I guess I was bored… So I binged Countdown (to Final Crisis), reading for the first time since buying each issue tied to this series because of the amazing 52 series. Agree or don’t, this is IMO easily the worst series I have ever struggled through. Why would I say that? Let me break it down:
Overall story- what was it? Karate Kid got super sick and creates the Great Disaster on Earth 51? Jimmy Olsen destined to battle Darkseid? Death of the New Gods? Counting down to the Final Crisis? Everything lead to Apokalips, but after a smallish battle nothing much was resolved and the heroes still have about 10 issues to “wrap up” storylines. Nix Uotan got some focus which isn’t related to or touched on in Final Crisis. Some exploration of the 52 Earths? The book was an excuse to put a bunch of bland characters in group shots where most of them have zero to contribute? Not sure it succeeded in any way except for providing the Great Disaster and bringing together characters for no reason. But more on that when I rant about Karate Kid.
The writing: Dini should have had a better POV on the characters. They all kind of had the same voice and little motivation to get from point A to Point B. The editor staff got shaken up when the great mind behind 52 went to work at Marvel. Carlin was a terrible choice for editor for this series. Instead of being accessible, he was snarky and sarcastic about the series; he did little at the time to win fans or make people want to investigate this book. Only when Giffen came on board was there the roughest concept of order. Too late, unfortunately. The terrible choices of lead characters doomed this series from the start. There was some good, considering. Dan Jurgen’s history of the multiverse lesson was good fun. Scott Beatty killed it with his origin stories. Beautiful work and amazing artists!
Lead Characters- In order of when they leave the series:
Lightray (and Sleeze)- New God Lightray got murdered, setting off Jimmy’s story and one consistent effect of this time in the DCU. Strong start.
Duela Dent- Not much to think about here. Her Death starts Bob’s and Solomon’s course and introduced the idea that there were homeless heroes who needed to be placed in the DCU?
Jokester- Would have liked to have someone with a sense of humor stick around with Donna’s group. Interesting character written off too soon.
Trickster- A likable character was revealed as a horrible homophobe. He was inconveniently bound to other likable character Piper, limiting their usefulness when it was convenient writing. Then he was killed in a shocking way that (like many deaths in the series) is stretched beyond enjoyable into gross. You are literally sick of him by the time the shackles were loosed.
Bob the Monitor- First of all, Dini was really killing it with the names in this series: Athena,
Una, Bob. Didn’t this writer make magic with BTAS? Who let Red Hood name Bob? Jason couldn’t even come up with an original name for himself. So Bob was likable for half the series and super helpful. Until he wasn’t. I’m not sure what to even say here. He flipped suddenly when they finally found Ray, and the biggest crime here was that there were many books comic buyers purchased that ultimately were very useless as the “Challengers” (again, why Challengers? Why not Explorers or Bleeders? Something more accurate for what they were?) sought out Ray Palmer. These included pointless visits to to Gotham by Gaslight, Wildstorm, Crime Society, Red Rain, Red Sun, and the Earth where genders are flip flopped. Add the dumb Extremists miniseries to the list of offenses.
Granny Goodness / Athena- Was Granny really searching for new furies? By collecting homeless single women and putting them through counseling before putting them through a series of weird tests before bringing them to Paradise Island? This was contrived and poor concepting. And it was Granny… why was she Athena (not the goddess) and not something more compelling? And then she was no longer housed in one of many shelters-- she moved to Paradise island. Why? Even the Amazon Attacks series didn’t really make sense of why Granny didn’t just assemble amazons for her new furies. And why was she shopping? Only Bernadeth had died… Whatever. It all leads to Granny’s failure, the Greek gods freed, and Darkseid murdering Granny. And what ultimately happened to those left behind?
Desaad- He was working the strings for Trickster and Piper. Could have made that make more sense. What was the point except for making piper miserable. Maybe that was the point… Then Piper is able to blow up Desaad’s head with his flute. Um no further questions. A flute trumped the powers of a New God. Granny definitely had the more complicated plan…
Monarch- He blew up a world I think. But that wasn’t his worst action. That was the extremely crappy Arena book in which Monarch collects three versions of popular characters (and Nightshade) to compete for spots in Monarchs’ army. Don’t worry that Monarch also has the other superheroes like Forerunner (what happened to her, BTW?) and the Crime Syndicate. He gathered this whole army and you got to see 3-4 of them in one panel of Countdown and then NEVER AGAIN. Garbage story that just killed off characters, made no sense, and was ultimately pointless. As pointless as Monarch…
Eclipso- Eclipso was in this book for way too long. She was Mary Marvel’s moral compass. So Mary didn’t hear about Identity Crisis? She pairs up with someone worse than Black Adam and is fine with that? Innocent Mary Marvel? Come on.
Superman Prime- Superman Prime was in this book being his terrible self. He looked like an adult and wore the Black post-doomsday costume. Why? He blew up a whole planet because his main character trait is being a whiny baby. No development of this character. Why was so much effort put to inviting this idiot to the party?
