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Sunday Slugfest: Final Crisis: Resist

Posted: Sunday, November 9, 2008
By: Thom Young

Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Ryan Sook (pencils?), Marco Rudy (inks or additional pencils?)
DC Comics
In a world overrun by Darkseid's Anti-Life Equation and his relentless storm troopers, do you choose to RESIST? The world's only hope for survival depends on one-time JLA mascot Snapper Carr, Mr. Terrific, and Checkmate. With the aid of the villainous Cheetah, Snapper must rally the various factions of Checkmate and awaken an evil from a Crisis past. Could this actually be the end?

Shawn Hill:
Dave Wallace:
Robert Murray:
Thom Young:
David Hodum:




Shawn Hill

Checkmate sees its final routing in this intense outing by Greg Rucka. Sasha Bordeaux, Ice, Fire, and Red Rocket are all part of the team--all unfortunately vulnerable to the Darkseid infection. Mr. Terrific does his best to protect his people and his operations center, but they’re lucky to reach a safe bunker.

Their ace in the hole is Snapper Carr, whose teleportation power makes him the ultimate stealth agent against Anti-Life. His are a series of desperation moves, however; there’s no real resistance possible as all known supers are increasingly co-opted. Instead, Carr makes strategic sabotage efforts--including a memorable and spooky sequence drawn by Sook at S.T.A.R. labs. He has to stay in a containment suit, however, or he’ll be infected by an airborne “anti-metagene virus” that would rob him of his teleportation power.

A brief signal hints at some remaining resistance on the JLA satellite, but when Snapper gets there he meets an unexpected ally: the Cheetah, who is immune to the power-robbing virus since her powers are divinity-based rather than genetic. At this point the art has changed to a more serviceable than atmospheric substitute, but the plot imperative isn’t interrupted by the switch.

What happens next isn’t the smartest move ever, but it’s understandable and very Snapper Carr. Sadly, neither hero nor villain are a match for a mind-controlled Gorilla Grodd, and Carr is forced to flee again. It’s not just politics that makes for strange bedfellows, and so Dr. Minerva becomes a part of Mike Holt’s resistance cell, and it is her presence that goads Carr to a comment that leads Holt to a moment of inspiration. There’s still one last line of rebellion to pursue, one requiring a potentially fatal sacrifice.

It’s a clever idea, and one of the strongest ties yet between this crisis and the last. While we’re seeing fallout from the big losses in the main series, with Submit and Resist we’re seeing very personal, mundane and no less tragic costs to the rise of New Apokolips on Earth. While Submit seemed a last ditch effort at flight, Resist actually finds a path towards a glimmer of hope--or at least a rousing beat to lead us back to the main series.

Along the way, Rucka’s use of Grodd, Cheetah, Brother Eye, and especially Mr. Terrific and Snapper is both assured and inspired. He demonstrates how the entire DC universe is in peril.




Dave Wallace:

One of the first things that I noticed about Final Crisis: Submit was the lack of a credits page. The cover lists Greg Rucka, Eric Trautman, Ryan Sook, and Marco Rudy as creators, but doesn't give us any more information than that.

It was only after reading some online comments from Trautman that I discovered that he and Rucka had written the book, and that Sook and Rudy had pencilled it (I guess that the inker, colourist, and letterer were forgotten about altogether). I'm almost tempted to make a crack about the people responsible for this book not wanting to own up to their role in its creation--but that would be a little unfair, as this isn't a dreadful issue. It's just not a particularly good one.

Having never read Rucka and Trautman's Checkmate (a series that appears to have laid the groundwork for much of this story), I was expecting to be a little lost. However, I hoped that the creators would be mindful of the fact that this Final Crisis tie-in would be picking up a new audience, and explain things enough that the story could be enjoyable even for the uninitiated.

That's certainly true of the issue's plot, which is fairly straightforward and is spelled out so clearly that even a newcomer like me can comprehend it. Only the references to specific Checkmate story points were lost on me, and that didn't detract from the story too much. However, it's not a particularly exciting or imaginative tale either.

