Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: Final Crisis #6

Final Crisis #6 came out last week and (as I am sure everyone knows by now) ends with the death of Batman. You would think that an event of that magnitude would have rocked the comics world but given the 'we knew it was happening' nature of Batman's death and Barack Obama's appearance in Spiderman, it got nearly a mention. It sort of surprised me.

The truth is while I am somewhat enjoying Final Crisis there is no looking past the editorial blunders that have plagued this series. From the artist change (never more evident than in this issue) to incredible delays, this series has had a lot going against it. Add to that the non-linear style of Grant Morrison and you were bound to have criticism leveled against you.

But when I read Final Crisis, I am shocked by how dense it, how stuffed with ideas it is. It is Morrison at his best. But it feels like I am nibbling on really delicious hors d'oeuvres. While each tiny bite is wonderful, I'm not full. And I should be 'full' during a major event like this.

On to the review. As this is a Supergirl blog, I went a bit heavy on the Kara scans.

The issue opens with Superman talking to Brainiac 5. My guess is that this is the Geoff Johns' old/new Legion Brainy given the topic of conversation. Brainiac 5 tells Superman about the Miracle Machine, a controller developed tech which turns thoughts into reality.

This actually exists in Legion lore (at least the original Legion). In fact, Matter-Eater Lad went insane when he ate the machine to rid the universe of its threat. Okay, I digress.

But already on the first page, it hits me just how out of sorts the Final Crisis event has been. How is Superman there? And shouldn't we have read exactly how he is talking to Brainy about this now. Well, we know he is there because part of FC was Final Crisis:Legion of Three Worlds, a mini-series that right now is half way done. So I will have to wait months to read the story that puts Superman in this position? And what about his story in Final Crisis:Superman Beyond? That clearly takes place before this ... but when? And even that isn't finished.

So we sort of have to roll with the fact that Superman is there and uses the Miracle Machine to zip back in time.

Meanwhile, the fight over Bludhaven gets bloodier. Supergirl and Mary Marvel continue to slug it out in the sky. One thing to notice is just how physical/sexual Mary is portrayed. Even here, wrapping her legs around Supergirl as she punches. It still sickens me to see Mary dragged into the mud like this.

And Morrison really does his best to contrast the two young women. Throughout Final Crisis he has written Supergirl as a symbol of hope, strength, and purity. It has veered close to saccharin level sweetness at times but never quite crossed over. Here she simply says 'yukk' at Mary's cloying attack, sending her away dramatically.

And then we see, perhaps, my favorite super-hero move ever ... dropping a bus on someone. I don't know why I like this so much but I do. Vehicles as range weapons is just yummy for me.

One thing about Mary though, she is resiliant. Despite getting pummeled with the bus and getting up close and personal with a street sign, she is still on her feet. It is finally revealed that she is the host body for Desaad. Shazam finally thinks he has figured out a way to defeat her.

As Freddy tells Kara that he knows how to defeat Mary, Supergirl shouts back 'not if I break her neck first'. It is clear that the toll of the battle is wearing on her good nature. Is this a way to show that even the best heroes can be tempted with evil?

Unfortunately, we then get the above panel with the (what seems to be) mandatory Supergirl panty shot. Just why does this panel need to be constructed this way with Kara's blue panties for every one to see, a pole between her legs. The apologist in me says it is a visual way to show how this fight has made her consider Mary's tactics, to show that she is tempted to do evil ... to kill. The realist in me says that there is a market for comics that have Supergirl panty shots. Sigh.

Anyways, before she can do anything more serious to Mary, Darkseid's enslaved humanity comes stumbling in.

As if that fight wasn't brutal enough, the tiger-warrior Kalibak engages with Tawky Tawny. Now seriously, this is Morrison magic isn't it? Would anyone ever dream that Tawky Tawny would have a serious role and a major fight in a company wide Crisis event?

Juiced up on legendary tiger tea, he guts Kalibak. And as Tawny defeated the leader of the tiger pack, the rest of them bow to him as their new leader.

Unbelievable? Yes. Ludicrous? Yes. Wonderful? I think so. Tawky Tawny !!

Freddy then excutes his plan. He gets Mary into a bear hug and says 'Shazam'. The lightning strikes them both, returning them to their mortal state. Mary, suddenly back to being an innocent young girl, vows never to say the magic word again. Freddy consoles her saying it wasn't her since she was possessed.

