Funnybook Babylon

August 26, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Countdown #36, “Magical Mystery Tour”

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 9:39 pm

Forty years ago, the Beatles released a series of products called “Magical Mystery Tour”. Drunk on the success of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band album, Paul McCartney wanted to do another concept album, this time incorporating other media, such as a film. The film would have no set script, and would be their first produced without the guiding hand of recently deceased manager Brian Epstein. The plot, such as it was, would involve a diverse cast of characters wandering around while, in the words of McCartney, “strange things begin to happen at the whim of four or five magicians”. The film received widespread negative reviews after it aired on the BBC, and the accompanying album, while full of pretty great songs, was really an EP padded out with a bunch of singles that had already been released. While the Beatles are an enduring and beloved fixture in popular culture, Magical Mystery Tour was a definite misstep, and the film is largely forgotten, one of the only pieces of their output that no one really seems to care is unavailable for purchase forty years later.Oh shit, Countdown Arena is READY TO ROCK!

And I like to think that is why someone with really frank self-assessment skills named this week’s issue thusly.

Now, if you want to see how to merge film and music successfully (albeit insanely), look no further than R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet, conveniently located at IFC.com. Every person working for Marvel and DC should watch R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet as a quick reminder on how to tell a serialized narrative. Sure, the story is a trashy, sloppy noir pastiche and the Pied Piper of R&B (Pied Pi– ohhh shit, Trickster’s gonna get pissed on!) has difficulty keeping his first-person and third-person narratives straight, but he clearly has a grasp not only on his beretta but also on storytelling and juggling an increasingly absurd set of characters. These are valuable reminders for anyone, but the creative staff for Countdown ought to be held at gunpoint, Phil Spector/Dee Dee Ramone style, until they can explain why Trapped works where Countdown doesn’t. So, with that in mind:

Come and take a walk with me through the streets of Countdown
let’s look back and reminiscence on all of the shit that went down:

pp. 1-3: Last week the C-List Monitor Posse were about to get attacked by bugs!

OHHH SHIT

Now, one week later, the bugs actually attack! The bugs know magic! This messes up everyone’s powers and stuff, though it leaves Jason Todd’s newfound quipping powers intact.

pp. 4-5: Last week, Poison Ivy captured The Pied Piper (of murdering Flashes) and the Trickster and stated she was going to kill them!

OHHH SHIT

Now, one week later, she continues to say she will kill them! Trickster, apparently not content with his puppet show a few issues ago, starts on a sub-vaudeville routine of confusion, claiming that they work for the same person that Ivy does, and that he can’t tell her who, but you know who, he wouldn’t want them to say, what’s on second, I don’t know THIRD BASE! Ivy seems to feel this requires some serious thought.

Seriously is she doing a dual Undertaker/Garry Shandling impersonation here?pp. 6-9 Last week, Eclipso is somehow influencing Mary Marvel from afar, so she will go all Gollum on precious magic things! Sorry, no R. Kelly Trinity for this plot, as it continues to plod slowly towards the point in the arc that they gave away months before the series even started. Mary’s been forced to read books. “For Hours!” Obviously this cannot stand, so she magically transforms out of a pink dress into her slutty Black Marvel outfit and starts breaking shit in Zatanna’s library, grabbing a megarod/magic wand/vibrator and… well, just look at the accompanying actual art from the comic. This panel was better than anything I could dig up on the internet.

p. 10: Last week, Jimmy Olsen’s “for no apparent reason” knowledge powers kicked in, and he revealed dramatically that he knew Clark Kent was Superman!

OHHH SHIT

Now, Jimmy Olsen gets to try out for the Justice League, whose members are for some reason drawn in the style of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. People are always bugging Superman about joining the JLA…Batman is Jesus obviously, Hal Jordan is Judas (reverse spoilers!) and I really have no idea why this happened. The last “Bad Boys of the DCU” Countdown teaser had a similar “Last Supper” vibe, and had Lex Luthor as Jesus. This means that the only two people who are supposed to be smarter than Mister Terrific (whose symbol is already 75% of a crucifix) have been symbolically martyred. It’s like they’re symbolically murdering intelligence in the DCU; which I guess isn’t that far off base.

pp. 11-14: Last week, Oracle told Karate Kid and Una that the only person who might know what is up with his mysterious FUTURE DISEASE is the mysterious Dr. Elias Orr, who may or may not exist.

… ?

