Friday, May 11, 2007

Monitoring the Set

So now I've actually read Countdown #1, erm, #51 and I'm just not sure I'm on for the ride, which seems to be the general consensus.

I mean, I liked 52. I like Paul Dini. The art's pretty good. So what's wrong?

I think the problem is the Monitors.

As a concept, I've never liked the Monitor. Not only did he have a name that might as well have been "Not-the-Watcher", but DC Comics already had an omniscient expositor, and he's got better fashion sense. Furthermore, while I like continuity, I don't like stories that are about continuity, and the Monitor was entirely about was protecting continuity (or, as he called it, "reality").

So I wasn't exactly thrilled to see that the new multi-verse comes with a complete set of Nu-Monitors.

Yes, as Diamondrock points out, the Monitors act as continuity cops, correcting confusing continuity errors... "with EXTREME PREJUDICE!" < wailing guitars > But they won't, as he hopes, reduce the "porousness" of the multi-verse since any story with the Monitors will feature someone jumping between worlds, if only to get shot. By their very existence, the Monitors will only increase the porousness. Similarly, stories with the Monitors will increase the number of stories that are about the existence of the multi-verse, rather than simply set in it.

And Countdown looks like it's going to follow the same pattern. Andrew Hickey, at his new Countdown Blog, points out that the characters featured in the first issue, and those slated to appear, are the stress points of DC continuity: characters that are "supposed" to be dead, like Jason Todd and those whose histories contradict "official" canon, like Duela Dent, which implies the story will be about their status as continuity question marks.

Which could not interest me less. Stories intended to solve continuity problems, turning editorial errors into story engines, also turn compelling characters into walking plot points. Donna Troy is not interesting because her origin got screwed up by constant re-writes. She's interesting in spite of it (if she's interesting at all). So centering a plot on how much her background doesn't make sense is like...

It's like seeing a play with an amazing, intricate set. Something truly spectacular to look at. But the play itself is just characters talking about the set, either how pretty it is or how bizarre or just detailing how each piece fits together. As a guy who built sets in college, sure, I might find it interesting to know how it was built, but I'm not sure I could stand the characters in the play just gabbing about it and nothing else for two hours, with a fifteen minute intermission.

And all the Monitors seem to do is walk onto sets, shout "That tree is made out of cardboard!" then shoot the first character who knocks down the 2-D tree.

Maybe it's too soon to make the call, and I will pick up the next issue (especially since it looks like it features Jimmy Olsen vs. Dini's take on the Joker). But I know that 52 wow'ed me AND set up its theme of change in its first issue; and Countdown just didn't. So before I can commit another $150 dollars and a year's time to this thing, I need to know it's about more than just cardboard cut-outs.


Bill S. said...

Jonni DC is the only Continuity Cop that I will ever acknowledge.

Diamondrock said...

Dammit! They tricked me!

Of course you're right. Any story with the Monitors will feature people hopping from world to world. I guess the thing is, I *know* it's going to happen whether I like it or not (for the record I don't).

So I guess I just hope some people get killed in the process. Spiteful of me, but what're you gonna do?