Final Crisis: Almost, But Not Quite

June 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I reread Final Crisis the other day. I like pretty much everyone involved. Grant Morrison and JG Jones did Marvel Boy together, which is excellent all around. Carlos Pacheco is a good artist. Doug Mahnke should be the only person allowed to draw Wonder Woman ever. I had every reason to like the story, but something in the execution didn’t click with me.

Final Crisis feels like less than the sum of its parts. Morrison’s approach made for a dense and layered read, but it never quite comes together to be something worth reading. I can see the effort, but the effort isn’t enough. The “channel-zapping” style was meant to make the reading experience mirror the events in the book. A lot of stuff is going on, and flipping back and forth from scene to scene, each of them getting only a few pages to breathe, which keeps you disoriented and on edge. It kinda works and it kinda doesn’t.

But enough of its faults. Let’s talk about a couple things that worked.

Batman’s goal is to avenge the death of his parents by spending the rest of his life warring on all criminals. Batman, like the Punisher, has his choice of two endings to his story. He can either die on the streets or fight forever, eventually drafting more and more people into his battle. Final Crisis, though, is the last DC Universe story. It’s the story of the time when evil won and good still persevered. Since this is the last story, Batman gets a chance to do the unthinkable. He gets to end his story. He gets to win.

It is a moment that could only happen to Batman here, where all stories are ending. Everything in Batman’s life built toward this moment. Batman comes face-to-face with the personification of evil itself, and that dark god tells him that the only choice is evil. Instead, Batman steals Darkseid’s idea. “A gun and a bullet” changed Batman’s life forever. A gun and a bullet murdered Orion. And then, at the end of the world, a gun and a bullet are going to be used to destroy their master. With a sigh, he accepts that he actually completed his goal. The “Gotcha,” and the smile, that’s just Batman. Batman doesn’t lose.

Everything about the Flash, any of them, in Final Crisis is dead on. The Flash is the best hero in the DC Universe. He’s got the best enemies, best power, and he’s flexible enough to work on both a street level and cosmic level. More than anything else, though, the Flash is a confident hero. They’re consummate professionals, very experienced, and their very power gives them an edge of everything else. It seems like a contradiction, but their superspeed lets them process things faster than any other hero, which means that they are among the few that can afford to take it slow. They should make being a hero look effortless.

Everything in Final Crisis supports that. The Flashes are supremely confident, they know exactly what they need to do, and just how to go about it. When it comes time to save the world, Barry has a plan. “We start with family.” This is what superheroes are about. It’s about having the power to protect your loved ones, even, or maybe especially, when the entire universe is being pulled into oblivion.

The kiss between Barry and Iris is classic comic book storytelling. How do you cure an evil infection? With love. It’s that simple. And after, everything is fine. It’s business as usual. There was never any doubt about the fact that everything would be all right.

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Notable Quotable 01: Grant Morrison x PopImage

June 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Grant Morrison gave a great interview to PopImage shortly after he left Marvel in 03/04. The whole thing is a good read, but my favorite bit is on page three:

As for all this talk I keep hearing about how ‘ordinary people’ can’t handle the weird layouts in comics – well, time for another micro-rant, but that’s like your granddad saying he can’t handle all the scary, fast-moving information on Top of the Pops and there’s really only one answer. Fuck off, granddad. If you’re too stupid to read a comic page, you shouldn’t be trying to read comic books and probably don’t. As creative people, I feel we need to call time on the relentless watering down of comics design and storytelling possibilities in some misguided attempt to appeal to people who WILL NEVER BE INTERESTED in looking at or buying hand-drawn superhero comic books.

This will surprise absolutely no one, but I agree with Grant here. No caveats, even. Even with the “if you’re too stupid to read a comic page, you shouldn’t be trying to read comics.” I didn’t like his “channel zapping” approach in Final Crisis. I don’t think it came off anywhere near as well as Morrison expected it to, but I could respect the idea behind it. I liked seeing a comic where the reader had to do a bit of the work and interpret what was going on themselves, and giant blocks of exposition were delivered in a way that wasn’t just a bunch of people standing in a room. If you think about why Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Catwoman, and Giganta are called Furies for half a second, you’ll get it. You don’t need that box that says “Wonder Woman is evil now, and leads the reincarnated Female Furies.”

Still, thoughts? Is Morrison being fair?

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Being Broke Is Something I Can’t Afford To Be

May 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

FCAD Cv1DC’s The Source blog put up a preview of the new Joe Casey/Chriscross joint, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance.

