Countdown Breakdown Sept 2007

Countdown Breakdown to Final Nerd Crisis
Plotted by Paul Dini, mapped by Keith Giffen
Countdown 34 by Jimmy Palmoitti, Justin Gray and Jesus Saiz
Supergirl # 21 by Tony Bedard and Renato Guedes
All New Atom # 15 by Gail Simone and Mike Norton
Countdown 33 with Adam Beechen and Carlos Mango
Countdown presents The Search for Ray Palmer 1 by Ron Marz and Angel Unzueta.
Countdown 32 by Tony Bedard and Al Barrionuevo
Countdown to Mystery Eclipso: by Matt Sturges and Stephen J. Segovia
Countdown 31 by Sean McKeever and Manuel Garcia
Countdown to Adventure: Forerunner by Justin gray and Travis Moore

The Countdown Breakdown makes the special effort to bring the devoted reader the commentary and review that is fit for the DC comics as it still tries to steal more money and my brain cells. I’m Francis Davis and I’m working the hardest job in comics, making Countdown entertaining so that you do not have to stab your frontal lobe in sadness. This month I will also include relevant pieces of crossover appearances into DC books so you do not weep the way I do.

This month Countdown brings us crying, pain, and beatings. This will be just for the yuppie Rogues alone. It also presents bad continuity and removes the momentum out of another crossover, rendering it an indifferent exercise in money thieving.

The cover artist of the month is Talent Caldwell. He delivers a set of covers that are not his best. It hurts to say this because this reviewer enjoys his work a great deal. The covers for issues in question are well rendered, yet feel awkward. Week 34 seemed like a generic Batman chase villain’s piece. Issue 33 has an interesting looking Donna Troy, who looks very feminine. The rest of the cover has Red Hood and a hovering Kyle Rayner that look very much alike. Bob The Monitor looks constipated and the lack of background did nothing for the cover. Week 32 improves greatly as it tells you that it’s the time of the year for the Bachlorette party! Week 31 looks action packed and ironic. So overall not a perfect set of covers, but bits and pieces are strong here with only one unmemorable piece in the bunch.

Week 34 finds our Yuppie Rogues tied upside down on a Gotham Building after they get beaten by Deathstroke. Batman finds them and informs them that more violence will come because the hero community is still convinced that they murdered Bart Allen. The Flash then grabs them and gives them more beatings as they admit that they were good guys who wanted to voyeur and were innocent in the death of St Bart. The crying couple reveals that Deathstroke is planning on crashing the Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding and plan to paint the hall red with blood. Obviously, the sniveling of Oliver Queen is too addictive for Deathstroke to pass up for longer than three months. Mary Marvel meets Klarion the Witch Boy. He puts her under emo Goth spell and is captured for some unknown master. This long overdue sense of anticipation will indicate that it’s Eclipso! Holly and Harley are the winners of “Athena’s” gladiators’ competition and are going to “Paradise Island” Something will go bad here. Palmiotti, Gray and Saiz deliver a good issue filled with amusement, tension and wackiness. Andy Clarke draws the secret origin of Lex Luthor and reminds me why he needs to draw a monthly for DC.

There are other plots covered in Countdown 34 that spill over elsewhere. The Challengers from Beyond have a bad day so Donna Troy does something cool, but gets dragged into a strange dimension by Belathra. It all looks like this drama is deleted with the release of All New Atom 15 as the team will gain a member in Kyle Rayner and lose Ryan Choi as he is pulled out of a toilet and is returned to Ivy Town. Meanwhile Jimmy Olsen sees a doctor and this doctor, John Henry Irons diagnoses that Jimmy Olsen is no longer human. The Karate Kid plot is furthered as Mr. Orr tells our hero to find Buddy Blanks and that his illness may be OMAC related. After the Kid leaves, Orr calls DeSaad and informs him that the plan is in motion. I hope Orr has good long distance on his mobile phone provider. Desaad looks like he is planning mayhem and in Supergirl # 21 it involves Eqqus, a train, and a Supergirl who consumed some LSD, which is delivering her two different continuity incarnations of Karate Kid.

