Dec
12

Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed: OMNIBUS EDITION! (Part 2)

Posted by on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 at 01:44:21 PM

You read six Countdowns
And what do you get?
Another stress headache
And a burning regret

Last time in Downcounting, we learned:
1. That Super___ Prime gets all swoll after Sinestro Corps War and is back to being a clumsily written mockery of the “Comic Book Guy” who thinks things need to be “like they used to be”, only with significantly more genocide than the average nerd is capable of mustering.
2. That the C-List Monitor Posse is still beefin’ with each other, and trying to find Ray Palmer
3. The Monitors are talking about going to WAR, and have decided to do so! Soon! Seriously, two more long epic speeches, maximum!
4. Monarch is doing things that involve at least three completely wretched spin-off mini-series. Readers of Countdown might understandably assume that his motivations and plans are explained in these spin-off books. They would be wrong.

But those are just the most high-profile, multiversal storylines going on in Countdown! What about the little people?

Six Issues = 19 pages of the Karate Kid and Bludhaven!

Don’t worry Jason, a lot of people feel like this after appearing in Countdown.Yes, Karate Kid’s epic fetch quest is over, and he’s arrived in Bludhaven, joined in his ill-defined quest by Buddy Blank (no relation) and Kamandi! In issue 26, Karate Kid begins actually displaying symptoms of his mysterious disease, which I guess involves a lot of bleeding and fainting. And it’s a shame that his health is failing, because his storyline is really starting to heat up! First, Firestorm shows up for no reason, just in time for Karate Kid to “sense” that “it” is right below his feet! The following issue reveals that “it” was nothing, and that Firestorm just wants to escort them out of Bludhaven, but before he can kick them, out, the Atomic Knights show up and say that they’re going to kick them out! This doesn’t sit well with Firestorm, who attacks them for some reason and decides he’d better help Karate Kid. In the midst of the fight, Karate Kid channels some puroesu FIGHTING SPIRIT to allow him to execute amazing spin-kicks and parries and jump-flip-kicks despite vomiting blood and being near-death, but even that proves useless as he gets captured!

Oh wait, never mind, Firestorm knocks all of the Atomic Knights out. That was pretty exciting, though, huh? Karate Kid says that that spunky Firestorm reminds him of his friend “Drake” (aka Wildfire) which I am sure really excited people once they looked it up on Wikipedia. Our intrepid group suddenly is faced with a “beyond state of the art” door! Firestorm declares that the door “might pose a problem”, two panels before literally handwaving the door away. Behind the door is a shocking sight – Professor Martin Stein, being tortured by Desaad!

This shocks even Firestorm, who two pages earlier seemed to say that he was in Bludhaven looking for Prof. Stein, who was kidnapped by Darkseid at the end of the last Firestorm series. Poor kid, I guess not even Firestorm bothered to read his last solo book. At least he’s in good company – apparently the creative staff of Countdown didn’t either.

NEWSARAMA: Finding Professor Stein – how long has he been gone? He was missing after One Year Later, which followed from 52 – is this a continuation of that abduction?

ADAM BEECHEN: Yep.

MIKE CARLIN: And that’s a lotta torture for Prof Stein… the poor guy!

Actually, the “One Year Later” abduction of Stein was resolved by Stuart Moore in his run on Firestorm; he got kidnapped by one of his old assistants or something. His abduction by Darkseid happens literally three pages from the end of his series, as Darkseid pops in, yanks Stein physically from Firestorm’s body, and strolls into a boom tube, leaving a last page splash of Firestorm vowing to track Stein down. But I realize these are petty details, unimportant to the big last-page reveal of issue #25 – Desaad has gained control of the Firestorm power! Wow, things are finally happening!

…but then four pages later the Atomic Knights show up again and throw a silver ball at Desaad/Firestorm, which is apparently a device that neutralizes his powers. Why they didn’t do that before I do not know, but it certainly ties up that “Darkseid gets Firestorm’s power and 1/4 of the Anti-Life Equation” plotline, which was threatening to actually do something. Desaad runs back to Apokalips, leaving all of our Heroes with No Apparent Personalities or Clear Motives to regather in Bludhaven. This takes awhile, as we don’t see them again in the next two issues.

Six Issues = 16 pages for our Defiant Rogues, Trickster & Piper!

So Piper and Trickster have repeatedly avoided re-capture by the Suicide Squad, and decide their best course of action is to turn invisible and jump into the abduction wagon! Their original stated goal was to break everyone else free and become heroes to the villains, but I guess they forgot about this in the midst of all the gay jokes. These gay jokes weren’t just included for their (purely hypothetical) yuks, though – Dan Didio and company had a dream!

“Just because we put the characters together and have an idea of where things will go, that doesn’t mean that the stories don’t take on a life of their own. That’s particularly noticeable with the Trickster and Pied Piper – it was supposed to be a much deeper examination of homophobia, to be perfectly honest, but it turned into much more of a buddy flick. We went from being The Defiant Ones to Midnight Run.”

This is actually much classier than most of Countdown and it is from deviantartLet that sink in for a bit. This story was supposed to be “a much deeper examination of homophobia.” I don’t even know what kind of jokes I can make about that. I know that The Defiant Ones involved Tony Curtis overcoming his racism, but I assume that was handled in a manner different than him cracking fried chicken puns for the first hour of the film.

Anyway, our Defiant Duo makes it to the place where all the villains are being held, and talk to Two-Face for a bit. Two-Face has apparently been given the low-down on another Countdown spin-off series (Salvation Run) and fills Piper and Trickster in, as they decide to abandon their previous plan to free everyone and just run away. But for a fourth time, the Suicide Squad comes after them! This time it’s just Deadshot, but they manage to escape him. Then a couple issues later Deadshot is still chasing them, and this time he manages to kill Trickster, even though (for reasons unexplained) he was ordered to bring them in alive. Tragically, right before dying (and right after making a series of horrible jokes like “a gay on a train is a hobosexual!”) Trickster reluctantly admits that maybe fags ain’t so bad! Now I am really sad that he gets killed!

Continuing in Countdown’s militant spoiling policy, issue 22 ends with a shocking panel of Piper rolling over his companion to discover that he is DEAD! Shot in the head and chest! This would be quite the cliffhanger, if the art in the book didn’t clearly show him getting shot in the head and chest in the previous pages, not to mention getting dragged facefirst alongside a speeding freight train for a considerable distance. Perhaps this was just continuing in this plotline’s continuing subtle exploration of the Schroedinger’s Cat principle:

1. Piper & Trickster may or may not have murdered Bart Allen.
2. Piper & Trickster may or may not have been connected with varying types of electro-shock shackles at various points.
3. These electro-shock shackles may or may not affect the two of them exclusively, people nearby them exclusively, or both, depending on the situation where they are activated.
4. Piper & Trickster may or may not be wearing different configurations of their costumes/non-costume at different points of the narrative.
5. Piper & Trickster may or may not have nearly been murdered by a rageful Wally West.

And now, it is possible that Trickster may or may not have survived Deadshot’s assault, until Piper opened the box/rolled him over. Bad news, Piper – the universe you live in contains a dead cat, and you’re chained to him! In another universe, Trickster’s still alive and you’re part of a compelling examination of prejudice and sexuality. But in this fallen world, you’re in Countdown.

We’ll be back to mop up the last few storylines (and start looking at individual issues as they’re released) shortly. Plus there’s like thirty goddamn tie-in issues to summarize. Here’s a preview: not very much happens, and it lines up poorly!

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