It’s hard to shake the feeling that something’s gone badly awry with Final Crisis. As it goes on, you can definitely see a sense of what Morrison’s trying to do – he’s trying to forcibly evolve the DC universe into something new and unprecedented by bringing down the Fourth World from on high – but the act of telling that relatively straightforward story has been muddied and, to be honest, almost ruined by a combination of factors. These include the fact that he surely simply won’t be allowed to get away with bringing about such drastic change as he’d probably like (hence the rumours about changes being made to the planned ending), his own tendency towards obliqueness and obfuscation (fine in some contexts, but rather less so in a big “event” story), and the sheer amount of story and characters he’s having to cram in.
For the sheer number of plot threads going on, too few are adequately explained. Hal Jordan is on trial by the Green Lantern Corps at the same time as an entirely new Mr Miracle and associated team are showing up at Checkmate, while a possessed Mary Marvel and other villains are fighting a bunch of heroes in Bludhaven, while Libra (who was supposed to be a “big villain” but who really has done nothing since issue one) stands around shouting at other villains, while Renee Montoya goes… somewhere for a page… and so it goes on. The main plot – Darkseid takes over Earth with the Anti-Life equation while a bunch of misfits unaffected by it transcend to New God levels of power in their attempt to fight back – is actually coming along pretty nicely, and provides most of the issue’s best moments (the Rubik’s Cube bit is lovely, and this new interpretation of Darkseid is terrific, genuinely malevolent and terrifying while also superbly designed). The stuff with Mister Miracle and his merry band, meanwhile, does contain some of the more confusingly Morrisonian dialogue, but is at least entertaining.
But why do we need all the other associated guff? It feels like an issue of 52 – but this isn’t a year-long weekly series where multiple unconnected plots can weave in and out of the pages at a leisurely pace. This is the fifth issue of seven, and some of these plots have only had a total of a few pages devoted to them (and others, such as Barry Allen’s return, don’t even appear this month). They feel meaningless. It basically looks like Morrison came up with the core story, but was told it wasn’t sufficiently rooted in DC-ness (it’s almost the antithesis of Infinite Crisis in that sense, in fact) and so had to throw in a load of stuff about the characters that DC sees as most crucial at the moment – i.e. the ones who’ve been followed through Countdown and its associated million tie-ins (almost none of which I’ve actually read, because I find these characters boring). And if you’re going to throw in a load of DC characters just to make it feel more like it’s part of the shared universe, then where’s the sense in completely taking Batman and Superman out of the story?
To its credit, and in comparison to Secret Invasion, there is at least stuff happening. The problem is that there’s simply too much of it, and it’s becoming an increasingly incomprehensible mess as a result. If you’ve got someone as capable of good storytelling as Morrison writing your event book, don’t saddle him with all the associated crap of your wasted last couple of years of “main” universe story. Just let him get on with his elaborate and bonkers homage to Jack Kirby (speaking of which, I’ve not commented on the art yet because I simply don’t know which of the myriad artists are responsible for which bits, but there’s a lovely snarling Darkseid panel on the penultimate page with some Kirby-esque thick linework), and leave Checkmate and Mary Marvel and “the Society” and Bludhaven and all of that other tedious nonsense out of it next time, eh?