The comedy of Countdown #33 is apparent to those looking for it. Adam Beechen’s scripting has improved and actually seems inspired in some places, especially in the the scene where Ryan Choi gets yanked out of the search for Ray Palmer. However, Carlos Mango’s art y does not fit into the style of the series, and when working with Keith Giffen’s layouts in particular, his style sticks out badly. Fortunately, The Challengers plot from the last issue resolves itself with the appearance of Kyle Rayner shining his Green Lantern light and trying to get his pimp on with Donna Troy who appears to have the superpower of making guys like her a lot. It is so effective that Jason Todd gets JEALOUS when the Green Lantern of slackerdom appears. Bob the Monitor still commits to his wooden chair act for the most part.

The other plots are a little strange, especially when Flash realizes that Piper and Trickster were being honest and somehow extracts the bombs from their heads before they explode. I understand how it’s done, but it’s the one truly hokey Flash power. After the threat is revealed, the boys get teleported to Zatanna’s house where they get the Mind Wipe fear, which, remember kids, caused all this wackiness in the first place. Someone should have told them that blood hungry mummies are in residence in the Zatanna Summer Home where a Bachlorette Party is being held. Meanwhile, Mary Marvel it turns out was just being saved by Klarion the Witch Boy from an angry Magician. The price of salvation will cost Mary a bit of power and Klarion still thinks he is Borat. Men in Black inform him that he has won a trip to Project Cadmus for some medical help. History tells this reviewer that things will go wrong from there. Don Kramer draws the Riddler origin that makes sense of recent continuity and is overall actually pretty helpful.

So after Countdown, the reader is herded to Countdown Presents: the Search for Ray Palmer. For some reason it looks like DC did not plan within the confines of their weekly book so the plot involving the Challengers of the Beyond gets expanded into its own miniseries. This feels like money gouging and editorial forgetting how much space they need in a comic event. The four separate miniseries avenue used to lead into Infinite Crisis was a better avenue than this. This makes Countdown an exercise of the checklist as opposed to PLOT AND CHARACTER.

The story by Ron Marz and Angel Unzueta does see Green Lantern Kyle Rayner come off pretty well, being portrayed as a semi cocky hero who went through a bad time yet can still have a sense of humor. This feels like it could’ve been a Marz written Green Lantern book easily in regards to the ease and comfort with which Marz uses Rayner to narrate events. Kyle’s Ex Donna Troy is delighted in his appearance, but she is bright enough to know that her recent partner in Space/Time Crime the Red Hood is not taking the humor and bravado well. So, after a minor verbal quibble Donna Troy tells everyone to split up and search for Ray Palmer in world 50: The Wildstorm Universe.

What occurs is that a no name villain is on the run from the Authority and has been marked,somehow, with Ray Palmer’s time signature. By the way, this dude also killed the Pope. It leads into a very strange fight with the Authority which is stopped by Mr. Majestic who can see that their energy is that of the DCU. He remembers his fun there and schools the Authority to stop posing as being all tough and stuff. After a bum lead goes dead, the Challengers leave world 50 and thank Majestic for his help.

Before the brawl, the cast meets various Wildstorm characters in single panel moments. Jason gets into a fight with Grifter. Donna talks to the Gen 13 kids and Kyle fights monsters with the Wetworks team but bumps into a slightly more crazed than recently Monarch in the Bleed. The artist formerly known as Captain Atom asks if he wants to star in his version of the International Fight League. Kyle still stalls from giving an answer. Also for those who love Donna Troy related headaches, another villain is on the hunt for the Challengers. San we say Dark Angel? I know that the Gen 13 boys can.

Ron Marz and Angel Unzueta, who has developed as an artist as of last appearance delivered an issue that would’ve been a good intro to the Wildstorm universe for the 50,000 plus DCU fanatics who ignore Wildstorm like the plague. Marz, a former Wildstorm writer while on his facts, failed to work the Wildstorm characters, and Unzueta is a solid artist similar to the Wildstorm style who could deliver a good first taste. The line needs all the help it can get. But, instead of showcasing the line and what makes those characters important, the script delivers a generic fish out of water tale that makes no Wildstorm fan happy. First, it ignores the notion that the Gen 13 kids are continuity anomalies like the Challengers and why there was no Monitor # 50 confrontation with Gen 13 and the Challs?. Also when did Majestic get back to earth from Khera where he was last in the Morrison/ Lee Wildcats # 1? Finally, why was there no mention on the mysterious return of Stormwatch Prime from death? All these smell Countdown related, yet the plot is left on the ground waiting to rot.

