Funnybook Babylon

September 7, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: #35 & #34 DOUBLESHOT

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 10:03 pm

SPECIAL DOWNCOUNTING NOTE OF APOLOGY: Time waits for no man — and Countdown is certainly a relentless juggernaut, not unlike Time. In the past week I’ve moved and had my desktop computer die in transit. On top of traditional Labor Day festivities, this has made for an unconscionably late Downcounting. For reasons I do not fully understand, people are reading Downcounting, and I would hate to see people get frustrated by the pecadillos of my personal life and break down and actually buy Countdown, so I am posting a doubleshot right now, quick and dirty – no awesome Deviantart images, no satellite titles – that will all come later this weekend. I am posting this from Union Square! It’s so futuristic, I should be eating Dippin’ Dots while I post this! So enjoy this doubleshot of recapping THE NARRATIVE SPINE OF THE DC UNIVERSE! I know I am using a lot of all-caps, but that’s just to cover up for the fact that I won’t get a chance to talk about all of the other issues that tie into Countdown and the larger issues they raise until later. Look, more ALL-CAPS!

AND NOW, A VERY SPECIAL ‘BACK TO SCHOOL’ DOWNCOUNTING

Man, you know what would’ve saved this comic? Captain Lou Albano! He was in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video, which gives this title its name. If my theory that the titles of this comic reflect coded messages from a Countdown staffer, this narrows the list of candidates down to one – Jeanine Schaeffer. As an associate editor, she’s the only female involved with this issue, and I can imagine that she’d rather be “having fun” by editing books that are consistently worth your support, like the two core Superman titles — Up Up and Away, one of the few “One Year Later” successes is available in trade, as is Kurt Busiek’s initial run on Superman, Camelot Falls are both available, and well worth your Superman-loving buying dollar. Anyway, some people (okay, me) think that Dan Didio, with his mustache and all, is slightly reminiscent of Mario of video game fame. Well, Captain Lou Albano was Mario in the Super Mario Super Show, and he was a far more terrifying Mario than Didio could ever dream of being. That’s the secondary coded message I have divined, that we are supposed to be relieved that Didio is the boss, not Captain Lou. Oh, also I like to imagine that the girl on the left in this issue’s cover is a transgendered Jimmy Olsen, not an off-model Una.

pp. 1-4: Last week, the C-List Monitor Posse was captured by a MYSTERIOUS FIGURE! Turns out, it was no one we’ve ever seen before, a “Queen Belthera”. She’s some sort of evil magical fairy queen, and she turns the Atom into some sort of insect slave. Awesome. I think Hoatzin, Friend of the Blog, said it best:

In his 52 exit interview, Grant Morrison admitted that he had accidentally created two very similar DCU characters in a row with Gloriana Tenebrae from Seven Soldiers and Lady Styx from 52. The similarities between the two are obvious; both are evil fairy tale queen types with loyal followers, both have insectoid qualities to them, both have immense power and both have a way to brainwash others into doing their bidding. In this issue, Countdown introduces a new villain; an insectoid evil fairy tale queen type character with loyal followers, immense power and a way to brainwash others into doing her bidding.

Whatever happened to that Michael Moorcock “guidebook to the magic of the DCU” that was supposed to be used One Year Greater? Between this story and the Mary Marvel one, it’s pretty clear ain’t no one care about magic having any rules, costs or guidelines. I have to admit, “A WIZARD DID IT” is a pretty handy way to push forward plots — or have plots sit around and do nothing, in the case of Countdown.

pp. 5-7: Hey, speaking of magic not really making any sense barely one year after it was promised that THE TENTH AGE OF MAGIC would be a new era of coherence and thought put behind magic — Zatanna and Mary Marvel are still fighting, because Eclipso has made Mary Marvel evil. They throw magic missiles at each other for awhile, until Zatanna uses a mirror to make Mary hit herself with a magic missile! Zatanna then abandons the confused young girl that just a few issues ago she decided was too powerful and inexperienced to be left unattended. Apparently none of that matters because Mary has acted in a “nasty, generally evil manner”. Hmmm…. I wonder who Mary might turn to now? I guess we’ll have to find out NEXT ISSUE!

