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Final Crisis “Cliffs Notes”

Okay, so I did the Final Crisis FAQ, where I answered everyone who sent in a question about Final Crisis, but I thought it’d be nice to re-format the answers a bit and just give you a sort of “Cliffs Notes” explanation of the parts people professed difficulty understanding, in a chronological look at Final Crisis.

Enjoy!

READING ORDERS

I’ll give you both reading orders. The first is the official Grant Morrison “This is how you should read Final Crisis” reading order, using just the issues he wrote, while the rest is where the other ones “tie-in” (quotes because they really don’t).

Morrison Reading Order

Final Crisis #1-3
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1-2
Final Crisis: Submit #1
Final Crisis #4-5
Batman #682-683
Final Crisis #6-7

The Entire Reading Order

Final Crisis #1
Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1
Final Crisis: Requiem #1
Final Crisis #2
Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge #1-3
Final Crisis #3
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1-2
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1-5
Final Crisis: Revelations #1-5
Final Crisis: Resist #1
Final Crisis: Submit #1
Final Crisis #4-5
Final Crisis: Secret Files #1 (any time, really, but I guess around this time makes the most sense)
Batman #682-683
Final Crisis #6-7

As a side note, DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1 was originally a Final Crisis tie-in but was released without the name, and I think that likely has to do with the fact that it really does not tie in to the story at all – so just pretend that it is just some unnamed OTHER crisis that the heroes are all talking about in hushed terms – DC must have those a lot, I guess, maybe, I dunno.

GENERAL ART CREDITS FOR FINAL CRISIS #1-7

I could be off on a few pages here and there, but I think this is basically all correct…

Issues #1-3 – All J.G. Jones

Issue #4 – Carlos Pacheco drew the straight superhero scenes while JG Jones got the darker stuff with Darkseid and the Flashes.

Issue #5 – Pacheco drew the opening with the Green Lanterns and the two-page spread of the heroes charging. Marco Rudy drew most of the last pages of the book, including Darkseid taking control of the three billion humans. JG Jones drew the rest.

Issue #6 – Opens with a couple of Pacheco pages, then Rudy draws most of the issue, except for a few major scenes drawn by JG Jones, namely the Supergirl/Mary Marvel fight, the Talky Tawny fight, the Flashes attack Darkseid and the Batman/Darkseid fight. Closes with a few Doug Mahnke pages.

Issue #7 – All Doug Mahnke, although with a gazillion different inkers.

COLLECTIONS OF FINAL CRISIS

DC has already collected the Last Rites issues of Batman (#682-683) in the Batman RIP trade that is out.

Soon they will be coming out with the following collections:

JUNE

Final Crisis Hardcover (Final Crisis #1-7, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1-2, Final Crisis: Submit #1)*

Final Crisis Companion (Final Crisis: Requiem #1, Final Crisis: Resist #1, Final Crisis: Secret Files #1 and the extras from the Director’s Cut of Final Crisis #1)

JULY

Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge

Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns (will include the Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns one-shot plus the respective issues of Green Lantern dealing with the Red Lanterns and their rage)

AUGUST

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds

Final Crisis: Revelations

* Note that this is just based on my deductive reasoning. DC originally solicited the Final Crisis Hardcover as $25 and a hundred pages shorter, with Superman Beyond and Submit being in the Companion trade. Then they re-solicited the Companion trade withOUT Superman Beyond and Submit, and suddenly the Final Crisis trade was a hundred pages larger and $30 instead of $25.

COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS, DEATH OF THE NEW GODS, DC UNIVERSE #0 AND SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE

Countdown to Final Crisis and the Death of the New Gods were both mini-series designed to set up Final Crisis plot points. However, due to the fact that they were written well before Final Crisis was fully written, a number of inconsistencies popped up. Since Grant Morrison already had his story, he was not going to change his story to match up with inconsistencies in comics that were intended to match up with HIS story, so if there are any inconsistencies between Countdown and Final Crisis, presume that Final Crisis is the “official” position.

The basic plot points that Countdown was to get across were:

* Mary Marvel turns evil… because of Darkseid!
* There is a society of Monitors who disagree about how to be Monitors. At least one of these Monitors is evil.
* Earth-51: Destroyed, then turned into Kamandi-world!
* There was a war of the New Gods, and they all die except Orion (well, and Metron, because he is considered to be beyond the Fourth World).

Quite a few of these plot points contradict Final Crisis in some way or another, but the BASIC ideas got across, for the most part.

In any event, when it came to the war of the New Gods, Countdown and Death of the New Gods both came up with different depictions of how it all went down, and neither of them matched what Morrison wanted to have happen.

Morrison’s take on it is that the Death of the New Gods is an approximation of the “war of the heavens” that leads into Final Crisis, and therefore, any such battle would be incomprehensible to regular people, which explains why there were different takes on it. That’s a clever enough solution.

