So, here it is then.
After a year of issues (52 weeklies!), we’ve finally reached the end only to find out that it’s time to get on an entirely new train next week. But maybe that railroad analogy is appropriate for Countdown has been nothing but a comic book equivalent of a train wreck. Countdown is to comics what Britney Spears has been to mental health.
Like many readers, I wondered when something of substance was actually going to happen in Countdown. To heck with substance, I would have settled for mildly interesting.
Following the previous weekly series 52 (which was actually fairly well written with some real changes to characters), Countdown had been DC’s major event for the past year. It spawned numerous spin-offs, tie-ins and special editions. It also spawned a truly stunning wave of apathy from readers. Halfway through the series, the Powers-That-Be at DC seemed to realize this and switched tracks by saying that Countdown was really leading into Final Crisis which was “where everything would change forever!” The title of the book was even changed to Countdown to Final Crisis. Some people, including me, interpreted that to mean the series we were currently reading wasn’t really all that important, but the next one would be. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” said the Great and Powerful Oz. It’s like being told by your girl / boyfriend that you’re not all that important, they’re just gearing up for the person to come after you. Small wonder that readers didn’t warm to that feeling.
Looking back, it’s amazing how consistently Countdown failed to perform or even to deliver on its own promises. With this final issue, virtually every major character is returned to the same state they were in at the beginning of the series. Harley and Poison Ivy are fun loving gals back in the big city. Jimmy Olsen (possibly the hardest character in the DCU to write and make interesting) starts out as a whiny, irritating minor character and ends up the same way. The Pied Piper wakes up back on Earth and promises to be a ‘good guy’ from now on, which, if memory serves me, he was before someone got the brilliant idea to beat Bart Allen to death. To a rousing fan chorus of “who cares?” Donna Troy, the Atom and Kyle Rayner set themselves up as some kind of oversight committee to keep an eye on the Monitors. Jason Todd, brought back to life simply to be psychotic and annoying, lost some of his psychotic tendencies but remained annoying, and this issue shows that he’s closer to going back to being psychotic again. Mary Marvel started out good (but powerless), got some powers from bad Black Adam, turned bad, repented, turned bad again and got spanked by Black Adam. The only character that did well in Countdown was the Trickster because he had the good sense to die halfway through it.
Perhaps the one who fared the worst at the hands of Countdown was someone who had absolutely nothing to do with it: Jack Kirby.
DC’s never really known what to do with Kirby’s creations since he left the company. Some have been incorporated into the DCU like the New Gods and the Demon, but others have been pretty much left alone since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even still, Kirby’s creations have constantly suffered at the hands of lesser creators trying to recapture that Kirby magic. As if Death of the New Gods (a truly ghastly, arrogant and disrespectful series) wasn’t enough, Countdown revives, reboots or otherwise reanimates the brittle corpses of Kirby’s Kamandi and OMAC in a painful effort to shoehorn them back into the DCU. It’s like watching the cinema of Hitchcock re-imagined by Ed Wood without all the angora sweaters. True fans of Kirby’s work will wish that DC had just had the good taste to simply leave the characters alone.
Possibly the only good thing to come out of Countdown was the reprint tie-ins of older material like Kirby’s Fourth World and those zany Jimmy Olsen stories. The sad part is that those reprints so clearly outshined the newer comics.
Originally, Countdown was supposed to end with #0 but that was changed so that the #0 issue will now be DC Universe #0 which is scheduled to ship next week. The final Countdown issue this week is DC’s lame duck and, like much of DC’s editorial direction these past years, was unimaginative, repetitive and simply pointless.