pp. 8-10: Keeping with this week’s (loose) wrestling theme, is it possible that Jimmy has suffered multiple concussions over the years and is now suffering from memory loss and dementia? Because I could’ve sworn that he’s figured out repeatedly that his magic Silver Age powers will only activate if he is in genuine mortal danger. Off-panel, he put himself in the way of a non-lethal asskicking for at least the third time, and is once again upset that his powers won’t activate. At least he realizes this afterwards, but this is still a complete waste of three pages, unless you like seeing Jimmy get beat up.

pp. 11-14: Another wrestling trope emerges over in the Holly Robinson plot, as the woman’s shelter turns into A BATTLE ROYALE — and no one really seems to think that gladiatorial combat is unusual for a woman’s shelter. Holly, trained by Catwoman, fares pretty well as she dodges axes and tridents… but another MYSTERY OPPONENT emerges, wearing a mask. “Funny Face”, as Holly calls her, is also a highly trained combatant… but who could she be? What other woman has received a lot of face time and has been shown to be really acrobatic? COULD THE MIDNIGHT RIDER BE, IN ACTUALITY, THE RECENTLY SUSPENDED DUSTY RHODES? Tune in next week, fans!

pp. 15-17: Last week, Equus grabbed Una and threatened to kill her because Karate Kid was too much man for the One Man Army Corps that nearly killed Superman. Now, three panels later, he gets snapmared to the ground by Una, who to my knowledge is not the world’s most perfect martial arts fighting machine, but maybe Equus just got distracted by how off-model he’s being drawn. Karate Kid adds insult to injury by karate-kicking off one of Equus’s arms, at which point Mr. Orr (who sadly lost his doctorate between here and issue 37) asks his shadowy masters “what Checkmate would have me do with them” and apparently Checkmate would have him tell Karate Kid everything… NEXT WEEK!

p. 18: Hey, anyone wonder what happened to that crazy Monitor who shot Duela Dent and then started acting all sinister and rallied the rest of the Monitors (except Bob) into a big witchhunt? Hey, me too! Well, we get a quick update on what they’ve been up to – they’re still standing around getting pissed off at Death Cheaters and Multiversal Order Violators. Just like I guess they have been for about sixteen weeks now. Gun Totin’ Monitor is particularly pissed off at Kyle Rayner for having the gall to get possessed by Parallax and asks us to imagine “if, together, he, Jason Todd and Donna Troy decide to navigate the multiverse in their search?” Luckily for us, we won’t have to wonder, as this will be part of a special series of one-shots! I am guessing that Gun Totin’ Monitor saw these solicitations too, otherwise I have no idea why he would ever postulate that the three of them would get together for a “search”. He doesn’t even really say what kind of search they would be on; maybe a search for More Death Cheating Thrills? No idea. But I guess the Monitors are going to have to strike out at these people… eventually… I mean we’ve only got 34 weeks left…

p. 19-20: Hey, let’s check in on the Death Cheating C-List Monitor Posse! Apparently the “bio-shackles” aren’t enough to hold Donna Troy, who breaks free and gets zapped right in the back by Bob the Monitor!

Apparently Queen Belthera has the Monitor in her thrall, and is going to use him to become Ruler of All Creation! Of course! We’ll find out how exactly that will work, NEXT WEEK! Maybe!

[Okay like I said, analysis of the tie-in issues, particularly Amazons Attack #6, which was a fucking doozy, will be available soon! But for now, let’s skip ahead to Countdown #34, “Searching for Answers”! Because I know you have been searching for answers too!]

pp. 1-3: TWO WEEKS AGO, Deathstroke showed up and threatened to kill our Defiant Rogues, Piper & Trickster. Now, they’re hung by a vine from a Gotham rooftop with a Bat-Signal shining on them. Not surprisingly, Batman shows up, and Trickster asks Batman to drop Piper – you see, these two guys don’t like each other, but they’re STUCK TOGETHER! Except the artist neglected to draw the shackles in the first two pages, so it’s hard to tell that they’re stuck together. Luckily(?), the shackles re-appear as a murderously angry Flash shows up to grab the Rogues that killed his nephew (or third cousin or whatever), the Other Flash!

