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Comicscape: Ben Johnson Counts Out Countdown

Spinner Partner's thoughts on Countdown.

By Ben Johnson     April 30, 2008


Countdown #51
© DC

Although, as all happy comic fans know by instinct and increasingly lighter wallets, today is Wednesday, and time for another weekly installment of Comicscape (should this not be renamed Comania?), I can’t help feeling the dreary drag that can only come on a hang-over Monday. What could possibly turn my weekly holiday into a case of the Monday’s so full of malaise that even Peter Gibbons would accuse me of the beginning of the work week drag?

The culprit is a weekend full of slogging through DC’s second 52 week crossover in two years, as I attempted to undergo research that would allow me to be both objective and fair in this, my second editorial published on the pages of Comicscape.

Before I begin I must give the obligatory warning of spoilers: be warned, here there be spoilers, arr.

I think a bit of background is important as we lay the stage for what may be one of the biggest blunders in comic history. If you’ll join me on a trip in the way-back machine we arrive at the shores of this time almost one year ago. 52, a series that launched to a sea of angry fanboys decrying the possibility of success, had ended, with the majority of buzz leaning toward positive and some of the aforementioned fanboys absolutely giddy with excitement for the soon to begin follow-up and second year long series: Countdown.

Upfront, before I dig into the meat I have to admit something, I am not, in any way what-so-ever, capable of fairly reviewing DC’s latest event, and I think that is the biggest failure of this series. It would have taken an effort of herculean proportions to follow every nuance. According to my research there have been more than 150 issues released that are either part of Countdown proper, the various minis, or the plethora of tie-ins that crisscrossed regular titles. Where its predecessor made large claims about being a self-contained title, touting the fact that a reader would need not follow any other book, Countdown did the opposite.

When reading the last (first? I’m so confused by the numbering scheme) issues to come out I found that I had very little understanding of events. Did you guys know that the New Gods were dead? I knew that a mini came out with the title Death of the New Gods, but I had no idea they were dead, how they died, or if I was supposed to be surprised that Orion was still alive. Darkseid kept referring to Jimmy Olsen’s power he had bestowed upon the nerdy photographer, but if you want the full story you have to read mini A, but if you want to know about Monarch and what he has planned you need to read mini B, and for the rollout of said plan, at least in part, read mini C. Of course, for the whole epic one must not forget minis D-Z.   If you didn’t read the JLA/JSA crossover that included the Legion of Superheroes, a more classic iteration of the Legion, you’d have no idea how the Karate Kid tied into events.

Then again, there is a good chance that if you did follow the entire event you still wouldn’t care. The total lack of relevance found in nearly every one-shot, short, and arc in the series proper continued to amaze me. Sure the characters had things happen, went on adventures, even some really cool moments reared up to surprise the hell out of me, but all of this was seemingly to reset everything to the status quo found at the beginning of the story. It just took 52 issues to get there.

The fact that Countdown fails in so many places where 52 succeeded makes it seem as if the titles should have come in opposite order. The idea to move the DC universe ahead one year and fill in the gaps with 52, while not popular when announced, made it possible to have a self contained story that could work freely. Deciding to have Countdown take place in continuity made the story a total mess. How was Kyle Rayner actively involved in Sinestro Corps, even possessed by Paralax, and still cruising the multi-verse looking for Ray Palmer? 

At the end it is almost as if the writers felt the total failure of the story and let it come out in the narrative. The collected heroes gathered together and kept repeating that something felt wrong, that something wasn’t completed. Maybe it was the fact that Jason Todd displayed how spectacularly little he grew during the story by showing the exact characterization he entered with. Maybe it was the awkward way the team traveled through universes on their way to finding Ray Palmer. Maybe it was the gross mischaracterization of involved heroes. Most likely, however, they had recently finished reading Countdown.

I realize this was a countdown to a large event and that many plots points were laid for Final Crisis, but after a full year and the sacrifice of millions of trees shouldn’t loyal readers be rewarded with something special, or even an ending?

Man, what a waste.
The Spinner Rack

By Ben Johnson and Kurt Amacker

DARK HORSE COMICS

BPRD TP Vol 08 Killing Ground $17.95

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Omnibus TP Vol 04 $24.95

Kurt: Well, my wife will be thrilled.

