Final Crisis: Almost, But Not Quite

June 22nd, 2010 by | Tags: , , , ,

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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21 comments to “Final Crisis: Almost, But Not Quite”

  1. I absolutely agree with your take on the Flashes in this story, especially Barry’s portrayal. All through Flash: Rebirth, I kept wondering: who was this guy with Barry Allen’s name and face? What happened to the Barry we saw in Final Crisis? It was enough to make me wish for a team-written Flash book, where Geoff Johns writes the Rogues and Grant Morrison writes the Flash.

  2. I love Final Crisis. The channel surfing, the Flashes, BATMAN!, The Super Hero Young Team, Mary Marvel vs Supergirl, the rise and fall of Darkseid…all of it. Even the overplayed “Supervillain Teamup” that’s found here(established by Libra) is done well. Its the end of the universe and it feels like it! Each character shown serves a purpose. No Wonder Woman doesn’t step up as key part of saving the day, but on that “final” day, she’s no longer under the influence and she’s back to her Amazonian heroics.
    I can understand why some people wouldn’t like the style of the storytelling, but I can not stress enough how much I GET out of this book upon every reread. When we’re all old and gray, we’ll look back at FINAL CRISIS as a book that did what no other could…take the DC Universe and show why its so amazing.

  3. That smirk on Barry’s face when Wally tells him he outran the Black Racer is perfect.

    Final Crisis is the most fun I have had reading superhero comics, its the book I own that I have gone back to time and again an keep noticing little new things (Issue #5 the last stand on the Bridge, I didn’t notice that the heroes are riding to final battle on the Metal Men the first few times). The event begins with Dread, the heroes battles through the tough times and then its like a Gunshot shocks the heroes back into Victory, and what Glorious victory it was. The one thing I would have have changed in Hindsight is Doug Manke should have done 1-7 and Beyond.

  4. I have the hardcover, it seems kind of nonsensical. Am I missing chunks of the story by not having the tie-ins or is it supposed to be that way?

  5. You have everything you need.

  6. The more comics I read, the more I wish they were as exciting as Final Crisis continues to be for me. Something about it, even with the faults, just clicks on all levels.

  7. @steve: What about it is nonsensical?

  8. Final Crisis has the single best panel in comics history: A sword wielding Frankenstein riding a motorcycle while quoting Milton. That alone is enough to make Final Crisis my favorite “event” comic ever. Not that judging by that metric is saying much.

  9. @Discount Lad:

    There is another Morrison helmed event that fits perfectly into that description. 1 Million is always a blast to revisit and I love it to death.

  10. Final Crisis is properly my favorite “interesting failure” in comics. It gets way too bloated with its ideas and people that its fast-paced mega-epic loses itself in the end, but it sure is pretty, crazy, and fun to read over and over again. Definitely my favorite “event” comic.

  11. Thank you for writing a pro-Final Crisis article that doesn’t insult people who don’t like it (like me). These are increasingly rare.

  12. I agree that the “channel zapping” aspect never really gels properly. By bouncing around all over the place, I feel like the epic scale of the proceedings are never adequately established because we never get to spend a sufficient amount of time with any one group; it’s like a cliff notes version of a DC event book. “Final Crisis” fell short of the standards of universe-spanning epics Morrison set with “Rock of Ages,” “DC One Million,” and “World War III.”

  13. Bairfanx, I think scoce answered that for you.

  14. It’s probably my favorite event ever really. It also kinda like the DCAU has fulfilling Batman ending and a ending with Superman vs Darkseid. In the end, like All Star Superman it tells you Superman can and will always win.

  15. @Dan Coyle: Just tossing this out there, but would you be against a pro-Final Crisis article that doesn’t insult people like you, but actually insults you specifically?

    “That is why Tawky Tawny’s subplot is so meaningful and why Dan Coyle looks ridiculous in those shoes.”

  16. You have everything you need.

    Except there are meant to be two issues of Batman in there too.

  17. @West3man:
    You’ve got a nigh indestructible man from another planet that flies around in spandex and fires lasers from his eyes, as well as a man who shoots a time travelling bullet into the god of all evil (that can fire *different* lasers from his eyes that shoot you into the past). I don’t really think complaining about Frankenstein’s presence really has weight.

    @Kit: Hardly. Batman was captured. He broke out. The two issues are there just to reinforce how amazing Bruce is, and what he was captured for. Neither of these are integral to the plot. If you have the option to read them, you should, as it’s a good side story, but it’s inclusion in the trade could almost be distracting, as it has next to nothing to do with the Final Crisis plot.

  18. Yes, in Final Crisis Batman wins… except for the Omega Sanction thing, which (for all appearances at least in FC and its tie-ins) produces a Bat-corpse.

    And the “win” isn’t that crucial because it’s not like it’s the one thing that defeats Darkseid. There’s also the Flashes who have death run into the villain, and then Superman sings(!) Darkseid out of existence.

    And it’s not like Darkseid is even the central villain of the story. That villain would be Mandrakk, who appears like the “real boss” in some lame video game, a boss enemy who makes his presence known only after the player defeats the apparent boss.

    Oh, yeah, and the actual details of what happened completely shits over the core of Bruce Wayne’s character. As in All-Star Superman, Kal-El uses his amazing powers to defeat the ultimate evil. Meanwhile, the Dark Knight — who spent his life fighting street-level crime while finding away to avoid lethal force — defeats an evil New God by with that one weapon which has been anathema for Batman, not since the very beginning, but since before the modern reader’s collective memory: a gun and a bullet.

    Final Crisis contains some grand ideas poorly executed, but I think that not every idea was grand to begin with.

  19. Part of FC are undoubtedly great, but the narrative is very disjointed. Lots of exposition that doesn’t explain anything. Tons of good ideas that go nowhere. This happens with Grant Morrison occasionally. He has more interesting concepts than he knows what to do with.
    Also, I never really got much of a sense of menace from the proceedings. This is supposed to be the be-all, end-all story of doom, but it’s a lot of Darkseid sitting in a chair and possessing the body of a fat guy.

  20. It’s just the ending. It’s always a crashing messy crescendo for Morrison, and it never feels planned, and sometimes it works, but in a story about iconic well-known characters, it generally doesn’t.

    I mean, I loved Superman Beyond 3D. But do I care about all that stuff at the end of FC where Captain Carrot comes back and fights vampire Ultraman and the climax resolves the Superman story instead of mattering at all to the series? No. FC is a Darkseid story. And honestly, even if the urban legends about how Morrison would have structured the series differently if he could have are true, it’s like blaming Spider-man 3 sucking on Venom. If Raimi’s original swell idea was to make Sandman kill Uncle Ben, the movie was going to suck anyway.

    It’s like if the Invisibles suddenly showed up at the end there; it’s a Morrison-doing-Morrison story wedged sideways into a Morrison-doing-DC story. And I’m buying B&R right now and picking up the Bruce Wayne comeback limited, but I’m not really looking forward to the mess it’s going to make when they run into each other.

  21. @skoce: Look, I’ll never get this thing where someone says “yeah, but this comic has a panel with Batman on a surfboard fucking a meatball sub, and who can resist that?”

    Answer: everyone except the person writing that sentence.