Still ... given everything she has done in Countdown and Final Crisis, isn't it time to initiate the 'Kid Miracleman' protocol? That is one way to make sure she doesn't say the word again.

Remember this is a multi-front war. We then cut to the watchtower in Switzerland which is about to be overrun with justifiers. Mister Miracle man tells Mister Terrific that the symbol painted on his face is a letter from the New Gods alphabet which means 'freedom from restriction' and thus protects people from the anti-life equation. Terrific instead feels that the end is nigh and starts Checkmate's end game contingency.

Despite the nice ideas here, I was still taken aback by the coloring here. Shilo Norman is an African-American and yet here is colored as a caucasian. Even small (or not so small) things like this ruin what is supposed to be the tentpole event of the year for DC. Where was the editor?


We then shift to Renee Montoya being led around the Checkmate castle. Finally we begin to see some of the heroes' background plans.

The telepaths are all in a room trying to break the human consciousness from the anti-life equation. They don't look like they are having much success. Miss Martian looks pretty messed up.

The sorceror's are all trying to contact the Specter. Why not, he bailed them out of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

And scientists appear to be trying to dissect the Nazi Supergirl with little success. Creepy.
Those small plans aside, the major plan is revealed. The Atoms have been working with Lord Eye (Brother Eye's upgrade I presume) and have figured out a way to burrow into a new pristine universe where they can escape all the horror of this multiverse. And ... they want Montoya to lead a global peace agency on the other side.

I don't know if I get this entirely. Is this new universe one of the 52 we know about? Or a completely new one? Will I ever find out?


Another quick cut and we suddenly privy to a conversation between Luthor and Sivana in which they agree to openly rebel against Darkseid's forces because this is not a world they would want to inherit.

Luthor seemingly vaporizes Libra.

Remember when Libra was supposed to be a major player in this story. When there were rumors that someone new might be wearing the costume. When Morrison talked about how key his role was. It never quite seemed to happen.

Throughout this series, I keep comparing it to Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC mega-event which I think actually was enjoyable (excluding Kara's death of course) and succeeded in doing what it intended to do. Remember how we got to know the Psycho Pirate as the Earth-based flunkie of the bad guy. I thought that Libra would have a similar role. Instead he remained in the background.

In fact, there are so many plot lines that everything seems to be happening in the background.

Take for example this one ... the next scene in this ever-moving issue. The three Flashes meet in an apartment somewhere. There Barry says that at a certain speed everything becomes one form - time, light, matter, information. And Barry has come back with the information needed to defeat Darkseid. But to use it he needs to outrun the Black Racer, also known as the Black Flash.

Shouldn't Barry's return also be a huge deal? Have we had more than a page or two per issue of him? Do the other heroes even know he is back? Do I really want all of my Barry pages to be exposition? And what does he know? How did he come back?

Again, there are so many questions raised with each scene.

But onto the big event of the book. Batman has escaped his computer prison and faces off with Darkseid. Despite being a huge Morrison fan, I did not collect his Batman stuff so I guess I missed out on how he escaped. And for the Batman fans who don't collect Final Crisis, I guess they miss out on this ending.

Batman shoots Darkseid with the same radion laced bullet that killed Orion, striking him square in the chest. Batman then gets hit by the Omega beams.

Part of me likes the fact that Batman is the guy that gets the job done. He has always been written as the man with all the contingency plans, the man who has thought of every way and event can unfold, the true human capable of bringing down superhumans. So to have a man kill a god is a powerful image and in line with how Morrison has always written Batman.

But something about him using a gun and killing is unsettling (Batman does say he is making a once in a lifetime exception about firearms). And I don't know if he really needed to die to pull this off. Of course, this is more likely to be what Mister Miracle went through in his Seven Soldiers mini-series ... a life of psychological torture in a seemingly real world that Batman must escape to live again.

Superman arrives just at that moment and about as furious as I have ever seen him depicted. Heat vision on full spread, he simply flies through the carnage, taking out the Female Furies (who were having their way with the remaining heroes), and entering Darkseid's lair.

We see Lois in the crowd of people so we assume that Superman saves her in Final Crisis:Superman Beyond but we have to wait.

In the meantime, we see Nix Uotan, the last monitor, talking to Metron about how confused he is on this world. Metron warns him that the real threat will manifest when the humans enter the new universe. I suppose that is going to be the Dark Monitor.
We then see Superman emerge holding the eyeless burned out body of Batman.

Whew ....

So where to begin.