pp. 4-5: Jimmy reflects on how he’s “way behind” on his story about the murder of Duela Dent, which astute Countdown readers may remember kicked off the series seventeen issues ago. This is also the first time (outside of the insane History of the back Multiverse -up) that Duela Dent’s death has been mentioned in sixteen issues. Jimmy’s got a feeling that her murder must be somehow connected to the “seemingly random” murders of New Gods, even though Duela is, you know, not a New God. Why he doesn’t think the murder of Bart Allen or all of the murders committed during Amazons Attack are part of this larger story behind the homicides, I don’t really know. While he reflects on this “greater connection”, he finally decides to, you know, try to learn more about his weird powers in a way that doesn’t involve him getting his ass kicked by his friends. Steel is going to figure things out with some gadget that is “just like a CAT scan, only metaphysically different.” Okay then.

p. 6: Wally West drags the Rogues out to Bart Allen’s grave and yells at them for killing Bart. This page exists only to…

pp. 7-9: …give the Countdown posse an excuse to use an extra set of these really cheesy Watchmen-esque scene transitions! Man, I can’t wait for Dr. Manhattan to show up in Countdown: Arena! Speaking of pointless Dragonball-Z fights, this scene picks up from last week where Donna Troy somehow broke out of Queen Belthera’s MAGIC BONDS and then gets zapped by the ALL-POWERFUL BOB THE MONITOR who has some sort of big shockstick. I guess it wasn’t all that powerful, because she’s okay and making threats before getting ZAPPED AGAIN! WOW! Queen Belthera reiterates her plan to use the Monitor to avoid The Great Disaster! Someone should have told her that the C-List Monitor Posse were trying to stop the Great Disaster and that Bob does not believe he can survive the Great Disaster, but I suppose that would have involved them reading previous issues of Countdown. Anyway Donna recovers from the ZAP and breaks Jason Todd free from the MAGIC BONDS and then some people punch each other back and forth. Until Belthera makes Bob open a portal to escape through – but then Donna Troy punches her into the portal, which I guess is bad? Wasn’t she trying to escape? Is her control over Bob proximity based? What exactly is the plan here for Donna? And for that matter, what is Belthera’s plan, grabbing Donna Troy and proclaiming “I’m not going alone, you miserable meat sack!”? Weren’t you trying to fucking escape from Donna? Oh well, makes for an exciting cliffhanger, huh?
pp. 10-11: Meanwhile, a cliffhanger from last week is brushed off in two pages – the big fight between Holly and “Funny Face” ends abruptly when some Amazonian woman declares them both winners and declares that Holly and Funny Face – who shockingly turns out to be Harley Quinn – will get to move to Paradise Island and become full Amazonian citizens. Harley is excited at the prospect, and Holly doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. I can’t really tell when this takes place, but neither place on the timeline (either before or after Amazons Attack #6) really makes any sense – either they’re getting invited to naturalize into a country in the middle of a bloody war against America and All Men, or equally likely, they’re being told they get to be the brand-new citizens of an abandoned nation. I guess this makes sense in an ass-backwards way: Granny Goodness wants to recruit a new army of Female Furies, and for some reason she couldn’t/wouldn’t use the readymade Amazonian Army… it seems like a PR disaster to try to recruit people into a race of people who just prosecuted an unjust war because a series of wizards tricked them, and who subsequently were punished by being turned into.. well, the race of people you’re trying to recruit. Clearly, Granny should’ve consulted with Glorious Godfrey on the logistics of this plan.
pp. 12-14: Speaking of thing that people whose names start with “G” don’t get consulted on, it’s Klarion the Witch Boy! Being used in a manner that Grant Morrison has already called “____________”! He’s just hanging out in China, chillin’ with some magic folks in a magic city when who should he run into but Mary Marvel, who “stumbled onto” this magic city in China! Klarion helpfully identifies himself as a Witchboy, and then shows Mary around, as she explains that rather than looking for guidance, she is now looking for power… power… MORE POWER, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Because apparently being one of the “World’s Mightiest Mortals” just doesn’t cut it for kids these days. Klarion promises to get her MORE POWER, but reminds her that magic comes with a price! He sort of covers her in some sort of dome and our big cliffhanger is what exactly he is extracting from her to “barter” with for MORE POWER. My guess is her turtleneck, magic’s got to show a little more skin, if you ask me.

