Monday, May 14, 2007

Graphic Lit: Countdown


Summertime is nigh upon us, and you know what that means.

That’s right — big superhero crossover events.

In the DC universe, the big shebang is “Countdown,” a new weekly series that picks up on the heels of its last one, “52.”

The latter, you might remember, was DC’s first, ambitious attempt to do a weekly comic. Featuring four big-name writers (Mark Waid, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns) and a host of rotating artists, the series attempted to fill in a “missing year” in the DC universe, immediately following their “Infinite Crisis” saga.

“52” proved to be a pretty big success for DC, so it’s no surprise that they’ve decided to attempt another one. This time around, however, there are a few differences.

For one thing, while “52” took place in the recent past, “Countdown” is set in the present and will tie in or at least refer to the goings-on in other DC titles. And where the former attempted to take place “in real time” (i.e. cover one week exactly), the latter adopts a much less rigid structure.

“We wanted to build a weekly book that really could interact with the DC universe as it proceeded month by month.” said DC’s Executive Editor Dan DiDio.

“We just didn’t want to create any series,” he added. “Once we felt we had something we thought was really special, we gave ourselves the go-ahead to do another weekly book.”

“Countdown” is overseen by writer Paul Dini, who is best known for his work on “Batman: The Animated Series” and is currently scripting “Detective Comics.”

Dini hashed out the basic plot and provides an issue-by-issue breakdown of the story, which he then hands off to one of a team of writers to flesh out the scripts. The result is a comic written more like a TV show.

The art chores, meanwhile, will be overseen by Keith Giffen, who did the page breakdowns for “52.” He’ll do the same job for “Countdown” (starting with the fifth issue), with artists like Carlos Magno, David Lopez and Jesus Saiz picking up on Giffen’s lead.

The plot of “Countdown” follows some of the B-list characters in the DC world, such as Jimmy Olsen, Mary Marvel and Ray Palmer, the long-missing Atom. The individual characters’ story lines will eventually intertwine to reveal there’s something amiss with the universe.

True to its name, “Countdown” will start with issue No. 51 (out in stores now) and count backward until next year, leading up to the next big, for the moment secret, event.

“I’m trying to bring a stronger sense of continuity to the DC universe,” DiDio said.

“We’ve shown we can produce [a weekly comic] for a whole year. Now we have to one-up ourselves with a story that really ties into the DC universe. “

World War Hulk 

Marvel, meanwhile, is gearing up for its own big miniseries this month, the amusingly titled “World War Hulk.”

The first issue of the five-issue series won’t be out until June 13, but fans can get a preview of what’s in store with “World War Hulk Prologue” and “Incredible Hulk No. 106.”

For those not familiar with what’s been going on, here’s the setup: Prior to the recent “Civil War” shenanigans, Iron Man, Reed Richards and a bunch of other heroes decided the Hulk was too dangerous to live on Earth, so they shot him into space.

Landing on a faraway planet, the Hulk becomes a gladiator and eventually king of that world, though not before his spaceship explodes, killing, among many others, his wife and unborn child.
Now, as you might expect, the Hulk is really mad, and he’s heading back to Earth to exact his revenge.

“The Hulk blames these Marvel heroes for exiling him,” said “Hulk” writer Greg Pak, who will work with artist John Romita Jr. on the miniseries. “He blames them for the destruction of his adopted world.

He’s coming back angrier and stronger than the Marvel heroes have seen him.

“I think that fans are eager to see the Hulk come back to Earth and do some smashing,” he said. “I think there’re some characters people feel ought to be smashed in the wake of ‘Civil War.’ We’re in the position of being able to satisfy some vicarious pleasures.”

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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