As the entire world turns against them, the last of Earth's Superheroes must face the unstoppable power of the Gods of Apokolips for the final time. As the skies bleed, as the walls between universes crumble and fall, the ultimate threat to life makes its presence felt as an evil beyond imagining arrives to claim its prize.
Paul Brian McCoy:
With Final Crisis #6, Grant Morrison delivers another well-written chapter of his cosmic crisis mega event. The dialog is believable (given the events being depicted), and the narrative flow is easy to follow. In fact, beginning with the fourth issue and continuing up to this present issue, the story is a bit too easy to follow for my liking.
Morrison seems to have made the narrative more conventional than it was in the first three chapters. Perhaps reader reaction to the early issues has prompted making the story less obfuscatory than it was when I wrote the following about the third issue:
Like the Late Modern novelists and poets (as well as the Postmodern writers), Morrison isn’t going to slow down the story to have a character explain things through some awkward exposition that serves no purpose other than to make sure the readers are following along.While Morrison isn’t adding a lot of exposition to his story (though there is some)--nor has he added any narrative captions to assist with transitions between scenes--it does seem that characters are being a bit more explicatory in their conversations in the most recent issues.
As in real life, readers have to figure out what’s going on the same way they would if they suddenly found themselves in new situations at work or in new relationships with people. It’s rare that someone is going to come along and provide you with the expository information that’s going to make you feel comfortable in a new environment. In literature, the lack of exposition is just another layer of verisimilitude.
For example, in this issue Joan Garrick (the wife of the Golden Age Flash) is on board the Justice League satellite and suddenly says, “Wait a minute. What’s that light outside?” (page 5, panels 1-2). Such dialog in this issue, while not stilted, differs from the way Morrison was writing earlier chapters of the story. If this had been the second issue, I would have expected there to be a light outside, but in the background, with characters reacting to it either without dialog or in a manner that might seem more indirect (for a story, though not for real life)--as when I noted the following in my review of the second issue:
If you don’t realize that Frankenstein was watching a digital computer image of a hand cursor write a prophetic message on a wall in the Dark Side Club in three non-consecutive panels on the third page, then that’s your tough luck. Morrison isn’t going to bother to explain it to you. . . .However, it seems that ever since the fourth issue Morrison is more likely to explain things to the readers in an attempt to make certain that everyone understands what’s going on.
Similarly, in his review of the fifth issue, my colleague Paul Brian McCoy wrote the following about certain events that had been depicted in the story:
I didn’t know why Libra was preparing to hang Calculator as a traitor, but that’s because I forgot that last issue’s use of the Ünternet to “coordinate an attack strategy” was aided by a “highly placed informer in Libra’s Secret Society.” Is it Calculator? Doubtful--if the expression on Luthor’s face is any indication as he stands by and prepares to allow Calculator to be executed. And I think Libra knows it was Luthor, too.Of course, Paul was absolutely correct, and observant readers could pick up on those details to figure out what was going on. However, for less observant readers, Morrison now spells it out in this issue--as Libra says to Luthor:
“It was you, wasn’t it? Given the honor of leading an army of supervillains against the last of the superheroes, you chose treason instead.” (page 22, panel 4)Of course, Libra still doesn’t spell out what Luthor’s treason was (but Paul spelled it out in his review of issue #5). However, the effect of Libra’s dialog in this issue is to make the story less obfuscatory than it otherwise might be.
That effect is carried over onto the next page as Luthor fires energy blasts at Libra from the palms of his “warsuit.” The image of the blasts cutting through Libra might confuse some readers into thinking that Libra is now dead--having been blown to bits--but that is not the case. As way of explanation, Dr. Sivana says to Luthor, “Hmmph. That’s a classic ‘We haven’t heard the last of him!’ if I ever saw one” (page 23, panels 3-4).
What did Sivana mean? A closer look at the illustration clearly shows that Luthor’s blasts hit only an empty costume. The man inside was no longer there. If it hadn’t been for Sivana’s dialog, many readers might believe Libra had been killed (some still might, due to not connecting Sivana’s words to the event as depicted). Morrison’s story still needs to be read closely--just not as closely as the first three chapters demanded.
