Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Final Crisis #2

It’s kind of difficult to review Final Crisis as it goes because these early issues are fractured and all over the place. That’s not really a complaint, it’s a universe spanning crossover, so you can’t expect to spend a lot of time in one place. What does definitively work in both this issue and its predecessor is the sense of dread. The whole universe seems to be spinning out of control, right into the arms of Apokolips. When Batman’s imprisoned and being tortured, you know it’s going down.

It seems like the series is going to be at least partially about knocking out all the big heroes, at which point a new team will come in and lead the resistance. The groundwork for this is laid in the brilliant opening sequence, the issue’s high point. Super Young Team reminds me of the mutant subculture we saw back in Morrison’s X-Men run. In a world where superheroes are real, they’re going to be cultural icons, and inspire fashion trends. That’s a great example of Morrison exploring not what superheroes would be like in our world, but what ‘normal’ people would be like in a superhero world. I’d definitely be up for a Super Young Team ongoing after this.

But, things really pick up with the entrance of Sonny Sumo, a Fourth World character. It’s nice to read this and actually know who he is. He appears to have taken his badassness up a few notches between his Forever People team up and now. The defeat of MegaYakuza is great, and everything gets kicked up again with the entrance of Shilo Norman, Mister Miracle. He’s seen everything bad that will happen during his time in the Black Hole in Seven Soldiers, and is now back to form a new team and save the world.

The notion of a team of underachieving heroes coming together to battle a huge foe is a large part of what Seven Soldiers was about. It’s a testament to Morrison’s writing that he’s made me more excited to see Shilo Norman than any other character in the issue. That’s how good Seven Soldiers was, because those characters weren’t as iconic, it was easier to engage with them as individuals. I think this issue is generally better when it’s b-list characters on screen instead of the big names.

The scenes with Turpin are oppressively nasty, as he deals with some kind of alien presence within himself. I’m not sure whether it’s Darkseid or Orion he’s carrying. I think Orion would make more sense, but Reverend Goode seems to think he’s Darkseid. Either way, the sequences make it clear that this is a world where the moral polarity has reversed and the heroes have to use villains’ tactics to get anything done. That’s an interesting idea, and I’m sure things will only decay further as the series goes on.

Ultimately, the series seems to be about heroes struggling to remain heroes in a world that’s losing all sense of morality. If evil’s won, how can we fight back? The residents of Apokolips are lodging themselves in heroes, seeding themselves through time so they can destroy the heroes at critical moments in the timeline. They’re like evil versions of John a Dreams, taking control of people at moments they know will be critical to the timestream, but instead of fighting for something good, they’re trying to undermine the heroes’ cause. How can you fight evil gods who have power beyond anything we can comprehend? That’s the big question of the series.

Even on the villain side of things, there’s a divide between Lex and Libra. Libra has wholly bought into whatever Darkseid offered him, he is glad to take advantage of his new power and destroy the heroes. Lex is not as certain, he senses that something’s wrong and lays the groundwork for his own resistance. I’m reminded of the parallel universe Luthor in JLA: Earth 2, maybe Luthor will always fight against the natural order of the universe? Lex in All Star Superman loves to be contradictory, so this Luthor might be just as eager to fight for good in a world gone bad and he was to fight for evil in a good world.

As for the big return at the end of the issue, it doesn’t mean much for me. If I hadn’t heard that the old Flash was coming back, I’d have just assumed it was the same guy who already here, since they look exactly the same. But, I do like the idea of a bullet fired backwards in time, it’s one of those inherently mind bending concepts Morrison does so well.

So, I really enjoyed this issue. More than the previous Crises, this feels very character focused. There’s a lot of stories going on, but it’s not just random action, all the pieces seem to be there for a reason, and I’m eager to see how it all comes together near the end. It’s such a big story, I don’t know how it’ll all fit in five more issues. But, I’m sure Morrison will make it work.

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