That said, there are a few fairly compelling scenes that show how the remnants of Checkmate are trying to resist Darkseid's domination of the planet, and I was expecting these scenes to play into some kind of related conclusion that allowed the team to get to where we saw them in Final Crisis #4.

Instead, the writers chose to bring us a denouement that relies on the resurrection of a plot strand that was established as a subplot of Infinite Crisis that never factored into that series in a meaningful way. It's not even as though this plot point is mentioned (or even alluded to) earlier in the issue.

For readers who haven't been following the DCU closely for years, it's an unsatisfying conclusion involving OMACs that feels as though it comes out-of-the-blue and doesn't provide a payoff for any of the plot points that we've seen in the rest of the issue.

When it comes to the characters themselves, the book doesn't fare any better. We spend very little time getting to know the characters. We're simply not given enough detail about them to make them compelling as protagonists. Characterisation is extremely thin and character relationships are established in very broad strokes, which means that there's nothing here to encourage new readers who haven't followed the characters in the past to really engage with the story here.

The book's artwork is strong throughout. I’ve enjoyed Ryan Sook's art since seeing his work on the Seven Soldiers: Zatanna miniseries, and he handles most of the pages here well--bringing a certain amount of realistic detail and consistency to his figures without sacrificing the energy of the more action-based scenes.

In fact, Sook's work here is strong enough that I'm surprised that he wasn't chosen as a replacement for JG Jones on the main series. Their styles aren't too dissimilar, and Sook handles the fairly large cast and the Final Crisis-related concepts well, so he would seem to be an ideal candidate.

The last few pages of the book appear to be the ones that are pencilled by Marco Rudy (although without a credits page to fill us in it's impossible to be sure). They're also quite good, but the style doesn't mesh perfectly with Sook's. Also, I can't deny that I would like to have seen a little more detail in the final splash page, which feels like it should make more of an impact than it ultimately achieves.

I don't want to sound too negative about this book because it's not an outrageously bad comic: just a mediocre one that isn't particularly interesting. As a whole, the issue feels directionless, and the events contained within don't really feel as though they hang together as a good story.

Unlike Final Crisis: Submit, which managed to tell a reasonably interesting (if straightforward) story in a single issue, this feels like little more than a footnote to the Final Crisis event: an explanation of how certain characters got from point A to point B before their reappearance in the main Final Crisis miniseries. It’s worth a look for Final Crisis completists and fans of the characters involved, but anyone else won't miss a lot by skipping this issue.




Robert Murray:

I know I’m not the only one who’ll mention this in today’s Slugfest, but this tie-in issue of Final Crisis is much better than the actual mini-series. It seems like anything Morrison has touched in this “huge” event has been disappointing. Fortunately, I can’t say the same for this excellent issue written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautman--the team behind most of the recently canceled Checkmate series.

Of course, this means that the members of Checkmate have a prominent role in this series--particularly Mister Terrific and Snapper Carr, whom I always thought of as the most annoying character in the DC Universe. Plus, you have the apparent death of a Checkmate stalwart, Sasha Bordeaux, which was a dramatic scene par excellence in Resist. Just to preface any further comments I will make, I never read the Rucka run on Checkmate, but I had heard from some of my Comics Bulletin colleagues that it was an excellent series. After reading this wonderful Final Crisis installment, I may have to purchase some of the Checkmate trades.

Final Crisis: Resist is a return to form for Rucka. I wasn’t impressed at all with his work on Crime Bible, but this issue restores my faith in the man who brought us Gotham Central and Queen & Country (which is one of my all-time favorite series).

The plot of this issue is simple, really. A small contingent of Checkmate personnel resist the world-encompassing threat of Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation, which seems to be spreading as quickly as the Black Plague. Many of the organization’s personnel lose themselves to the dark side, but main characters Terrific and Carr step up to the task as the front lines of La Resistance.

Plus, we witness an ally in the fight I would have never thought of as a hero--Cheetah, whom Rucka and Trautman present as the most intriguing character in this issue. Some may argue with this sentiment, but one Hollywood-style scene is this issue changed the tone and made this a completely entertaining comic. Snapper travels to an Equation-infested hospital to get medical supplies when he comes upon Cheetah, who is mending a wound of her own. In the process of helping her with her injured arm, sparks fly between the two, with Cheetah revealing that she has the gifts of a fertility god. Well, you know what’s going to happen next. . . .

