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?Final? Finally Arrives

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Crisis on Infinite Earths changed the world of comics forever, and I don’t mean just in the terms of DC Continuity. Sure, it did shake up the status quo in DC’s storylines, but it also altered the business of comics as well.

Released in 1985, this first Crisis gave comic fans something they had seldom seen—the wide-ranging, line-spanning, world-changing crossover event. To be fair, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, released the year before, established the wide-ranging, line-spanning, world-changing crossover event trend, but nowhere near the scope and magnitude of Crisis.

With Secret Wars, the tie-ins to Marvel’s regular monthly books were limited to a page or two and the changes made were minor (a new costume here, a change in line-up there, etc.) and quickly undone and/or forgotten (with the notable exception of the Spidey costume and the creation of Venom).

However, with Crisis, several months of issues of each title tied into the miniseries, and the changes were major and long lasting. It was the start of the comic “event,” the blockbuster summer crossover.

Fans responded to Crisis and comic companies started a tradition of almost yearly miniseries’ which would touch all corners of their shared universes. Crisis brought about Legends, Civil War, World War Hulk and many, many more.

In 2005, DC released a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths called Infinite Crisis. This miniseries served as the second part of a “Crisis” trilogy, the third installment is to be tomorrow’s aptly titled Final Crisis. And if we are to build expectations for this final miniseries based on what happened in the other two, we can expect death, destruction and wide-ranging repercussions for the DC Universe.

The build up for Final Crisis started almost immediately after Infinite Crisis ended. Two, year-long weekly series (52 & Countdown), various miniseries (such as Countdown Arena, Salvation Run¸ and Death of the New Gods) and various stories in DC’s monthly titles (like the “Sinestro Corps War” that ran through the Green Lantern books) all helped to set the stage for this miniseries.

Speculation is strong as to what Final Crisis has in store. Dan DiDio confirmed in the July 2008 issue of Comic’s Buyers Guide that two heroes will die. Rumor has it that one of them is DC’s first new Silver Age character, Martian Manhunter. The other is rumored to be anyone from the “One Year Later” version of Aquaman to Batman to the Wally West Flash. DC Universe Zero hinted that the Barry Allen Flash would be returning. What else is anybody’s guess.

What is known is that obscure 1970s villain Libra has been gathering villains underneath him. He promises that if they join with his religion—based on the Crime Bible introduced in 52, they will find success like they never imagined. Since the tagline for the series is “The Day Evil Won,” he might just be on to something.

The series is in the hands of Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones, the team responsible for the cult-favorite Marvel Boy series over at Marvel. Both creators are favorites with the fans and each brings their own set of strengths to the series.

Morrison is the master of epic storytelling. His run on JLA was comic equivalent of watching one summer blockbuster movie after another. He excels at writing big, sprawling stories featuring lots of characters and ambitious themes.

Jones, if you can get past his reliance on celebrities as references in his art, is a skilled draftsman whose cinematic qualities meshes perfectly with Morrison’s larger than life writing style.

This series will set the stage for the DC Comics of the future. While Crisis on Infinite Earths helped start the event comic trend, don’t expect Final Crisis to be the one to end it. It will only raise the bar for other events to come.  

Also out this week:

Giant-Sized Astonishing X-Men #1:

It’s too bad. If this issue came out any other week, or back in February like it was originally solicited for, it would have been the focus of this column. But the nasty hobgoblins of lateness had their way with this issue, and here it is, taking a second fiddle to Final Crisis.

Not that it being the focus would have any effect on sales. This is the wrap up of the legendary Whedon/Cassaday run on this title so it should sell a lot of copies anyway. The Breakworld saga comes to an end as the battle hits Earth.

The lateness of this issue caused a potential spoiler to be revealed in the other X-books (an X-Man dies in this issue and Kitty Pryde has been conspicuous in her absence). But that won’t stop fans of the series from enjoying what should be one corker of an ending.

Joss Whedon (W), John Cassaday (A), Marvel Comics, $4.99. Special Issue.

Shadowpact #25:

January’s New Year’s Resolution list, the yearly list of underselling titles that are worthy of a bigger audience, had five carry-overs from the previous year. But one of this year’s nine titles definitely won’t be on next year’s list. Shadowpact was one of the lower selling titles that I thought more readers should pick up, but not enough did. This issue is the series last.

Fans of the motley crew of mystic adventurers need not fret, however. Rumor has it they will be appearing in the magically inclined Reign in Hell miniseries.   Perhaps not a big part, but they might be there. Well, that is if they survive the confrontation with the unbelievably powerful villain of this issue.

Matt Sturges (W), Phil Winslade (A), DC Comics, $2.99.   Last Issue.