Morrison also used this issue to explain “The Many Deaths of Orion.” For those not aware of the problem that DC editorial created seven months ago, here is something I initially wrote for my review of Final Crisis #1 that I later cut from the final draft:
In Death of the New Gods #6 (or was it #7?), Orion was killed by Infinity Man. His ghost was then brought back by The Source to battle Darkseid in Death of the New Gods #8. Essentially, the ghost of Orion was an unthinking agent of The Source who seemed more like a zombie than a sentient soul. This ghost or re-animated shell of Orion battled Darkseid as a faux fulfillment of the prophecy of “Final Battle” that Jack Kirby set up 36 years ago in New Gods.Well, in this issue Morrison gives an explanation (sort of) for Orion’s many different deaths. On page 26, Batman confronts Darkseid and tells him, “You shouldn’t have shot Orion,” to which Darkseid replies:
I should point out that Superman witnessed Orion’s death as well as his resurrection as a non-sentient ghost, or soulless zombie (or whatever the un-dead Orion was supposed to be). Superman also watched Orion-Zombie’s battle with Darkseid. This point is important: Superman witnessed these events.
Anyway, after the non-resolution to that Orion vs. Darkseid conflict, The Source merged the planets of New Genesis and Apokolips into a Yin-Yang planet while Orion’s ghost or zombie shuffled off (presumably) to wherever ghosts or zombies shuffle off to when they’re no longer needed. Superman then flew off to Earth.
Inexplicably, a very-much-alive version of Orion then showed up in Countdown to Final Crisis #2 to battle Darkseid in the streets of Metropolis--as a faux fulfillment of the prophecy of “Final Battle” that Jack Kirby set up 36 years ago in New Gods.
Watching from a nearby skyscraper is Superman and other assorted heroes. Oddly, Superman doesn’t mention that he already witnessed this same scene play out at the Source Wall. In fact, Superman is not at all taken aback by Orion being alive and once again battling Darkseid.
Of course, this might be a parallel Earth version of Superman, Orion, and Darkseid (I facetiously offer).
Anyway, at the end of Countdown to Final Crisis #2, Orion seemingly kills Darkseid and then crawls off into a pile of rubble--seemingly to die from the injuries he suffered in his battle with Darkseid (since, you know, he was already supposed to be dead anyway).
Now we have Final Crisis #1, which shows Dan Turpin (one of Kirby’s original characters from New Gods) finding Orion lying in a pile of rubble--supposedly soon after we saw him at the end of Countdown to Final Crisis #2. Not surprisingly, Orion is dying.
However, before succumbing to the Black Racer (the Angel of Death for the New Gods who is hovering in the sky over Turpin’s shoulder), Orion makes some cryptic statements to Turpin, “Heaven cracked and broken . . . you! / They did not die! He is in you all . . . fight.”
And with those words, Orion dies.
To be determined.
“It was Orion’s destiny to fall in ‘Final Battle.’ Splintered like light through a prism in an infinite number of deaths.”Oh, well that explains it then.
Uhm, really not so much.
Not unless we had earlier witnessed parallel universe versions of Superman watching parallel universe versions of Orion being killed (which is something I facetiously suggested in my review of the first issue). However, the New Gods appear to exist on a plane above the parallel universe level of the multiverse--so there should be only one Orion, not an infinite number. However, that one Orion died an infinite number of deaths?
Oh well, at least Morrison tried to put a patch on the gaping hole that DC editorial created when they let two other writers handle the deaths of the New Gods separate from what Morrison was doing in this series. Still, the idea of Darkseid shooting Orion in “Final Battle” doesn’t sit right with me. They should have been engaged in hand-to-hand combat while firing Astro Force blasts (Orion’s power) and Omega Beams (Darkseid’s power) at each other.
The idea of Darkseid using a gun to kill Orion just isn’t right. Why, it’s worse than the idea of Batman ever using a gun--something which has happened at least six times by my count: In Batman #4 as well as in Detective Comics #32, 33, 35, 327, and 405.
Okay, speaking of death--let me now address the apparent death in this chapter that everyone on the Internet has been debating since the issue hit the stands:
I don’t for one minute believe that Kalibak is actually dead. There, I said it!
Sure, Tawky Tawny disemboweled Kalibak on page 12 (panel 6), but that was one of the Tiger bodies that Mokkari and Simyan grew in their genetics lab. I’m sure that they can transfer Kalibak’s consciousness into another body--perhaps even one that looks more like the way he was depicted by Jack Kirby.
In other words, to paraphrase Dr. Sivana, “Hmmph. I’m betting we haven’t heard the last of him!”
