The covers and pages from Final Crisis #1 and #2 by Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Alex Sinclair, Rob Leigh, Adam Schlagman, and Eddie Berganza.
I wanted to revisit Final Crisis because Multiversity seems like it picks up on a lot of threads that were first introduced in it and I wanted to refresh my memory on some of the details. This was at least my third time through it and I think it is one of Morrison’s most ambitious and epic superhero sagas, yet it also feels oddly small in some ways, for good and ill. It also employs a most unusual structure, which works brilliantly in terms of establishing momentum and a sense of cosmic horror, but also ends up being rather confusing and frustrating in other places. Final Crisis is flawed, to be sure. But it’s flaws are born out of innovation and creativity and multiple readings always seem to reveal new wrinkles and angles.
There are lots of thorough reviews and annotations on the internet for this series, so I’m not going too in depth here, providing just a few observations on each issue and the series as a whole.
The DCU of issue #1 sure is a grim and unpleasant place isn’t it? We’ve got Kirby gods laying dead in garbage piles, rapist super villains leering at teen heroes, and Martian Manhunter brutally executed without struggle in one page.* This is a post Identity Crisis, post 9/11 version of the DCU where the heroes seem to lose as much as they win, and they don’t seem to like each other very much. In Supergods, Morrison wrote that he wanted to demonstrate with Final Crisis what happens when bad stories overtake good ones and evil wins. He suggests he was trying to critique the nightmarish nature of the 2000s version of the superhero myth by creating the ultimate nightmare story. I’m not sure I believe that was intention from the start, but intent doesn’t really matter at this point. The ugly depiction the DCU at the beginning of Final Crisis does seem to support Morrison’s take on his own work. This certainly isn’t a world I’d want to live in, or even read about really.
The new 52 rightly gets a lot of flak for being too grim and gritty, but that was a trend DC started well beforehand, with dozens of deaths and maimings (and one infamous rape) occurring throughout the 00s. I wonder if at some point, perhaps behind the scenes or maybe just in Morrison’s head, FC was meant to allow for a firm reboot point into a kinder, gentler DCU. The events at the end of the series seem to suggest this was on the tabel at some point, but Final Crisis was pretty much ignored by DC after it wrapped up.
I was going to criticize J.G. Jones’ art as being rather ugly and too realistic for my tastes, but maybe it actually suits Morrison’s ideas rather well. I think it a nice happy accident that Jones couldn’t keep to schedule and the final issue of the series was done by Doug Mahnke, a proper superhero artist who ably depicted the goings-on in a more mythic, fantastic scale.
Issue #1 also demonstrates the scope and ambition of the series. We go from ‘the first boy to the last boy’ as I believe Morrison was fond of saying at the time, and we have the drama with the Monitors happening on the macro cosmic level while the Justice League deals with Orion’s murder on Earth.
Issue #2 introduces more characters and more levels to the mystery of Orion’s death. The creators impressively set up two generations of Japanese super people in incredibly economic fashion. I don’t think the Super Young Team ever really pay off in this series though, other than being from the same country as Sonny Sumo (who himself only seems to be here because he’s a Kirby character), they seem rather arbitrary.
I love the funeral scene if only because it communicates a very clever idea so elegantly - that being that superheroes would probably have an entirely different sense of religion and spirituality based on the crazy things that happen to them. I think at least 7 of the characters in that image had already died and come back to life at that point.
The last panel above is, if I recall correctly, the last time we see Batman until his very big scene in #6. It would have been nice to see more of his struggle to free himself.
* - Peter Tomasi, Dough Mahnke and company did a very nice tie-in book called Final Crisis: Requiem that expands upon that scene and lets J’onn put up much more of a fight. Again, a more conventional event book would have let us see that scene within the main storyline, but that wouldn’y have fit in with the shock and awe approach of these first issues.
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