Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

We Need The Batman!

Posted in comics by Andrew Hickey on February 2, 2009

Now Final Crisis has finished, I can really start talking about it. This week will (barring Events of the kind that marred last week) be Final Crisis Week here, where there will be a post a day on Final Crisis and related comics. Don’t worry, those of you here for other things, I will find ways to make some of the posts about tactical voting in the European elections and Doctor Who as well…

Before I start this review, I’m going to lay down some ground rules for commenters. After what happened last time I discussed the series, and after all the comments I’ve seen in every other forum, I think this is probably necessary. Final Crisis has been easily the most divisive comic in recent memory, and the divisions have not been entirely predictable either – when Chris Bird, Abhay and Jog all express severe reservations or outright dislike for a comic while the Mindless Ones are practically ejaculating over every panel, you know that something interesting is definitely happening.
But while there has been a lot of intelligent criticism of real problems with the comic, there has also been a nasty undercurrent of US-style ‘culture war’ to the discussions, with many people essentially accusing those who like the comic of ‘sucking Morrison’s cock’, being ‘DC fanboys who wouldn’t say this if it was published by Marvel’ or ‘pretending to like it because they want to seem clever’ (and more than a few people who did like it saying those who didn’t like it are stupid). (Doctor K’s excellent review talks a bit about this)
So any comments here accusing anyone else of bad faith or stupidity will be deleted…
Anyway, the actual comic…

Superman kills Darkseid with the power of song! Captain Carrot! Batman meets Anthro! Supermen of fifty worlds teaming up with angels and did I mention Captain Carrot?! Frankenstein’s monster riding a giant wolf with Wonder Woman in its mouth!

Every page, every *panel* of this is filled with wonderful moments. The president of the US (a black President) tearing open his shirt to reveal the S-symbol. “When there is one body, one mind, one will, one life that is Darkseid, will you be the enemy of all existence then? What irony that will be, son of Krypton”.

Beneath its surface complexities, this is a very, very simple story – the love story of Nix Uotan and Weeja Dell, and how Nix Uotan’s love for her saves the multiverse (on a side note, one of the few things I don’t like about this series is that even with a gay woman as one of the major characters, only heterosexual love is portrayed as important anywhere in the multiverse – unusual for a writer like Morrison who’s normally more receptive than most to alternative sexualities). In the end the story is about how selfless, absolute love can save the world. “He’s Superman. He wished only the best for all of us”. For all his cynicism, Morrison is always closer to John Lennon and All You Need Is Love than to Frank Zappa and “You think love is all we need/You say with your love you can change/all of the fools, all of the hate/I think you’re probably out to lunch”

Now, admittedly, some people (including some very intelligent, comics-literate people) found the story in Final Crisis 7 hard to follow. Partly, I think, that is because the final villain came in from a tie-in comic (though I don’t think Morrison should necessarily be blamed for this – Mandrakk’s first appearance was *meant* to have been three months ago, rather than a week ago, and he’s always been fairly clear that his tie-ins are meant to be read as part of the story. I do however despair for anyone trying to read this in the trade without the Superman Beyond 3D issues) but also it’s because of the way he’s telling the story.

When I wrote about Final Crisis 3, I wrote

Final Crisis reads, essentially, like Crisis On Infinite Earths would if you took out all the panels involving either the Monitor or the Anti-Monitor, all of the exposition, and the big shots of superhero battles and entire universes being destroyed (yes I know that wouldn’t leave much). You’d have an experimental narrative rapid-cutting from Psycho Pirate and the Flash in a black space to Anthro riding an elephant and have to make sense of it yourself. Which is not, of course, quite the situation with Final Crisis (though how wonderful if it were – just randomly-juxtaposed panels of Big Ideas – “the comic in which YOU provide the story!!!”). All of the information you need to understand what’s going on is in there, there’s just no redundancy.

But by issue seven, this is what we have – a totally non-linear narrative cutting between different times, with the reader expected to fill in the gaps and make sense of it. Morrison is actually doing much the same thing here that he did on All Star Superman 10 (or the greatest comic in existence, to give it its full title) but taking it to an absolute limit. The readers have to fill in the gaps, figure out the story for themselves. We become immersed, even more than we did with the 3D issues (which were still in the more linear mode of the first few issues – which is when they should have been published).

It’s utterly extraordinary, and will take a lot more analysis from me over the next few days to unravel. But the ultimate message is that love – and music – can conquer even the ultimate personification of evil.

(Incidentally, I feel quite ashamed of buying anything from DC at the moment, given their refusal to pay Carmine Infantino for Black Canary. Infantino was a ‘good company man’ , eventually being promoted to editor-in-chief at a time when DC were sacking people left and right for daring to ask for things like sick pay, but he also was one of the people responsible for getting DC to pay Siegel and Shuster something for Superman. Now they’re fucking *him* over too. Disgusting…)

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