Okay, so the title has absolutely nothing to do with the content, but in these Final Crisis/Batman RIP posts I’ve been using consecutive lines from Batman by Jan & Dean as titles, and I refuse to let Grant Morrison not putting in a scene of Batvillains running away stop me.
Anyway, Final Crisis #6, publisher DC Comics, writer Grant Morrison, artists Hugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble & Grubb…
Firstly, it is, of course, great. I can understand why Jog doesn’t like it, but to me it’s just about as good as superhero comics get, and Kevin Church has accurately summed up most of the complaints people have had about it on message boards.
There are a couple of complaints that *do* have more substance, of course. First is the art – up to now the various people helping Jones with this have done what I consider a relatively good job of blending with his work. Not perfect, but good. But here, for the first time we have some outright sloppiness – which looks like the fault of the inker, but is really the fault of the unrealistic schedule that these comics were originally put on.
A potentially bigger problem is the colouring on Shilo Norman, which some people are seeing as him being coloured ‘white’ (actually his skin tone looks more like the Japanese heroes in the same panel than anything else). My friend Chris Hilker, in an email to which I’ve not got round to replying (so I hope he’s reading this) suggested that the ‘error’ was actually a sign of Shilo taking on a Godly aspect, being something like a halo or spotlight. I’m not 100% convinced that was the *intention*, but it fits with the story, and I like it, so I’m accepting that.
On the other hand, for every art problem, there’s a simply phenomenal page like Talky Tawny (am I the only one who wants a Morrison-written Talky Tawny series?) saying “Do your worst, gentlemen”. That page is just gorgeous, and makes me wish there’d been the opportunity to put this out on a realistic schedule. All the art teams on this, in fact, do great work when they can – just look at the scene with Batman and Darkseid, or the double-page spread just before Superman’s return.
Even at its worst, though, the art does a competent job of telling the story, which is what I’m buying this for, and which is just getting better. All those people who’ve criticised this for being ‘a bit like Rock Of Ages‘ are comprehensively missing the point. All Morrison’s DCU work in the last couple of years (since the end of Seven Soldiers) has been about making the ‘ultimate’ versions of characters and stories. Not in the Marvel sense, but… actually, in some ways it is like the Marvel sense of the word.
What Morrison did with All-Star Superman (and slightly less successfully with his Batman run, though that’s not completed yet thankfully – as he’s confirmed in recent interviews – and an incomplete Morrison work is never an easy thing to judge) is essentially to throw in every single thing anyone ever loved about the character and make the whole thing make sense. If you gave All-Star Superman to anyone who’d read a Superman comic, ever, they would recognise it. I bet you could convince a *lot* of non-fans that they’d read it when they were a kid. It is, in many ways, the quintessential Superman comic.
And in the same way, Final Crisis is the quintessential superhero crossover – even as, just like with All-Star Superman, Morrison uses it to do other things as well. So all the plot elements here – multiverses collapsing, a war between gods, red skies, heroes turned bad and villains saving the day, a hero who can never use their powers ever again, dramatic deaths and returns from the dead, races with death himself, Superman cradling a dead body in his arms (evoking both the cover of Crisis On Infinite Earths 7 and Batman Dies At Dawn, two stories which have hugely influenced the last few months’ worth of stories), all these are things we have seen time and again in superhero comics over the years.
Morrison is neither so stupid nor so modest as to not know that his own big superhero epics of the past need to be thrown into the mix too, and so they are, but the Rock Of Ages parallels are just another of the many, many echoes here.
But it’s the execution of the thing that’s so impressive. Darkseid (and I *can’t* be the only one who’s noticed how much this manifestation of the Dark God of Anti-Life looks like John McCain, can I?) fixing all the continuity fuckups caused by the execrable Countdown (and the Death Of The New Gods series) in one sentence, and doing it in a way that it feels like an organic part of the story and also thematically fits with Morrison’s other work (AND is maybe another shout-out to the Mindless Ones, and the ‘prismatic age’ theory). The way that the whole thing’s a love story, with almost every character in this issue having their own romantic subplot, from the mature married love of Hourman and Liberty Belle to the soap opera of the Super Young Team to the BDSM-tinged relationship of Black Canary and Green Arrow. Pretty much everyone in the story is motivated by getting back to someone they love, which makes sense if, as seems likely, the whole story is a cosmic ‘resonance’ from Nix Uotan being cast out of the world of the monitors.
For someone who’s regarded as a Big Idea man, and who’s pouring every Big Idea he’s ever had into this story – ideas about the superhero genre, the way you can tell stories in comics, the nature of reality, and more – what’s impressive is how well delineated every character is. No character gets more than a handful of panels and a couple of lines of dialogue, but you still get an understanding of who Black Canary, Talky Tawny, Batman, Lex Luthor, Supergirl and so on are – understandings that you often couldn’t get from their comics.
Final Crisis isn’t a perfect comic – far from it. It fails at quite a lot of what it’s trying to do, as at least half of Morrison’s work does. But it fails in interesting ways, and what it’s trying for is also interesting. Even at its worst, its faults are trying too hard, overestimating its audience, and having too much imagination, which are faults I can’t bring myself to judge too harshly. And at its best this is a comic that actually makes a big cosmic Everything Will Change Forever crossover something worth reading for the first time since… well, ever.