I was just relieved that Tawky Tawny wasn’t killed. I was really thinking we were going to see him being beaten to death by Kalibak, and I’m glad it turned out not to be the case. I’m not as affected by comics as I was 23 years ago when Crisis on Infinite Earths came out, but I wouldn’t have wanted Tawky Tawny’s death even affecting me half as much as the deaths of Supergirl and Barry Allen did in that earlier series.
What’s that? Supergirl and Barry Allen aren’t dead? They’re alive?
Uhm . . . well . . . you see . . . they were “dead” at one point in their fictional lives.
Oh, by the way, I’m also betting we haven’t heard (or seen) the last of Bruce “Batman” Wayne. After all, there was an army of dead (or at least damaged) Bruce Wayne clones in that bunker in which Batman confronted Darkseid (and Superman may have been holding one of those clones on the last page of this issue--albeit, dressed in Batman’s costume).
Additionally, as Darkseid’s Omega Beams struck him, Batman said, “Gotcha,” and a smile seemed to cross his lips (page 27, panel 6). He didn’t seem to be commenting on having shot Darkseid. Instead, it seemed as if getting Darkseid to hit him with the Omega Beams was part of Batman’s plan all along (and not merely as a way of committing “suicide by proxy”).
Finally, of course, Superman has seen the Miracle Machine (though it’s unclear at this point what good seeing it will do, or how Superman then vanished from the 31st century and appeared in the 21st century in the thick of the battle). Anyway, the Miracle Machine was built by the Controllers, and it first appeared (for us) in Adventure Comics #367 in 1968. In that story, the Dark Circle was attacking the Legion at their headquarters, and the Legion was losing.
(In the Silver Age, the Dark Circle was composed of five mysterious figures from “halfway across the galaxy” who had cloned themselves numerous times to build up their army of followers. Does that sound vaguely like what Mokkari and Simyan had planned for Batman? Hmmmm.)
Brainiac 5 escaped the Dark Circle’s attack and made his way to the Legion's arsenal where he hoped to find a weapon that he could use. Several of the clone soldiers arrived, and Brainiac 5 wished that Karate Kid was there to hold them off so that he could continue to look for a weapon. Suddenly, Karate Kid appeared just as Brainiac 5 wished.
Realizing what must have happened, Brainiac 5 removed the Miracle Machine from the crate in which it was being stored and then concentrated. Instantly, the forces of the Dark Circle vanished from Earth and were returned to their own world.
Brainiac 5 then explained to the Legion that he used the Miracle Machine, which converts thoughts into reality, to send the forces of the Dark Circle away. He theorized that the machine was invented by the Controllers. His theory is confirmed when a Controller suddenly appeared to warn them of the danger the Miracle Machine signifies.
Thus, the Legionnaires then sealed it in a cube of Inertron--and that’s where this issue seemed to pick up the story as Brainiac 5 unsealed it from the Inertron cube so that Superman could look at it. It’s clear that the Miracle Machine is going to factor into the final chapter of Final Crisis. It has the power to not only re-set the entire universe (and multiverse) in whatever way someone wishes it to be re-set (such as Superman fixing everything with a thought, for example), but it could also be used to bring Bruce “Batman” Wayne back to life (if he even died).
Oh, and maybe it could be used to heal Barbara Gordon’s spine.
Curiously, though, the Miracle Machine has made a few other appearances in DC comic books over the years. In DC Comics Presents #50 (1982)--the first chronological appearance of the device as it existed in the 20th century--Superman is in proximity of a prototype of the machine during a mission in which he wishes he could be in two places at the same time as both Superman and Clark Kent.
Of course, he is then split into two different people--Superman and Clark Kent. They are re-integrated at the end of the story when Clark gets Superman to visit the graves of Ma and Pa Kent, which impels him to recall that he was unable to save them despite all his powers.
There’s another story in which the Miracle Machine also appeared--one that may be significant: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250-51, plotted and penciled by Jim Starlin and scripted by Paul Levitz. In that story, Brainiac 5 becomes insane (due to stress, but later blamed on him being manipulated by Glorith--a once minor villain who was sort of retconned as the Time Trapper’s replacement following the events in Crisis on Infinite Earths).
The insane (or manipulated) Brainiac 5 unlocked the Miracle Machine and used it to create Omega, the physical embodiment of hate, who would then destroy the universe for Brainiac 5--who claimed he couldn’t use the machine to destroy the universe himself because he was unable to envision that degree of destruction (or something like that).