Karate Kid- After being part of a cool JLA/JSA crossover, he was revealed to be lost in time for some reason and could not return to the 30th century (never really resolved in Countdown, but It could be eventually assumed he will be part of the '70s Kamandi story that was maybe retconned- disappointing). Val was basically dying the entire series after catching the worst virus ever (to which nobody else was exposed until KK finally dies (again, it took several issues too long) on Earth 51. After that, everyone (except a few) caught the disease and became super violent animal hybrids or something. Not sure how these hybrids would continue into the world of Kamandi but that was supposed to be the Kamandi tale… Guess KK is not destined to be a guest star in that story.
Una- With 25 or so LSH heroes to choose from to keep Karate Kid company, Dini picked Luorno Durgo. Who suddenly had a crush on KK. Even though she had one of the most stable marriages in the LSH (to Bouncing Boy). As did KK (to Sensor Girl). Consider that Luorno’s original power was the ability to split into three identical versions of herself. When one of those selves died she became Duo Damsel. But then another self died, leaving her with NO POWERS. But she gets a brand new bathing suit costume and dares to call herself UNA? UNA? Literally one? So what is her story arc? Literally crying over KK as he gets sicker and sicker. She also uses rat attraction deodorant as she somehow took the full assault of a horde of rats while Buddy Blank and his grandson suffer nothing. More on them later. She was killed by an attack by Buddy’s daughter (who had been on the roof for months(?) or the rats (which are what we see in her final scene).
Darkseid- He used Jimmy Olsen as a storage unit for fantastic powers. Let’s list them: bursts of speed, uncontrollable stretching, porcupine needles, giant turtle boy powers. Yup got all the good ones accounted for. And his destiny was to fight Jimmy Olsen, or at least until Orion steps in. I cannot express how disappointing it was that several of the biggest New Gods died in this book (vs Death of the New Gods or Final Crisis or the other places that specifically promised bodies).
Piper- I read the Flash: The Fastest Man Alive book and I think Trickster and Hartley were confused about whether their actions were complicit in Flash’s murder. It looked like they were definitely involved. Confusing. Then Piper went all the way to fighting some of DC’s best baddies. Then Piper and Trickster went through pain and grief and then Piper went alone to to crazytown and was ultimately dropped in an alley in Gotham? What was the point of all that? Had he learned anything? Would he go on to blow more heads up? Or be a good guy again? No idea. Terrible character arc with two formerly favorite characters.
Jason Todd- Zero character arc. He didn’t want to travel with Bob and the rest. But he did and was annoying as he could be the entire time. He came out of Countdown exactly where he came in. Tough but lame.
Solomon the Monitor- What happened here? Solomon had played chess with Darkseid? In which of the 52 dimensions? Confused. He killed Duela Dent and then tried to make Bob the enemy but them was the bad guy or the good guy. What? Then he leaves a Darkseid chess piece at the Source Wall. He will never be seen again.
Mary Marvel- Another main character who had no personality going into Countdown and is never developed. She turned super evil and then super compassionate and then super evil again. No real motivation for what happened to her. She dealt with Black Adam (who gave her powers that she lost somewhere), then fought Zatanna and Klarion. She finally got involved with Paradise Island for some reason and wasted way too much time thinking Eclipso would be helpful. The best they could do with this character was give her a very short skirt and make her evil. Didn’t she murder someone in this book? And she attacks at Donna Troy with really no motivation. Terrible character work.
Buddy Blank- So the writers established a whole relationship with this character on Earth 1, but KK and Una ended up with a totally different Buddy (OMAC) and grandson (Kamandi) for their final days. I think. The mom was introduced late. And how did she travel to the roof and not get any further? And how did the dog not attack grandson earlier? What was all this? Why did Buddy not become OMAC when he could have been much more helpful? Was it because of the new wave of blue OMACs? Hard to care too much since so much is just not compelling… At least he was able to open that heavy door so that they could “head home,” wherever that could be in this new world.
Nix Uotan the Monitor- Thank goodness Grant Morrison took this character back. Earth 51 was a total wasster of time. Maybe he should have monitored Thanagar in this dimension instead…
Jimmy Olsen and Forager- Jimmy’s story was all over the place. He stored a bunch of powers for some reason that was not easy to understand. His most interesting moments were at the beginning with Joker and Croc and then with Darkseid, but a main character looking for direction for 51 issues… not fun. And Forager- was she a new God? Shouldn’t she have died? She really had no importance to the story and I’m not sure why she stayed with Jimmy in the end- would have been more interesting for them to break up… And how many bad jokes about Chinese food leftovers do we need in one book?
Donna and Kyle- Kyle seems to be the one character everybody did well. But Donna? What were her motivations? What was her arc? So exciting to see her and Kyle, but ultimately these characters were left homeless right where they started. The Final Crisis definitely didn’t It looked like Dini thought he would be creating this new Challenger team, but there was no follow-up to this team. Disappointing!
Ray Palmer- Another one I feel the writers understood and boasted the most interesting arc. He came back to the DCU sand caused the death of a lot of former JLAers at the hands of Bob, Though he wasn’t very useful against the Morticoccus virus.
Holly Robinson- No character development. Not sure why she was even included or how she could have made it past the sea monsters at Paradise Island. I can think of fifty other characters who would have been more fun vs this esoteric garbage character.
Harley Quinn- Why did Dini fail his creation? She was not in her costume once. she just blended into the background and had very little of her famous personality. She was entirely disappointing.
Thus endeth my rant. I hope nobody else reads this book.