In the middle of an army of Anti-Life zombies, Snapper risks contamination (he has to take off his containment suit, of course) for a little end-of-the-world nookie. This kind of semi-absurd, Hollywood-type encounter is what makes this comic so much more entertaining than other Final Crisis tales.

From there we have a scary encounter with an infected Gorilla Grodd, an emotional death scene (supposedly), and the always welcome cavalry in the form of OMACs. Yes, this comic has it all, including some fantastic artwork by Ryan Sook, who is the perfect choice for Resist.

I first noticed Sook’s work in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, and he was a main reason why I came to this issue. He doesn’t disappoint in the least, as all of the characters have fine emotional range in their facial features, all the panels have the proper scale to coincide with the moment, and actions flow well from panel to panel. Plus, the coloring throughout the issue is dead on, with lots of dark tones to carry the mood of despair until the final page, when the sun rises on hope.

This issue has actually gotten me excited about Final Crisis once again, even though Morrison has continually bummed me with his scattershot scripting. It looks like there is only one more one-shot tie-in for Final Crisis (Secret Files on sale on Christmas Eve), so here’s hoping that the remaining issues of the main series, Revelations, Legion of Three Worlds, and Superman Beyond carries the load.

This comic has restored my faith in Rucka’s comic-scripting skills, and it has made me wonder why Sook doesn’t pencil more DC issues.




Thom Young:

The creators responsible for Final Crisis: Resist are clearly listed on the cover: Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Ryan Sook, and Marco Rudy. However, before posting this Sunday Slugfest review, I needed to fill in the credits in those folder tabs at the top of our reviews. Thus, I needed to know exactly who did what in this issue.

Now, I know Greg Rucka is a writer, so I figured he probably wrote this issue. Similarly, I know Ryan Sook is an illustrator (though I’m not very familiar with his work), so I figured he probably penciled it. I also deduced that Marco Rudy was probably the inker since his name is listed on the cover after Sook’s name. However, my fellow reviewer Dave Wallace claims that Rudy was a second penciler.

Rudy aside, the real problem was that I had no idea who Eric Trautman is. The obvious assumption, and one which another of my fellow reviewers made when he turned in his copy for the slugfest, is that Trautman might be another penciler who worked with Sook to get everything illustrated.

Thus, I decided to look at the credits in the issue to verify my assumptions about the roles of all four men listed on the cover. Much to my surprise, and as Dave Wallace has already pointed out, there aren’t any credits listed inside Final Crisis: Resist. Thus, I decided to go to DC’s Web site and get the credits directly off the promotional copy for the issue.

Once again I was surprised. On DC’s Web site, Eric Trautman is listed as the co-writer with Rucka--and Marco Rudy is not listed at all. The information in DC’s promotional copy lists Sook as the sole illustrator of the issue--as if he both penciled and inked all of the pages.

The last time I had so much difficulty in determining who did what in a comic book was when I was looking for the credits in Beware the Creeper #6 (March/April 1969). In the case of that 40-year-old comic book, DC was trying to hide the fact that Steve Ditko had not done any of the work in the issue. In the case of Final Crisis: Resist, though, perhaps the lack of credits is because no one wanted to take credit (or blame, actually) for this mess. (Yes, I’ll make the statement that Dave Wallace said was unfair to make.)

After doing some quick checking (and, thus, perhaps not entirely accurate), it appears that Eric Trautman co-wrote six issues of Checkmate with Rucka--17, and 21-25. However, I’ve never read an issue of Checkmate--neither the original series that ran from 1988-90 nor the second series that ran from 2006 until it was canceled two months ago. (Bruce Jones wrote the final six issues of the second series after Rucka and Trautman left.)

It appears that Rucka and Trautman’s story here ties into their old work on Checkmate more than it ties into Final Crisis. Now, despite having never read a Checkmate story, I quickly caught on to who the various players are in Checkmate. I could also sort of figure out the situations with the organization’s various bunkers and command centers. However, I never was able to get a handle on this “Code Zoo” concept that was mentioned a few times.