It’s curious that Brainiac 5 is the one who shows Superman the Miracle Machine in this issue--though Morrison may not be intentionally connecting the events of Final Crisis to Brainiac 5’s attempt to destroy the universe in that tale from 1979.
As for the rest of my rather lengthy review . . . my colleague Dave Wallace says everything else that I wanted to say (though with slightly different wording), so I now relinquish the floor to him.
Oh, but before I do, I wanted to say that the illustration in this issue was very uneven--but I guess that’s what happens when three different pencilers work on the story. Whoever did the fight scenes on pages 6-14 (I’m guessing JG Jones) did some amazing work. I love the backgrounds of the buildings--particularly in the sequence between Supergirl and Mary Marvel.
On the other hand, whoever drew page 19 (which is the page on which Black Canary strikes Green Arrow in panel 4), produced some very crude work--though it might be the fault of the inker rather than the penciler as the lines look like nothing I've seen from any of the three pencilers before.
Finally, I’m 99 percent certain that Doug Mahnke illustrated pages 32-34 (the final three pages). Superman has the same appearance of leathery skin stretched tight over a pinched-looking skull that he has in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1, which was also illustrated by Mahnke. For the most part, I like Mahnke’s work, but his Superman just looks emaciated in the face--almost like how an unwrapped 4,000-year-old mummy would look.
Okay, take it away Dave. . . .
Final Crisis #6 does exactly what the penultimate issue of a good crossover event should--develop individual plot threads towards their logical conclusion, bring events to a head, and end on a compelling cliffhanger that's sure to make readers very eager to read the next installment. However, there's a lot more to the book than that.
More than any other, this issue encapsulates the essence of the series, with Grant Morrison's ideas coming thick and fast on the assumption that readers can keep up. The writer quickly switches between his various story strands--mixing traditional superhero action (such as the fight between Supergirl and Mary Marvel) with high-stakes drama (such as Batman's attack on Darkseid), and combining high-concept ideas (such as the Miracle Machine) with more grounded, emotional content (such as the condensed soap opera of the Super Young Team) to create a dense and fulfilling distillation of the superhero genre.
Not a word is wasted. There's a sense that Morrison has planned out every one of his story strands in detail, but has then whittled them down to the essential information necessary to convey them to the reader. The result is a fast-paced story told on an epic scale, in which every scene bears close examination.
Concepts that are introduced unceremoniously have far greater depth than might at first appear to be the case. A good example is the Metron-inspired facepaint adopted by Mr. Miracle, Sonny Sumo, and the Super Young Team. Morrison has Shilo Norman explain it as "a letter from the alphabet of the New Gods" that means "freedom from restriction" (thus protecting them from the Anti-Life Equation).
Not only is the Metron emblem a reinforcement of the concept that symbols, words, and ideas can contain the power to shape the world (a major theme of Final Crisis), but it also provides a subtle parallel to the anarchist belief systems of "freedom from restriction" that are themselves often symbolised by the letter "A" (the first letter of the Roman alphabet).
It's this ability to efficiently and smoothly incorporate fairly complex (yet relevant) ideas that makes Morrison's work so rewarding to read, and to read closely. That he is able to couch these ideas in superhero conventions so effortlessly without sacrificing the more straightforward aspects of their appeal makes me grateful that writers of his calibre continue to work on the genre.
Elsewhere, Morrison continues to recycle and remix existing DCU concepts--such as the OMAC's "Lord Eye" (a reference not only to Brother Eye, but also possibly to Maxwell Lord?)--whilst also providing new takes on old characters and continuing to introduce his own creations. One of my favourites is the Super Young Team's "Most Excellent Superbat," who appears to share Batman's gift of being “so rich that he can do anything.”
The result of Morrison’s efforts is a fairly detailed framework for the future of the DC universe--firmly rooted in the work of Jack Kirby but given a sheen that's Morrison's own. I'll be interested to see how many of these ideas stick after Final Crisis, and how many of them fall by the wayside.
Surprisingly, given the many names listed on the roster of artists for this issue, the book still looks visually coherent. I can't help but wonder whether that's because Morrison's scripts are so detailed that they leave little room for deviation or misinterpretation. Either way, the artists bring Morrison's ideas to life effectively, and there's a strong sense of visual continuity (both within this single issue and for the series as a whole).
