Before I go on to write a bit more about Final Crisis itself (though after pillock’s perfect review – written without having read a single panel of the comic – I doubt any more on the subject need be said ) I thought I’d talk a little about the weird way in which DC have used the Final Crisis branding.
DC really need to get their marketing of these ‘big events’ sorted out. It’s already been noted all over the internet that they slapped the phrase ‘Batman RIP’ on random Bat-comics, with little thought as to what, if any, connection they had with Morrison’s story (usually less than none at all), which understandably led to people being annoyed at DC for mis-selling bad fill-in issues of Nightwing, but which for some reason also led them to be angry at Grant Morrison, for reasons that I cannot fathom.
However, DC didn’t learn from this (partly because the two events were so close together), and I’m sure part of the dislike of Final Crisis among those who think it should be ‘an event comic’ comes from the bizarre way in which they’ve dealt with the series.
When the tie-ins were first announced, I thought it might even almost be like 52 all over again – Johns and Rucka writing bits of a much bigger, interconnected story. The impression was certainly given by DC marketing (though, commendably, not by Morrison himself) that the various miniseries and specials were part of the story.
Rucka’s tie-ins actually played fair with this. They might not have been especially good comics, but they fitted in relatively well with the story Morrison was telling – both Resist and Revelations (that title *still* annoys me) told relatively self-contained stories set in Rucka’s own little corner of the DCU, but ones that built on characters and events from the main series. The problem comes with the other tie-ins.
I believe Brad Meltzer’s Requiem thing was drivel, but that’s what you’d expect from Meltzer. You’d expect a *little* better from Geoff Johns, who’s actually been growing as a comic writer. But Johns’ Final Crisis stories have, as far as I can tell, nothing to do with the series at all. Rogues Revenge was a three-part Flash villains miniseries which didn’t have any connection with the main narrative, and seemed to be a project Johns had come up with himself that had been slapped with the Final Crisis label at the last minute, and was also not very good . Rage Of The Red Lanterns didn’t have even the tenuous connections that Rogues Revenge had, being merely a prelude to this year’s big crossover, and was appalingly bad.
The only one of Johns’ tie-ins to be any good, Legion Of Three Worlds, also seemed to have the most to do with the actual storyline, featuring as it does multiversal hijinks and providing an explanation as to where Superman was for issues four and five. It also seemed clearly positioned to be the ‘traditional’ crossover for those who don’t like experimental or different storytelling – you just want thousands of superheroes drawn by George Perez? Okay, here you go…
So of course, the one tie-in of Johns’ that actually tied in was the one that was hit by scheduling problems so badly that only two issues have come out even though the main series has finished…
None of this would normally have been a problem, except that there were three other tie-in issues, those written by Grant Morrison, and at least two of those (the Superman Beyond ones) were *absolutely* necessary to understand the story, and the other one (Submit) provided some useful background. And these started coming out *after* many readers had already decided ‘the tie-ins are rubbish and nothing to do with the main story’.
Now, you or I, being discerning readers, would have picked those up *anyway*, because they were written by the writer of the main series, so they would be more likely to be relevant. And also because they were written by Grant Morrison and (in two cases) drawn by Doug Mahnke, and so therefore likely to be good. And also also because 3D Superman. I’m assuming here that if you’re reading this you pay some attention to the creative teams of the comics (if any) you read, and that they factor into your purchasing decisions.
The problem is that the two big comic companies don’t like discerning readers. They particularly don’t like readers who base their purchasing decisions on creative teams rather than on branding. So for sixty-plus years they’ve been training readers to pay attention to the brand names, not the writers or artists, and a large portion of the customer base now thinks in that way – it doesn’t matter who’s writing or drawing X-Men, you buy it because it’s X-Men. This is not a bad thing – those people get some enjoyment from their comics, and they’re still buying what they like – they just like ‘X-Men’ more than they like ‘Chris Claremont’ (or whoever’s writing X-Men these days).
But that kind of brand loyalty relies on consistency – and normally that’s what you get. If you buy a Superman comic, it might be a good or a bad one, but it’ll be recognisably a Superman comic, of the kind that people who like Superman comics would recognise as such. If you break that consistency – if you have a brand that is plastered over multiple unrelated titles – then those who continue reading will take an all-or-nothing approach and drop *all* the tie-ins. And then wonder why they don’t understand the last issue.
This is not a failure of the comics as comics (and I’m sure even Rogues Revenge and Rage Of The Red Lanterns appealed to fans of Johns’ Flash and Green Lantern work, which I am not), and is certainly not the fault of any of the creators involved. The blame for that lies squarely with DC editorial (as does the blame for the whole Countdown fiasco which put people off FC before it started).
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the actual comics…