Posted by: Graeme McMillan on July 3, 2007
So, really, now that we’re at #44, can we start to think about what’s wrong with COUNTDOWN? Eight issues in, and there’s only one plot that really working for me – Jimmy Olsen discovering his crazy superpowers and not being all angst-ridden about the whole thing. Which, considering all the other plots that are also in the book at this point (Mary Marvel gets her powers from Black Adam, the Flash villains do… um… something, Holly from Catwoman also does something, and there’s lots of multiverse things going on that are somewhat unclear), isn’t a really good sign. Maybe not so coincidentally, Jimmy’s story is also the only one in the series that doesn’t rely on you reading another comic to understand it – Even if you didn’t know who Jimmy was, you could still understand the basic “someone seems to get magic powers when they least expect it” sequence of events. Everything else in the book fails to hold onto your interest because it’s not about anything other than other comic books, and in order for that old trick to work, it takes more skill and humor that this book offers.
That’s what’s so depressing about this comic, I think; that so much of it feels as if it’s the comic equivalent of a circle jerk. When more than half of the comic reads as though you have to have read other comics to understand it and read plenty more to understand what’s going to happen – And with at least three spin-offs with “Countdown” in the title due to appear in the next few weeks, there’s definitely the feeling that you’ll be needing plenty more than the next 44 issues of this series in order to get the whole story, which seems more than slightly overwhelming at this stage of the game, considering how offputting and insider the story itself seems. The idea of keeping up with this series just in terms of what’s happening, never mind being sympathetic to any characters or whatever, is exhausting in and of itself in a way that 52 never was. This was something that I seem to remember Dan DiDio using as a selling point for Countdown, pre-launch; that it would be able to interact with the rest of the DC Universe instead of staying in its own missing-year “bubble”. The only problem with that is that what should be used as an occasional easter egg and/or gag seems to have become the entire purpose of the whole enterprise, replacing things like “plot” or “characterization.”
(Also, am I the only person who’s surprised at the way that Countdown seems to be so devoid of either of those, considering the writers involved? Sure, Tony Bedard, Sean McKeever, Adam Beechen et al may not be Grant Morrison, Mark Waid or the other 52 writers, but they’re still not exactly talentless – Even allowing for the group voice model, I’m surprised that we’ve not seen flashes of each writer’s personality come through at any point yet.)
I ended up buying the first issue of Countdown (much to Hibbs’ amusement, given my review of it), thinking that it was something that I’d want to reread down the line in bigger batches. The second issue put paid to that notion, but at this stage, two months in, I kind of wish I’d kept up with it and could read the first eight issues all at once to see if the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. Despite everything, I want to like the book, partially because of my continued 52-related goodwill. It’s just that, with every Awful issue, I feel as if that gets harder and harder.