There are plenty of visual elements that go completely unreferenced by the text. Again, the creators are relying on the fact that readers will be attentive enough to pick up on them rather than spoon feeding their audience by spelling everything out in dialogue or captions.
For instance, the design of the Miracle Machine is another reflection of Metron's symbol--which has shown up in several places throughout the series. Additionally, the page in which Batman first confronts Darkseid closely mirrors the page from Seven Soldiers #1 in which Darkseid "killed" Mister Miracle at the Dark Side club--particularly the identical patterns in the background, behind Darkseid.
And there are plenty of subtle touches in the art that work to tell the story in an intelligent, yet unobtrusive and unshowy manner--such as the layout of story panels to look like monitor screens as Nix Uotan attempts to keep track of the world, or the blunted medical tools that have been unsuccessful in penetrating Overgirl (the Supergirl from an alternate Earth).
Despite the lack of absolute consistency that’s inevitable for a series with an art team of so many different pencilers and inkers, I'm keen to see how Doug Mahnke fares with issue #7. His closing pages here contain a real sense of power and dynamism--as well as providing a neat homage to the cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 that helps to sell the scale of the scene. I think he’s a great choice to bring Morrison’s finale to life.
As this sixth issue draws to close, Morrison reveals one of the biggest surprises of the series with a scene that shows Batman killing Darkseid (apparently) with the same bullet that killed Orion--only to be immediately struck down himself by the Omega beams Darkseid released before the bullet hit. Despite being only a few pages long, it's a well-written scene that says everything that it needs to--allowing the plot point to stand as the powerful and symbolic moment that it should be. This is one of the key moments of the series so far: The demonstration of humankind's capacity to triumph over evil (after so many issues in which it seemed that evil had the upper hand).
That the triumph happens by way of a magic gun isn't particularly important to me. Though it might upset those readers who believe firmly in the dogma that Batman should never use a gun (despite several instances of him having done so in the past), I simply don't regard it as a fundamental aspect of the character’s nature.
Batman’s use of a gun to take a life (at least seemingly) is also an ironic reflection of the event that created Batman from the child that was young Bruce Wayne--and it's interesting to read this issue in the light of Morrison's treatment of the character in the Batman title over the last couple of years.
The confrontation between Batman and Darkseid also creates an even stronger link between Final Crisis and Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle miniseries. Morrison's Batman run has shared numerous similarities with that miniseries (the systematic dismantling of a superhero; his betrayal by his lover; his psychological torture at the hands of Darkseid), and I'll be interested to see whether the eventual return of Shilo Norman is mirrored by the return of Bruce Wayne in future.
Certainly, the "Omega Sanction" is a plot device that provides the possibility for Batman to overcome his apparent "death." Indeed, this issue contains many indications that Morrison is already planning to resurrect Bruce Wayne in the near future. The artwork shows a strange, unexplained effect behind Batman (Kirby dots and all) as he is hit in the head and the heart by Darkseid's Omega Beams. Darkseid himself talks of the Omega Sanction as "the death that is life."
The charred husk of Batman is reminiscent of the body of Boss Dark Side from earlier in the series--suggesting that whilst Batman’s body may be dead, his spirit could have moved on to another form. Morrison even has Sonny Sumo refer to his own survival of the Omega Sanction in this issue, again hinting that it may be possible for Batman to return in future.
Lines like "We haven't heard the last of him" when Libra is apparently killed in this issue, and the "pray for a resurrection" line from issue #2 show how the series has constantly reinforced the impermanence of death (or apparent death) in comics. With this in mind, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruce Wayne return in the near future.
Unfortunately, as ever, there are some flaws that stop the issue from feeling as perfect as it might. The fact that Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 and Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3-5 have yet to be released means that the scenes dealing with Superman at the beginning and end of the issue are slightly confusing. Hopefully the release of the second Superman Beyond issue next week will clear up the timeline somewhat, and reveal the reasons behind Lois Lane's apparent recovery from the life-threatening injuries she sustained earlier in the series.
Also, Morrison's treatment of the Green Lanterns is a little disappointing given the build-up of last issue's opening sequence. If Morrison intended Hal Jordan & co. to be absent for so much of this issue, I wonder why he gave them such a heavy presence in the previous chapter.
