’s like the 5th World Lightray, not the 4th World one. Right? Right?!)

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3 thoughts on “Down/Not Down: For Countdown

  1. I’m not sure I’m in agreement with either of you. I do see the idea for Countdown as being ambitious, though not neccessarily well executed. I don’t particularly blame Paul Dini. He’s ordinarily a much better writer than this. and actually, the individual elements ARE well-written.

    My issues with the title are mainly involved in two things: First, the pacing is increasingly sucking. It’s as though Paul has been told to slow things down — a lot! I don’t think the slow pace is his idea — after all, he’s a master of the “done in one” story, and even his multi-part efforts are better-paced than this. I’m really thinking that what we’re seeing is the result of massive editorial interference with Paul’s plots.

    The second issue is the crossover thing. Events are happening elsewhere, but the tie-ins are clumsy. Again, I’m inclined to point at editorial as the culprit.

    With all due respect to the gentleman, I don’t think Mike Marts skills are well-suited to either an intercompany crossover nor to a weekly title. It’s looking like he’s got some possible problems coordinating with other editors — I’m not sure why. I don’t know the man, and I don’t have any reports of what his personality is like. One suspects, though, that maybe he doesn’t fall into the “works and plays well with others” category. I dunno — maybe he’s an arsehole? No idea.

    Also, with the pacing, maybe he’s figuring that the four-and-a-quarter issues per month means he can decompress the story past all reason? Again, I dunno, but it certainly feels that way.

    Given the impending editorial change (Mike Carlin coming in to replace Mike Marts) I’m suspecting that the higher-ups at DC might feel the same way.

    – Kim 😉

  2. I dunno, Kim. Dini was one of the story editors on LOST of all things — one of history’s greatest models for perfect decompressed/serialized storytelling that WORKS. He clearly came to the office for those Lost sessions. I don’t think Countdown was phoned in — it feels like it was text messaged in. Hopefully not giving DC my 11.96 a month will send them the message that we, the reading public, demand more meat on our weekly sandwich. To quote a famous Wendy’s commercial: where’s the beef?

  3. Here’s a big vote for your side of the argument, Bader:
    http://livingbetweenwednesdays.blogspot.com/2007/07/this-weeks-haul-in-fabulous-3d.html
    Scroll down to her Countdown review.
    I totally agree with her Trickster/Piper point. They were the best thing about the book, but I don’t think they are dead.
    Unless their death is the first wave of a great big villains collaboration of some kind?
    I mean, the villains this week were not really the rogues. They were other people’s villains.Could be a sign of what’s to come!!!

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