Okay, so there was supposed to be a “War of the Heavens” that would end the Fourth World and begin the Fifth World. However, Darkseid is way too stubborn to let that happen, so he escapes death by traveling through time and space.

During DC Universe #0, we see him fall through time and space and end up in the past. In that same issue, the “higher beings” also return Barry Allen to the living to bring Darkseid back to where he was supposed to be, which was dead.

Darkseid fell through time and space all the way back to the Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle mini-series from a few years back. There it is established that Darkseid is staying alive by taking on a human host body. Darkseid also brought all his minions with him and they have human host bodies, too (they all still died in the war of the heavens, but as Jack Kirby established, Darkseid can recreate his minions just through his memories of them – think of them as basically extensions of Darkseid’s self). In the Mister Miracle mini-series, we discover a new twist on Darkseid’s classic Omega Beams, which can transport people across time and space (usually killing them in the process). Here he uses his “Omega Sanction” on Mister Miracle, which “kills” Mister Miracle, but basically it forces Mister Miracle to re-live his life over and over in some otherly dimension. Being the world’s greatest escape artist, however, Mister Miracle “escapes Death.”

Still, now Mister Miracle is aware that Darkseid has something planned for Earth.

FINAL CRISIS #1

Metron gives Anthro a sigil, but Anthro at first thinks he is just giving him the fire that was used to engrave the sigil. Anthro uses the fire to, in effect, become the world’s first “superhero” (with fire being his “power”).

Vandal Savage is a jerk in Anthro’s time, too.

Mirror Master is working for Libra in this issue, but soon decides not to work for him (along with the other Rogues) in Rogues’ Revenge #1-3.

In this issue, a new “League of Titans” consisting of Sparx, Empress and Mas y Menos debut and are attacked by Libra’s crew, who recover Metron’s chair. The four Titans COULD be dead, but it is left intentionally vague, so basically, if some future writer wants to use any of them, then they were just knocked unconscious.

The Tattooed Man works for Boss Dark Side, but that’s just because we’ve established he’s a typical super-villain goon at this point in time.

Libra is an old Justice League villain who developed a device that could steal people’s powers. He turned his device on the universe and basically got absorbed into the cosmos. He drifted through the universe for years until finally recorporalizing on Apocalypse, where he was enlisted as Darkseid’s agent on Earth. He’s really powerful, powerful enough that he could fight the Spectre! It say a lot that his gimmick was that he strove for “balance,” yet when he met Darkseid, he knew that Darkseid outweighed everything and that balance was useless in the presence of Darkseid. Darkseid must be pretty darn bad!!

The Justice League appears somewhat unfamiliar with the New Gods. This was a bit of a retcon by Morrison that turned out to be more or less completely ignored by DC in the lead-up to Final Crisis. Morrison wanted the New Gods to regain a bit of their original Kirby mystique, where it would be a really big deal if a New God showed up on Earth. Part of this involved a request on Morrison’s part that DC not do anything with the New Gods for a couple of years before Final Crisis. That did not happen. In any event, that is why the League seems somewhat unfamiliar with the New Gods, although do note that the way it is written (and this is almost certainly intentional), you could read Batman and Superman as just informing the members of the collected Justice League who ARE unfamiliar with the New Gods, people like Red Arrow and Hawkgirl.

Reader Gauss wrote me to point out that Morrison made a comment about the bum with the red hair who is nearby Orion’s death. He asks whether that could be a resurrected Orion. I suppose it could, but I think more likely it is just Morrison tossing in an Easter Egg for Seven Soldiers readers, as that looks like it could very easily be Aurakles, who Mister Miracle freed in Seven Soldiers #1 (and who was addle-minded enough at the time that he could easily still be walking around dressed like a red-haired bum).

Kamandi appears to Anthro at the end of the issue as a time fluctuation (think of it as a temporal vision), courtesy of the Monitor Nix Uotan, who is banned from the society of Monitors in this issue and forced to live among the humans (or “germs” as the Monitors call them).

FINAL CRISIS: RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS #1 and FINAL CRISIS: REQUIEM #1

Both are extremely straightforward comics.

FINAL CRISIS #2

Alpha Lantern Kraken is possessed by Granny Goodness and she assaults John Stewart. Before she attacks, she mocks the Guardians (who created the Alpha Lanterns to be infallible but that did not work, as Kraken was still possessed). This is later evidenced when Kraken and Batman are in the Hall of Justice and Batman notices an imprint on Kraken from where John tried to fight back. Batman remarks that John sure has a nice right hook. While trying to fight off the control of Granny, Kraken mentions something along the lines of “tell them our weapons don’t work.” While it is not made explicitly clear, I think it is likely she is referring to the Alpha Lanterns as a whole as “the weapons,” as the Alpha Lanterns were created by the Guardians to be infallible weapons of justice to police other Green Lanterns.