Written by Joe Casey
Art by ChrisCross
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Japan’s Super Young Team wants nothing more than to be seen as heroes in the eyes of their adoring public. Unfortunately, their adventures during FINAL CRISIS have gone unnoticed, and they’ve been reduced to performing at public appearances and on various TV shows literally dancing for their livelihood. But the appearance of a new American teammate and a deadly threat complicates the motives of the team as they try and find what truly makes somebody not just a hero, but a sensational hero. Discover the path to greatness in this exciting 6-issue miniseries!

Even better, Brandon Thomas interviewed Joe Casey about the book and his other work. Casey is off Youngblood, so I’m off that book, too. Plus, he says something I agree with 100% on Obama comics:

JC: No way. That move is so played out. Let the guy be the President now, for chrissakes. I think he’s all through being a cheap marketing ploy, a shortcut to making a quick blast of cash in the Direct Market, don’t you?

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Bust it, baby!

February 7th, 2009 Posted by david brothers


Flip it horizontally, and what do you have…?

Tatt’ed Man is so hoooooooooood!

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DC Comics Lost

January 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Black Adam & Isis: Arab

Mister Miracle: Black

Ra’s al Ghul: Arab

Talia al Ghul: European, Chinese, and Arab (apparently)

Renee Montoya: Dominican

Me: Looking back on the past month or so of DC’s comics

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Beetle for the Cowl

January 18th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

You ever read the Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz run of Booster Gold? It was pretty good stuff. The majority of it dealt with Booster’s personal quest to use time travel to save the life of the 2nd Blue Beetle and Booster’s 1st best friend, Ted Kord. Rip Hunter kept insisting to Booster that this was an impossibility and that it would mess up time something fierce. Booster didn’t listen and with the help of Dan Garrett, Jaime Reyes and the mysterious Black Beetle, saved Ted’s life.

Wouldn’t you know it, everything went wrong. This was all some kind of scheme by Mr. Mind and the present was reduced to Max Lord and his OMACs laying waste to almost all the superheroes. Ted saw that his death had a role in the grand scheme of things and seemingly killed himself in some kind of time travel clusterfuck with the use of Black Beetle’s scarab. Booster was broken up about it, but got over his failings with the help of Batman’s compassion.

Despite Ted’s redeath, we were given a happy ending. But wait… what’s this?

Hey! Ted’s alive after all! Johns himself said so. Good for Ted.

Not all good. What’s he going to do now? Ted Kord is supposed to be dead. Blue Beetle is supposed to be dead. He can’t go back to the blue and lighter blue. Even if you ignore there already being a Blue Beetle around (in a sadly cancelled series), an arc in Manhunter shows that Ted being alive would ruin Wonder Woman’s defense for killing Max Lord. It would make her look even worse in the public eye.

It’s a shame. A young guy like himself given a second chance. He’s rich, he’s brilliant, he’s a gadget wiz, he’s got his own secret hideout and you know he’s just raring to go back to fighting crime. Blame it on the economy, but sometimes a talented guy just can’t find a job.

Wait a minute… Wasn’t there a job opening this week?

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Bloody Flags and Lifeless Rodents

January 16th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

“All right. It’s conceivable you could beat me, Avenger. But it would take you a very long time. Tell me this, though – do you want to?”

“No. You’re not the enemy. We’re all just pawns, in a larger scheme.”

“Then we might be better off letting the others play out the events according to the desires of whoever’s pulling the strings – while the two of us try to find some real answers.”

“You’re on. Let’s go.”

— Batman and Captain America from JLA/Avengers #2

I remember back when Marvel and DC had their Marvel vs. DC back in the mid-90’s, it was my first real introduction to Captain America. Sure, I had seen him pop up in Maximum Carnage (wow, I read some shitty stuff when I was that age), but I didn’t understand what a big deal he was supposed to be until they said that he’s supposed to be Batman’s counterpart.

It was weird, since they didn’t seem to have much in common. When they did that Amalgam event and they merged Batman and Wolverine, it seemed to make some sense more based on the two of them being scowling badasses with kid sidekicks and psycho killer (qu’est que c’est… fa-fa-fa-fa fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better) bad guys. Even the idea of Batman being the counterpart of Iron Man worked out better, since their secret identities were virtually the same guy.