Finally, the book continues to be plagued by apparent colouring errors:
- Shilo Norman still appears to be white rather than black, with no explanation given for this change (perhaps those who sport the Metron sigil are meant to take on Metron’s pale, metallic sheen--if so, that point isn’t made clear).
- The colouring of Darkseid's "Omega Sanction" eyebeams switches from purple to yellow between pages.
- And the background colour of the issue's cover appears to have been changed from JG Jones' original white background to a dark blue, removing some of the impact of his iconic image of Batman.
Despite these minor problems, this issue is still very strong chapter of what is shaping up to be the best crossover event comic in recent memory. The increasingly choppy structure might be difficult for some readers, but it works well to convey the sense that the universe is disintegrating, that the multiverse is breaking down, and that "things fall apart."
It's a little depressing that people are dismissing this series as "crap" or impenetrable just because it's a little more demanding than your average superhero book. Whilst some readers do have legitimate complaints with the book, and it probably won't be to everyone's tastes, I'd like to think that most comics readers are open-minded enough to be receptive to someone who's actually trying to do something unique and innovative with the medium, whilst also telling an exciting, epic superhero story.
While I’ve more or less enjoyed every issue of Final Crisis up to this point, I absolutely loved this issue--and not for the obvious reason (the big finale). No, I love this issue because it basically says, “Everything that came before has been prologue.”
Darkseid taking over the world? That was just a means to an end. The real Final Crisis happens next issue. It’s an idea that I’m sure alienates at least half of DC’s audience, but I think it’s fantastic.
I can understand why Final Crisis is so polarizing. Aside from editorial incompetence (does anyone have any idea why Superman Beyond isn’t part of the main series?), Morrison is giving his readers point A and point B, but not bothering with the straight line in between.
In this issue, Batman appears, free from his prison and ready to face off against Darkseid. How did he escape? Does it matter? He’s Batman, one moment he was captured, the next he was free.
To Morrison, the story of his escape, while a good one, isn’t essential to the central story. That straight line matters to a lot of people, while others are willing to just accept that they know the important bits. This is Brian Bendis’s worst nightmare: Hyper-compressed storytelling. This issue opens with one of those moments.
Superman is in the 31st century with Brainiac 5, resident genius of the Legion of Superheroes. Brainy is giving Superman the ultimate weapon, the Miracle Machine. I’m sure there are more than a few people yelling at their comics “how did Superman get there? Who’s the green guy? What is going on?”
I imagine Morrison’s response would be: “Hey, quit harping on every little thing and just enjoy the ride. This is comics, it’s supposed to be crazy.” I am inclined to go along with the ride.
The bulk of this issue involves the continuation of the fight at Bludhaven (aka the worst-named city in DC). Mary Marvel is finally saved, Kalibak meets his match, and S.H.A.D.E. begins their back-up plan: Taking the human race to a brand new Earth in another universe to start over.
Unfortunately for humanity, infiltrating the Bleed appears to be just the trigger that Mandrakk the Dark Monitor was waiting for. The world begins to come to an end, and the real power behind Final Crisis is about to appear.
Artwise, this issue is something of a mixed bag. It’s hard to argue against the pure awesomeness of that last page or the two-page spread that necessitated it. The multi-panel, two-page spread, which appears to be Doug Mahnke’s first contribution, is also extremely well done--and I wish we’d seen more “situation updates” like this throughout the series.
On the opposite end, we have the two-page fight in the satellite sequence in which Black Canary, while telling Ollie she loves him, looks like a man. These pages, in particular, are so muddled that I’m not even entirely sure who drew them, so I don’t know where to place the blame.
In the end, Final Crisis #6 did exactly what it needed to do. It organized the deck in preparation for the finale, and it raised the excitement level. I can hardly wait for the next issue.
In fact, I can hardly wait to sit down and read through this entire, fantastic labyrinth of a story through from start to finish all over again.
Paul Brian McCoy:
Final Crisis is shaping up to be the best Event Comic Series I’ve ever read. And why is that? Well, a large part of it is that Morrison has tossed away the “connect-the-dots / paint-by-numbers” approach that is typical of this sort of work. When he says that this “is channel-zapping comics,” I get it. Apparently, many don’t.
Then again, I’m also a huge fan of the music of Mike Patton--another place where a “channel-zapping” stylistic approach is often utilized. If you’ve never listened to Fantomas’s first, self-titled CD (and you probably haven’t), then you might not understand what I’m talking about. It contains 30 songs, ranging in length from 4 seconds to 4:22, and ranging in style from melodic to noisy--with each song only titled by Page Number (i.e. “Page One” through “Page Thirty”).
