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Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Countdown #40, “Small Wonders”

Posted by on Thursday, August 2nd, 2007 at 06:10:30 PM

Sorry for the delays here on Downcounting; I had a busy week, and was holding off on writing this in case some big news came out at the Comicon. As it turns out, they announced nothing of note besides a decidedly anti-climactic announcement that Countdown is counting down to the Final Crisis (PROMISE!) and will soon be retitled Countdown to Final Crisis which I for one plan to ignore because titles like Countdown to Final Crisis Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm Universe featuring The Challengers of the Beyond and Countdown to Final Crisis Presents Lord Havok & the Extremists are too long even without the three additional words. So it’s still Downcounting, okay? Not Downcounting to Crisisfinals or anything similar. That would just be silly.

This is a long article so here are some Countdown Pictures
Speaking of silly, someone at DC is clearly slipping ironic references into the titles of individual Countdown issues; there are some improvements this week, which is kind of a wonder, but they’re still pretty minor improvements. For starters, Keith Giffen is finally doing layouts! Though I admit, it is possible that FBB’s own content-free commenter Kenneth Keith Kallenback has shamed them into admitting that Giffen has been doing them all along! Unfortunately, Giffen’s layouts haven’t really improved issue-to-issue visual continuity — there still appears to be no clear consensus on what the Athenian Shelter’s exterior looks like/is located, whether or not Piper has a goatee or glasses, and after making a big point last week about how Jimmy Olsen had to wear a stifling, Silver-Age-looking suit and tie to hide his “Mr. Action” superhero costume, Jimmy is shown coming back to the scene of his superhero debut wearing a t-shirt and jacket. Oh well! Another small wonder is that the History of the Multiverse has now caught up to the beginning of Countdown, as the backup feature for Countdown #41 is recapping the events of the first few issues of Countdown.

Which is actually fortunate, since last week Mike Carlin got pissy on Newsarama when Matt Brady repeatedly asked him why they do not include references to help people who do not read the entire DC publishing output. That’s not the editors’ job, Carlin snapped, it’s a job for the Internet. Glad to help, Mike! And thanks for dedicating those pages in the back of Countdown to helping out! Before we examine issue 40 itself, I want to give a shoutout to Mike Carlin and help him by explaining the timeline for the pulse-pounding EVENT OF THE YEAR, Amazons Attack. AA is read by even fewer people than Countdown, so here’s a recap:

This timeline is making Wonder Woman go crosseyed!What Has Happened in Amazons Attack So Far: The Amazons, led by Wonder Woman’s mom Hippolyta, attacked Washington DC because they were mad that the US government arrested Wonder Woman for killing some dude about two crossovers ago. Hippolyta was dead but Circe, a crazy evil witch, brought her back to life. Also all the Amazons had left existence in the same crossover where WW killed a dude, but they’re back somehow. Maybe Circe did it. The government released Wonder Woman, but the Amazons were still PISSED. They keep on killing dudes. Some heroes fight the Amazons. Supergirl and Wonder Girl decide to help the Amazons for some reason. People accuse Circe of manipulating everyone, so Hippolyta murders Circe. Wonder Girl and Supergirl decide to make Air Force One crash land to either kill or capture the president, but later they feel bad about it so all is forgiven. The Amazons keep on destroying shit and start blowing up Kansas and California too, with the help of some offshoot Amazons I had never heard of, like the Buju Bantons or something. Then America decides to nuke the Amazon’s home island, which is I guess a big deal even though it’s empty since all the Amazons are in America killing dudes, and besides it was supposed to be off in another dimension anyway. But nuking it would be a tragedy I guess so Wonder Woman drops what she’s going and goes back to the island to appeal to her mom — no no, not her mom Hippolyta, but her mom Athena, who is maybe more like a godmother? I don’t know, they never explain it. Anyway it turns out that the Americans aren’t nuking Paradise Island, it’s actually Circe pretending to be the American military. Turns out she’s not really dead, she just pretended to get killed in front of everyone. And I guess she wants to blow up her home? Anyway eventually the magic nuke hits the island but Wonder Woman gets caught in the giant hand of her mom (giant mom?) Athena, who is apparently CRAZY now too, and starts quoting Onslaught about her “mighty hand” and stuff. So, uh, that’s what is going on now. I didn’t bother re-reading any of it so I apologize if details are wrong. There’s only so much the Internet can help with, Mike! As for how this lines up with the other comic you’re not reading…

Countdown #47 ties into Amazons Attack #1, when the Amazons Attack Washington, DC.

