Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: J.G. Jones, Marco Rudy, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke
Review by: John Gustafson
Final Crisis, last summer’s massive DC event helmed by Grant Morrison, is as much an experimentation in storytelling as it is a comic book extravaganza. With the DC Multiverse squarely facing the apocalyptic conquest and submission to Darkseid and his evil New Gods of Apokolips, the grandest of battles takes place in an attempt to ensure independence and the survival of the Multiverse.
For readers eagerly awaiting the trade release of Final Crisis, a barebones summary of the story will be provided in the interest of remaining as spoiler free as possible, but be warned that a number of details must be discussed to explain the story and the resulting ramifications this event has on the present state of the DC Universe and what is to come later on.
Final Crisis starts with Metron (a New God) bestowing upon the early stages of humanity – by way of Anthro – the gift of fire, suggesting that the New Gods have been manipulating mankind. Jumping to the present, detective Dan Turpin finds the god Orion murdered in a garbage pile. Green Lanterns John Stewart and Hal Jordan arrive on the scene, and as a result of the deicide, the Alpha Lanterns are called as specialized investigators. Batman and Hal Jordan had already begun their own investigations, discovering that Orion was shot with a special gun and equally special bullet, but are forced off the case by the Alphas. Meanwhile, Libra begins the formation of a supervillain army to prepare the coming of Darkseid. As a show of power and promise of what is to come, Libra kills the Martian Manhunter in front of the likes of Lex Luthor.
Later, Batman is captured by Darkseid’s forces and imprisoned in what can only be a torture device. Libra, continuing to display his power, has a bomb explode at the Daily Bugle, killing staff and delivering what would be a fatal injury to Lois Lane if not for Superman’s infrared heart massaging. Superman is then transported to Limbo, a universe of nothing and everything at the same time, where he sets out on a personal quest to save Lois. The second Flash, Barry Allen, also makes his return to the world of the living after it has been revealed he has spent all this time outrunning death – in the form of the Black Racer. As more and more of the villains are grouping together, the Anti-Life Equation is released via digital communication forms like cell phones, email, the Internet and television. Immediately, half of the Earth’s human population submits to Darkseid, becoming one entity as his voice and actions. For those questioning what the Anti-Life Equation is, it basically proves mathematically that life cannot go on without joining Darkseid.
While the superheroes continue to fight the villains controlled by Darkseid, the Flashes uncover the truth of how Orion was killed. The bullet was shot through time so as to take the god by surprise.
Somehow Batman breaks free of his confinement and tracks down Darkseid. Facing the Multiverse’s gravest threat, Batman points that same gun – with the special bullet that killed Orion in the chamber – and states he will make an exception to his “no gun” rule, and then fires. As Batman fires, Darkseid shoots the Omega Sanction, charring and allegedly killing the caped crusader. Superman then makes his return, crashing into the Bludhaven base, discovering the remains of Batman.
Superman begins to battle Darkseid when the Flashes (Barry and Wally West), who are being followed by the Black Racer, arrive on the scene. Darkseid’s controlled followers shoot Omega Beams at the Flashes who outrace the beams and make them hit Darkseid. In his weakened and vulnerable state, the Black Racer separates Darkseid’s essence from his body, releasing his control over the heroes and villains. Yet, reality and the world’s surroundings begin to be absorbed by Darkseid’s essence which has now become a black hole.
A number of things happen such as a special machine being built to answer one wish, the Monitors involvement behind the scenes of everything since the dawn of time, and a dark Monitor named Mandrakk (vampire-like thing) who wishes to feed upon a weakened Superman. Throw in all of the Multiverse’s Supermen and a wish by Superman for a happy ending and one has the rest of the story.
Clearly there is a lot going on. So much so that it works against Morrison and the story of Final Crisis. Because of page limitations, which have been expanded to accommodate the special, the story is never given the opportunity to linger on a subject for long, or for that matter accurately explain what is happening on the page.
Take, for instance, the death of the Martian Manhunter. Very simply, he is one of the most powerful and respected heroes in the DC pantheon. Yes, his death is a powerful moment, but he is thrust into the story without a proper lead-in, and altogether abandoned after his quick execution. He is there and gone far too quickly for the proper impact.
Far too much action happens between moments when a subject is revisited. Things have progressed so much that readers are faced with, “What happened here? Why is he/she with them now?” Or, “Where did he/she go?” The answers are not always evident and require the reader to piece the story together.
Because so many questions arise in the core story that remain unanswered or glossed over, ancillary books with the Final Crisis logo are needed to flesh out important story beats. This is the most damaging aspect of Morrison’s storytelling approach. For all the time changes and setting jumps, the story is comprehensible, but questions linger in the background, which the answers to would provide a more rousing tale.
With the faults accredited to the script, the artwork helps keep this collection afloat. The panel structure is truly in a class all its own when compared to any other book. The pages filled to the brim with visual information and aides, as well as top-notch action scenes. Hits reverberate between scenes and carry with them a decided amount of pain. The figure work translates the range of emotions on display, their pain, and the destruction of everything they hold dear. With as many artists working on this story, there is a high level of consistency without the typical distracting style changes books tend to have.
Final Crisis also serves as a semi-conclusion to the Batman R.I.P. story, with the inevitable “death” of the hero. R.I.P. was an exercise in continuity clarification, abstract exposition, and a reminder of who and what Batman is to everyone. At its core, it was the deconstruction of the hero to his base, showing that despite what happens to him (even a mind wipe) he will find a way to rise once more… changed and better. Final Crisis brings a close to his story that began with a gun, and ends with another gun. Batman is no longer the victim with his most hated of weapons, but the savior. So while Bruce Wayne may have closed this chapter of his life, the man is still here.
Final Crisis also sets the stage for this year’s summer event, Blackest Night, featuring the rise of the Black Lanterns battling the Corps and other Lanterns. It would not be a surprise to see the Caped Crusader make his return in some fashion during this event.
Final Crisis is a collection of: Final Crisis #1-7, Final Crisis Superman Beyond 3D #1-2, and Final Crisis: Submit.
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