June 29, 2009
The Countdown begins! Don't know what this is? Better watch this video to find out!
(Linkara sits on his futon with his hands buried in his face. Clearly, he is being forced to look at a certain kind of comic against his will)
Linkara: I don't wanna do it. I don't wanna talk about it. I don't want to review it! (looks up, clearly agitated) But noooooo! You people insisted! You just had to keep asking and requesting and DEMANDING that I review this series! Well, fine! You want a review, I'll give you your friggin' review! Ladies and gentlemen and others, welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall and the sheer, raw FAIL that is... "COUNTDOWN"!! (scowls)
(Title sequence plays, followed by this episode's title card, set to "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright)
Linkara: Now, many of you may be asking what the hell this is, and rightfully so. And like "Amazons Attack", a lot of "Countdown"'s stupidity lies in its continuity. And because it features a lot of concepts and characters that non-comic readers are unfamiliar with, let this episode serve as a guide to this abomination.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Superman: 1 Year Later")
Linkara (v/o): As I mentioned before, after the DC event, "Infinite Crisis", it was decided that every title in the line would jump ahead one year later provide mystery to intrigue people to keep reading, as well as to get people to recover from the events of "Infinite Crisis" as quickly as possible.
Linkara: (dripping sarcasm) I mean, why would we want to see character development when they can just say it happened!
(Cut to shots of covers of the comic series "52")
Linkara (v/o): At the same time, though, it was decided that a weekly comic would fill in the gap of the missing year, told in real time, with one week occurring in the comic for every week it was published. However, while the original purpose of this comic was to fill in the missing gap, it did so by being told from the perspective of a group of secondary characters from across the DC Universe. As such, it became more about those secondary characters than filling in the missing year. This was "52", and it was awesome! "52" had a lot of things going for it. For one, it was written by four different but talented writers who brought unique sensibilities to the table. The mysteries presented in the story were highly compelling, and they ended up caring about all the characters. But wait! What about filling in the missing gap?
Linkara: Yeah! Screw Booster Gold saving all of reality, or Ralph Dibny's quest to bring his wife back to life, or Black Adam building a family, only to lose it; I wanna know why Robin's in a different costume! (nods)
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "World War III")
Linkara (v/o): To try to fill in the gaps, DC published four one-shots all on the same day, billed as tie-ins to "52". And you better friggin' believe they were hot sellers! Since "52" was already a financial success, DC had gone ahead with doing another weekly series to build up to their next big event...
(Cut to a shot of the cover for...)
Linkara (v/o): ..."Final Crisis"! However, they decided some changes were in order for this next weekly series...
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Countdown To Final Crisis: Volume One")
Linkara (v/o): ...titled "Countdown" and later "Countdown To Final Crisis". First and foremost, the four writers who had done "52"? They were gone. But that's okay, since doing a weekly series was an exhaustive process, especially since all four contributed something to each issue. "Countdown" would follow a model where a single writer wrote each issue.
Linkara: (laughs uproariously) I'm sure that won't in any way result in the story continuity altering from one issue to the next!
(Editor's note: "It does.")
(Cut to shots of the comics that the four writers worked on)
Linkara (v/o): Now, for "52", the four writers were Geoff Johns, who may have issues when it comes to writing Wonder Woman, but still knows how to build a long, epic story; Mark Waid, who has extensive knowledge of the DC Universe and has some of the best runs, both recently and in the past; Grant Morrison, who embraces the lavishly ludicrous parts of comics while still making it compelling – most of the time, anyway; and Greg Rucka, a writing veteran of both superheroes and political or crime thrillers.
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #1")
Linkara (v/o): Now, who did they get to write "Countdown"? First, Shawn McKeever, who did a great run on the Spider-Man series "Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane".
Linkara: (irritably) Yeah, he loved her so much he traded life with her for life with his dying aunt to the Devil. Yippee.
Linkara (v/o): Let's see, what other things did he write? Oh, yes!