Countdown #46 includes Amazons Attacking as an undercurrent, and ties directly into Amazons Attack #2, with Donna Troy and Jason Todd meeting up in DC.

Countdown #45 continues the Donna/Jason vs. Forerunner fight, and also establishes that the “Lightning Saga” is occuring simultaneously to the Amazons Attacking.

Countdown #44 takes place shortly after Bart Allen is murdered in Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #12, tying it to about the same time as All-Flash #1 and the conclusion of the “Lightning Saga”. No direct reference to Amazons Attack in this issue, although Holly does join the Athenian Woman’s Shelter in this issue.

RIP Bart Allen: You were so full of love, joy and fetal alcohol poisoning!Countdown #43 features the funeral of Bart Allen. According to All-Flash #1, this is several days/weeks after his death. The upcoming Teen Titans #50 is said to tie into this issue, and it takes place after Teen Titans #49, as Wonder Girl has rejoined the team after her dalliance with the Amazons in AA #3-4.

Countdown #42 again doesn’t really deal with Amazons Attack, but it follows up on the “Lightning Saga” — an apparently unscathed Karate Kid takes the time to approach Batman to let him know that he is returning to the 31st Century. Precisely how this happens, given that days or weeks have past since Wally returned to the present and in the “Lightning Saga”, and the fact that in JLA #10, KK teleports immediately from the site of Wally’s return to the portal leading back to the 31st century, but whatever.

The role of the President of the United States of America will be played by Spider-Man in this image, for some reason.Countdown #41 features a recap of the events of Amazons Attack #4, where Supergirl and Wonder Girl take down Air Force One. It’s unclear how long ago this took place, but according to news reports rescue teams had not yet arrived, so one assumes it was mere moments, or at most hours ago — AA #4 shows military backup arriving almost immediately. This would suggest that as of Countdown #41, Wonder Girl has not yet rejoined the Titans, which would place Countdown #41 prior to the events of Flash #13, Teen Titans #49-50, All-Flash #1, the Lightning Saga, and Countdown #44-42. This issue also features a note-for-note recreation of the final scenes of the conclusion of the Lightning Saga, making last issue’s KK appearance completely non-sensical.

Countdown #40, perhaps wisely, ignores both the Karate Kid and Amazons Attack storylines.

Also worth noting in this timeline: last week’s Catwoman #69 shows Selina watching the events of Amazons Attack #4 on television, while simultaneously Holly Robinson bids a teary goodbye to Gotham, bound for Metropolis. The events of Amazons Attack line-up this issue with Countdown #41, released the same week. However, Holly is shown arriving in Metropolis back in Countdown #47. In Countdown #41, she’s already in the Athenian Women’s Shelter, watching the events of Amazons Attack #4 on television in the shelter. If anyone is wondering why DC isn’t providing some sort of timeline for these events, it’s not just because Mike Carlin thinks that’s the internet’s job, it’s because they obviously do not have one.

So what did Countdown #40 thrill and chill you with? Here’s a rundown!