First the good stuff. This was a brutal issue and the fight scene over Bludhaven was well-executed. It was great to see Supergirl finally give Mary what she deserves. And there are nuggets of each scene that sound like so innovative that if each scene was read alone, I might say this was stellar heady stuff. The telepath room, Lord Eye, tunneling into a new universe, magical God alphabets, a point where everything becomes one material, Tawky Tawny fighting ... it's all wildly original.

The thing is while each scene is interesting and intriguing, and well written, I still don't know if I quite follow everthing that has happened and is happening. I have said before that I enjoy Morrison's stuff and I understand that you need to sort of go along for the ride. But still, if this is going to define the new DC universe ... shouldn't I understand the definition?

We have one more issue to wrap this up .... one more issue. I just don't know if it can be done in a way to explains and ties up all the plots floating out there. I fear that this will end like 'Akira' or Morrison's own 'Seven Soldiers' ... with me shruggin my shoulders and saying 'what just happened?'

Add to that the editorial blunders and this has seemed like something close to great but still far away. And the jarringly different art styles seen in this issue really took away from the flow of the issue too.

I really want to like Final Crisis. But right now I think I am standing too close to an expressionist painting. I can enjoy the tiny dots, but I am still not seeing the big picture.

Overall grade: C

17 comments:

Heath Edwards said...

lol, its only now that you mention the different artists on the issue that i've realized it. i think with so much going on, and so much being told, it passed right through me...
great review, great issue (i thought), yay kara, yay superman, and poor batman. i've been following morrison's batman story. and together, poor bruce wayne has had a heck of a year...
like yourself, i've had fun trying to put the many storylines together, so i do hope that the next (and final) issue wraps things up succinctly. this is definitely a story to read collected...

Anonymous said...

I was glad to see that Kara stood her ground and fought Black Mary to the last uppercut.
Y'know, after FC is done and finished when the rubble settles and the dust clears, for Supergirl to cement her bona fides as a symbol of hope, it would do well for her to befriend Mary Batson.
Kara has had some things go wrong for her, she'd make a wise and experienced friend for Mary Marvel...and if anyone could encourage her to get back on the hero-track it'd be the Girl of Steel.
WE can't change the wrong direction that Mary Marvel has had imposed on her by the writers but we can actively lobby for better things to come of it.

Just a thought...besides you wanna see these two uncork on Ibac and Bizarro...
You KNOW you do....

:D
John Feer

TalOs said...

W00T! Sincerely loved seeing the Legion with Superman, cuz Supergirl laying the deserved smack down on Black Mary, along with the sadness that came with witnessing the Post-IC DCU "New Earth" continuity own Batman dying at the hands of Darkseid VER 2.0. (Poor Bats, R.I.P. indeed.)

Anj said...

The thing is while each scene is interesting and intriguing, and well written, I still don't know if I quite follow everything that has happened and is happening. I have said before that I enjoy Morrison's stuff and I understand that you need to sort of go along for the ride. But still, if this is going to define the new DC universe ... shouldn't I understand the definition?

Thank you! This is exactly my problem come what is the main story in Final Crisis is at the end of the day here too! Darkseid being 'reborn' on Earth as well as his evil gods comrades after a 'great battle in the heavens' that supposedly created the "5th world" I understand, his fall from heaven apparently causing time and space itself to unravel, not a problem, Libra being the herald of Darkseid who's first unleashes the Anti Life Equation again, not a prob, but exactly HOW does the 52 Monitors fit in to this story now too? That last bit has really threw me through a loop where I've had to go back and re read FC #1-6 right now in order to try to make some sense of what's meant to be going on and hoping against hope that come FC #7 the concluding chapter (with supposedly 7 extra pages thrown in for no extra cost) will try to make everything crystal clear as to exactly WHAT Morrison is trying to accomplish here.

After having re read Crisis of Infinite Earths, followed with Infinite Crisis I just didn't get the same ambitious fun as all get feeling from later having re read Final Crisis #1-6 in turn. But again, hopefully #7 will be the much needed icing on the cake to remedy this. :/

Gene said...

That scene between Batman and Darkseid is an interesting contrast to an episode in the final season of Justice League Unlimited. Superman, Batman, and Luthor take on Darkseid and a small army of Parademons. When Batman runs out of Batarangs Luthor offers him a pistol. Batman declines, stating "Not my style." He was also able to dodge Darkseid's Omega Beams.

