Countdown continues to spiral downward with each issue. The Revolution is stunned at how quickly this title has collapsed. Now, to be sure, Countdown was never a particularly strong or impressive read. However, it was slightly better than average and showed some potential to be a pretty good story. That clearly is not the case. Maybe it was just a case of wishful thinking on my part. Instead, Countdown to Final Crisis is de-volving into a mindless kill-fest. I would hope that Dini could right this ship with Countdown to Final Crisis #22, but I am afraid that we will get more slaughtering with this issue. Let’s go ahead and do this review.
Writers: Paul Dini, Tony Bedard & Keith Giffen
Pencils: Carlos Magno
Inks: Rodney Ramos
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 1 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Black Mary telling Eclipso that she has been lying to her just like everyone else. That Eclipso tried to sell her to Darkseid. Eclipso counters that she was trying to give Black Mary Apokolips. That Black Mary could be Darskeid’s concubine and gain his trust. Then she could use her god-like powers to dethrone Darkseid and rule Apokolips and the universe.
Mary shouts that Eclipso is still lying to her. Mary grabs Eclipso’s purple gem and uses it to blast Eclipso. Then Mary looks into the gem and comments that she sees yet another lie.
We cut to Apokolips where Jimmy is hard at work in the fire pits along with the other slaves. The Overslaver promises to gruesomely torture Jimmy every day. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Jimmy spies a figure in a tattered cloak. Jimmy goes over into a nearby cave to investigate. The figure in the cloak grabs Jimmy and tells him to be quiet. The figure in the cloak is none other than Mister Miracle.
Mister Miracle tells Jimmy that he has been using the Mother Box to track down Big Barda’s soul. Unfortunately, he can’t find her. That they are all lost. That the Fourth World is counting down. That there came a time when the New Gods died.
Jimmy tries to give Mister Miracle a pep talk about not giving up. Mister Miracle comments that Jimmy’s powers are based on fight or flight. That someone wants Jimmy alive and that works in his favor. Mister Miracle asks Jimmy if he trusts him. Mister Miracle flies Jimmy up into the air and then drops him toward a fire pit.
We shift to Mister Mxyzptlk appearing back at his girlfriend’s apartment. Mister Mxyzptlk tells her to seal the Fifth Dimension off. That he is there and that he is the end. We see everything fade to white as Mister Mxyzptlk says that he can never go back there.
We slide over to Trickster and Piper stowed away on a train. We get the usual litany of gay jokes from Trickster. Suddenly, Deadshot appears on the scene and starts blasting away. The two Rogues decide it is time they stopped running and finally took care of Deadshot.
Piper and Trickster nail Deadshot with some battery acid that was stored on the train car they are in. The two Rogues then push Deadshot out of the car’s door. Deadshot blindly grabs a hold of Trickster. Deadshot proceeds to pound Trickster’s face into the moving ground.
Deadshot then lets go of Trickster and as he is falling to the ground he fires off a couple of bullets and blasts several holes into Trickster and kills him. (Yes! More senseless blood and gore! Dan “death count” Didio demands it. After all, this is a more shiny, positive and happier DCU!) Piper is horrified as he holds Trickster’s body. End of story.
We get a two page back-up story about the origin of Deadshot. End of issue.
The Good: Countdown #22 was another pedestrian read. However, that isn’t to say that there weren’t some aspects of this issue that I enjoyed. I was psyched to see Mr. Miracle again. It is always cool to see Mr. Miracle in action. Of course, I’m sure that Mr. Miracle was introduced into this story just so he could be killed off. At any rate, I look forward to seeing more of Jimmy and Mr. Miracle in action together.
And speaking of action, the reader definitely gets plenty of that in Countdown #22. The reader certainly won’t be bored reading this issue. Dini and Bedard cram tons of action from start to finish in what is a fast paced issue.
Magno and Ramos deliver some solid artwork. Once again, about the only area that Countdown has proven to be superior to 52 is the level of artwork that we get with each and every issue.
The Bad: Dini and Bedard serve up some unimpressive dialogue. It was nothing more than your average standard issue comic book dialogue. All of the characters come across as flat and one-dimensional. And all the characters speak in relatively the same generic voice. The generic dialogue made Countdown #22 a bit of a dull read.
The scene with Black Mary and Eclipso was boring. We get more of the same tired dialogue about how Mary can’t trust anyone and about how Eclipso is Mary’s friend. Blah, blah, blah. Enough already. We have been reading this exact same dialogue over and over ever since Eclipso first approached Mary.
