This is a very long post with lots of scans ... so brew a cup and settle in.
I read Final Crisis #7 on Wednesday afternoon and was absolutely thoroughly confused. But rather than rush to post a review, I decided to wait a bit and see if anything settled in. I am glad I did. I reread the issue last night and it suddenly made a lot more sense. Not that I think I understand it all ... but at least the timeline of the events made more sense.
Now I am sure that there will be a great debate about Final Crisis for a while. Morrison is not for everyone and this was Morrison at his most Morrison-iest. So there will be plenty of people who will hate it.
For me, when you put the whole thing together, there is no denying that are more original ideas and concepts sown in this 7 issue mini-series than in any other 7 issues I can think of. Hell, there is more here to think about than in some titles' years of runs.
My one problem (if it is a problem) is that given the sheer number of ideas and plot threads stuffed into the book, many do not get explored or explained as much as I would like. Others get explored much more than I care for. For example, I would have liked the Mandrakk threat fleshed out much more than it was. Mandrakk was the big threat in this book and yet he only appears for 5 pages of the whole series. So why devote so much time to the asian super-team or the kidnapping of children in the early series? Pages devoted to Nix Uotan's job as a pizza delivery boy?
If you can't figure out what's going on, it's frustrating. Long sections or splash pages of things that in the end don't matter *a lot* can feel pretty lousy when you are starving for some exposition. As a reader of Morrison, you just have to let the ideas wash over you and try to piece it all together in the end.
Okay Anj ... get off the soap box.
The big thing for me with this issue was understanding that this issue was being told from 4 pretty discrete time points.
Point A - the immediate aftermath of Batman's death. Point B - a period of heroic preparation in the watch tower. Point C - the big battle. And Point D - the post big battle reality. Making sure I understood what point in time a panel was from helped me tremendously. I will be referring to these points throughout the review.The issue starts at Point B. The Question, the new Global Peace Agent, is riding in the Ultima Thule ship from Final Crisis:Superman Beyond gathering up the Supermen equivalents from the 52 universes, forming an army that will eventually face Mandrakk. Remember at the end of Beyond, Superman tells Captain Marvel to be like 'Paul Revere' and warn everyone that Mandrakk is coming. Looks like he is doing just that.
The first one we see them recruit is an African-American president who also happens to wear the big red S. That's a nice touch given the recent election.
We also see the Watchtower during Point B as well. An amalgam of the JLA satellite and the Fortress of Solitude, here the surviving heroes and villains are busy working on the ultimate solution to the problem ... a veritable miracle machine. Swirling around the Watchtower is simply a morass of chaos, a universe of Darkseid as he dragged reality to the pit with him.
Well, we eventually learn that the voice-over is from Lois Lane who is writing 'the last story', the events around the end of this conflict with the plan to rocket it into the chaos around them in case Superman's plan fails. Maybe that way someone may find it and eventually read about the strength of humanity.
We are suddenly brought to Point A - the end moment of Final Crisis #6. Superman confronts Darkseid but realizes that the dark god controls all the humans on Earth. There is no way to fight Darkseid without harming innocents. Darkseid actually loads the Radion bullet into a gun with the plan to shoot Superman.
He fires and misses just as the Flashes show up with their piece of the plan. Barry at some point learned that the best way to defeat Darkseid is to bring death to him. Barry and Wally outrace the Black Racer leading him right to Darkseid.
Darkseid shoots the Radion bullet but misses Superman; the bullet flies into the time stream the Flashes have opened up moving into the past ... where it will kill Orion. That is the very bullet that Batman later uses to shoot Darkseid, an interesting time loop.
The Black Racer seems to claim Darkseid, ripping him from Dan Turpin's body. We know this because we see the physical body of Turpin but with human eyes, rather than the glowing red eyes we have seen since Darkseid manifested. Again, this is not explained outright ... just inferred and could easily be missed.
Was this a worthy story for the return of Barry Allen? The idea of outracing Death and leading him to your enemy is very cool ... no doubt. But Barry was such a small part of the overall series. I didn't want him to return in the first place thinking it cheapens his COIE sacrifice and suddenly turns back the clock on Wally. While this was a huge part of defeating Darkseid, it was touched upon in such a small way, I didn't get any of the goose bumps I should have from the return of such an icon.
But back to Point A we go and the war on Earth continues.
We see that Checkmate simply gets overrun by the Justifiers.
We see that Lord Eye goes insane and detonates the spatial tunnel the Atoms were trying to create to a new universe.
And we see the JLA satellite out of power and falling to Earth. But we also see that Black Canary's team was successful in their small part in the big picture. The Ray was able to escape the satellite and seems to be broadcasting the Mister Miracle sigil to the whole world thus releasing mankind from Anti-Life submission.
The Question, who was at Checkmate headquarters at the time of the explosion, says that Mister Miracle's mother boxxx was able to boom tube out most people to safety. She sent them to the Kamandi universe where they could then begin their mission of finding the Supermen.
The Question tells Overman about the death of Overgirl. While the panel to the right obviously cannot have happened, it does show the grief Overman would have for his cousin's death. It is yet another riff on The Pieta and (I thought) a little nod to Kara's death in COIE #7.
The power of story is a running theme throughout many of Morrison's book including this one. We see that the events of Point A, the war with Darkseid on Earth, are being told like oral history to the surviving children on the Watchtower by Supergirl and Wonder Woman. Good old Streaky seems interested too.
Can you imaging the Loeb-written or Joe Kelly-written Kara telling stories to kids? No way ...
Thank goodness that characterization of Supergirl is over. I thought Morrison really made Supergirl a powerful symbol of strength and goodness in this series. She is caring. Wonderful.