Jeff Caporizzo said...

heres another take on the "i don't get it" factor with morrison's work. remember when Katrina hit New Orleans? there was a lot of confusion, and lot of stuff happening at once. in a perfect world the media reports, major relief organizations, local police and fire rescue and the government, as well as the efforts of the private citizens, would have all coalesced into some kind of sensible effort we could all understand. reality as a LOT different.

just finding out what was going on without actually being on the scene was difficult - the major news outlets were reporting conflicting information, and that was contrasting with real-time pics and reports being posted online on flickr and blogs.

red cross was out of rations, local cops had a hand looting cars, and the gov't was telling us it was under control as the dead floated down their neighborhood streets and people were stuck in a football stadium or an attic waiting for dysentery to set in

my point is that it was chaotic and made little sense, a jumble of efforts and information that were hard to figure out and coordinate.

Imagine Darkseid's anti-life campaign as a big hurricane to the DC universe and earth. it came unexpectedly, it was brutal, and we're walking through the shattered results getting glimpses of the response in Final Crisis.

I think Morrison is trying to keep it real - too often comics are too linear, and push the bounds of whats believeable NOT because they give us power rings that can shape our very thoughts but by tidy mechanizations of characters in impossible fantastic situations - all in the name of wrapping up the latest story arc or starting a new one.

what did we all enjoy about Watchmen or MiracleMan? The characters were f'ed up. They were f'ed up in a very special way - they were as f'ed up as we were, they acted like people, not illustrations of people.

Similarly, the plots in those two books played out like life - they included tangible regret, deadends instead of resolution, unanswered questions that would remain unanswered.

I doubt i'd read Final Crisis, I don't have Andrew's acumen with the DC universe and know i'd be lost, but from these posts i'm offering a defense of what Morrison is trying to do, and think comics would be better off if other efforts took his example.

Anonymous said...

*Sigh* Mary Marvel... She's gonna say the damned word again! Has anyone seen the next few covers of JSA? Yeah... And what is "the 'Kid Miracleman' protocol?"

Meanwhile, I like the story and all, but do you remember the good old days, when the crossovers and huge mega-crossovers and all that got stuff done at the end of the series? New Krypton? No answers. Final Crisis? Looks the same. Instead, it seems like they're causing huge changes and rearranging characters and histories and realities just so that the writers can pull out a few more stories, without actually having to be all that creative... Bah. I appreciate that art tries to imitate life, and that life often doesn't wrap things up in a neat little package, but I don't think that's what these folks are actually trying to accomplish here...

Boo.

--Yota.

Saranga said...

I have really enjoyed final crisis up to this issue, where I just got lost.

Anj said: "In fact, there are so many plot lines that everything seems to be happening in the background."

You've just summed up my feelings about this. So much is happening I can't really feel involved with the book because I don't feel as if we've got to know much about each event. I'm only reading a few of the spin offs, which isn't helping, but wouldn't it have made sense to have tie ins in the regular character monthlies? that would make event feel connected. Right now, I don't know hos this fits in with the continuity of the character's monthly titles.

Compare it to FC revelations, which is neat and compact and makes sense by itself, (mostly).
As for Batman's death, I felt nothing. probably because I'm not reading the RIP books.

@ Anj, re the panty shot: "The apologist in me says it is a visual way to show how this fight has made her consider Mary's tactics, to show that she is tempted to do evil ... to kill."
I can believe that may be a theory DC would agree with, but is showing some girls' underwear really the best way to show that she's evil? I've had enough of sex or sexy = bad. It's rubbish. (This is not a nark at you by the way!)

Anj said...

like yourself, i've had fun trying to put the many storylines together, so i do hope that the next (and final) issue wraps things up succinctly. this is definitely a story to read collected...

Thanks for the post.

I hear that Final Crisis #7 had extra pages, hopefully to make sense of all this. I do think that many of Morrison's stories do read better collected than with months in between.

Anj said...

Y'know, after FC is done and finished when the rubble settles and the dust clears, for Supergirl to cement her bona fides as a symbol of hope, it would do well for her to befriend Mary Batson.

I would love to see that friendship blossom, but my guess is Mary will buddy up with the JSA second generation heroes like Stargirl instead. Too bad.

Anj said...

After having re read Crisis of Infinite Earths, followed with Infinite Crisis I just didn't get the same ambitious fun as all get feeling from later having re read Final Crisis #1-6 in turn.

I enjoyed COIE and thought that made sense and altered the DCU the way it intended.

I understood Infinite Crisis although I didn't really like it.

