Posted by: Graeme McMillan on August 7, 2007
Gah! Busier than the average bear today, so excuse both the lateness and shortness of my love letter to Kurt Busiek and dislike of Dan Didio. Or something… But, somehow I missed part one of the story that continues in this week’s ACTION COMICS #853 – Was it in the Superman issue I didn’t read from the week before? Or is my Countdown-lethargy causing blindness to comics that cross over with it? – not that that stopped me from understanding what’s going or enjoying the issue. As much as I want to snark that this is because Kurt Busiek knows how to write comics that don’t rely on you reading seventeen other comics to understand them unlike the Countdown team, there’s enough truth in that for me to take it more seriously than your average throwaway cheap shot. I mean, surely there’s something wrong with Countdown if I have to find out that Jimmy Olsen’s sudden knowledge of Robin’s secret identity from that series is actually a plot point (as opposed to an unexplained arguable editorial oversight) in a crossover as opposed to the main book…?
Whereas COUNTDOWN #39 stumbles along in its own Eh way, with Jimmy’s superhero career as comedy relief in the middle of what is essentially filler (Oracle’s defenses can be beaten by punching them a lot, apparently…? She should work on that. Also, now that we’re a quarter of a way into the series, shouldn’t we have passed the teases for the series by now? Instead, we still don’t know why “Jimmy Olsen Must Die” – indeed, no-one’s even demanded that in the series at all yet – and Eclipso hasn’t even appeared in the book, never mind seduced the innocent Mary Marvel as one particular teaser ad promised. I’m all for weekly pacing being different than monthly and all, but by this point in 52, there had been major movement on all the core plots as well as the introduction of many new characters – The Great Ten, Isis, Supernova and Batwoman by week Thirteen, I seem to remember. Not to get all, “Why, in my day, weekly comics had lesbians and plot development” or anything, but Countdown just seems slow by comparison, something that seems all the more obvious with issues like this), Busiek uses this Good tie-in issue to add some mystery and, well, action, to the basic concept. He also offers plain old good writing complete with not only characterization but also foreshadowing (Jimmy gets upstaged by a dog at the start of the issue, only to get saved by Krypto at the end of it, etc.), in-jokes (Clark’s yawning as the television talks about an all-night mission by the JLA), and the invention of the evil internet. You know, fun dumb superhero stuff.
World-building from the Busiek school – in service of the story, as opposed to being the entire point of the story, which is what Countdown feels like too much of the time – is just one thing that Kurt has been a king of in his Superman writing in the last year and a half, and it’d be nice for him to be recognized for keeping the flagship character’s books as strong as they have been (including essentially bailing out Geoff Johns more than a few times) by the powers that be. Given the fact that he can do solid superhero storytelling like few others can – with a sense of humor that doesn’t overwhelm the story, with a sense of drama that doesn’t tend towards needless grittiness or false danger, and with a sense of what other writers are doing in other books without appearing to be an advertisement for them – maybe he can be the showrunner for next year’s weekly spectacular…?