Friday, May 30, 2008

Final Crisis #1

I’ve been waiting for Final Crisis for a long time. It’s designed to be the conclusion of Morrison’s last twelve years of work in the DCU, from JLA to Seven Soldiers to 52, as well as a kind of alternate conclusion/continuation for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga. And, it’s a followup to Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, all of which I’ve actually read, so I was eager to go into a crossover knowing what was going on. Of course, I didn’t read Countdown or any other DC stuff since 52, so perhaps that’s not entirely accurate. But, it reads perfectly fine for me, I’ve got all the major concepts, and am really liking it so far.

The tagline of the work is ‘The Day Evil Wins,’ and that feels pretty accurate so far. It’s a heavy series, filled with foreboding and darkness. Our heroes have very little agency, they’re mostly subjected to a series of troubling images and events, with the only hope lying in the past/future collision of Kamandi and Anthro. Knowing Morrison’s style, I think the forces of good will resurge and eventually win the day, wiping away the darkness and beginning a new age for the DCU. Morrison considers this his final statement in the DCU, and usually his works conclude in a pretty definitive way. I’m guessing the end of the book will work simultaneously as a new beginning and a great way for the DCU as a whole to end.

A lot of the book’s cosmology comes out of Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle. When I first read that series, I was pretty baffled, but on a second read, I loved it. The basic conceit is that the New Gods have been decimated and are hiding out as homeless people on the street, while Darkseid’s crew have entrenched themselves in positions of power in society. It’s a surreal, David Lynch-y journey that ends with Shilo bursting out of the prison universe and back into ‘reality.’ But, it seems that his prison is escaping the black hole and becoming real. Darkseid is wearing the same flesh suit he wore in that series, and the New Gods themselves are apparently dead.

I missed Death of the New Gods, but it sounds like an awful series. However, if it fits into Morrison’s Mister Miracle worldview, I’m cool with it. The basic status quo appears to be God is dead and Darkseid reigns on Earth. Now, there was a lot of speculation that this series would end with humans being elevated to the status of gods, kicking off the fifth world. That would certainly fit with what we get here.

The series opens with Metron giving Anthro fire. The opening scenes echo 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also chronicled humanity’s path towards Godhood, and is probably the closest thing to Morrison’s work we’ve ever seen on film. The gods give humanity fire, and they can use it to combat evil. That opening sequence could easily be a microcosm of this whole series, only the fire of the present is the super powers of the New Gods, the counterpoint to Darkseid’s oppression.

But, that oppression is on heavy here. My favorite scene was Turpin going into Club Dark Side and seeing the children who are victims of the anti-life equation. The anti-life equation is one of Kirby’s most potent concepts, and it’s exciting to see Morrison and Kirby do a kind of team up here. This Darkseid is totally menacing, a great reinvention of the concepts from Kirby’s work.

In SS: Mister Miracle, we saw Metron inspire Shilo, put him through an awful trial so he could come out stronger, come out ahead of death. When does that resurrection occur in relation to the events of the series? We see him on a billboard here, but I’d really like to see Shilo in the series, and find out how he’s been changed by his experience. Is he the equivalent of Anthro for the present, spreading the teachings of Metron and helping to elevate humanity?

Along with the SS/Fourth World stuff, there’s a bunch of other DCU goings on. I’ve never been that into the Green Lantern cosmic kind of superheroics, it’s enjoyable enough here, but not as emotionally engaging as the other stuff. Similarly, the death of Martian Manhunter is so offhand, I’m assuming he must return at some point down the line.

Libra is more interesting conceptually. What he’s trying to do is essentially flip the moral polarity of the DCU. It’s a world where good always triumphs over evil, he’s not content with the status quo and is trying to reverse that. Like a reverse Metron, he spreads a new gospel of what’s possible in the serve of darkness. Much of Morrison’s work is about moving beyond the limits of what’s deemed possible, what does it mean when someone tries to move to a place that’s worse?

So, I’m pretty happy with the first issue. Not every bit works but it feels like he’s going hit a good mix of cosmic insanity and emotional focus. And, I think it will be a fitting conclusion for all his DC work to date. JG Jones’s art isn’t as standout as Frank Quitely or JH Williams, but it works really well for straight up superheroics. My only gripe is having to wait a month for issue two.


Patrick C said...

I hear you on having to wait a month. I loved the issue. I am wondering where exactly the SS:MM storyline fits in, or if that even happened. He was in the black hole for the whole miniseries, so was it just a glimpse at the future (as it is now), or did he really interact with Dark Side?

I'm pretty sure you'll never have to read Death of the New Gods. Morrison seems to more or less ignore it - and that's probably for the best.

Patrick said...

I'm hoping we'll get some clarification on where SS:MM exists in relation to FC. My guess is that Metron showed Mister Miracle this vision as a way of preparing him for the oncoming catastrophic events. So, I'd argue that he met with the essence of Darkseid on his journey through the black hole, even if he didn't meet with the physical form itself. But, I'm not holding my breath for exact clarification on what happened.