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!


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.

August 18, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Countdown #37, “Forbidden Fruit”

Filed under: Articles,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 3:22 am

There are a lot of numbercrunching things to talk about, and a lot of things to talk about regarding Dan Didio’s latest interview — but this is already late thanks to a delay in getting to the comic shop, and it seems like people are actually reading this (instead of Countdown I hope!), which is a pleasant surprise. So let’s skip the formalities and take a nice close look at the NARRATIVE SPINE OF THE DC UNIVERSE


August 9, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Countdown #38, “All Hell!”

Filed under: Articles,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 2:32 pm

Before we kick off this week’s Downcounting, I want to make a few things clear about why I am doing this. I know I say a lot of mean things, but I bear no ill will towards anyone involved with the production of Countdown. Comic nerds can be a vitriolic lot, and I know people are making “Dan Didio Must Die” shirts and the like. I don’t want to be seen as party to that kind of attitude; I’m sure everyone who works on the book is a good person; I’ve met a few of them (Mike Carlin, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tony Bedard, all cordial and patient) and I have enjoyed other books pretty much everyone on board has worked on. I believe that many if not all of them are making a good faith effort towards turning in an entertaining product. But the road to this week’s title are paved with good intentions and nice guys, and at this point Countdown is a full-blown fiasco. People love a fiasco, and at a certain point start howling for blood, demanding a bigger fiasco. We’re past that stage now, and the fine folks and DC keep throwing more chum into the water. I’m only human. That’s why I couldn’t keep all my metaphors straight there, and am going to move on before they get any more tangled. (more…)

August 4, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Countdown #39, “Do Not Pass Go”

Filed under: Articles,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 6:43 pm

I now have no doubt in my mind that whoever is titling Countdown issues is the most brilliant creative mind involved with the series. “Do Not Pass Go” is, of course, a phrase from the Monopoly board game, used in reference to being sent to jail and missing out on all the fun. Much like being stuck in jail in Monopoly, the act of reading (and one assumes, creating) Countdown is a bitter punishment, the sort of task that needs to be done while looking out the window longingly and seeing all the other kids playing stickball and running up to the ice cream truck. 39 AND COUNTING!

I feel you, Countdown Titling Guy, I feel you…

August 2, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed: Countdown #40, “Small Wonders”

Filed under: Articles,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 6:10 pm

Sorry for the delays here on Downcounting; I had a busy week, and was holding off on writing this in case some big news came out at the Comicon. As it turns out, they announced nothing of note besides a decidedly anti-climactic announcement that Countdown is counting down to the Final Crisis (PROMISE!) and will soon be retitled Countdown to Final Crisis which I for one plan to ignore because titles like Countdown to Final Crisis Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer: Wildstorm Universe featuring The Challengers of the Beyond and Countdown to Final Crisis Presents Lord Havok & the Extremists are too long even without the three additional words. So it’s still Downcounting, okay? Not Downcounting to Crisisfinals or anything similar. That would just be silly.

July 19, 2007

Downcounting – A Guide for the Perplexed – Countdown #41: Another Fine Mess

Filed under: Articles,Downcounting — Chris Eckert @ 6:47 pm

Amongst all the staggeringly bad reviews of DC’s Countdown series, perhaps the most damning one is the fact that Andrew Hickey’s Countdown Blog is no longer about Countdown, because he couldn’t bear the thought of thinking about the book for another 41 weeks. While that’s a highly understandable sentiment, Hickey’s weak constitution may lead many other innocents down the dangerous path of purchasing and reading Countdown. This, I cannot abide. It’s a disgusting job, but let me explain this week’s Downcounting for you:

One of these things is not like the of these things may have led Mike Marts to seek new work!It is hilariously apt that this issue’s title is “Another Fine Mess”. Without Keith Giffen doing layouts, any sort of issue-to-issue continuity is out the window. Check out last week’s cliffhanger ending, and then the opening page for issue 41, at left and right.

Let’s play spot the differences:
1. Apparently the sun has found time to rise in between panels, while Trickster and Piper have only fallen a few hundred feet, at most. Giffen wouldn’t help the colorists remember what color to make the sky,although I suppose an editor might.
2. Trickster’s costume has suddenly become quite baggy, although I am willing to chalk that up to a stylistic difference between artists.
3. Piper, on the other hand, has managed to find time to grow a goatee and put on a pair of sunglasses between panels.
4. Piper has also magically conjured up a bag containing all of the Rogues’ gadgets, which he apparently grabbed on the way out of the plane, though the art clearly shows he has no bag in issue 42.
5. The plane they are falling out of has morphed from some sort of nosecone-loading spyplane into what appears to be clipart of a commercial jetliner.
6. The fancy electronic shackles that hold the two villains together, in other words the primary plot device that drives their entire story, the ones that shock them if they get more than a foot or two apart, have turned into a rather lengthy tether attached to their wrists by small bracelets.

This is to say nothing of the fact that they were captured two issues ago in plain clothes and inexplicably dressed up in their costumes by the Group that They’re Being Evasive about Calling the Suicide Squad Even Though They’re All Members of the Suicide Squad. Which one’s Tony Curtis and which one’s Sidney Poitier? I suppose it’s possible that THE MULTIVERSE is making them change appearance every so often, but somehow I doubt it. Although one of DC’s classic TEASER IMAGES show Trickster wearing yet another costume while the shackles are plain ol’ handcuffs, so maybe there is something to that theory.