As far as I can tell from context, it’s a collection of several artificial intelligence programs that are being stored in a giant Rubik’s Cube that doubles as an Internet server protected by the mother of all firewalls. Mister Terrific (who, in addition to being in the Justice Society of America, is also the White King of Checkmate) sent these imprisoned A.I. programs out of the Rubik’s Cube so that they could zip around the globe and be free. However, in exchange for their freedom, they agreed to activate OMAC nanites in 11.5 million people in whom the OMAC tech has remained dormant.

Much to my chagrin, the last page of this issue implies that these 11.5 million OMACs (or however many actually get activated) will next be seen in one or more of the remaining three issues of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis. I can only hope that Morrison plans on eliminating 11,499, 999 of these OMACs--saving the one that, hopefully, occupies Buddy Blank’s body. It’s long been my hope that Morrison is going to return Jack Kirby’s original OMAC to DC continuity in the same way that he is currently setting up S.H.A.D.E. and Checkmate as the precursor organizations to the Global Peace Agency that ran the show in Kirby’s OMAC series in 1974-75.

The difference between what Morrison is doing in the primary Final Crisis series and what Rucka and Trautman have done in this one-shot tie-in issue is that Morrison is creating a story where attentive readers who aren’t familiar with 35 years of DC history can still figure things out by reading closely. Conversely, Rucka and Trautman seem to be using Final Crisis: Resist as a way of tying up some dangling plot threads from their old storyline before the Checkmate organization is phased out.

For instance, they used this series not only to release the A.I. programs from “Code Zoo,” but they’ve also introduced the idea of an “anti-metagene virus” that can rob people of their superpowers. As far as I can recall, Morrison has not introduced this concept in the main Final Crisis series, and it seems more of a vestige of an idea that Rucka and Trautman had in mind for their Checkmate work.

They also took the opportunity to kill off several Checkmate operatives--including Sasha Bordeaux, whose convoluted history includes being Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard/love interest/apprentice in Detective Comics back in 2000-02 when Rucka was writing that series.

However, by editorial mandate, Resist also needs to tie into Morrison’s Final Crisis. Thus, we get some of Darkseid’s Anti-Life zombies chasing Checkmate players around while shouting, “Anti-Life justifies my hatred”--whatever that’s supposed to mean (I guess Anti-Life zombies don’t’ have to make sense).

We also get two panels that show dozens of Anti-Life zombies building a humongous statue of Darkseid. They had nearly finished working on its feet on “T.D.+11,” and they completed work on the entire giant statue sometime after “T.D.+25”--which was also the day that the A.I. programs were set free to activate the dormant OMAC tech (included in two of the zombies who worked on the humongous statue of Darkseid).

(If you don’t know what “T.D.+X” equals, shame on you. The “T.D.” stands for “Total Defeat,” and the numeral stands for the . . . uhm . . . days (I think) since the Total Defeat occurred.)

In addition to the tying up of Checkmate threads and the spurious connections to Morrison’s Final Crisis, we are also treated to a weird sexual encounter between Snapper Carr and The Cheetah.

Snapper is the Justice League’s former mascot from the 1960s who, somehow, picked up the power to teleport himself anywhere by snapping his fingers--thus allowing him to keep his nickname, Snapper, in a way that makes sense now that the days of Beatniks and hipsters have passed.

I’m guessing the power to transport in a snap is something that Snapper picked up during Rucka’s stint on Checkmate. The iteration of Wonder Woman’s nemesis, the Cheetah, that is used here is the third version--Dr. Barbara Minerva--an anthropologist who was given her powers during a ceremony to an African god of medicinal plants.

That African plant god has been recast here as a “fertility god” in order to play up the weird sex scene. However, let’s back up to the beginning of Snapper’s relationship with Dr. Minerva before looking at their sexual encounter.

On T.D.+5, Mister Terrific sends Snapper to the Justice League satellite (which he arrived at by snapping his fingers) to find Firehawk because Mister Terrific’s sensors indicated she (Firehawk) was there. Once he gets to the satellite headquarters, Snapper is attacked by Firehawk and things look dire.

