Funnybook Babylon

October 3, 2007

Downcounting Presents: Upcatching: A FBB Event in Three Parts (Book II: #31: “New Frontiers”)

Filed under: Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 9:58 am

Welcome to Book II of Upcatching. We only have three books worth of this so I can’t waste too much time — it’s not like this is a 51 part weekly series or anything! This installment of Downcounting covers Countdown #31, a doubly-inaccurate title as nobody visits Earth-21 (the New Frontier Universe, until someone decides to contradict this like they have several other Earth-* designations), and everything characters do visit is just repetition of plot points we’ve already seen, in stories that are rehashes and nostalgia festivals for the most part anyway. COWBOY UP!

CRISIS ON INFINITE PECTORAL MUSCLESpp. 1-6: Last week, the C-List Monitor Posse arrived on Earth-3 looking for Ray Palmer and get jumped by the Crime Syndicate of America, a crazy evil alternate reality version of the Justice League! In the first few pages of this issue, Kyle Rayner elliptically introduces the gang (and the readers) to the Crime Syndicate, but – are you ready for this? – this ain’t the Crime Syndicate of America! It’s the Crime SOCIETY of America! Totally different people, and all indications are that Kyle’s descriptions are totally invalid! Good work, everyone! At least Superwoman points out one thing is still true of Earth-3: “in our world, evil always triumphs over good!” I realize this has been a core conceit of the Crime Syndicate/Earth-3 forever, and it’s something both Grant Morrison and Kurt Busiek have integrated into their respective CSA stories, but it still comes off as an incredibly silly thing for someone to just blurt out in the middle of punching someone.

p. 7: Hey, remember how Athena/Granny Goodness is recruiting battered women to fight in gladiatorial deathmatches and how Holly has been recruited to become an Amazonian citizen, even though literally the entire race of Amazons are (justly) considered war criminals in the eyes of the world? Well, Holly suspects there might be something fishy about the whole enterprise, and sends a quick note to her mentor Catwoman about the whole thing, and assumes that while her benefactors might be sinister enough to put confused and abused women into battles to the death, surely they would never stoop so low as to intercept and destroy correspondence that could prove harmful to them. Bad news, Holly – add mail fraud to the Amazons’s/Granny Goodness’s list of war crimes! If only someone was around to hold her responsible!

Alfred stands patiently.  He’s used to the war crime trial speech.

Okay, well, I was going to say “tribunal”, but “war crime trial” works too, Batman. Thanks!

Never forget, it could be worse.  Well, kind of.p. 8: Hey, it’s Mister Mxyzp—well shit, if the actual comic isn’t going to bother giving his full name, I’m not going to look it up. Mxy is walking his fish (he is quite mad, you see!) with his hot girlfriend when he’s totally ripped out of the 5th dimension by a mysterious force! My guess is that force was Darkseid, he’s behind pretty much everything in this book. I suppose we’ll find out why this page exists in future issues. Or maybe not, I still haven’t figured out why half these stories in this book exist.

Once you put on the shoulder pads, you’re already doomed!
pp. 9-11: Last week, in a shocking reveal that came only a couple dozen weeks after it was a surprise, Mary Marvel’s mysterious benefactor/corruptor was revealed as ECLIPSO! Jean/Eclipso marked this momentous occasion by shaving her hair into a Mohawk off-panel.
This gives her a kicky new look for her “you and I are much alike, young Jedi” speech to Mary, who seems to view her with only mild suspicion. I mean, why wouldn’t Mary trust Eclipso, infamous personification of wrath and jealousy? It’s not as if Mary was around when Eclipso tried to take over the world a few years ago. Or when Jeanclipso seduced the Spectre and manipulated him into trying to murder all magic wielders including herself – wait, actually she was. Well, maybe she figures with that Eclipso has a new host, and doesn’t realize that it currently inhabits Jean Loring, who brutally murdered Mary’s friend and former teammate Sue Dibny? I mean how do we know that Mary’s even aware of – she was at the funeral, and part of the murder investigation? Well, Mary was in a coma for a bit, so there’s still the possibility of profound brain damage. That gives this story a leg up on the others. Anyway, Eclipso pretends to walk away, some security guards come up and hassle Mary Marvel, who turns them into
stone. Because she’s becoming evil, you see! Eclipso gets Mary to admit that this feels “pretty good”, knocks off one of the stone guard’s heads, and the two of them fly off to go be evil or something.

pp. 12-13: Hey, remember how Karate Kid is dying or sick or something? And he went to Oracle, who told him to go talk to Dr. Orr, who became Mr. Orr? And then Mr. Orr told him to go talk to Buddy Blank? And remember how that took like ten weeks? Well, here we are,
Karate Kid has found Buddy Blank! And I guess they’ll talk in a future issue, because they sure don’t say anything of interest this week! I hope that Buddy Blank tells Karate Kid to go talk to someone else!