I like this but don't understand all of it. I also hope that the last issue makes it all make sense.

Anj said...

I doubt i'd read Final Crisis, I don't have Andrew's acumen with the DC universe and know i'd be lost, but from these posts i'm offering a defense of what Morrison is trying to do, and think comics would be better off if other efforts took his example.

Thanks for the great post.

I enjoy Morrison's work and don't mind nonlinear story-telling. And (in answer to your Katrina analogy) I actually praised the style in the early issues. I think I said I felt like the heroes did, just seeing the threads of evil around me but not the tapestry.

The problem here is that this is going to define the DC universe from here on. As a fan, I am going to want to understand how we went from point A to point B in terms of universe building. In other words, if the heroes do escape through a universe burrow hole made by the Atoms, shouldn't I know more about that than just one panel on one page in the penultimate book?

This is daring art no doubt ... and better than let's say the linear but semi-idiotic story of Secret Invasion. But it was easy to criticize Secret Invasion because I understood it and found it lacking.

I fear that if I say I don't like Final Crisis the easy response will be 'you just didn't understand Morrison's writing' and I have been reading Morrison since Doom Patrol.

Anyways, I am enjoying Final Crisis ... just not as much as I think I might if I could put it all together.

Anj said...

*Sigh* Mary Marvel... She's gonna say the damned word again! Has anyone seen the next few covers of JSA? Yeah... And what is "the 'Kid Miracleman' protocol?"

Thanks for the post.

In the late 80s Alan Moore wrote Miracleman which was sort of a British Shazam family. In that Kid Miracleman goes rogue and destroys London, killing unnumerable citizens.

When he finally is forced back into human form, his human identity says 'I won't ever say the word again.' Miracleman makes sure that happens by crushing his head.

I don't really want that to happen to Mary. It was just a joke.

Bah. I appreciate that art tries to imitate life, and that life often doesn't wrap things up in a neat little package, but I don't think that's what these folks are actually trying to accomplish here...

I agree. I think Morrison thinks his readers will be able to put his story pieces all together, filling in the missing scenes. But I don't think that is necessarily true.

Anj said...

I can believe that may be a theory DC would agree with, but is showing some girls' underwear really the best way to show that she's evil? I've had enough of sex or sexy = bad. It's rubbish. (This is not a nark at you by the way!)

Thanks for the post.

I agree completely by the way. I meant more in her aping Mary's physicality. But too often sexy does equal bad in comics, and that is wrong.

Saranga said...

@ Anj: ah I getcha.
Hmm, Mary and Kara as friends, that could work. Didn't Linda and Mary hang out for a while?

And does anyone in the DCU even remember Linda? She's obviously still around (Reign in Hell) but you;d think there would be some comments made somewhere about Kara being different from Linda..taller, different costume, younger..

Mike Z. said...

"Despite being a huge Morrison fan, I did not collect his Batman stuff so I guess I missed out on how he escaped."

I read his Batman stuff and have no idea. Morrison is making me feel really, really stupid.

As you point out, FC is full of amazing ideas. The way they were put together is difficult for the reader. But I think the biggest problem is the erratic schedule, with books arriving out of sequence. The spin-off titles (Superman and Legion especially) might have been a mistake. It probably should have been a 12-issue series like the first Crisis.

Anj said...

Hmm, Mary and Kara as friends, that could work. Didn't Linda and Mary hang out for a while?

Thanks for the post and sorry it took so long to respond.

Mary and Linda did hang out in PAD's Supergirl. In the storyline from issues 51-74, Linda is trying to reunite with the angelic aspects of her powers. (I think I did a back issue review on one of them a while back.)

It is funny, in that arc, Mary is the pure foil to the somewhat tainted Linda. That seems to have done a 180.

Anj said...

As you point out, FC is full of amazing ideas. The way they were put together is difficult for the reader. But I think the biggest problem is the erratic schedule, with books arriving out of sequence. The spin-off titles (Superman and Legion especially) might have been a mistake. It probably should have been a 12-issue series like the first Crisis.

Thanks for the post.

I think Morrison is an acquired taste and a polarizing figure. His JLA run seemed just the right mix of Morrison lunacy with mainstream comics. A Final Crisis written like that would be spectacular (heck Rock of Ages, World War III arcs were like mini-crises). This seems to have veered off into Seaguy/Doom Patrol areas - both of which I really liked but aren't the right fit for a crossover of this magnitude.

But the editorial blunders certainly aren't helping matters.