Overview

Final Crisis #2

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Final Crisis #2

Credits

  • Words: Grant Morrison
  • Art: JG Jones
  • Inks: JG Jones
  • Colors: Alex Sinclair
  • Story Title: Ticket to Bl?dhaven
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jun 25, 2008

“It shames us that the noble calling of the superhero has become just one more gimmick!”

It's difficult to tell if Morrison was talking about his own writing with that line, a line plucked directly from the third page of Final Crisis #2.

Another one: “When will he realize that being fantastic is a superpower in itself?”

Well, if ultramodern comic writing is anything to go by, the industry realized it somewhere between releasing The Authority and The Ultimates, Morrison’s own run on The Invisibles and JLA.  The ultimate result of which is a Crisis threequel that is nothing like its forebears, but instead is everything like every other book on the stands today: a muddled, mired, thematically insincere mess.

But being fantastic sells books to an audience long since jaded, convinced that there is nothing left to explore in traditional storytelling.  So everything’s been redefined: what is a character?  A character is someone fantastic.  What is a plot?  A plot is something super-cool.  What is dialogue?  Dialogue is a word or words formed together to act as properly quotable signatures on message boards.  What is theme?  Theme is something that can be condensed into the above definition of dialogue.  What is dramatic?  Dramatic is creativity, unbridled.  What is a big crossover event?  A big crossover event is all of the above.

So what we get in Final Crisis are fantastic people facing a super-cool situation spouting quotable theses on the writer’s chosen subject matter all the while wading through an overabundance of new things.  Honestly, it’s pretty cool.  Super -cool, in fact.  The new New Gods begin to emerge as quirk-tastic underbelly-of-society villains, Libra proves that he's a bad-ass, a single-page funeral for J’onn is held, and then a major DCU figure returns, seemingly for real and for good.  That’s all fun stuff.  It’s not terribly coherent, and lacks nuance and dexterity to its execution (it’s page after page of sledgehammer shtick), and while its chock full of details and little things, there’s only one flavor, one tone, and one level to the proceedings at all times.

I find it bizarre that the lack of cities invaded and planets exploding somehow marks this mini as “down-to-earth” and “subdued”, as many readers have already judged.  I'm not sure when I last saw a near-invulnerable Sumo wrestler rip the beating heart out of a vicious looking mega-mecha in a bar, or when last I stumbled across underground Evil Factories run by reborn full-gods, but apparently, by showing these things in darker-than-usual color schemes, they lend verisimilitude.  Secret Invasion may be far more action-oriented and whiz-bang, but Morrison’s Final Crisis is one of the flashiest, most posturing, melodramatic books you’ll read all year.

Most fan and critic reactions have praised the book for its "dark" and "slow-burn" qualities, while admitting to a choppy, frenzied pace in regards to its construction.  Some claim nothing happens, which of course isn't true, but what's missing (and what I think the disgruntled folks are calling happenstance) are transitions.  Morrison doesn't believe in them.  I'd argue, in fact, that all that is even in FC is pure happenstance.  What's missing is everything else.

This isn't the normative crossover event book, some claim.  Well, what it is, is a run-of-the-mill Morrison book.  Pretty much like every other Morrison book.  For those of you who can't follow it: that's because it’s purposefully opaque.  That doesn't mean the writing's "smart", or even well done.  Try telling a story you know all the details of in full to a friend.  It’s near-effortless to lose them; it's takes skill to keep them confident while holding on to plot points until their proper times.

Perhaps the most central flaw that domino-effect creates all the others, is displayed in the "we'll pray for a resurrection" line, spoken at J'onn J'onzz's funeral.  This spotlights a troubling trend in comics.  Not only does the Martian Manhunter get a quiet, one-panel death, but Morrison cracks a knowing inside-industry joke during the character's one-page funeral.  Some say this passes as a touching moment.  However, seeing as the actual DC Universe still acts overawed at any character's return, or shattered when any character dies, it's egotistically premature to believe that this moment fits in any sincere, character or dramatic way.  It fits Morrison's own need for wry commentary to cover for his complete lack of dramatic control.  And the fact that fans now accept this type of nudge-nudge storytelling, where it's more important for the writer to acknowledge them rather than the elements of the fictitious world involved, shows an egoism on more than just one side of the creative divide.

Further showcasing this mindset, Easter Eggs now weigh in as actual story.  Apparently, comics are now read just to remind readers of how many comics they read.  And they love it.

What’s truly a shame, in all of this, is that while FC is an entertaining yarn in its own way, it just doesn’t cut it as a “Crisis”.  All that super-coolness floating around and ultimately this is a pretty tiny story.  It’s being dressed up and told as though it were “HUUUUUUGE!!!!!”, but when put down and thought about, it’s no bigger than any other DCU mini of the past year, like Death of the New Gods, Countdown to Adventure, Lord Havok and the Extremeists, etc.  Those were all fine comics in their own right, but you’d think the big payoff, the big Final C, would top them, all, and not just by a hair.  Countdown, though a far worse comic than FC, was still technically the bigger, more grandiose story.

Part of the problem is, of course, that all the build-up of the past year wasn’t build-up at all.  Sure, bits and pieces from past series are cropping up in FC , but overall Morrison’s version of a "Crisis" has near nothing to do with any of them.  The New Gods and the Fifth World were perhaps the only major follow up.  Beyond that, FC just sort of begins, and will end five  more issues from now, and that’ll be that.  It’ll be super-cool, and fun, and lots of “BIIIIIIG!!!!” moments, but moments like that, when they come from out-of-the-blue-nowhere, always stike as false, like an artist's rendition of a sales pitch.

Speaking of which, JG Jones is a phenomenal artist, but he’s only so-so on this series.  His layouts are superb but his final pages are muddier than I’d expect.  He captures a solid noir atmosphere in FC #2, but otherwise the final effect of Final Crisis’ visuals is lacking.  To be fair, he hasn’t really been able to cut loose yet, but even the final page splash, which is meant as a dramatic, cosmic-type shot, looks inexplicably awkward.

So Final Crisis is here!  I’m looking forward to some of the parallel minis, like Legion of Three Worlds, but otherwise I can’t wait to just get on with the DCU.  It’s suffering from trying to build a future on storytelling that’s a little too of-the-moment, and arguably even of-the-day-before-yesterday’s-moment.  Morrison works best when he’s working on a raft floating in his own pool, off to the side and doing big things in small ways, like All-Star Superman.  He’s always had difficulty with true-blue dramatics, in the old-school sense, or anything besides the Nuevo super-cool sense.  And any “Crisis”, in my book, needs some old-school stuff, the test-of-time stuff, at least as a ground floor foundation.

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