Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 (2005)

<warning, spoilers below>

The latest controversial comic that’s stimulated lots of discussion is a one-shot comic from DC with the very awkward title Countdown to Infinite Crisis (though inside the comic it has the still-awkward-but-less-awkward title of DC Countdown). I thought this comic was okay, neither as good as some claim nor as bad as others claim. The characterization was off, especially of the Martian Manhunter and Batman, but as a standalone story I think it works fine. I have to question the wisdom of putting a $1 price tag on a comic that would be confusing for new readers and ends in the graphic murder of the Blue Beetle, a second rate character who is nevertheless well-liked, but that hasn’t stopped DC before – witness the murders in Batman the 12c Adventure. It’s a heck of a way to get the conservatives angry about comics, but what do I know?

The worst thing about the comic to me is that it gives the illusion of depth to a character, the Blue Beetle, that ideally has no depth. Perhaps we can lay this fault at the feet of Alan Moore, who so brilliantly added depth to a character like Swamp Thing 20 years ago, or Frank Miller, whose Daredevil: Born Again also seems to be a subtle influence here. The problem with IC, though, is that it feels wrong for Blue Beetle to even be a character who has depth. Both Daredevil and Swamp Thing had previously been shown as characters with some angst. The Beetle, conversely, is a character who has never been shown as anything but a happy-go-lucky, unreflective guy who’s content to just have a good time doing his best to fight crime. For me, to place him in a plotline like this is like placing Ray Romano in a political thriller: it just doesn’t work.

The genius of Watchmen was in creating analogues for the Beetle and the other Charlton characters. That removed their baggage while also giving the characters some feeling of resonance. Nite Owl could have deeper feelings and emotional problems, and we cared, because Moore is a skillful writer and because Nite Owl was fresh to readers but also seemed older. This is similar to how Apollo and Midnighter felt in the early issues of the Authority. They were new to us, we have no emotional attachment to them, but they still hit some emotional resonance.

Beetle, though, is older. We already know him, and he’s a pretty one-dimensional guy. Which is fine, because that’s what’s likeable about him. But it doesn’t allow lots of room for deeper characterization.

So in that way, the comic really doesn’t connect for me. Leaving that aside, the only other main complaint I have is a more generic one: it’s frustrating how DC seems to want to continuously recycle titles that have been used before. Jack Kirby created a well-remembered character in the mid-’70s called OMAC, so now we have a mini-series spinning out of this comic called the OMAC Project. Is it a continuity implant or a reinvention of the original concept? Or did someone just remember the name and like it? There’s another spin-off of this series that features an "all-new Secret Six", according to editor Dan DiDio’s editorial. The Secret Six was a very short-run comic in the mid-’60s, briefly revived in the pages of Action Comics Weekly about fifteen years ago. Why recycle the name? I don’t know, it’s not a big deal, but I just don’t understand this obsessive need to reinvent every character.

DC has to be thrilled by this comic. They succeeded in stimulating conversation among the geeks about their latest events, so this cheap promo has done its job. In the end, that’s all it is. I can’t get worked up about a comic book character being killed. Not from the company that resurrected Green Arrow and is about to bring back former Teen Titan Wonder Girl. I just think they could have gone about it in a better way.

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