Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Gutting It Out pt. 1 – The Pied Piper

Posted by on Tuesday, February 26th, 2008 at 08:00:17 AM

Maaaan, Countdown. I know it’s been forever. I know that there are only nine issues left, and shit is about to go down, I suppose some people might want to know what has happened in the past eleven issues. Half the cast blew up and died, and the other half are all on Apokalips for some reason, and shit is about to go down!

That’s really all you need to know! Come back in May! We good?

…No? Damn. So what have these forty-two issues, these eight hundred and forty-two pages of story, this $125.88 plus applicable taxes and ancillary books established so far? Let’s leave the C-List Monitor Posse and Multiverse Clusterfuck on the table for the moment, what about all our other plotlines that have discovered that All Roads Lead to Apokalips?

The Pied Piper was shocked to discover that his homophobic shackle buddy Trickster was brutally murdered by Deadshot. He was even more shocked to discover that their shackle was programmed to self-destruct twenty four hours after either prisoner was killed. What possible purpose did this feature have? Why, to have someone in a book called Countdown yell:


Lucky for Piper, shock followed shock as he somehow decided his “powers” (which are really just an expert knowledge of the way sounds affect the human and magic mummy brain) can extend to technology! With this newfound power, Piper was able to play a tune that kept the timer from COUNTING DOWN to zero and killing him, rendering this development completely pointless. Unfortunately for our favorite gay Schroedinger’s-Murderer Rogue, he jumped off his train in the middle of the desert, and spent most of the past eleven issues mostly off-panel, wandering in the desert, slowly dying and having hallucinations about Trickster gaybashing him. He eventually manned up and cut Trickster’s hand off, so he was only dragging a rotting hand along on the shackle, not a full rotting corpse. This makes me wonder how exactly a hand, lacking a forearm or other impediment, does not simply slide out of the shackle, leaving him with no human remains, but ours is not to reason why. As he approached death from dehydration, Piper was sucked up by a Boom Tube and deposited on Apokalips. Really? According to Countdown editor Mike Carlin,

Piper accidentally called up his own Boom Tube with his Pipe and a random collection of notes he’s never played before. More on that later.

I hope there’s more on that later, because I have no idea how that makes any sense given the historical context of the Pied Piper or Boom Tubes. At this point I can no longer tell when Mike Carlin is making bitterly sarcastic jokes at the expense of Matt Brady and his readership, or is desperately trying to explain things that no one bothered to mention in the actual Countdown comic, so there are nine issues left to prove this is just a sad joke. Actually, it’s a sad joke either way.

Carl Barks, could you have saved Countdown?  I doubt it.However, now that Piper is actually on Apokolips in issue ten, surely he’ll have a nice solid plot justification! And it momentarily looks like this might be the case, as Desaad approaches him and… uh… tells Piper that he has the power to control Anti-Life with his flute, and by controlling Anti-Life, he’d be able to rule Apokalips. I have literally no idea how this would work. David (who is infinitely more forgiving than I, and who is better at teasing out motivations from average-to-terrible comics with unclear stories) suggests that since the Anti-Life Equation robs beings of free will, and Piper’s powers — the powers he’s been shown to have in previous comics, not the ones on display in this series — also rob beings of their free will, that somehow Piper’s been tapped into the Anti-Life Equation all along. I have to admit, this actually makes sense and kind of explains why he’s in the book besides the apparent “deep look at homophobia” they planned to explore but forgot. David may be right; but we’ll have to wait another week or more, since the planet started exploding before the Desaad/Piper story could go anywhere.

That is where you are wrong, Albino Cosby.  There’s nothing funny about Countdown anymore.

Like a lot of the plots in Countdown, I can actually see how the broad strokes of this looked good on paper; two criminal-but-not-evil villains get caught up in a major act of evil, are stuck together and forced to re-enact a beloved film (The Defiant Ones, Fled, Black Mama White Mama, that one episode of The Jeffersons, maybe that Hawkeye storyline in Thunderbolts, not sure which one specifically)! Along the way we learn something about tolerance, and witness the Pied Piper, an outcast from society because of his criminal ways, become an outcast among oucasts because of his sexuality. Further I guess we were supposed to explore Piper’s slow descent into insanity, what with his sort of sinister power to control the souls of men, the harrowing bonding and subsequent loss of his buddy Trickster, and finally his temptation at the hands of the “devil” Desaad.

Instead we got a bunch of out of character guest stars, inexplicable gadgetry, really lame gay jokes and then they just kind of ignored him for the last few months. But now we’re in the Endgame! And in tribute to the outrageously inconsistent art, especially in the Rogues sections of Countdown, issue ten is the first time an artist has drawn Piper with his hearing aids. I assume this means they’re going to play into the ending for this character’s arc, so… yeah, your guess is good as mine!

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