Saturday, January 14, 2017

Countdown to Countdown, Part I

Don't worry; most of this foreshadowing leads nowhere
Today Beta is Dead turns seven years old! Just typing that out made me feel depressed suddenly…

Anyway, I recently moved to a new place and during the process a certain stack of comics came back into my possession, despite me having lost access to them nearly six years earlier; I found every single issue of DC Comic’s Countdown to Final Crisis. This is my least favorite goddamn comic of all time and I’m going to review the hell out of it! Yes, I dislike it more than Spider-Man: One More Day, not because OMD is better (it sure as shit isn’t) but that story only spat in the face of one character’s mythos whereas Countdown took a dump on a huge chunk of the DC Universe. Plus, even though I hate it, OMD did result in many long lasting and (eventual) positive changes to the Spider-Man comics whereas every change and storyline point in Countdown was either retconned (retcon, short for "retroactive continuity"), forgotten or straight up ignored within a MONTH of the series’ end despite months of hype.

 So what is Countdown to Final Crisis? Well, it was a comic book limited series that ran weekly for an entire year beginning in 2007. It was the spiritual successor to the extremely well received 52, another year long comic that took place directly after the events of the big DC crossover Infinite Crisis and ran in real time, instead of the rolling time line most superhero comics adhere to (52 was also the first appearance of the new Batwoman, who I believe was the best new comic creation of the 2000s). The great success of 52 led Dan DiDio, then head honcho of DC Comics, to commission another such series. However, despite the critical success of 52 DiDio supposedly wasn’t a fan of it and opted for the new series to be a “superior” version of the comic. For context, this is the same guy who opted to wipe Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown out of existence and then get upset at fans at conventions who questioned the decision at Q&A sessions at comic conventions. Anyway, though it’s not immediately clear in the beginning it would turn out that Countdown was the lead-up to DC’s next big crossover event, Final Crisis.

 I think I’ll save my exact issues with the comic itself for the review, which will be split into several parts. For today I want to look at the lead-in to Countdown, as this book has a lot of baggage that the Average Joe would need to know before they could possibly understand it (but don’t get it twisted; this comic won’t make any sense no matter what). So this is sort of a “Countdown to Countdown to Final Crisis.”

The Countdown begins after the jump.



Crisis on Infinite Earths 
Ah dang, they aren't getting the deposit back on that Earth...
Because the key word in Countdown to Final Crisis is “crisis” we need to discuss the origin of that word in context to the DC Universe. Basically the word “Crisis” refers to a world threatening storyline that involves two or more alternate versions of Earth. During the Silver Age it was well established that in the DC Universe there was an infinite number of Earths in existence including Earth-2, a version of Earth that more or less followed the Golden Age of Comics, Earth-3, where classic heroes were re-imagined as villains, and Earth-S, where Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family reside after DC purchased the rights to the characters. The most famous crisis is, of course, 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. By that point things had gotten really out of hand continuity wise at DC so the company decided to simplify things by having a giant yearlong event where all but five universes were destroyed and the remaining ones were folded into a single new universe, which also allowed them to make massive changes to their own characters (Superman was born on Earth due to science, Wonder Woman only recently became active, Supergirl never existed).

This story was very epic but deserves its own blog, so the short version is this: it’s a war between the Monitor, a being who watches over the entire multiverse, and the Anti-Montiror, an evil version from the antimatter universe, which results in the vast majority of existence being destroyed and the DC heroes being the only hope to save what wasn’t annihilated. They succeed but everything left over was merged into one single universe and a few heroes were left outside the new creation to go spend eternity in a paradise pocket dimension; Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2 (who aged in real time from 1937 to 1986), Alexander Luthor Jr. of Earth-3 (son of that universe’s heroic Lex Luthor) and Superboy of Earth-Prime. He’s really important so don’t forget him.


Infinite Crisis 
(AKA “Superboy-Prime Punches Reality Really Hard”) 
Guys, like really hard. He punched it so hard.
Years later in 2005 DC made a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths called "Infinite Crisis". This book is great and deserves its own blog as well, but I’ll try to quickly summarize it. Basically, a series of seemingly unconnected tension filled scenarios had reached a boiling point when it turned out everything had been the machinations of the same group of heroes who left for the paradise dimension years earlier. Apparently they had been watching the new Earth during the entirety of the Dark Age of Comics and determined that the heroes of the DCU had let things go to shit and their world must now be fixed. Alexander Luthor Jr. and Superboy-Prime betrayed the original mission in order to recreate the universe in their own image, becoming villains well past redemption in the process. In the end the world is saved but reality was slightly altered; namely a few fixes here and there that the writers were clearly itching to take care of (Superman was born on Krypton, Wonder Woman has been active for years, etc.).

Also most of the retcons that occurred with DC’s continuity over the past twenty years were suggested to be the results of Superboy-Prime punching the walls of reality that separated the world displaced heroes from Earth, causing universe changing hiccups each time. Superhero comics are f**king silly, guys.

And just like that I'm suddenly blonde now
Anyway, the next month after Infinite Crisis all DC books jumped ahead twelve months to set up a new status quo. The missing year was told weekly in a new series called…


52
And then Batwoman showed up and everything was good forever
52 was several storylines following unconnected groups of characters that bridged the immediate aftermath of Infinite Crisis leading to the then current comics. This included following Renee Montoya succeeding Vic Stone as the Question, the introduction of Batwoman, World War III and the fall of Black Adam, and a particularly epic story following Booster Gold becoming f**king awesome. Throughout there was the “mystery of 52” which in the end turned out to be that the multiverse had been recreated; fifty-two separate universes now existed. Like I said in the intro 52 was a big hit for DC which made them want to re-capture that lightning in a bottle, which as we all know always works every time. 

 At this point we’ve passed a 1,200 word count so this feels like a good time to call it. Next time we’re going to take a closer look at a few key characters you’ll need to know a bit about before we can dive fully into Countdown.

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