And it was annoying that it took Black Mary this long to finally take out Eclipso and take the gem. At least this finally gives this plotline some form of progression. However, the fact remains that this plotline has floundered around like a fish out of water. I have no idea what is the point of this plotline and I’m quickly losing any and all interest I originally had in Black Mary’s plotline.
The vast majority of the scene involving Jimmy Olsen was dull. We had to suffer through several more pages of the Overslaver threatening Jimmy, whipping him and promising even more gruesome torture in the future. Enough, I got the point in the last issue. Hopefully, the introduction of Mr. Miracle into this plotline signals to the reader that we are finally going to get some movement with this plotline.
Evidently, the 5th Dimension is now gone. We saw everything fade to white. I can’t tell if that meant Superman-Prime followed Mr. Mxyzptlk and destroyed the 5th Dimension or if it was in fact sealed off forever from the rest of the Multiverse. Either way, I didn’t find it particularly entertaining nor could I grasp what the purpose of this plotline involving Mr. Mxyzptlk was. Was this just a random plotline cooked up to junk another aspect of the DCU? Whatever the purpose, this plotline seemed pointless. Maybe this just goes along with Didio’s mandate to “blow shit up.”
However, the absolute worst aspect of Countdown #22 was the bizarre twist that the Trickster/Piper plotline took. I still don’t get the point of Trickster’s death. A death of a character can be a powerful plot tool if used judiciously and if it serves a clear purpose. It can be used to make a dramatic scene even more powerful. It can be used to make a character like Bart Allen seem to be even more of a hero than people gave him credit for.
Trickster’s death came across as just another meaningless and pointless death. It came across as a transparent effort to artificially create tension in the reader since the story itself is too weakly written to do that on its own. Trickster’s death was just another of Dini’s efforts to beef up the body count on Countdown. After all, if tons of characters get slaughtered off then it must mean that this is a really important and big event, right? I mean, why rely on strong storytelling to create the aura of a big event when you can just rely on the crutch of countless deaths?
Compare this to Messiah Complex. Now, I concede that Countdown is much large in scope, but Messiah Complex is a huge event for all the X-titles which are the big money makers for Marvel. Right now, Marvel has made Messiah Complex feel like a monstrous event that is pivotal in the history of mutant kind in the 616 universe. And have they had to resort to a pointless high body count to create this feeling of a big event in the readers? Nope. Now, someone may die, and Hellion did get gravely injured, but we are five issues into the event and no one has been killed off.
Look at Civil War. That was a huge event and how many deaths did Marvel feel was needed to pull it off? Just one. Black Goliath. And the fact that there was only one death during Civil War made it much more intense and powerful death. Since the reader wasn’t overwhelmed by a high body count, the single death had a serious impact on the reader. The point is that when you over saturate the reader with death after death, then these deaths lose any and all meaning as well as any dramatic impact on the reader. That is why deaths of characters should be wisely used and kept to a minimum in order to retain the massive impact that a death of a character is supposed to have on the reader.
Honestly, what has been the point behind the Trickster and Piper’s plotline? I feel completely ripped off at this point. We have been following these two Rogues on a journey constructed of nothing more than a calamity of errors. While it was entertaining at some points, it certainly made the reader wonder what the purpose of this plotline was. I felt that the Trickster/Piper plotline was DC taking the opportunity to flesh out and evolve to minor characters like they did over in 52. Evidently, not. Trickster’s death just confirms my suspicions that this plotline never had any point to begin with other than an excuse to kill off some characters.
And that is the general feeling I’m getting with Countdown. That there is no greater point or purpose to this entire story other than to “blow shit up.” Countdown is becoming more and more like a story I would expect a thirteen year old boy with ADD to write. DC has long battled the conception that Marvel’s comic books are more mature than DC’s comic books. Well, a juvenile title like Countdown certainly doesn’t help DC dispel that conception at all.
Overall: Countdown continues to be a massive disappointment. Compared to the phenomenal 52, Countdown is pure garbage and a waste of paper. It is obvious that Dini only had enough material for maybe 25 to 30 issues max and has been forced to stretch the story over the span of 52 issues.
I would only recommend Countdown to readers who dig kill-fests and “blowing shit up.” If you dig that type of story then you need to run, not walk, to your nearest comic book shop and buy Countdown. You will be in heaven. However, for the rest of comic book readers that actually want a well crafted story I would recommend not wasting your hard earned money on Countdown.