Fortunately, from out of nowhere, and without any explanation offered in the story, the Cheetah jumps out of the shadows to save Snapper and defeat Firehawk. She then disappears back into the shadows, and Snapper speculates that she must have used one of the JLA’s teleporters to beam down to the surface (never mind, I guess, that she would had to have some sort of security code or voice print to be able to activate a JLA teleporter).

Yes, from out of nowhere she appeared to save Snapper and then returned to the void from which she came! Talk about deus ex machina--or, in this case, cattus ex machina.

Luckily for Snapper, he later finds Dr. Minerva on T.D.+25 when he teleports into a hospital to stock up on medical supplies. He finds her licking her injured paw (or forearm, actually), and he sutures it for her. It’s sort of a reworking of the fable of “Androcles and the Lion.” In this case, though, the lion shows her gratitude not by saving Androcles’s life in the Circus Maximus but by having wild, animal sex with him.

Well, I guess it’s supposed to be wild, animal sex.

We see her forcefully kiss Snapper in the last panel of one page, and then we see the two of them lying naked on the hospital floor in the first panel of the next page. Of course, all genitalia and breasts are discreetly covered.

Snapper exclaims, “Wow,” to which the Cheetah replies, “Yes, I’m very good, I know.” Then they lick face and smooch for a couple of panels until . . . from out of nowhere, and without any explanation offered in the story . . . Gorilla Grodd suddenly appears in the doorway.

Yikes!

If that weren’t enough, Grodd is wearing one of Darkseid’s Justifier helmets (the kind that plays a continuous loop of the Anti-Life Equation through the built-in earphone).

Actually, that’s quite enough.

This issue is just a bunch of disconnected junk thrown together to satisfy Checkmate completists who wanted resolution for Rucka’s leftover subplots while also being an excuse to separate Final Crisis completists from their legal tender. If you have not yet bought Final Crisis: Resist, save your money!

If you have bought it and hate it as much as I do, just remember . . . Anti-Life justifies your hatred!

Nuff said.




David Hodum

It is a testament to the abilities of the team on this book (Rucka, Trautmann, and Sook) that even though I was not familiar with many of the characters in this story, I still found it incredibly fun to read.

Snapper is probably one of my favorite DC characters now, so hopefully he survives the rest of the Final Crisis. I enjoy his teleporting power-set, it seems like he has no real limitations to where he can go other than how he can do it. Supplies seem to be no problem to take with him, but when he needed to save Cheetah it must've been unsettling to think the move might kill them both.

Mr. Terrific doesn't get as many action scenes as Snapper, but he does get quite a few emotional scenes--such as when The Black Queen, Sasha Bordeaux, becomes infected and has to shut down. Ultimately, he lives up to his legacy as one of the smartest people in the world when he figures out how to free them from their containment in the Antarctic via the activation of latent OMACs.

I thought the situation in which Snapper finds himself vulnerable to the virus outside of his containment suit to be incredibly realistic and likely to happen. Its an old-fashioned love story, a lonely boy a month after "Total Defeat" day in a post-apocalyptic world finds himself getting it on with the only female left who just happens to be the creation of a fertility god when a giant telepathic Gorilla enters the room. Ahh, a classic. Okay, mostly just the lonely boy and lonely girl part, how they find some peace in their passion, but you get the idea.

All in all, the issue was great. It felt grim and realistic, given that there just isn't a whole lot of hope left, and it really really sucks when Snapper can't teleport anymore. This is the moment that you realize, oh crap, they have a finite amount of food now and they're kind of in a little box. This can't end well.

Then, just as hope fades… Mr. Terrific devises a way to bring those scary-ass OMACs back! Not just a small team of them either, more like over eleven million! Not to mention that since they're designed to take down meta-humans, it's like the perfect army to form a resistance with.

Final Crisis: Resist is solid work that gives event tie-in issues a good name. On a final note, I have nothing against Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison, but when is Greg Rucka going to get to write a giant event? Sign me up for that.



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