Yet Marvel and DC, despite all their differences, has written in stone that these two are not only counterparts, but equals. They’ve gone far enough to show Superman beating up the Hulk and Thor, but even when the fans vote on it, they refuse to show an actual winner in Batman vs. Captain America. I always found that interesting.

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Not that it’s topical or anything, but –

January 15th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Know what sucks about character death?

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I Call My Brother “Son” ’cause He Shine Like One

August 7th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

This bit of audio here is important. It’s from DC’s Final Crisis Management panel from San Diego Comic-con 2008. Thanks to Jamie Coville for the mp3 of the panel.

[MEDIA not found]
The bit I want to talk about:

The whole idea with Mister Miracle, Mister Miracle was supposed to be a book where everyone was black and that was the idea. I wanted to do like, Metron as Sun-Ra. He’d sit in this big Sun-Ra chair with mirrors and stuff.

But, it wasn’t drawn that way. And when they drew the second issue, they drew the homeless New Gods as white guys, don’t ask me why. ’cause everyone in that book was supposed to be black characters ’cause I wanted the whole thing to be based on Shilo Norman and his world. But, those guys shouldn’t be white, sometimes things just happen, artists tend to draw white guys.

Before I go in, I should probably explain some things about myself.

It’s fair to say that I’m under-educated. My college career was derailed around two months before it really got going, and I’ve been off-track ever since. I went from almost being a Buckeye to being whatever this is. It sucked, if you were wondering.

I eventually got serious about school, starting caring again, and flexing my underachieving muscles. Kanye West dropped his College Dropout album and I hated on it originally. “Telling kids to drop out of college?” I thought. “Way to go, Kanye. I thought you were supposed to be smart.” I mean, here’s a bit from his song “School Spirit:”

Told ’em I finished school, and I started my own business
They say, ‘Oh you graduated?’
No, I decided I was finished

So, yeah, a few years later and I’m pretty much officially a college drop out with a job that pays better than anything I’d have gotten fresh out of college.

The point of this is that I’m not exactly trained. Almost everything I know, I learned because I wanted to or because I experienced it. I can’t cite sources or trace lineages for ideas, but I know a little bit about a little bit. I’m smart enough to be able to form arguments and talk about them intelligently. I’m not Encyclopedia Brown, is my point. Pardon my poor phrasings or ignorance.

What’s this got to do with black New Gods?

Grant Morrison came very close to writing one of the best stories about the black experience. I can’t speak to whether it was on purpose or not. My gut says “Yes, to an extent,” so I’ll go with that.

Looking back, in most things I’ve read, most advice I’ve been given, and most stories I’ve heard, the one theme that’s almost universal among black people is “elevation.” You are more than what you appear to be, you will be more than you are, what you are now is only the beginning, and so on.

If you put some thought on it, it makes sense. Slavery stripped blacks of almost every possible form of identity. National, familial, religious, and tribal identity were completely wiped due to the slave trade. At that point, what history do you have left? Not much of one, right? What do you do when you don’t have a past?

You embrace the future.

I can’t speak to the specifics of Afro Futurism, but it’s a common trait amongst a lot of black thought. Boiled down, it’s all about being more than what you are, because what you aren’t isn’t that much at all. We aren’t slaves– we’re kings and queens. We came here on slave ships, but we’re gonna leave on space ships.

What’s getting high? Getting lifted.

You can see it in the music. Andre 3000, Sun Ra, George Clinton, and even Lil Wayne are examples of Afro Futurism. Saul Williams in particular has wholly embraced the idea of it. Here’s an excerpt from “Ohm” off the Lyricist Lounge record.

the beat don’t stop when, Earth sends out satellites
to spy on Saturnites and control Mars
cause niggas got a peace treaty with Martians
and we be keepin em up to date with sacred gibberish
like “sho’ nuff” and “it’s on”

It isn’t just about being “weird” and “out there,” though. You can see it in a man’s swagger. Swagger isn’t just about how you walk. It’s your style. It’s your demeanor. It’s how you walk, how you talk, how you dress, and how you carry yourself. A lot of hip-hop heads are gadget hounds. They’ve gotta have the newest and baddest thing out there. There’s a lot of jokes about bling bling or whatever, and part of it is certainly crass commercialism, but it’s also another way to show your individuality and embrace something bigger than you are. It’s a way to become you.

It’s like Key23 in The Invisibles, or “Let there be light.” it’s turning fiction into fact.

Look at the Wu-Tang Clan. The RZA is part rapper, part kung fu warrior, part chess master, part superhero, and then part Bobby Digital. Bobby’s something greater than the RZA who is in turn greater than Robert Diggs.

