Final Crisis #1
Grant Morrison, writer
J.G. Jones, artist
DC, May 2008
I first read this while standing in Jim Hanley’s Universe during my lunchbreak the day it came out. My first impression was basically flat. Brief, largely undramatic scene after brief, largely undramatic scene featuring a myriad of unconnected characters from across the sprawling DC Universe–a product of hundreds or thousands of writers and artists over going on eight decades, cobbled together by corporate fiat…there was certainly a lot going on. It’s got to be the most continuity-heavy Major Event launch…well, ever. Or at least since Crisis on Infinite Earths #1.
That said, I don’t really care about whether it fails as a launchpad, jumping-on point, blockbuster, next chapter in the DCU, whatever. I just wonder if it succeeds as a Grant Morrison comic, because I don’t care about “The DCU” in the slightest, but I do care about the writing of Grant Morrison. And after that first read, I felt that I really didn’t have enough to go on. I did enjoy seeing Martian Manhunter get punked out, though. As I always say, kill ’em all. I also thought it was hilarious that Morrison was writing this mega-massive-major tentpole summer blockbuster comic the same way he wrote his weird opus Seven Soldiers–super-dense, chock full of elided dialogue and action, and necessitating multiple reads to make heads or tails of it.
Then I got a copy of it in the mail from DC, so I was actually able to sit down with it, re-read the whole thing, and flip around and re-read certain parts. And you know what? Now I kind of love this comic. It’s creepy, weird, totally jam-packed with ideas, paced in a very daring way for what’s supposed to be a popcorn comic (no big reveals, no shocking moments, no wish-fulfillment–compare it to the entertaining but comparatively straightforward “shocking season premiere” feel of Secret Invasion), it has a kind of nauseatingly blasé death for one of the DCU’s oldest mainstays, I love the Dark Side idea (Jack Kirby’s evil demigods falling to earth and taking human form), major plot points are conveyed simply through panel transitions and body language…I keep coming back to the Martian Manhunter’s death, which has more impact precisely BECAUSE it’s neither a big hero moment or a failed attempt at a big hero moment (“Not like this! NOT LIKE THIS!”). The pacing of it conveys the lack of regard for human life that these douchebag villains have. And certainly the shittiness of evil, as opposed to its grandiose awesomeness, has been a running theme of Morrison’s superhero work for a long time now.
Sometimes the art is rushed-looking–Superman looks like he’s stupid, and the table at which the Secret Society of Super-Villains parlay with mysterious asshole villain Libra changes sizes from panel to panel. But there’s a lot of great facial-expression stuff in there too, as in the Anthro vs. Vandal Savage fight, the confrontation between Boss Dark Side and Terrible Turpin, the Anti-Life kids…
Even the deadweight Monitors from Countdown seem like they have a weird society instead of just running around proclaiming shit like they used to. And who cares whether it ignores what happened to the New Gods in previous would-be event miniseries over the past year? Ignoring stuff you don’t care about is done every time a superhero writer working on a decades-old character hits a key on his laptop–so what if the thing he’s ignoring happened three months ago instead of in 1957? It’s a very good comic for me.