Judenhass:

When Dave Sim’s secret project was revealed to be a study of the history of anti-Semitism, and how it led to the Holocaust, one couldn’t help to view it with a bit of trepidation. Sim wears controversy like a warm sweater, and he never shies away from expressing controversial viewpoints. One had to wonder if Sim had the sensitivity to properly examine such a delicate and painful topic.

Well, according to such respected names as Joe Kubert, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub and Broken Frontier’s own Lee Newman, he has. They all say Judenhass, which is German for “Jew Hatred,” is a thoughtful and powerful examination of the subject matter, one on the level of Maus and Schindler’s List at representing the topic. But the question is, will readers be able to put aside their feelings about Sim to give this work the respect it deserves? 

Dave Sim (W/A), Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.99. One-Shot.

Fathom #0:

Michael Turner’s creation is just 10 years old, but is already appearing in her 3rd series. Starting out with the first series at Image/Top Cow, and continuing with the second series from Turner’s own company, Aspen, the character became immensely popular. Now, she is back in a brand new volume, which starts with this issue.

Aspen Matthews is having a hard enough time trying to adjust to life above the ocean waves. What she doesn’t need is an evil underwater race called the Black to threaten humanity. And she especially doesn’t need the evil Killian to return on the scene to cause more trouble. It looks like Aspen’s old life is going to put an end to her new life before it even starts.  

J.T. Krul (W), Alé Garza (A), Aspen Comics, $2.50.  Ongoing Series.

Marvel 1985 #1:

Another Marvel book that could have been the focus this week is this one, Mark Millar’s eagerly anticipated glimpse into Marvel’s past. This is an epic love letter to not only the comics he grew up reading, but also the time period before comics got all grim and gritty. It is an ultimate nostalgia trip for fans of the kinder and gentler generation of comics.

The bad guys of the Marvel Universe have found the perfect location for their quest for world domination. It is a place without one superhero, a place where they will have free rein to spread their own brand of mayhem and chaos. And it just so happens that this place looks very much like the world right outside your window. Only one person stands in the way of the villains’ total domination—a 13-year old boy by the name of Toby. He thought the Marvel Heroes were just part of his imagination. If he can’t make them real, his world is doomed.

Mark Millar (W), Tommy Lee Edwards (A), Marvel Knights/Marvel Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus:

I have to say that I am a big Fred Hembeck fan. I have a framed piece of original Hembeck art hanging above my computer, and I am staring at it as I write this. So, needless to say, I am super-psyched that he is getting the Archive/Omnibus treatment.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Fred Hembeck is comicdom’s master parodist. He has been poking fun at the four-color medium in four decades now, and his work has appeared in the pages of Comics Buyer’s Guide, Marvel Age, and DC Comics. His trademark characters with the squiggly knees always kid with love, and are more of a tribute than a slam.

This 900-page trade paperback collects pretty much all of Hembeck’s work that is not owned by DC or Marvel, and collects all seven of the Fantaco collections from the 1980s.

Fred Hembeck (W/A), Image Comics, $24.99.  Collection.

Star Wars: Dark Times #11:

Dark Horse’s year-long Star Wars event, Vector, has entered its second phase, and jumped ahead 4,000 years in the process. We leave the Old Republic behind and flash-forward to the burgeoning days of the new Empire—and the early days of Anakin Skywalker’s life as Darth Vader.

Darth Vader’s quest for power continues. There is no source he will not investigate, no stone he will leave unturned. But when he unleashes a force unlike any he’s ever seen before, his pursuit might come to an abrupt end—and take the entire galaxy with it! Will Vader go to far? And is there anything the crew of the Uhumele can do to stop him?

Mick Harrison (W), Douglas Wheatley (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

Daredevil #107:

Gotham Central may have been gone from comics shelves for over two years, but the memory of how great that series was still remains. The series about the members of the Gotham City Police Department might have only lasted 40 issues, but that was enough to make it one of the best comics of all time.

The reason why the series was so great lies at the feet of three people—writers Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and artist Michael Lark. Now, all three are reuniting for this Daredevil. Past results are no guarantee of future success. After all, it is hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice. But if their union this time is only half as good as any of their Gotham Central stuff, then this arc will be twice as good as any other comic in the store. Run, don’t walk, to you local comic store to pick this one up.  

Ed Brubaker & Greg Rucka (W), Michael Lark (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Firebreather #1:

Following in a famous parent’s footsteps is hard for any teenager. In addition to all the usual trials and tribulations being a teen brings, you also have to deal with constant comparisons to your dad. Will you be as famous as him? Will you follow in his example? Will you grow to gigantic size and destroy your town?

Well, not every famous offspring has this problem. But Duncan does. His father is a giant, city-wrecking monster. Good when you are trying to get the upper hand in parent/teacher conferences, bad when you are just trying to be a normal everyday kid.  How do you try to keep your life simple when circumstances make it super? That is what this series is all about.

Phil Hester (W), Andy Kuhn (A), Image Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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