Issue 32 of Countdown is actually fun, funny and interestingly enough in sync with the rest of the DC universe. Tony Bedard and Al Barrionuevo deliver a very festive and by the numbers wacky issue that is harmless and actually proceeds some plots along without a lot of space to do so. This issue involves the Black Canary Bachlorette party, but that is for later, the rest of the issue needs to be covered before the fun. Jimmy Olsen goes to project Cadmus and the staff is reintroduced for all the DC fans who did not read Karl Kesel’s second run on Superboy back in 1999. Jimmy needs help with his super powered wackiness and old characters get dusted off to assist in story exposition. Mary Marvel smacks Klarion for his bad pick up lines and finally answers Eclipso’s classified ad that reads “Crazy cougar in need of minx farm girl?” The Challengers bump into the Superman from Mark Millar’s Red Son. This smells like foreshadowing, and arrives in Earth 3 and meet up with some Crime Society goodness.

With all this covered it must be said that Tony Bedard knows how to sell a last stag night. All the broad strokes for this type of party are covered, the necessary risk of these parties to one’s reputation, the strange complaints from one person who wanted to reenact Caligula, etc. What occurs is that things get broken, underage girls try and have the liquor and receive a bad surprise, Mummies crash the hotel festivities and the hooligans that cause the party mayhem are deterred. It sounds almost like the Bachelor party I had to help organize last week. This also involves the Trickster and Piper getting back on the lam. Overall a highly entertaining issue for a series that has yet to have a strong winner. The Phil Winslade origin of Eclipso explained everything one needs for understanding the cougar Eclipso!

Countdown to Mystery’s Eclipso story covers how Eclipso gets out of her drama from the pages of 52. It turns out it’s all Darkseid’s fault as he created Eclipso. Whoa! In other events, The Spectre wets his pants at the return of Eclipso and Plastic Man finds the smooth corrupt thoughts of the ultimate Gwar girl seductive enough to go evil. The story by Matt Sturges is really good. It explains things in a manner that makes sense and the art by Stephen Segovia is beautiful. Someone give this guy a monthly now!

The Forerunner story continues, as she beats up Nazi Justice Leaguers. The Monitors have a conniption to Monarch’s plans for his new version of American Gladiators and want to send Dark Angel to clean up. The monitors have yet to look at earth 50 obviously. Forerunner states the obvious regarding the crazy versions of the Justice League that Monarch has signed up and all looks grim. Justin Gray continues to portray Forerunner in a way that indicates a moral standing that not even Monarch can figure out. The art by Travis Moore is serviceable, but a bit jarring from the artist of the first chapter.

More plots are moving along in week 31. First off, the Holly Robinson letter narration ends abruptly. The Challengers get beat up on Earth 3 before the Jokester saves them from Crime Society beatings. Kyle’s ring gives us and the Challengers a recap on who is who and what is what. Meanwhile, Jason Todd finally comes down with a full blown case of Troyitis, Bob is useless in a fight and just leaves. When the Challs leave earth 3, the Jokester leaves with them. After the Crime Society cusses their luck, Monarch pops up after the fight and sells them on his interpretation of the greatest late 1980’s television show, American Gladiators. In a new plot development twist, Mr Mxyzptlyk gets kidnapped from the fith demension by force. The very cranky Monitors demand that Bob and company get whacked. Finally, Jimmy Olsen has a flare up at Cadmus, and Karate Kid finds Buddy Blank: The original OMAC! Respect! McKeever delivers the best issues of the series thus far and another winner comes from his pen. Also Manuel Garcia looks phenomenal with the inks of Rodney Ramos and layouts of Keith Giffen. This combination is fantastic and should not be altered if DC has the good sense to leave well enough alone. The Origin of the Joker is a holdout that was supposed to be in the pages of 52, but never happened. Mark Waid gives a choose your own origin that fits the diverse nature of the character and Brain Bolland continues to be surely the definitive Joker artist.

This far into Countdown Breakdown there has been sobbing, threats, anger, thoughts of suicide, depression and destitute emotions. All these emotions come from this humble reader as I try to keep up. Countdown might just kill me yet, but there are flashes of goodness that creep in. Now if there was just more of that, all will be well.

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  • Francis Davis a career drunk with a love of comics and movies, lives in and works for the City of Chicago. Confidentiality agreements prevent him from saying exactly what he does, but it is important.