(Cut to a shot of a "Teen Titans" comic, which Linkara describes...)
Linkara (v/o): McKeever also wrote that charming story in "Teen Titans" where Marvin and Wendy from the Superfriends cartoon got mauled in graphic detail by a demonic Wonder Dog.
(Cut to a shot of a cover of a "Power Girl" comic)
Linkara (v/o): Next, there's the writing team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. They currently write the "Power Girl" series. What else did they write?
(Cut to a shot of a cover for...)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yes, "Battle For Bludhaven", another spinoff from "Infinite Crisis" that I plan to review in the future because of how awful it is.
(Cut to a shot of the Teen Titans series)
Linkara (v/o): Next, there's Adam Beechin. Well, he was a writer on the Teen Titans animated show, and I liked that. What else did he do? Oh, yes!
(Cut to a shot of a Batgirl comic showing Cassandra Cain)
Linkara (v/o): He wrote the story where Cassandra Cain turned evil and refuses to just let SOMEONE ELSE FIX HER!!!
(Cut to a shot of an X-Men comic)
Linkara (v/o): And finally, Tony Bedard. Eh, no complaints there, he's a good writer.
(Cut to a shot of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy)
Linkara (v/o): And they'd all be under a head writer, Paul Dini, creator of the character Harley Quinn and former writer of the Batman animated series.
Linkara: Just goes to show that anyone with talent is still capable of writing garbage.
Linkara (v/o): Now, I bash on them, but these people are all talented in their own ways, but at the same time, they're also writing a story that's editorially mandated every step along the way.
Linkara: In fact, in a recent interview with Mark Waid, he said that Dan Didio, the current editor-in-chief at DC, (holds up piece of paper) and I quote...
(Cut to a shot of CSBG Archive, showing an interview with Mark Waid from Ain't It Cool News)
Linkara (v/o): (reading interview) "...hated what we were doing. H-A-T-E-D 52. Would storm up and down the halls telling everyone how much he hated it," and later said that Didio proclaimed that "Countdown was '52 done right.'"
Linkara: By that, he means the editors got to control the story, as opposed to, you know, the storytellers!
Linkara (v/o): But I keep talking about everything leading up to it, but why is it so bad? I'll get into details in the next few weeks, but it comes down to a couple of factors. For starters, the story was not self-contained. You know those one-shots I mentioned earlier? Since they were billed as tie-ins to "52", they sold like mad, so DC decided that the next weekly series would have lots of tie-ins, be they miniseries or just tie-ins in the DC mainline.
Linkara: (writhing in anger) So basically, all the continuity problems I mentioned in my "Amazons Attack" review, only instead of just a six-issue miniseries spread out over four months, IT'S 51 ISSUES OVER AN ENTIRE YEAR!!!
Linkara (v/o): So, needless to say, we have plot elements introduced and forgotten, mostly because they're resolved in other books. The other thought process behind this was that, instead of moving in real time like "52", it would move at its own pace, but reflect the changing events of the DC Universe. Thus, if we saw two characters getting together in one comic, we'd see it reflected in "Countdown", almost like the thing was a living advertisement for everything else going on in the line.
Linkara: Which proved wildly successful! Why read "Countdown" when you could be reading other, better books? Oh, but I kid. (laughs and waves dismissively) Most of the stories it advertised were mediocre at best.
Linkara (v/o): But wait, what about the characters of "Countdown"? Surely we can forgive a crappy comic if at least the characters are interesting. Well, for that, we once again look to "52". Among "52"'s strengths was its use of secondary or, quote-unquote, "B-list" characters and gave them a chance to shine. Well, they did the same thing with "Countdown", but they didn't exactly have epic character arcs for these people. And now's the time we finally get to look at some of them. First up, Donna Troy.
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) Oh, boy, Donna Troy. I've been hinting at this one since all the way back in "Titans #1", which, lo and behold, "Countdown" tie-in, even if it didn't say so!
