Countdown Arena #3
So many Wonder Women
Drawn by Scott McDaniel, and the problems with the mini-series concept as a marketing tool that ultimately frustrates the reader.
Scott McDaniel Art of Wonder Woman from DC Comics Countdown Arena #3
COUNTDOWN ARENA #3
There is a lot to admire in McDaniel's quasi-minimalist styling. (I noticed, however that the inking job in the four-issue DC Comics Countdown Arena has sometimes aped Frank Miller rather closely in some of the line effects). McDaniel uses distortion and hyper-action to good uses, and many, many of these pages are just a joy to look at. The one weakness that stands out is the repetition of stock "hero poses." But McDaniel does a handsome job of it, it must be a hard task to make this avalanche of super-characters (many in similar costumes to one another) stand-apart from one another in some way that the reader can tell who is who.
The story (by Keith Champagne), despite some interesting sections, ends up being just a big tease to require the reader to purchase another series from DC Comics, "Countdown to Final Crisis."
Meanwhile, though, the story in Countdown Arena tells of a dangerous playpen put together by a superbadman named "Monarch" who kidnaps multiple copies of Batman, Superman, etc., from various DCU earths and then pits them one against another in a kind of super-gladiator game to determine which version is the best and thus suitable for membership in the cockamamie army he is building. Monarch proves to be indestructible (for now), though three various Superman try to outfight him simultaneously, and various Batmen try to outsmart him.
Special Event Mini-Series
DC Comics has been pulling this more and more often, i.e., the contained "mini-series" you are buying which appears to be a simple four issue story, has in fact no actual ending, but is a prelude for some other comic run.
Story-Telling Vs. Marketing
Fundamentals of story-writing is hijacked by DC Comics marketing, leaving the reader frustrated. Shouldn't these tales at least function as self-contained stories, though they also link to another story 'arc' somewhere else in the DC publishing scheme of things? Are they deliberately rigged this way to prevent any "closure" for the reader?
Another complaint is that everything covered in Countdown Arena could've been crammed into a single issue of the series, or at most two issues. Instead you have endless failed jail breaks from issue to issue that only differ according to which group of superpeople are attempting it, and the main character of "Monarch" is a jumping jack that pops in and out of the tale with no distinction of character or personality.
It appears that DC Comics is no longer betting on the strength (and popularity) of their 'intellectual properties' derived from how the artists and writers handle the characters, but are instead promoting the creation of over-arching concepts which reduce the characters into little cogs and wheels of a (often predictable) story cycle.
Though the cycle is mammoth in size, and perhaps that's unique and interesting in some detached way, but reading the individual books demonstrates it makes for a whole lot of dead-air and wheel-spinning.
The classic dilemma confronting a comic book writer was how to cram a complete story into 22 pages (or less - - even much less, consider that for awhile during the 1970s, the 'lead' superhero story in a DC Comics "100 Page Super Spectacular" would be given only 12 pages to get the whole tale across). But this is no longer the case.
Because these series are now blown up to require enough pages to fill a trade collection, the writer (or writers) must flesh out something to fill all those hungry blank pages, but it seems to be making for an endless amount of filler material that dilutes the actual quality of a tale that cannot bear being drawn out into so many repetitious sub-plots.
But it does give the chance for artists like Scott McDaniel to draw a lot of terrific fight scenes.
Original Page January 2008 | Updated March 2013