After a number of false dawns over the last couple of issues – moments at which the story finally threatened to “kick off” only to flatter to deceive – Final Crisis has finally done it. It’s finally become f**king monumental. Of course, the sixth issue of a seven part miniseries is far too late for such a thing to happen – but let’s leave discussion of the series’ overall failures for another time and simply acknowledge that this particular issue, as a piece of epic, explosive superhero entertainment, is absolutely excellent.
From the return of the “real” Mary Marvel and Mr Tawky Tawny (of all bloody people) being absolutely kickass and brilliant (if a little like Morrison channelling his version of Hank McCoy), to the unveiling of Checkmate’s master plan and Superman’s (literally) explosive return to the fold, almost every beat that the story strikes hits home in spectacular fashion. Even the Libra plotline finally does something interesting, courtesy of an excellent Lex Luthor moment (“I’m somewhat *fond* of life, for all its ups and downs”). At this point Morrison is throwing ideas at the wall like so much overcooked spaghetti – and unlike in previous issues, far more of them are sticking. All the promises that Final Crisis really would be “the event to change everything” had looked hollow up to this point, but the announcement of the “Black Gambit” – a plan to move the entire population of the world to a parallel Earth – is a genuine shock, and coupled with the talk of “the age of men as gods”, really could see significant changes for the DC Universe. We shall see.
Of course, all the stonkingly good moments pale into comparison against the events of the closing pages. Again, the publishing context should probably be ignored for the sake of looking at how well the moment works in isolation – because yes, it’s patently ludicrous that Batman survived a story titled “Batman RIP” purely so that he could show up for a handful of pages late on in Final Crisis, do something completely brilliant, and then get killed off. So yes, as the final piece of the jigsaw of Morrison’s Bat-run, it’s inherently unsatisfying. But as a moment of heroic sacrifice to hold up alongside those of Barry Allen and Kara Zor-El in the original Crisis? It’s brilliant. It’s entirely Batman – at least, it’s entirely Morrison’s Batman, right down to the “HH”. Mozza built Batman up over the course of his run to be the most untouchable of humans – the man who “thinks of everything”. It’s fitting, then, that he should meet his end coming up against – and, briefly, outthinking – a god. Of course, Darkseid destroys him – but that’s the point. While it’s possible for there to be a million and one get-out clauses for this (not least because plenty of off-panel time occurs between seeing him get zapped and watching Superman emerge carrying an unrecognisably charred body), and so it’s clearly not The End for the character – it is at least the end for Morrison’s all-powerful version. Having taken on, and defeated, all that Earth could throw at him, it was only a god from another plane that could finally kill him.
If there’s a way in which the issue suffers, it is – inevitably, given the circumstances – in the art. The sequences that Jones managed to draw before throwing in the towel – most notably Batman and Darkseid’s confrontation – are among the best he’s done for the series, and Doug Mahnke (who, er, doesn’t get a cover credit) steps in with some good work in the closing pages (particularly the last one, which brilliantly evokes the classic DC “hero carries fallen comrade” pose). Elsewhere, though, it’s inconsistent, none of the fill-ins doing a particularly bad job, but none really jumping out, either. More pressing a concern, though, is Morrison’s pacing. For an issue that really does push the series into “epic” territory, there’s too much valuable panel space wasted on people standing around talking, leaving a lot of the “big” moments to be compressed into sections of a third of a page or smaller. Most notably, a double-page spread is wasted on a split between a pretty pointless image of the marauding hordes, and a similarly pointless conversation between the Super Young Team – while Superman’s return to Earth is squeezed into smaller panels, when it really should have been given a proper splash in the manner of, say, John Cassaday’s awesome “bullet” image from last year’s Giant Size Astonishing X-Men wind chill online .
Let’s not kid ourselves that this has been a successful “tentpole” event story. The ideas and themes have clearly been far more important to Morrison than the actual storytelling, which has been disjointed, at times highly confusing, and spread among far too many subplots and character groups to each be given justice by the series’ page count. But for brief, glorious moments, Final Crisis assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford the free download
#6 touches on genuine brilliance. And like “Batman RIP” before it, works of demented and flawed genius are still, in my book, far more worthy of attention and discussion than the countless “safe”, pedestrian stories that many fans will doubtless hold up as more traditionally satisfying.