Trade Post: Simon Dark Ashes & Countdown Presents Lord Havok & The Extremists

Written by Steve Niles, drawn by Scott Hampton
Collects Simon Dark #7-12
After spending a lot of time re-reading books like Preacher and Walking Dead, I figured I should get back to burning through the boxes of unread trades I’ve got in my closet. Between working at Wizard, getting stuff from friends, half price boxes at conventions and being an active member of Sequential Swap, I’ve got a lot to read. This weekend I read quite a few books, but I’ll be talking about these two tonight.

I reviewed the first volume of Simon Dark here. As a quick review, Simon Dark is a strange, patchwork boy living in the sewers of a segment of Gotham called the Village. He’s got a strange magical history and keeps bumping into members of Geo Populis, an Illuminati-type group run by demons after a fashion. This volume features the shadowy group infecting Gothamites with a zombie-like disease spread around by soap poisoned with demons. Yeah, it sounds crazy, but it all seems to work thanks to this being Gotham and literally anything can happen and doesn’t seem too crazy, no matter what.

Though there’s a big Matrix-like scene with Simon talking to an old man in a white room who explains a lot of Simon’s origins to him that’s kind of lame, I really liked the originality of the story. Unlike a lot of Niles’ other books, this feels too strange and wild to be too heavily borrowed from other sources. Niles creates some truly awesome looking monsters including a yellow elephant thing that I now love. I believe I read these issues as they came out, but I didn’t remember much of it. I want to get the third volume and see how the story ends. Does anyone know if Simon got canceled or just had a finite run? I’d imagine it’s the former, but I’m curious. Oh, Hampton’s art is still super-sick. I’d like to see him do some Hellboy or B.P.R.D. work.

Written by Frank Tieri, drawn by Liam Sharp
Collects Countdown Presents: Lord Havok & The Extremists #1-6
Woof. While I liked Ashes, there’s very little to like about (deep breath) Countdown Presents Lord Havok And The Extremists. For anyone who doesn’t remember or has sufficiently blocked out the complete pointlessness of Countdown (even if I didn’t think it was such a bad story, it served no purpose whatsoever) the weekly series spawned a bunch of minis and one-shots, many of which involved various characters visiting some of the newly minted 52 Earths in the multiverse. As I’ve said here and there, I think DC completely missed the point by basing a lot of those Earths on old Elseworlds books that no one but me remembers. Anyway, this miniseries–which according to the Wikipedia page takes place on Earth-8–instead took notes from a team created by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis in Justice League Europe called the Extremists who came from another dimension. The team consists of analogs for Marvel’s biggest villains Dr. Doom (Lord Havok), Dreamslayer (Dormmamu), Gorgon (Doctor Octopus), Tracer (Sabertooth) and Dr. Diehard (Magneto), but Tieri and company extrapolated that to basically turn Earth-8 into a giant Marvel analogy that just seems tried and boring to me.

So, as you might expect from a regular DC trade, this collection doesn’t offer any kind of context for the story through an introduction, which is kind of insane considering there isn’t much of an explanation in the story itself. The dimension-hopping Donna Troy, Kyle Rayner and Red Hood show up for a few seconds, but literally disappear in a page. But even if you remembered every aspect of Countdown, this series is still a mess. Tieri tries to balance the series by showing the Extremists planning to take on, essentially, the Avengers who have teamed up with Monarch and his dimension-hopping army with origin stories, but the problem is that, for the most part, the origins don’t really have much to do with the current action. So, instead of a Lost model for flashbacks where a character’s past actions have something to do with what’s going on with them in the present, we’re just seeing origin stories. It’d be like if we saw everything about Jack’s early history in episode one. With only six issues to tell this tale, I don’t know why they bothered with the origins or why characters like Gorgon have such a different origin than the character he’s based on while Tracer is basically Wolverine, but bad. It’s confusing and more than a little annoying. Frankly, a few boxes explaining which characters can do what would have been enough and, that way, we would have actually been told what Dr. Diehard’s powers are.

Even with all its faults there are two interesting aspects of this book. First is the strange Justice League with Soldier Batman, Bizarro Wonder Woman and Zombie Gordon and the second is the idea that the Extremists are now planning on conquering multiple earths. I know they’re waiting for Grant Morrison to clear some of his schedule, but it bewilders me why they haven’t exploited the mutliverse more since then. The longer they wait on this stuff, the less and less interesting it gets (not the Extremists aspect, the multiverse of course).

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