Dayan Collection HC Vol 01 Dayans Birthday (Pp#803) $9.95

Dayan Collection HC Vol 02 Thursday Rainy Party $9.95

Dayan Collection HC Vol 03 White Eurocka (Pp #803) $9.95

Dayan Collection HC Vol 04 Chibikuro Party (Pp#803) $9.95

Facts I/T Case O/T Departure Of Miss Finch HC (Res) $13.95

Kurt: Have we been infiltrated by Nazi spies or something? Does this mean to burn the files?

Star Wars Rebellion #13 Small Victories Part 3 (Of 4) $2.99

Tales O/T Fear Agent TP $14.95

Usagi Yojimbo #111 $2.99

DC COMICS
Action Comics #864 $2.99

Adam Strange Archives HC Vol 03 $49.99

Blue Beetle #26 $3.50

Cartoon Network Block Party #44 $2.25

DC Universe Zero $0.50

Ben: Why do I get the feeling this is overpriced?

Kurt: Dude, Free Comic Book Day is Saturday. Patience.

Ex Machina #36 (MR) $2.99

Friday The 13th Abuser And The Abused #1 (MR) $3.50

Ben: My marriage returns. P.S. I ran into a doorknob.

Kurt: Bob in accounting told me you fell down the stairs last week. Klutz.

Gon Vol 04 $5.99

Green Lantern #30 $2.99

Jack Of Fables #22 (MR) $2.99

JSA Classified #37 $2.99

Legion Of Super Heroes #41 $2.99

Ben: But which Legion is it? What we need now is a retcon.

Kurt: Be patient. DC will get around to it. And everything will change.

Mystery In Space TP Vol 02 $17.99

New Gods Darkseid Action Figure Pi

Ben: Dead.

Kurt: Um, spoilers…behind. Yeah. Sorry.

New Gods Lightray Action Figure Pi

Ben: Dead.

New Gods Orion Action Figure Pi

Ben: Surprise, not dead!

Showcase Challengers Of The Unknown TP Vol 02 $16.99

Superman Batman HC Vol 06 Torment               $19.99

Supernatural Origins TP $14.99

Kurt: Hey, somebody published my baby book!

Teen Titans #58 $2.99

Teen Titans Go #54 $2.25

Ben: Read Countdown.

Kurt: And then are forced to live on Top Ramen and spare change after spending all their money on tie-ins.

Teen Titans Year One #4 (Of 6) $2.99

Ben: Year one of an old team should not take place during modern times.

Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters #8 (Of 8) $2.99

IMAGE COMICS
Crawl Space XXXombies #4 (MR) $2.99

Kurt: With a title like that, it can only be amazing.

Darkness Levels Reader Set                $10.99

Ben: Hooked on Darkness worked for me!

Kurt: I’ve been saying that since I was, like, 14.

Elephantmen War Toys #3 (Of 3) $2.99

Frank Frazettas Death Dealer Deluxe HC $49.99

Noble Causes #33 $3.50

Ben: Like buying all the copies of Countdown so no one else will chance upon them.

Proof #7 (MR) $2.99

Top Cow Summer Reading Set $10.99

Kurt: Is this like that thing they did at the public library when we were kids, where if you read a bunch of books you got a free personal pizza at Pizza Hut? Anyone else remember that? No?

Urban Monsters #3               $3.50

Kurt: I’ve been called worse.

Wildguard Insider #1 (Of 3) $3.50

Witchblade Devi #1 Basaldua Cvr B $3.99

Witchblade Devi #1 Land Cvr A $3.99

Witchblade Takeru Manga 7-12 Set $15.99

Witchblade Takeru Manga Tp Vol 01 $19.99

Youngblood #3 $2.99

Kurt: Is anyone reading this? Is it any good? Seriously, I’m curious.

MARVEL COMICS

Avengers Initiative #12 $2.99

Black Panther TP Little Green Men $10.99

Kurt: It’s good to know that the Great Gazoo is still getting work somewhere.

Daredevil Blood Of The Tarantula $3.99

Fantastic Four TP Beginning Of The End $12.99

Giant Size Avengers Invaders #1 $3.99

Immortal Iron Fist #14 $3.99

Kabuki Reflections #10 (MR)        $5.99

Marvel Adventures Iron Man #12 $2.99

Marvel Comics Presents #8 $3.99

Marvel Illustrated Moby Dick #3 (Of 6) $2.99

New Avengers #40 SII $2.99
New Warriors #11 $2.99

Off HB Marvel Univ A To Z Prem HC Vol 02 $24.99

Kurt: There’s more of that code.