Yeah, that’s not really worthy of an “ohhh shit” trinity, I agree. Last week I speculated that Dr E. Orr was going to be a very sad donkey, but it turns out he’s actually “Mr. Orr”, the mercenary you may remember from Superman: For Tomorrow who I think most people just thought was a really weird young Commissioner Gordon. Well, Mr. Orr took his year off during 52 to become the greatest bio-engineer the world has ever known. It’s a heartwarming Algeresque tale of a man pulling himself up by his bootstraps, but he doesn’t want visitors, so he sends Equus, who was supposed to be part of an OMAC revamp before DC pulled out the other OMAC revamp in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis. Karate Kid is supposed to be confronting Brother Eye soon, so maybe they’re going to tie all these OMACs together. Good luck doing the same with the General Zod that also appeared in For Tomorrow, who doesn’t fit in with the one from Johns and Donner’s Action Comics at all, although there are always S*perb*y P*nches to explain it away.

Oh yeah, so Equus is a big evil genetically engineered monster who went blow for blow with Superman. But when he goes up against Karate Kid, he manages to get his ass kicked handily. Karate Kid is a really awesome fighter guys, in case you didn’t know. No one can fuck with Karate Kid! Except he has a disease of some sort! That’s literally all we’ve been told in sixteen issues. Also he is from the future – and he has a friend named Una. Since Equus is clearly not a bad enough dude to fight Karate Kid, he threatens to kill Una!

OHHH SHIT

Now that’s what I’m talking about! A decent cliffhanger! I mean they’ve already shown that Una isn’t going anywhere and she’s been such a cipher so far that there is no reason to care about if she dies or not, but that’s a cliffhanger at least. You’ve got to praise what you can with this book.

pp. 15-17: Mary Marvel is still going crazy and trying to kill Zatanna, ostensibly because she hates being called “a kid”, even in a metaphor. I guess Eclipso (who still hasn’t really been introduced in this book at all) is mind-controlling Mary Marvel because… well, I mean her monologue and appearance sure are evil. I guess “she is an evil crazy woman!” has been sufficient motivation for everything Jean Loring has done in the past few years, there’s no point giving her reasons now. The cliffhanger here is that Mary Marvel and Zatanna continue to fight, but the much more powerful Mary looks like she is winning!

Great news!  We’re not in this issue of Countdown!  We guest star in a GOOD book, Blue Beetle!pp. 18 The bugs have officially defeated the CLMP. Their mysterious leader emerges, kind of — we see his/her hand poking out of the shadows in one panel. I’m sure Countdown readers around the world are speculating as to who this mysterious figure who has captured the CLMP — could it be the other Monitors, who have sworn vengeance on Bob and his Posse, and have not been seen in ten weeks? Or perhaps Monarch’s Forerunner-trained army, not seen in nine weeks, are finally mounting an offensive? Or perhaps someone got confused and thought the Monitor was a New God, and the NEW GOD KILLA will be revealed at last! And hey, Lady Styx is out there somewhere and supposed to be a big deal… so many possibilities! Well, wonder no longer — Mike Carlin revealed over at Newsarama that this bug-queen character is a brand-new, never before seen figure! Yes, the cliffhanger for this plotline is essentially “WHO HAS CAPTURED THE C-LIST MONITOR POSSE? TUNE IN NEXT WEEK!” and the reveal will be, “Oh, it’s no one you know. Sorry.” R. Kelly would never pull that shit, unless it turned out to be a gay guy or a midget, and the character was sleeping with one of the CLMP. Wait a minute what if…

OHHH SHIT

: Speaking of sex, I think there is some sort of brain-eating virus ravaging Gotham’s LGBT community. First former ace homicide detective Renee Montoya decides to let two wanted murderers loose because of a puppet show that argued they were merely accessories to murder, not the actual murderers, and now fellow traveler Ivy is sufficiently convinced by Trickster’s Kenan & Kelesque patter that she decides not to kill them, since they must be in on the plan. The plan, that it turns out, is masterminded by Deathstroke!

OHHH SHIT

I guess the cliffhanger here is what Deathstroke is up to or whether or not he will “hack off all of [Piper/Trickster’s] limbs”. The answer to the latter is clearly no, and the answer to the former is “he’s plotting to murder Oliver Queen in the shocking Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special”, which is set to tie into Countdown in the near future.