Shrinking Earth's population in ice cube trays! Another Morrison throw away idea, one that I rather like.
But we still haven't heard the last of events of Point A on Earth. After suffering through a whole series of being Darkseid's slave, Wonder Woman finally has a brief moment. Freed from the morticoccus bacterium (I guess by Frankenstein somehow), she crushes her Fury mask in disgust and binds Darkseid in her lasso.
This is one area where I truly felt lost. How did she get free? Why the need to bind Darkseid if he is already dead at the hands of Black Racer?
The piece of this crisis on Earth is over. But the Darkseid is still falling, ripping the guts out of the multiverse as he falls.
We are now at Point B. The humans frozen, the Miracle Machine built, Superman confronts the remnants of Darkseid at last. Darkseid has basically manifested as surrounding environment of chaos, a vibration of doom. Superman tells Darkseid that every vibration has a counter-vibration that will cancel each other out. Superman then sings ... disintegrating Darkseid, collapsing what little is left of time/space around him.
Superman sings to defeat Darkseid's universal plot. Say that again. That is wonderful Morrison looniness ... a mix of genius, Silver Age fun, and insanity. Many won't like such a bizarre end. I thought it was wonderful. What other hero could sing to victory?
Sitting in the void, Superman finds Element X, the fire of the gods, in Metron's seat and puts it into the Miracle Machine.
Alone, exhausted, Superman sees Mandrakk finally arrives. This is the end of stories. With Superman's defeat, the multiverse will simply collapse on itself. With no beings to tell or live stories, the universe will revert to the immaculate state the Monitor Overmind originally protected. Remember it was "story" which corrupted Dax Novu, made him Mandrakk, and created the Monitors to begin with. (Again, the story of 'story' is seen.)
Well, maybe Superman isn't alone. It looks like he planned to have Kara at his side. But she has been defeated by the vampiric Ultraman.
But while alone now, the cavalry is about to arrive. Mandrakk's destroyers arrive to Earth (to be honest I thought Earth was destroyed here ... but I guess it still exists) and their arrival provides a path for the Green Lanterns circling Earth to enter the fray.
And then Nix Uotan, the newly appointed Judge of All Evil, arrives. And with him, three animals from Earth-35 which he mutates to Captain Carrot, Pig Iron, and Yankee Poodle. And he also has brought an angelic army ... the Pax Dei.
And the Green Lantern Corps arrives.
And the multiverse's Supermen arrive.
Wait a minute .... Captain Carrot on the front line with Superman to face off against the Dark Monitor!? Again, you either think these flashes of Morrison are genius or idiotic. I think the former.
Tawky Tawny guts Kalibak. And Pig Iron helps save the universe. Unbelievable. Simply fantastic.
And here is the crazy part. This whole mini-series was built with the expectation of a showdown with Mandrakk. And that showdown took 3 panels, 75% of one page. The Supermen burn Mandrakk with complete heat vision annihilation. The Green Lanterns deliver a stake through Ultraman's heart.
Did we really need pages of Turpin beating on the Mad Hatter if this ... the climax ... gets 3 panels? It depends on what you want in comics ... a slow and maddening build to a crescendo of a single cymbal clash .... or pages of slugfest action. Both have their allure.
Finally, we reach Point D. With Mandrakk defeated, Superman activates the Miracle Machine (off screen, of course) and saves the multiverse. Lois says it best: 'we saw the best' of humanity as they struggled to victory. "We rebuild ... we continue. Earth endures."
Nix Uotan takes his place as the head Monitor. The Orrery is being repaired. The New Gods will go to Earth 51 to guide that destiny.
He then declares that the Monitors will now cease all contact with the germ worlds. No more interference.
And it is true. There will be no interference. This was the final crisis of their culture.
Superman's wish was for 'only the best for all of us'. Somehow that means the dissolution of the Monitors and their world. We see the panels slowly moth eaten away by whiteness. And then we see Nix Uotan awaken again as a human in bed.
The last pages show an elderly Anthro finally passing away.
And yes, we see Batman in Anthro's cave ....
If anyone is still reading ... bless you for wading through my rants. Just a bit more I promise.
So what do I think of all this? In the end, I am going to say that I liked Final Crisis. I desperately wanted to love it. But I can't go that far.
First off, how is this post-FC universe different? We are still existing in a world with 52 universes and the same characters. Sure there is no J'onn. No Batman. No Monitors. No New Gods. And Barry is back. But really all of those things could have happened outside of a big event. The DCU does not feel that different now. And isn't that what Crisis events are supposed to do? Really shake things up?
But was it a good story ... really that should be the ultimate question.
Wild concepts, multiple overlapping storylines that eventually knotted, general craziness with unreal innovation, mining the depths of the DCU (Yankee Poodle??), the ultimate hero Superman saving everyone with an earnest wish... that part was good.
Incomprehensible pieces, threads given heavy emphasis that shouldn't have (the kidnapped kids, the Chinese super teams), threads given heavy emphasis early and dropped later (the Libra one particularly was vexing), threads that should have heavy emphasis but didn't (the return of Barry freaking Allen) ... those things were bad. And they weren't just bad, they were frustrating.
And the industry issues ... delays, Jones unable to keep up with art, multiple inkers on this last issue, mini-series playing key roles still not finished ... those things were also bad.
But for a grizzled reader like me, a guy who has been reading comics for 3 decades and seen it all ... well, when I get surprised or caught off guard or when a moment is so powerful or vivid that I am moved a little ... well that is good art. And there were those moments here ... plenty in this issue alone.
And let's not forget, Supergirl really shined here.
Overall grade (issue): B+
Overall grade (series): B