Saturday, February 02, 2008

Countdown #13: An Objective Review

"Why'd you have to come here?! Aren't there enough fake Earths to mess up?!"
--Evil Fanboy Superman

I actually purchased Countdown #13. I tossed my dimes onto the counter of Forbidden Planet and said, "yes! this one! me -- I am wanting it! bag it up!"

The reason was -- with so much DC product and future plans still tied into the weekly series, I thought I could not get a full understanding of the company's superhero output without at some point revisiting this title.

So here we are. Get comfortable.

Pro: The art is rather open, and the action moves fairly faster than I anticipated.

Con: The storytelling is jagged and abrupt. Think a movie where there is a splice in the film -- how did Action A get to Action B? The narrative flow, at parts, is rather poor.

no narrative flow

Pro: The cover by Stephane Roux & Karine Boccanfuso is attractive.

Con: This title SORELY needs a recap page.

Pro: The staples were all intact, and well affixed to my copy. They were not loose, but rather all surely placed.

Con: The book as a whole, story and art, seems rushed. Too much exposition, not enough heart.

The question comes to mind -- could a good enough editor have been able to raise this book up a few levels?

There is no excuse in this series not to have a recap page. This series is the spine of the DCU. It cannot be assumed that its only readership is people who have been following the book from the the first issue. This book is leading into one of the biggest DC events of the year -- or the decade. Wouldn't they want to attract new readers and get as many people on board as possible?

The art in this issue was touch and go for me. Some panels were good, others were not. Again, this book is the spine of the DCU. The art on this series has moved from "meh" to "yuck" to "inoffensive" to "serviceable." I want an answer why this has been so. Is it merely time constraints? Or poor planning?

At this point, I see Countdown as a lame duck series, and I would assume DC editorial feels the same way. It's just a weekly inconvenience to shove out the door to lead into Final Crisis. I do not think the idea of the book was bad in-and-of-itself, but the execution was poor.

That said, I can see how this book would be fun to a hardcore DC fan with a yen for continuity & nostalgia. Too bad the characterization of Superman Prime is poking fun of them.

But more than that, Superman Prime, with his infantile, self-centered attitude and black "edgy" costume, represents everything that is wrong with the current DCU. As Grant Morrison might say, he is the symbolic "totem" that encapsulates all this negativity, and it will be good for me as a reader to see him put to rest once-and-for all. If the real purpose of Countdown was to exorcize this particular quality from the DC Universe, then perhaps it was all worth it.


  1. "The staples were all intact, and well affixed to my copy. They were not loose, but rather all surely placed."

    If you get to the point where you are complimenting the staplery, that's probably not a good sign for the comic as a whole, is it?

  2. You do you realize Superman-Prime is *supposed* to be a Liefeldian caricature of 'badass' overmuscled superheroes, right? You can claim it's a badly-executed parody, but to say the character represents the DCU as if the writers are actually taking him seriously isn't really fair.

  3. I was with you up until the last paragraph.

    "If the real purpose of Countdown was to exorcize this particular quality from the DC Universe, then perhaps it was all worth it."

    I don't think the people who currently work at either or the Big Two are writing fiction this self-aware, Morrison included. I don't think DC is aware that their books are seemingly negative and dark.

    I think a lot of your points are strong, though. I think any book claiming to be a narrative spine needs to have some sort of recap. I think the writing and art on any title should get stronger as time goes on.

  4. I LIKE Super-BOY Prime- that sort of infantile "this isn't right" action paired with some mighty guns makes for an interesting combo. Turned into Super-MAN though, it becomes super lame & trite (IMPORTANT SEE ALSO: BRAND NEW DAY). That said, I can't understand how anyone is giving Countdown a read; I've had a few left-over copies thrust into my hands & I barely managed to finish them. I'm a quick, voracious reader, too; I can't understand how Joe Buyer is supposed to give a fuck.

  5. Kenny; I think some of them (you say Morrison isn't, I say he isn't: I don't idolize the chap by any means-- a lot of his stuff is crap-- but if anybody has an idea of meta, it is he) do know, but I think exorcism is the wrong word for it: acknowledgment, sure, but I think that sort of over-wrought schtick will always have a place...just, you know, hopefully less central.

  6. This probably isn't the right spot for this, but the photo from the link below reminded me of this site:

  7. "If the real purpose of Countdown was to exorcize this particular quality from the DC Universe, then perhaps it was all worth it."

    Unlikely, to be honest. Gore and sex are an easy sell. Exorcising those elements in favour of 'fun' storytelling just creates more problems than it solves - mainly because DC's writing pool (with the exception of Grant Morrison and Mark "I will one day get to the point where I run out of Alan Moore stories and ideas to rip off and it won't be pretty" Waid) hasn't shown a past aptitude to write or endorse those kinds of stories.
    Look at it from a purely business sense - why take the chance? The nihilism and sexualised violence may appear juvenile to us, but it seems to be what younger readers want in their books, and DC are only too happy to give it to them.

    I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just pointing out that from a commercial viewpoint, it makes more sense to sell porn than bibles.

  8. ...unless you put porn *in* your bibles!


    While I am finding Countdown rather tedious and, so help me, I'm finding myself actually wanting to go back to the Jimmy Olsen: Man of Action storyline just to get a break from all the death and fighting, I *did* get a big kick from the flipper-footed Emoboy splash page a couple of issues back. Way to sell your subtext there.

    So: If Fanboy Prime is meant to be the readers hating on DC for their awesome stories that the reading public just don't get... about showing me some of those awesome stories? Instead of this deathdeathdeath/Green Arrow/Black OOCanary nonsense?

  9. I know how I'd end the whole Superman-Prime thing, and I will share it with you here. Because I know you want to know. :)

    First, I (acting in my capacity as DC head honcho, of course) settle the rights issues with the Siegel estate. Just slap a big old check down in front of them, the sort of thing that Publisher's Clearinghouse uses, and say, "I'm going to start adding zeroes. Tell me when to stop." It's what's going to happen sooner or later anyway, might as well make it sooner.

    Then, I have a big battle. Superman-Prime vs. Everybody. Fighting, fighting, fighting, and then the Spectre shows up. He's all tanked up on vengeance at this point, inhumanly powerful, and he just gives Prime a LOOK. And Prime falls over.

    "What did you do to him?" someone asks.

    "I took away his madness. All of the self-delusions, the rationalizations that allowed him to believe he was still a good person and that his actions were justified...they are all gone now. He is sane, and he knows what he has done. If he could go mad again, he would...but I will not allow it."

    And then you relaunch him as Superboy-Prime, in his own series, on a never-ending quest to atone for his own atrocities. Sort of like 'Angel', but with less vampirism.

  10. I haven't read this one yet but I think its fair to not expect too much art-wise from a weekly. Its not great, but not awful.

    Personally I say the overall story is good, or at least interesting. The writing and art are iffy, and I'm glad I skipped 48-26 :)

  11. Don't forget the best line from this issue:

    "I'm going to kill you. I'm going to kill you TO DEATH!!!"

    I honestly don't think dialogue that silly could possibly be written without SOME sort of knowledge of how goofy it is.

  12. Hey, remember how the DC Universe was going to lighten up after Infinite Crisis? Good times, good times.

    From the few interviews I've read, I get the impression that DiDio LOOOOVES Superman-Prime. Get used to him.

  13. True story: my staples were not so surely placed. The center spread fell out as I was reading it. Most exciting thing that happened in 39 issues.