Saturday, December 22, 2007

Final Crisis and the Fourth World

Today, DC released the first art and some new details on Grant Morrison’s upcoming Final Crisis. From what Didio says, the New Gods are going to have a big role to play in the series, something that makes me very happy. I’ve been reading through the Fourth World Omnibus books, and loving them. Kirby’s work is bursting with crazy ideas, and an overarching central narrative that’s rich with subtext and relevance to today’s world.

After Seven Soldiers, Grant was supposedly working on a big New Gods project. It seems to have been folded into Final Crisis, which has been widely speculated to feature the birth of the Fifth World, and the ascension of the current DC heroes to God status. This concept was introduced by Grant during his JLA run, when Metron said “We have shown you the shape of the world to come. Now you must find the way there.”

Now, the question that comes up is how final the Crisis is. The DCU is now a multiverse, so they could in theory end the stories on Earth 1, and spin stuff off to different worlds for the future. I would love to see Grant get the opportunity to write the end of the universe as we know it, to send the characters off to their final destiny and leave that as the testament for his recent DCU work. Every longform series Grant has written, except for JLA, has ended in such a way that you don’t really need more stories. Whedon’s X-Men feels like fanfic because it is continuing a story that didn’t really need to be continued. After Return of the Jedi, you don’t need more Star Wars, you could make some and it might be good, but the story is over. That’s how I feel about X-Men, Animal Man and Doom Patrol.

However, his larger DCU work remains largely incomplete. Seven Soldiers ended with one of the greatest single issues of all time, but I would still kill for more Zatanna or Mister Miracle. 52 also left me wanting to follow the characters’ exploits further. Final Crisis could be an opportunity to synthesize everything he’s done since JLA into one massive statement about the fictional universe, and the New Gods will likely be a major part of that.

But, the major question now is, what are Grant’s New Gods going to be like? In the current DCU, the New Gods are apparently getting killed. However, Didio makes it clear that death for gods is only temporary. I think it’s poor storytelling to undermine the narrative credibility of a story by saying that death doesn’t really matter and is obviously going to be undone. But, I don’t care about the DCU as a whole as much as I do about what Grant’s going to do with it. I’m assuming he’s aware of what’s up with the New Gods, and their death will fit into his story.

Grant’s most extended take on the New Gods was Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle, which took Shilo on a crazy journey through a world where the New Gods existed only as homeless people and crazy handicapped old men. Mister Miracle was my least favorite of the minis the first time from through because it was the most disconnected from the overall narrative, and virtually incomprehensible on the first read. However, on the reread, it really shone, and I’m looking forward to going back once I finish reading all of Kirby’s Fourth World stuff.

The central question of the work is whether any of it really happened, or if it was just a hallucination Shilo experienced while trapped in the black hole. It’s been a while, but as I recall, the myriad realities he passes through were hallucinations brought on by Darkseid. He was made to question his faith, his belief in the New Gods and the power of humanity to become something better. He confronted the anti-life equation and overcame it, coming out the other side an empowered being.

This would imply that the New Gods are in fact real, it was only in the alternate reality generated by the black hole that they weren’t. I’m hoping that Final Crisis will continue to explore what started in Seven Soldiers, this revisionist take on the New Gods and the power of light to overcome darkness. The series ended with Mister Miracle bursting forth from the grave, his power overwhelming the anti-life equation. Will we see the final destruction of anti-life and the birth of a new Golden Age? I don’t know, but either way, the shot of Metron has piqued my interest. Final Crisis is looking good so far, Morrison remixing Kirby concepts and hopefully bringing in stuff from his JLA and Seven Soldiers, all illustrated by JG Jones. That’s gold right there.