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Count this!

Brian Hibbs

Haven’t done a proper comic book “review” in a really long time, and despite being swamped with getting ONOMATOPOEIA done this week, and having to make a serious dent in the new order form, I thought I’d jump back in here for a minute.

I’m reasonably sure that better writers than myself will tackle the complexities and joys that were COUNTDOWN (I’m especially waiting for Chris Eckert’s deconstruction — Downcounting, when he wrote it, was WONDERFUL), but in the meantime you can deal with my bleating.

DC has had a pretty bad last two years. Their editorial vision has been, in my humble opinion, horrifically broken, and, more importantly, completely and utterly out of touch of the interests of the audience. What successes they’ve had have seemed to this observer to either be completely accidental (SINESTRO CORPS) or actively worked against (the end of 52, and the multiverse, etc)

I’ve been selling comics in my own store for nineteen years now, and we’ve always been a “DC store” — selling more DC comics than Marvel comics. This makes us a rare and unique creature in comics retailing, as far as I can tell from speaking with my brethren and reading the sales charts.

And right now in 2008, we’re selling more Marvel comic books than DC. If it weren’t for DC’s superlative backlist program, and the strength of Vertigo titles in that format like Y and FABLES and DMZ, it would be a total and complete rout.

Marvel, to be sure, has been on a strong run with the of-the-Zeitgeist CIVIL WAR, but it is clear to me watching our sales figures and listening to my customers that an equal measure of this switch has been DC completely and utterly bobbling the ball.

The first real signs, for me, was “One Year Later”, which was about as unmanaged and poorly fitting of an idea as anything I can think of. Virtually every DCU book took a sharp downwards spike in the wake of OYL, as the readership didn’t understand what was going on in the books they followed, and given no real incentive to pick up new ones.

That could have been managed had it not been for COUNTDOWN, “the spine of the DC Universe” — a spine that virtually no one enjoyed, and that had what seemed to be a billion-jillion awful tie ins and crossovers and “spin outs” all predicated on branding and ideas that no one (not even, it seems) the creators were especially enthused by.

COUNTDOWN finishes this week with COUNTDOWN #1. The original plan was that COUNTDOWN would finish with a #0, but that #0 has been repositioned as “DC UNIVERSE #0”, leading to the silliness of “1 and counting” in this week’s COUNTDOWN, when it isn’t any such thing…

DC’s previous weekly, 52, wasn’t amazing through all points, but it least it had narrative character arcs that actually lead to somewhere meaningful for most of the involved characters — virtually each character went through some form of character growth during the series and ended up in a different place and head-space than they were at the beginning.

Not so with COUNTDOWN. Let’s look at it:

HOLLY & HARLEY: I guess they’re girfriends now (? Was that what we were supposed to get from the end?), which really seems out of character for Holly at least — why isn’t she looking for Selina? I guess technically this is a change, though a very hamfisted and out of character one.

MARY MARVEL: Started off evil, ended up evil, didn’t learn a thing. Heck, Black Adam showed more character growth in COUNTDOWN, and he was on, what, 4 pages?

PIED PIPER & TRICKSTER: Well one is dead, while the other magically isn’t. PP decides to “be on the side of the angels” — but he already was until the editorially-mandated death of Bart Allen.

JASON TODD: Still a psychotic fuckhole, didn’t even keep the “Red Robin” costume. Sheesh.

The “CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN” (that is, Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner, and Ray Palmer) are all left not even an inch different than they started (Ray is mopey, though), and given a new “mission” that will last about as long as Donna stayed a Darkstar, if that long. Said mission barely makes sense anyway — any one Monitor has been pretty clearly shown to be stronger than any 10 superheroes combined, what on earth could these three (and that bug-girl from the Olsen storyline) (?!?!?! WTF is she doing there?) possibly hope to do anything against the monitors? And, anyway, even if they COULD (which they can’t), just exactly how are they going to transverse the multiverse in order to do so, without that Monitor helping them constantly? Wha?

JIMMY OLSEN: Started a schlub, ended a schlub, didn’t even get his story. As the “everyman” of the story, he fought gods (*rolls eyes*

JACK KIRBY: Pretty much shat upon. The Fourth World is annihilated, to no real good end, the final prophecy is rewritten to serve a lousy story. OMAC is reborn with the mohawk, but in a way and method completely the opposite of what Kirby did, and not for what sounds like any good story reason. Kamandi also seemingly re/unwritten.

And all this for $152.49 — 51 times $2.99.

At the end of the day, COUNTDOWN was an complete mess, going nowhere, doing nothing, and not even doing it well. Utter CRAP.

In a lot of ways, DC’s future really depends upon FINAL CRISIS — it’s got to be REALLY good in order to draw people back to the DCU. And while Grant Morrison and JG Jones would sound like the people up for the job, if anyone is, the rumor columns are suggesting that it isn’t going to ship on time (and the buzz around the freelancers is that project is already compromised)

I don’t have a ton of faith in TRINITY at this point either — our preorders for 52 while it was running were around 35-40 buyers; preorders on COUNTDOWN dropped down to about 14 bodies. Currently TRINITY is sitting at NINE people signed up for it, despite a pretty a-list creative team on it.

Plot should flow from character; characterization should not be dictated by plot. DC *has* to learn this and learn this very quickly if they don’t want to lose more market share and customer interest.

What did YOU think?


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