pp. 1-3 Last issue, the Challengers of the Beyond (aka the C-List Monitor Posse) arrived in the Palmerverse and were confronted by apemen on robot frogs! They’re still being confronted!
pp. 4-5 Last issue, Jimmy Olsen made a costume and resolved that he would fight crime! Apparently between issues, he fought some crime! He feels pretty good about doing it, after only twelve issues.
pp. 6-7 Last issue, Mary Marvel was looking for a mentor! She’s still looking for one, and has come to talk to Zatanna. She’s also pretty dark, in that she is sitting around fantasizing about murdering people for kicks. Perhaps next issue, she will actually talk to Zatanna.
pp. 8-9 Holly is still chilling at the Athenian shelter, and sees Harley kick a homeless woman with a kid to the curb. Holly gets weirded out about this and confronts her about it, and then declares that she will have to ask Athena about it. Later. Next issue. I am pretty sure the implication here is that Athena only wants single childless women to hone into an army, but someone colored the mom with very light skin and the boy a deep chocolate brown, so theories are cropping up about Athena being against racial miscegenation.
The World’s Largest Loverpp. 10-13 Darkseid, last seen playing with Heroclix in issue 51, is now inspecting a horde of Parademons for a completely useless double page spread. I guess this establishes that Darkseid has an army, although him being the supreme ruler of an entire planet built for war is pretty much his entire backstory, so I don’t know who needed reminding. New readers maybe, but those same new readers would have no clue who his sons are, or who the little bug dude shown spying on Darkseid is. It’s Forager. He was a New God. He died in Jim Starlin’s Cosmic Odyssey book, but I guess is back. Maybe he will remind Superman, who was present for his death, what happens WHEN A GOD DIES since Supes seemed so curious a few issues back. Oh yeah, and Darkseid has concubines who he kills sometimes. He’s evil, you see. Just wanted to make sure everyone knows that, since “Darkseid, evil ruler of Apokalips who controls Parademons and Hellhounds and Shit” doesn’t firmly establish what kind of guy he is.
pp. 14-16 The Apes on Robot Frogs and CLMP tussle, and one of the apes loves Jason Todd’s saucily cavalier attitude towards murder. They make their peace, and we get the first of many “Thank you Monitor, but Ray Palmer is in Another Castle” scenes. ONWARD, C-LIST MONITOR POSSE! KEEP ON EXPLORING!
pp. 17-20 Piper and Trickster, the dudes with the Amazing Transforming Clothing and an Amazing Transforming Shackle, impose on the Penguin at his Iceberg Lounge. They prevail upon his kindness and charity the way only two guys who recently kicked a young man to death can do, and get to spend the night sleeping in his wine cellar. Unfortunately for them, Oracle likes to watch the Penguin’s wine cellar, and sends a hilarious off-model Renee Montoya Question after them! Well, not yet. Maybe next issue.These off-model costume designs are getting out of hand…

So there you have it! Not a bad issue, if you’re judging it solely on the metric of “issues of Countdown”. Some new characters (Zatanna, Forager, Renee Montoya) get placed on the board, even if the writers don’t bother to name the latter two. Still, when you consider that this is the twelfth issue, nearly 25% of the way through the series, and so far the glacially paced storylines have reached the following points:
Jimmy Olsen was having weird Fourth World visions and was investigating stuff but then got superpowers and forgot about that other stuff and is contemplating fighting crime across like three different books.
Piper & Trickster murdered the Flash in another comic and are shackled together and running.
Holly Robinson was accused to murder in another comic and moved to Metropolis. Now she hangs out in a women’s shelter.
Darkseid is plotting something and someone is spying on him.
The Monitors want to murder some people but haven’t actually done anything in like six issues.
The C-List Monitor Posse decided they need to find Ray Palmer and are trying to find him across like three different books.
Karate Kid exists. He is back in the 21st Century and wants to stop a Great Disaster.
Mary Marvel lost her powers but then got Black Adam’s powers and now she is kind of dark and maybe she needs to find a mentor.
Forerunner is a Night Elf from World of Warcraft and she’s teamed up with Monarch for no apparent reason.

Someone wake up Black Canary when it’s time for her to be tragically widowed at the altar.Seriously, this is all the information they’ve managed to impart in a space that the entirety of Watchmen fits into. It’s a year’s worth of comics by most metrics — three to five years’ worth of comics if you’re reading a lot of prestigious books these days. I wonder if they had more story to tell in Countdown proper and then decided to go crazy with the spin-offs, which results in nothing happening. Then again, if you look at the spin-offs, rarely does anything happen there either.

Superman 665 says it is a Countdown tie-in on the cover. It’s the Secret Origin of Jimmy Olsen. I guess he was a paperboy before he was a cub reporter? And he was a homeless orphan? I don’t know what this has to do with Countdown. Maybe his parents caused the Great Disaster?
Wonder Woman #11 and Teen Titans #49 are part of the Amazons Attack, which as I explained above. I wonder if the Athena that Holly will presumably meet next issue will be the BEHOLD MY MIGHTY HAND Athena that is yelling at Wonder Woman?

Anyway, I realize this is a pretty short list of crossover books — I was a little surprised myself. You’re dropping the ball, DC! Join us next week (okay probably later today) when we check out Countdown 39, which DC is claiming Keith Giffen did not do layouts for. Kenneth, care to confirm or deny?

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