Linkara (v/o): It's difficult to talk to a comic fan about Donna Troy because she's kind of an accident. Remember how I've said that back in the Silver Age, writers would make stories about popular superheroes as babies or teenagers? Well, they did the same thing with Wonder Woman, except, with her, they decided to really get into the heavy drugs since they invented a machine that allowed Wonder Woman to interact with both Wonder Tot and Wonder Girl. At the same time, no less!
Linkara: (lip-synching to "Time Warp") Let's do the time warp again!
(Another shot of a Wonder Woman comic cover, where she sees a younger version of herself, Wonder Girl)
Linkara (v/o): When writer Bob Haney was looking for characters to appear in the first Teen Titans book, he saw the image of Wonder Girl on that cover and, without actually reading the book, just assumed it was Wonder Woman's sidekick. As such, she didn't have an origin story, she was just kinda there. A recurring storyline title as a result was, "Who was Wonder Girl?", "Who is Donna Troy?", etc., etc. It was later explained that, as a little girl, she was rescued by Wonder Woman from a burning building and was raised on Themyscira before being granted similar powers to her. It was nice, simple, and effective.
Linkara: So, of course, they had to screw it up in every conceivable fashion in order to confuse the readers!
Linkara (v/o): After "Crisis On Infinite Earths", it was decided that Wonder Woman only just appeared in the world at large. Thus, she couldn't have been the one to rescue Donna. So it was changed that she was rescued by the ancient Greek Titans, given superpowers, and had her memories erased.
Linkara: (excitedly) But then John Byrne decided that he had an even better origin for her!
Linkara (v/o): She's actually a magical mirror duplicate of Wonder Woman as a little girl, since there were no other children on Themyscira for Diana to play with. But then she was kidnapped by one of Hippolyta's enemies named Dark Angel – I know, just go with it – and was forced to live several lifetimes, all of them ending in utter tragedy, until that one where she was taken by the Titans of myth.
Linkara: BUT WAIT, IT GETS BETTER!!
Linkara (v/o): You see, recently, it was revealed that every one of those other lives she experienced was actually another life from the multiverse that got destroyed, thanks to "Crisis On Infinite Earths"!
Linkara: (angrily) For the love of– Writers, stop trying to tell her origins! WE DON'T CARE ANYMORE!!
Linkara (v/o): It's severely disappointing that so many writers fixate on the origin. The majority of storylines about her have been about her origin story, but not about where she is now. And in this case, it doesn't matter. She's a motherly, sisterly, caring individual who can deflect bullets with her wrists, and is super-strong. That's all we need, so stop screwing around with her and let the poor woman just be a superhero! Next up is Jimmy Olsen. He's Superman's pal, and everything that happens to him in "Countdown", it's never spoken of again outside of it. Oh, and he gets a girlfriend who's an anthropomorphized bug.
Linkara: (listlessly resting his head on his hand) No, I'm not gonna make a furry joke. Get over it, Internet! Some people don't have the same interests as you. Besides, she's a bug, not a furred animal. (beat) Next character!
Linkara (v/o): Pied Piper and Trickster: both are Flash villains who, at one time, reformed their ways, though in the Trickster's case, he was hypnotized or something and became a villain again. Their contribution to the story? Abso-friggin'-lutely nothing! Oh, sure, Pied Piper plays a role later on, but we'll get to that. Their scenes are completely worthless and don't deserve much attention. Then there's Jason Todd, who I've already talked about in my Top 15 worst heroes becoming villains. Paul Dini thought he had been really underutilized and tried to make him into an antihero for "Countdown". Instead, he just ends up as annoying as all the other characters. So let's talk about the one who's supposed to be an important plot point in "Countdown": Ray Palmer, the Atom.
Linkara: Or as I like to call him, the Mini MacGuffin.