I realize parts of this are rather nitpicky, but bear in mind that these two pages will be right next to each other in any sort of collected edition DC may one day do for this book. I realize that odds are DC doesn’t care about the trade reader and no one will actually buy a collection of Countdown since by next May I suspect the term “Countdown” will be right up there with “SARS” in terms of consumer appeal, but this is still exceptionally bush league, emblematic of all the other problems DC is having with this book, and also fun to mock. Anyway, onto the actual story. Does anything actually happen this issue? Answer: FIND OUT NEXT ISSUE! Spoilers ahoy!

pp. 1-4: Hey, remember how Trickster and Piper fell out of the airplane? Well, they’re still falling. Will they survive? FIND OUT LATER!
pp. 5-6: By golly, Jimmy Olsen is gonna be a superhero! Well, not this week. Maybe later. Go read Action Comics #852 or something. He doesn’t become a superhero in this week’s issue, although he’s been thinking about it for over a month now. But soon! Maybe NEXT ISSUE!
p. 7: Mary Marvel thinks about how she has been angry and mean for the last month and how maybe she needs some advice. You know, the sort of advice she has refused from a bunch of people already. Who is this mysterious person who thinks they can guide her? It’s a good thing DC’s marketing department likes to keep such things under tight wraps! Maybe we’ll find out NEXT ISSUE!
pp. 8-10: Remember how last week Bob the Monitor and his C-List Posse decided they were going to go to the Palmerverse? Well, they’re going to the Palmerverse! Find out what happens when they get there — NEXT ISSUE! Or maybe in The All-New Atom! Or possibly the Challengers of the Beyond mini-series! Also Jason Todd found the time to change into a black shirt. That guy is a clothes horse, even when microscopic!
p. 11: Hey guys, Trickster and Piper didn’t die. And they apparently aren’t connected by those shackles anymore because you can see them climbing a ladder and apparently unattached and — oh wait never mind, there they are, back to the rope bracelet in the last panel. They’re in Gotham, and fixin’ to to meet the Penguin — NEXT ISSUE!
pp. 12-17: I was going to complain about how the Athens Women’s Shelter is apparently now Buckingham Palace with a big gated courtyard, but I went back and looked at the establishing shots of the past four issues of Countdown and no one has bothered doing a good job of really pinning down where it is besides “Metropolis”. It might be on a busy city street, it might be secluded amongst the trees, it might be a skyscraper, or it might be Buckingham Palace. No one has bothered to figure that out, so I can’t really blame Dennis Calero for going with the design he did. Basically this is to remind you that people are pissed at Amazons for the important events of AMAZONS ATTACK and some people come to protest. Harley decides to argue with them, and tries to beat them up through a steel fence. I guess this was a plot advancement? I can’t really tell.
pp. 18-19: Did you read the BEST SELLING JUSTICE LEAGUE/JUSTICE SOCIETY CROSSOVER THE LIGHTNING SAGA!? Well, I assume you did, it sells a lot better than Countdown. This is pretty much a line-for-line recreation of a scene from the end of that book, except in this version Karate Kid’s outfit is grey instead of white, and you discover who the mysterious shadowy stranger who comes back with him is — it’s Triplicate Girl! Except it’s Triplicate Girl after two of her three bodies were killed, so she’s just some girl now! I thought her second body didn’t die until after Giffen’s “Five Years Later” story which makes “Una” here a continuity glitch with decades-old Legion continuity from two or three universal reboots ago. I mean, I know most people haven’t and more than likely will never read those stories, so it’s not a big deal. But still. Anyway, they’re in the 21st century! And they’re DOIN’ THANGS! Like what? Well, maybe you’ll find out what NEXT ISSUE!!!

I can’t even tell if things are plot advancements or not anymore. I mean, everyone knew Karate Kid was saying in the present time from the moment they announced the series, and the bulk of his appearances so far have been in JLA/JSA, where they explained him staying behind in the 21st Century in the exact same vague terms. Verbatim. So why say it again? To reveal that he’s hanging out with Triplica– Singular Girl? Why not just reveal that in JLA #10 rather than pointlessly tease his MYSTERIOUS COMPANION? I suppose ours is not to reason why, ours is just to keep reading on faith that at some point this might become vaguely interesting.

As an added bonus, here are some Countdown goings-on in other DC books this week!
Action Comics #852 is the first part of a three part official COUNTDOWN TIE-IN! Jimmy Olsen continues to think about being a superhero. He still isn’t a superhero, but he is definitely planning on becoming one!
All-Flash #1 pretty firmly establishes that Wally was not only back from Mysteryland before Bart’s funeral, but that he was hanging around drinking tea with Iris while Bart’s girlfriend of a few weeks made his funeral arrangements. This issue also shows that a bunch of Suicide Squad people like Deadshot also captured all of the other Rogues involved with Bart’s murder, although presumably the rest of them did not jump out of planes. They might or might not show up later in Countdown!
Amazons Attack #4 has only a marginal connection to Countdown, in that Holly and Harley are watching the events of the issue take place on the news while their Athenean Woman’s Shelter gets protested. But what is more confusing is that
Catwoman #69 takes place concurrent with AA #4, with Catwoman watching the same events on her TV and being summoned by Batman after he ducks out of AA #4 halfway through. However, this issue also marks the point in Catwoman where Holly Robinson decides she has to leave Gotham City and leave for Metropolis. This despite the fact that she was shown in Metropolis before the Amazons attacked in Countdown, and the fact that she is holed up with Harley and the other Athenians watching the exact same events six issues later in Countdown. Then again, as Pedro is fond of saying, if DC doesn’t care about any of this, why should we?

I assume none of the other books that came out this week tie into Countdown, but don’t rule out some plot from Birds of Prey or Robin suddenly appearing in Countdown issue 31 or something. Overall, this was a pretty self-contained issue of Countdown, building on external stories they had already grafted in. Will next issue be any more accessible? FIND OUT NEXT ISSUE! Or just check back here in a week or so.

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