Listening to Fantomas is like flipping from channel to channel and listening to fragments of music, noise, sound effects, screams, and singing--cutting songs off just as they begin to move, then cutting into the next song just as abruptly. It’s a technique the band returned to for the CD Suspended Animation, which adopts a 30 Day motif rather than the 30 Pages of Fantomas. Patton has also used this approach in his latest solo CD, the soundtrack, A Perfect Place--where two tracks are actually entitled “Car Radio (AM)” and “Car Radio (FM),” and incorporate the sounds of channel changing between a variety of short clips of different styles.
On first listen, these compositions can be dissatisfying, to say the least. Especially to a listener who’s never considered approaches to music outside of traditional song structures--or even those who are familiar with more experimental music that still plays with those traditions of verse, bridge, chorus, repeat (as Frank Zappa often did).
However, upon repeated listening (or careful first listens), structures begin to make themselves known. Subtle returns can be noticed slipping into wildly different genre approaches, and what was noise suddenly becomes recognizable as music. Just not the music you might have been expecting or even wanting.
Each track contains an essential element, a core, that, if desired, could have been expanded and molded into traditional song structures, but is intended to provide a moment that contains the whole. Introductions and conclusions, narrative progressions, scenes--all are given a dramatically truncated form that provoke a discordant aesthetic burst rather than smoothly carrying the listener along.
On top of that, Patton often combines traditional music and singing with sharp explosions of static or noise, screeching, staccato shrieks, and other sounds and instruments not normally considered pleasing or even musical.
Some people will never like it. Some people will take to it like gangbusters. I love it. It’s not better than traditional music, but it’s not worse. It requires a different mindset to appreciate and enjoy.
And that’s what Final Crisis is: “Channel-zapping” from scene to scene, splashing abbreviated bursts of violence, tenderness, exposition, tension, heroism, nihilism, and more at readers who must either leave their traditional expectations at the door (allowing Morrison’s stylistic approach to reveal itself) or almost automatically feel disappointment and confusion because this text will not conform to traditional expectations. Do not take your demands to the text; let the text explain its demands to you.
Sure, there are elements of the DC Crisis motif playing out, but this story is something bigger, bolder, and fresher than anything else currently going on in mainstream comics. It’s Mythic as opposed to Summer Blockbuster. It’s original as opposed to maintaining the status quo. It’s surprising as opposed to comfortable.
It’s not for everyone. It’s mature and forward-looking. It’s brilliant.
Each scene shift captures a moment or two before cutting away with no narrative to guide you. Suddenly, you’re in the next place Morrison wants you to be, in the middle of conversations, right at the edge of calm before the storm, or plunged without concern into the midst of violent, mythic battle.
The classic tropes are here. This is the End of the World. Darkseid’s fall and manifestation into our Universe is too much for Spacetime to endure. This is the first time something more than an avatar of Darkseid has emerged into our reality. Reality recoils and sickens at the contact, but every character behaves the way they should behave, rather than the way convention tells us they have to. The drama does not hinge on clichéd responses and conventional reactions:
- The Green Lanterns fall forever, their ass-kicking perpetually postponed.
- Captain Marvel saves Mary in a touching tribute to Alan Moore’s neo-seminal Miracleman.
- The team at Checkmate prepares for the Final Retreat--their misguided attempts at saving us once again being the most tragically misguided move possible (perhaps a commentary on the need for mythic heroes rather than monolithic, almost totalitarian, human conceit--when our legends falter and we turn away, what can we do but fumble and fail on an even grander scale?).
- Nix Uotan tries to coordinate events but, perhaps sympathetic with the point of view of the reader, he finds it all just too far out of control, too scattered, too overwhelmingly immersive.
- And Batman returns to the moment that made him and picks up the gun (because that’s what happens when heroes face the End--they do what must be done, or die trying (sometimes and die trying).
- Superman’s return coincides with the launch of Black Gambit (and the apparent arrival of Mandrakk, the Dark Monitor)
- Batman’s “death” is via The Omega Sanction, which isn’t necessarily deadly (as both Shilo Norman and Sonny Sumo have discovered).
- The Flashes are on their way beyond time to save everyone.
- And Luthor has his own pseudo-heroic path to travel.
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