pp. 15-16: Last week, Mr/Dr Orr promised to give Karate Kid all the answers about the DISEASE THAT IS KILLING HIM! Apparently he is infected with some sort of OMAC virus – you know, the thing that was a really big deal during Infinite Crisis and which you would probably assume Oracle and most other people who spent a lot of last year fighting OMACs would be familiar with. Apparently they’re trying to tie For Tomorrow OMAC Project into Countdown to Infinite Crisis’s OMAC Project, and then tying both of those into the original Jack Kirby OMAC, as Mr/Dr. Orr sends the Karate Kid off to talk to Buddy Blank at a company called Pseudo-People, Inc. Now I grant you, they’re not tying them in very well – Buddy was not a “research scientist” in Kirby’s OMAC, he was just a drone who unexpectedly became a One Man Army Corps. But they’re trying! Speaking of things tying together, it turns out that Orr’s secret master isn’t Checkmate, but in fact Desaad! Unless he’s actually working for Checkmate and Desaad simultaneously. Or maybe Desaad is secretly running Checkmate. Or maybe “Checkmate” is just Orr’s pet name for Darkseid/Desaad, since he’s got that awesome Superhero Chess Set. Regardless, this whole Karate Kid thing is all part of Darkseid’s master plan!

pp. 17-18: Speaking of Darkseid’s Master Plan, Steel’s “metaphysical CAT scan” makes Jimmy’s head get all big and the computer flashes images of the Source Wall, multiple Earths, Motherboxes, and so on… Steel even inexplicably refers to Jimmy’s brain as “this equation… or whatever it is!” I guess this means that Jimmy’s got the Anti-Life Equation in his head? It’s certainly some big New Gods thing. You’d think Steel would be kind of familiar with the whole New Gods/Darkseid schtick, since he was resurrected and for a time in the thrall of Darkseid, but I guess not.

p. 20: Back to the Piper/Trickster/Flash story for one more page, just enough for an awesome cliffhanger – Deathstroke’s big plan (which you already knew if you read Downcounting or looked at ads DC placed in their comics) is to attack Green Arrow’s wedding and “kill everyone who attends”. Apparently Deathstroke put some sort of internal wire devices into our Odd Couple and hung them out to dry, reasoning that they would get captured by the Justice League and reveal his plan to ambush the wedding. Then he would use the wire to eavesdrop in on the heroes’ plan to keep him from murdering everyone at the wedding. I have no idea how this plan works, beyond some sort of insane, Princess Bride style series of assumptions…

“Now, I want to kill everyone at the wedding, but I am worried they’ll find out about my plan and thwart it. However, these two bumbling criminals just walked in – what if I tell them about my plan to kill everyone at the wedding, and then leave them hanging out to dry so the heroes will find them! They’ll tell the heroes, so they’ll know about my plan! But, I will have a wire, so I’ll know that they know about my plan! Although, I fully expect Piper and Trickster, unwilling participants in the plan, to tell them about the wire, so then they will know that I know that they know about my plan. But but but – “

I don’t know, maybe this is a huge misdirect, and Deathstroke is going to attack the rehearsal dinner? I’m not the master assassin. They tell Wally all of this, and he grabs their shackle and yanks it, electrocuting the crap out of them but strangely not affecting Wally, and declares “YOU DESERVE TO DIE!” Is Wally finally gone murderous? Will the Rogues both get killed, despite them teasing that “ONE WILL LIVE, ONE WILL DIE” in previews for November’s Countdown? Or is this a big misdirect cliffhanger, since they just said how Deathstroke was listening in on the conversation and by “killing” them they can have some superpowered extraction of the wire and then speak with the Rogues freely? I guess we’ll have to find out next week!!!

And I guess you’ll just have to check back later this weekend to get your fill of more Downcounting!

4 Comments »

  1. My god. Following Countdown really has gone from watching shitty tv and laughing at it to staring gape jawed at a car wreck.

    Comment by Joseph Mastantuono — September 7, 2007 @ 11:22 pm

  2. Try reading it weekly. I’m usually sitting around going “what the fuck what the fuck WHAT THE FUCK”, so how this ends up being made so coherent every week is a mystery to me.

    Comment by Syrg — September 8, 2007 @ 6:54 am

  3. Hey, Chris! Guess what? By “find out next week” they meant “read the preview on Newsarama in one day”!

    http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=128393

    Comment by David Uzumeri — September 8, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  4. I *love* this column! It’s the highlight of my web reading for the week! Thank you!

    Comment by Kenny — September 11, 2007 @ 10:00 am

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