The cipher is an important part of rap. Or it was. I can’t tell any more. Another word for it is “circle.” The cipher contains men who are not much by themselves, but are something important when together. You’ve heard the advice “Watch who you let into your circle?” Your circle is your cipher. It’s your family and it is important.

Parents want their kids to be better than they were. What matters is that the next generation ends up better off than the previous one. Go to school, get a job, leave the ghetto, do something, be something. You don’t have a history and your people don’t have a history worth speaking of. So, you have to create one.

Elevate yourself. What you are is not everything that you are.

I’m not an expert on Afro Futurism. I can’t tell you exactly where it came from, but I’ve got a pretty good idea why it exists. It is about elevation. It’s taking what you are and becoming something else. It’s being a butterfly.

Chris Randle picked up on the Morrison thing a while back. He linked to this fascinating piece about black sci-fi. I don’t know that I’ve read any, to be honest, but the themes and ideas in it are familiar. Creating/ascending to/acquiring/forcing a heaven that you do not currently have into existence.

All of this goes back to having the direct link to your past stolen by slavery. It’s all well and good to know that you came from Africa at some point– but where? When? Who were you related to? How do you get past that?

Why is this important and how does it relate to the New Gods?

The New(er) Gods were originally all supposed to be black at first. They were the new incarnations of the New Gods, who were themselves the successors to the Old Gods of the Third World. The New Gods becoming black would have continued the tradition of elevation.

In 7 Soldiers: Mister Miracle, Shilo Norman pulls off a trick that involves escaping from a black hole. Inside the hole, he met Metron of the New Gods, who informed him that evil was on its way and that Shilo must be prepared for the coming horror. He meets the reincarnated, or maybe just incarnated, versions of the good New Gods while going through his training, and they are broken and decrepit. The evil gods have won. Shilo passes through the crucible and beats death, finally proving that he’s ready to lead the charge. In Final Crisis, he’s seen gathering heroes to fight Darkseid and the forces of evil.

Shilo being the champion of the New Gods is an intensely powerful image on a variety of levels. By being the first of the New Gods, he’s attained what Afro Futurism and elevation represents. He’s elevated to a higher state. He’s achieved his potential. His figurative lack of a past no longer matters. He’s beyond that now.

On a level that’s both higher and lower than that at the same time, Mister Miracle represents something else entirely. He’s the world’s greatest escape artist. He can easily escape from traps, games, gimmicks… and chains. He’s thrown off his personal chains of oppression. He’s a freed slave, and in becoming so, is also the master of his destiny. He becomes the Harriet Tubman (or maybe Catcher Freeman) for the superheroes/New Gods. He has to rescue them and lead them to safety.

He’s found his true identity and elevated.

Grant Morrison has said that all we’ve seen of the New Gods before Final Crisis is just a sliver of their true existence. In FC, we see the full extent of their being. Isn’t this similar to the idea that a person represents something greater than himself? You are not what you appear to be, you are something more?

If not for that unfortunate art error, Morrison might have written a story that’d resonate even deeper with some of his fans. It’s already rife with layered meaning, but the meaning that almost was is amazing.

It’s worth thinking about. It’s probably a story worth telling, too.

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Steven Grant Rules

June 27th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

From this week’s Permanent Damage

Speaking of upheaval, all this, including the underlying idiot notion that karma would rise up to bite Dan Didio on the ass for Chuck’s ill-treatment, got exacerbated by the revelation that Marvel’s SECRET INVASION #2 was the top book of the month, with DC’s supposedly pivotal FINAL CRISIS #1 coming in second, along with the speculation that “we can’t imagine anyone at DC is very happy about that.”


It has become ridiculously easy to confuse reviewers’ commentary on comics with the real-world facts about those comics, but usually the one doesn’t have much more than peripheral connection to the other. I’ve mentioned in the past the dichotomous, contradictory standard “fanthink” on the matter: the comic that we like that fails failed because the audience isn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate it, the comic that we don’t like that fails failed because the audience couldn’t be fooled by crap. Corollaries: the comic that we like never fails because it’s crap and we’re the ones who got fooled by it; the book we don’t like that succeeds always succeeds because the rest of the audience is dazzled by crap.

The bold’s the important bit, the whole piece is well worth a read. The idea that Final Crisis wasn’t #1 because it’s “too smart” is dumb, possibly terminally so.

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