1) I assume that is a sex term.  2) I think Jimmy’s jacket says DAT PLAYA on it.pp. 14-16: Speaking of circuitous plots, you may recall that Jimmy Olsen has started exhibiting crazy powers! After a few months of wandering around forgetting every couple of weeks what he’s learned about his powers, he’s decided to really seriously investigate them.
A few weeks ago, he let Steel strap him into a machine, which told us what we already knew – Jimmy Olsen has crazy powers! It also explicitly indicated that they were Fourth World related, which everyone in the real world already knew, and which everyone in the DCU apparently chose to politely ignore, pretending they’d never seen a Motherbox or Source Wall before. Now, a few weeks later, it’s Project Cadmus’s turn to strap Jimmy into a machine – and the verdict is that
he’s got some crazy powers! And Doctor Serling “Boom Boom” Roquette is droppin’ internet slang like she was scripted by Gail Simone. Seriously, I have hung out with some pretty heavy duty nerds before, and I am pretty sure saying “QUOTED FOR TRUTH” out loud is beneath even them.

pp. 17-19: Back to Earth-3 for the CLMP vs. CSA fight, people punch each other for another couple of panels, when Bob the Monitor rematerializes with the news from Earth-3’s Evil Toad:

Earth-3 Toad has a goatee.

Only 12-16 more weeks of this, folks! As Kyle and Jason fight over Donna for some godforsaken reason, the CLMP escape! But oh no, what’s this? Could the SENSATIONAL palate swap CHARACTER FIND OF 2007 the Jokester have hitched a ride with them??? Find out next week, in that one comic with a ridiculously long name that is about Earth-3!

p. 20: The shocking revelations have been coming fast and furious in Countdown lately, but none as shocking as this last page cliffhanger! Remember how that one Evil Monitor wants to kill all the people who cross universes or “cheat death”? Remember how he shot Duela Dent with a gun to this end in the very first issue of the series, and then a couple of weeks later gave a big speech to all the Monitors about this, and they all agreed except for Bob the Monitor?
Remember how this whole story got reiterated just a few weeks later in the “History of the Multiverse” backup? Well, this week, Evil Monitor gives a speech, and reveals his plan — The Monitors should kill everyone who tries to cross between universes!!! What could this
mean for the story of Countdown? My guess is that we’ll see the Monitors talking about this again around issue twenty, personally, but it’s possible that something might happen this time.

Well, there you go! 21 issues in, a full 40% of the story of Countdown has been told! And where are we?

  • Jimmy Olsen’s got some weird powers he doesn’t understand!
  • The Monitors are displeased with people who jump between worlds, and want to kill them!
  • Bob the Monitor wants to find Ray Palmer to avert a Great Disaster!
  • Mary Marvel is being seduced by Eclipso!
  • That mean ol’ Darkseid is planning… SOMETHING.
  • Close readers may recognize these plot points as things we all knew by the time the first issue of Countdown was finished. “New Frontiers” indeed.


    1. #31 was as terrifyingly bad as the rest, but holy shit was that origin back-up good!

      Comment by Rand — October 3, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

    2. First, I just wanted to apologize for not commenting after your last Downcounting. I realize there’s a lot of work put into these columns, and I feel bad for not recognizing that.

      Anyway, I’m reading this and I’m almost appalled the story is this bad! It’s such simplistic storytelling, as if it’s being written for 8 year olds. For example, Mxy walking a fish to show he lives in a goofy world where physics doesn’t apply – that’s funny if you’re like 5, but not much older than that. Why even bother with a sight gag like that if it’s going to be so boring?

      The other glaring item of stupidity that I actually have a problem with all of DC’s books for doing is characters being evil for evil’s sake. WHY??? Unless a character is trying to achieve some goal and it’s just easier to break the rules, why bother being evil? Like, with the Joker, it makes sense, but why would someone like Lex Luthor want evil and anarchy just for the sake of it? Doesn’t he profit more if only he’s breaking the rules?

      I’m just baffled by DC. No wonder their market share is shriveling, who would want to read this crap if not for satire?

      Comment by Kenny — October 3, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

    3. If you go back far enough in the podcasts, you will find that “Evil for evil’s sake” and “Transmetropolitain” are two topics that we can’t talk about anymore here.

      Comment by Joseph Mastantuono — October 3, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

    4. Hey now, you’re being totally unfair to Countdown! >=(

      It wasn’t until like the second or third issue that we found out Jimmy had weird powes!

      Comment by Lewis — October 4, 2007 @ 12:26 am

    5. Oops, sorry, Joseph! I only started listening to the podcasts with like #25 or so….. I won’t mention it gain!

      Comment by Kenny — October 4, 2007 @ 7:28 am

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