Linkara (v/o): The Atom was a scientist who used a piece of white dwarf star matter to enable him to shrink. In 2004, a miniseries called "Identity Crisis" came out, where it was revealed that his longtime girlfriend Jean Loring murdered Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. In the conclusion, he was so distraught about the whole affair that he shrunk down smaller than he ever had before and wasn't seen again until this comic. Jean Loring went on to become Eclipso, who we'll also see here.
Linkara: I'm still pondering an "Identity Crisis" review because that piece of crap really deserves a once-over.
Linkara (v/o): Okay, who else do we have? Oh, Kyle Rayner, Green Lantern and accidental killer of women. Next. Ah, Mary Marvel. I went over her deal in that top 15. Next! Holly Robinson, a supporting character from "Catwoman", and I don't know anything about her. Next! Karate Kid and Triplicate Girl, characters from "The Legion of Superheroes", and I could do a whole video about the continuity messes of that team. We'll get into them more in the actual review. Next! Harley Quinn.
Linkara: (suddenly becoming smitten) Harley Quinn...
(A montage of clips of Harley Quinn from Batman: The Animated Series is shown, set to "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright)
Linkara: (snapping out of it) Oh, yeah, yeah, Harley Quinn. All you need to know about her is in the Batman animated series, and she's the only saving grace in this whole mess.
Linkara (v/o): That brings us to the Monitors. What a great idea that totally went to crap. In "Crisis On Infinite Earths", there was this one character called the Monitor, one of the first lifeforms in the universe and very powerful. He sacrificed his life in the original "Crisis", and it was a good story. Now, I admit, when we first saw hints that the Monitor not only being alive again, but there being more than one of him, I was excited as all hell. Buuuut, as we'll see, they really don't really contribute much to this series. In fact, most of their scenes in "Countdown" can basically be summed up like this...
(Editor's note: "This lasts more than half of the series.")
Linkara: (as one Monitor) We should do something! (as a second Monitor) Should we do something? (as first Monitor) We should do something! (as second Monitor) Should we do something? (as a third Monitor) I'm changing! (as first Monitor) We should do something! (as second Monitor, pretending to fire his magic gun) BANG! (as first Monitor) We should do something! (as second Monitor) Should we do something? (as first Monitor) We should do something. (as second Monitor) Should we do something? (normal; yelling in rage) YES, YOU SHOULD DO SOMETHING, YOU BORING IDIOTS!!!
Linkara (v/o): And finally, that brings us to... the New Gods.
Linkara: (looking up in thought) Okay, explaining the New Gods... Well, it starts like this: (dramatically) There came a time... (struggles for words, then drops it) You know what? This isn't epic enough. Excuse me...
(Linkara gets up and leaves. Cut to Linkara seated in space!)
Linkara: (dramatically, voice echoing) There came a time (raises arms in the air) when the Old Gods died!
(Lightning flashes and thunder crashes, then Linkara returns to his regular seat)
Linkara: That, my friends, is an epic for our times.
Linkara (v/o): Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, the Old Gods were the ancients, your Norse mythology, your Gog and Magog, that kind of stuff, also referred to as the Third World. There was a cataclysmic war that resulted in the end of the Old Gods and the birth of the New Gods, inhabiting twin planets, New Genesis and Apokolips. New Genesis is idyllic, peaceful and good. Apokolips is basically New Jersey.
(Editor's note: "Just Kidding, New Jersey.")
Linkara (v/o): Apokolips is ruled by the despotic being, Darkseid. His ultimate ambition is to take over all existence through something called the Anti-Life Equation, supposedly a force that would subject all beings to his will.
Linkara: Huh, who knew that mathematics would bring about the end of the world?
Linkara (v/o): So, there you have it, a brief exploration of the elements leading up to "Countdown". Now, I'm not going to do a training montage, like I did for "Amazons Attack". Why? Well, because I think I'm doomed. Fifty-one issues in one go? There's no way in Hell I can survive this! So, in the meantime, live, drink, and be merry, for next week, "Countdown" begins!
(TO BE CONTINUED)
In the next reboot of Donna Troy's origin, it's going to be revealed that she's Keyser Söze.