- Countdown to Final Crisis #1 of 51 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Keith Giffen, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher (DC)
- The Death of the New Gods #8 of 8, by Jim Starlin & Art Thibert (DC)
- Fables #72, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
- Hulk #3, by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines (Marvel)
- Thor #8, by J. Michael Straczynski, Marko Djurdjevic & Danny Mika (Marvel)
Finally, mercifully, Countdown comes to an end. Even worse, apparently it was originally slated to run for 52 issues, but they decided to end it with #1 rather than #0, so it only ran 51. Small loss. (I guess #0 is being replaced with next week’s DC Universe #0.)
I had thought of running through the storylines from Countdown to examine how pointless and unsatisfying they were, but Brian Hibbs has already done just that over at Savage Critics. He also discusses from a retailer’s standpoint what a mess Countdown has been for DC, and what a shambles DC’s editorial direction seems to be in after these last few years, starting with the repulsive Identity Crisis, through the pointless Infinite Crisis, the fun 52, the even-more-pointless One Year Later, now Countdown, and soon Final Crisis. (Final crisis? Yeah, right.) It’s been crossover-mania, and crossovers have always been a questionable effort at best; for the most part, these projects have done nothing but undermine the enjoyability of the characters while hanging these changes on exceedingly thin stories. The emperor not only has no clothes, he’s started to flay himself.
Anyway. Countdown didn’t even have much of a story. What little there was mostly played out in The Death of the New Gods (see below), and everything else here was completely superfluous. I wonder what the original idea behind this series was? I haven’t been impressed with Paul Dini’s comics writing, but surely his original pitch actually had some sort of point, rather than just trailing off into nothingness like this.
DC’s next weekly series will be Trinity, focusing on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I have fairly little interest in any of these characters; Superman is occasionally fun, but neither Batman nor Wonder Woman does much for me, especially these days when Batman is relentlessly grim and Wonder Woman is a cipher. So I’m going to skip it, even if Kurt Busiek is writing it.
For some reason, this issue takes place before Countdown #2, but was apparently intentionally published a week later. Huh?
Anyway, I probably should have guessed that this series would be little more than a side matter to Countdown, and although Jim Starlin does his best to make something worthwhile out of it – mostly by playing up the tragic figure of Mister Miracle – in the end it comes down to another stupid fight with Darkseid, who at this point might be DC’s most boring villain. A while back I speculated that this would end up being a Superman story, bearing witness to the end of the New Gods, but Superman stood on the margins in this issue and really didn’t serve much purpose.
So what’s the point? In order to get any of this to pay off, DC really has to do something major and earth-shaking, the sort of total reworking of their line which was promised back in Crisis on Infinite Earths but which never came to pass. But I think DC doesn’t have enough of a vision to pull off such a thing, to actually wrap up all of its current titles are start afresh. And it’s hard to see how doing otherwise would make this worth it.
If there’s one thing more frustrating than a status quo which never changes, it’s dangling the promise of some real change without ever following through. And that’s where I think DC is now. And so the loss of the New Gods will likely be both pointless and ephemeral; everything will likely be back to normal in a few years.