Order #10 $2.99

Ben: Too soon to die. I’ll miss this one.

Kurt: I honestly feel bad for not picking this up. Not that one reader would’ve made a huge difference, but still.

Punisher Prem HC Circle Of Blood $19.99

Kurt: This is the first Punisher miniseries. It’s actually very good.

Punisher Prem HC Circle Of Blood Dm Var Ed Vol 11 $19.99

Secret Invasion #1 (Of 8) 2nd Ptg Yu Var SII $3.99

Thor Ages Of Thunder $3.99

Thor By J Michael Straczynski Prem HC Vol 01 $19.99

Ultimate Human #4 (Of 4) $2.99

Kurt: The fact that a Warren Ellis—though I love him and would gay-marry him—actually has written a miniseries to completion is kind of surprising.

Ultimate X-Men #93 $2.99

X-Men HC Messiah Complex               $39.99

Kurt: Yes, here is your chance to buy me a present to show how much you love Comicscape! You too can shell out $40 for a crossover I didn’t buy, just to show you care! Come on—that stimulus check just hit your bank account and I bet you’re dying—just dying!—to buy me a present! I’ll even thank you personally here in next week’s column! Who’s going to step up to the plate and buy my love like the child of two bitter divorcees? Who indeed?

X-Men Legacy #210 DWS $2.99

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at comicscape@mania.com.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jedibanner 4/30/2008 7:08:31 AM
I guess I'm glad I didn't follow-up with the Countdown weekly thing. I did it with 52 and it was original and fun from tiem to time but, I was disapointed to see DC did it a second time and from what I hear, Countdown wasn't nowhere near as good as 52 so, glad I passed on that. Let's hope that Final Crisis will be more interesting.
Wiseguy 4/30/2008 7:45:00 AM
I agree that it was nowhere near as good as 52 and all the croossovers and minis annoyed the hell out of me, I didn't bother with most of the minis but since I read a most of the major books I kept up with the crossovers. At the end I think it was an ok story with some real good moments here and there. I guess what I'm saying is that I would still give it a C . Sinestro Wars was still the best story arc DC put out over the last year and it had real and so far lasting ramifications ..........Like jedibanner, I'm also hoping that Final Crisis is more interesting and also that they adhere to the "Final" part.........................Ben, can you guys do something about maybe using different colors for titles and publishers. Something besides bold letters to distinguish that cluster above.
TigerPrime 4/30/2008 11:35:20 AM
I missed 52 so I jumped onto Countdown. It was ok, but man, if you haven't done your research into the history of the DCU you won't have a frakkin clue what's going on. Looking forward to Final Crisis (will it be the "final crisis", probably not), hopefully that'll clear things up. What I'm really looking forward to though is DC's 2009 summer event, the third arc of the Green Lantern Saga (Sinestro Corps was part 2) called "In Blackest Night", where old villains return and new lantern corps are created for different colors, like black, red, orange, and blue. It sounds awesome! Oh, and on a side note, I saw a comic today in the store called "Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space" and I'm totally shocked that it's not even mentioned in this column...
agentkooper 4/30/2008 5:35:17 PM
Sorry about the formatting, I'm not sure what happened there. Usually the titles are double spaced.
bernini 4/30/2008 6:32:05 PM
I'm sure this was a good column this week. I'd know if I could read it. But because the formatting of this whole site redesign is so unbelievably BAD, I'm having a hard time reading a entire column of narrow text that has no line break between paragraphs. Not to be melodramatic, but there is literally NOTHING that I like about this new look. It hinders functionality and ease of access to information in every way possible. I have to hunt for what I want to find. Even the rotating lead stories feature on the home page is mind-boggling in the weakness of its execution. I've given up, removed Mania from my favorites, and will check back in after a couple of months to see if you guys at Mania have come to your senses. I'm not holding my breath.
lister 5/1/2008 8:52:02 AM
bernini: This article seems to need some paragraph separations. I can see them in other articles so I think the proper formatting was not applied to the text on this page. Some simple extra returns after each paragraph (or comic book listing) would help a lot.
karas1 5/3/2008 5:43:06 AM
Kurt, be happy that your wife likes the Buffy comics. It's better than having a mate that has no clue about your hobby and doesn't respect it. And the Buffy comics were really good! And let me add my dissatisfaction about the new look of the website. I'm glad that you put Comicscape in the title of the article though. I could actually FIND it when I wanted to read it.
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