Speaking of things that will tie into Countdown

Yeah this isn’t the “current” Aquaman but if it’s good enough for Brad Meltzer, it’s good enough for me!Outsiders: Five of a Kind #4: Metamorpho & Aquaman only loosely ties into Countdown, in that the Outsiders are supposed to tie in at some point in the future. Somehow, this book managed to be a pretty good little standalone story despite this tie-in. It doesn’t hurt that new-comics-writer G. Willow Wilson and rarely-doing-a-comics-artist Josh Middleton seemed to be given carte blanche to do a nice little superhero story, bizarrely bringing back a forgotten For Tomorrow character (Halcyon) the same week as Countdown. Batman’s reasoning in the Bedard-written backup continues to be baffling and tacked on, however: Batman praises Metamorpho for the exact same thing he excoriated Thunder for last week, letting a villain who “owes them” go free. Granted, Grayven was an order of magnitude “eviller” than Halcyon, but the fact that Batman even has such a thought process… there’s also the fact that Halycon is, as near as I can tell, an eco-crusading vigilante seeking justice for the general population in the Middle East, who happened to be mind-controlled into killing a bunch of dudes. That’s why Metamorpho lets her go, and Aquaman observes that it’s hard to tell who the good guys are in such a situation. But not for Batman — she’s evil! And that obviously means she’s going to go around informing everyone that those Outsiders, they’re good people; always willing to help a villain out!

Oh shit, Starfire, sorry, I forgot you were in Countdown to Adventure… don’t be mad!Birds of Prey #109 is chock-full of stuff! The primary plotline (by Countdowner Tony Bedard) involves Oracle trying to talk her good friend Black Canary out of marrying that ol’ tomcat Oliver Queen. Now, the fact that Black Canary already accepted Queen’s proposal in Black Canary #4, also written by Bedard and released last week, takes a little wind out of the sails of this issue, but at least DC was kind enough to put an EDITOR’S NOTE (the bane of Mike Carlin’s existence!) in the comic to let you know, in case you wanted to rush out and buy the mini-series and read it before BOP. In another plotline, Big Barda plays Pokemon. Seriously. Oh, and the NEW GOD KILLA kills Knockout, and is effectively outed as The Infinity Man. The silhouettes used throughout this issue certainly look like Drax the Infinity Man, and he’s used “Infinite Beams” that look a lot like the Omega Beam-like rays NGKilla has used in the past. Plus, Lightray’s final word was a stuttering approximation of “Infinity”. This is on the order of the “new character” they tease at the end of this week’s Countdown: they’ve been building up the mystery of who is KILLING THE NEW GODS for months now, and when they get to the reveal, it’s going to be an obscure character who, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t appeared in a original comic story in my lifetime. That’s not the sort of thing you build a mystery around, because people will only be disappointed. It’s like going to a family get-together “YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO’S GOT THE PACKAGE, COME ON GUESS! GUESS WHO’S GOT THE PACKAGE!” and then revealing that it is a co-worker’s downstairs neighbor, who none of them have ever met. Unless both this neighbor and your Uncle Dave both go to Paje’s from time to time and one night there was–

OHHH SHIT

That’s probably giving everyone too much credit on the Infinity Man reveal, though. Until next week, check out Trapped in the Closet, and if you want to throw some money DC’s way, check out Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus (featuring Infinity Man!), Catwoman: It’s Only a Movie (featuring Will Pfieffer’s improbably entertaining revamps of Angle Man and The Film Freak), or this week’s Blue Beetle, which is a typically fun issue for the title. Really, go out and buy whatever you like, so long as it isn’t Countdown. I’ve got you covered.

4 Comments »

  1. I honestly can’t tell which says the worse things about the title: that Trapped in the Closet is considered SANER, or that we have an underage (she is still underage, right? I didn’t miss a Superboy moment?) girl grabbing Zatanna’s magic vibrators in one of the most suggestive pages since the days of early Wonder Woman.

    Honestly, I’m not sure I want to know.

    Comment by Syrg — August 27, 2007 @ 5:59 am

  2. This was genius:

    “And I like to think that is why someone with really frank self-assessment skills named this week’s issue thusly.”

    I *love* this column! And if R. Kelly is sane in comparison to Countdown, thank God I don’t read Countdown! I don’t think I’m ready for a world in which that’s true!

    Comment by Kenny — August 27, 2007 @ 10:30 pm

  3. Magical Mystery Tour wasn’t that bad (although John Lennon shoveling spaghetti on the fat woman’s plate is oddly chilling). The Beatles have been really weird with their video releases, no Help!, Let it Be or Magical Mystery Tour. And yet they released a Phil Spector-less “Let It Be…NAKED”. At least Magical Mystery Tour tarnished the legacy while it was still being built. And , you will note in Magical Mystery Tour, they’re having a lovely time. Can anyone say that about Countdown?

    Are Siegel and Shuster also suing over the rights to “punches”?

    Comment by Nick — August 27, 2007 @ 11:57 pm

  4. Pied Piper’s superpower in this issue is that he’s gay.

    Since when do you have to be attracted to women to be vulnerable to Poison Ivy? Is Selina Kyle a lesbian?

    Comment by jnring — August 31, 2007 @ 5:26 am

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