Kamandi appears to Turpin in the issue as a time fluctuation (think of it as a temporal vision), courtesy of the Monitor Nix Uotan.

Jay and Wally meet the revived Barry Allen at a strip club that was once a community center where Jay first met Barry years earlier. This is likely a commentary by Morrison about how the DC Universe has become “grimmer and grittier” since then.

FINAL CRISIS: ROGUES’ REVENGE #1-3

Pretty straightforward mini-series.

FINAL CRISIS #3

The digital hand at Boss Dark Side’s hideout is a take-off on the Uni-Friend, the messenger of the Source, which manifests in the form of a hand writing out messages from the Source.

Overman’s cousin (Overgirl?) shows up, having been forcefully removed from Earth-10. We do not learn what it is that killed her exactly – was she hurt BEFORE she “fell from the sky” or was the expulsion from Earth-10 that killed her? Since it was her going missing that compelled Overman to go on the mission in Superman Beyond, it’s possible that the Monitor Zillo Valla schemed for her to be sent away to provide a motivation for Overman to help her. But that’s just supposition.

Superman says that his heat vision is keeping Lois’s heart beating, but what he means is his infra-ray vision (this is made clear in Superman Beyond). He is using his infra ray vision to massage her heart.

Oracle cuts off the internet, keeping the Anti-Life Equation from being ingrained in computer systems everywhere. Just a glimpse of the Anti-Life Equation, though, almost turns her into a thrall of Darkseid.

The “Female Furies” at the end of the issue are Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Catwoman and Giganta.

FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND #1-2

In this story it is established that the multiverses each have a specific tune. That becomes important later in Final Crisis.

In the story, Zillo Valla collects a team of Superman analogues, namely Superman, Ultraman, Overman, Captain Marvel (of Earth-5) and Captain Adam (a Dr. Manhattan take-off).

During this story, it is suggested that perhaps the “Crisis” that Darkseid is causing on Earth is just one of many crises that have come about because of a larger problem with the Multiverse, that perhaps each Earth in the Multiverse is going through their own version of the Darkseid problem. It is also very possible that all the other crises are caused by Darkseid mucking around with the Multiverse.

Superman Beyond provides an origin of the Monitors. Here it is…

There was once a being, I do not know if he even has a name, let’s call him the “Over-Monitor.” This being discovers the multiverse and sends a probe to explore the multiverse (the Monitor). However, the multiverse is a lot more complex (and quite a bit seductive) than he expected, and the probe was split into two equal and opposite probes, one good one evil, the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor.

After the death of the first Monitor and the defeat of the Anti-Monitor in Crisis, the Over-Monitor created a society of Monitors who lived in basically the ether of the multiverse. Their existence was discovered post Infinite Crisis.

The very first one sent by the Over-Monitor was called Dax Novu. There is some debate whether Dax is intended to be first Monitor sent to create the society of Monitors or if he is the first Monitor sent by the Over-Monitor PERIOD, in which case he would be the Monitor of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the “good” side of the original probe. I do not think Morrison makes it definitive either way, but certainly it is a more interesting story if Dax Novu IS the first Monitor (the one from Crisis on Infinite Earths).

Okay, so as this society of Monitors begins to grow, it slowly becomes apparent to Dax that the Monitors have an almost parasitic (one could call it vampiric) relationship with the Multiverse. They sort of feed off of the stories of the worlds they monitor. The other Monitors do not wish to believe him, so they shun him and imprison him “forever.” Before they do so, he leaves behind a thought-robot designed to defeat himself if he is ever freed, because he knows that cut off from society that he is going to go mad. Dax slowly descends into madness and becomes Mandrakk, a flat out evil jerk who wants to consume the universe.

Secretly, he gains a disciple named Ogama who bans Nix Uotan to Earth to clear the way for Mandrakk to escape (which is what Zillo Valla is trying to stop by collecting all these Supermen).

Superman uses the thought-robot and defeats Mandrakk in the Nil (what they call the ether of the multiverse).

During this story, Captain Marvel of Earth-5 is sent by Superman to collect other Superman analogues to help defend the Multiverse from Mandrakk.

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #1-5

This story is really its own thing, not really tied to Final Crisis.

But here’s a timeline of Superman’s travels during Final Crisis…

SUPERMAN’S TIMELINE DURING FINAL CRISIS

Final Crisis #1-3 – Takes part in some Justice League stuff, is here for the death of the Martian Manhunter, gives a speech at the funeral of the Martian Manhunter. The Daily Planet blows up and Lois gravely injured.

Superman Beyond #1-2 – He goes off on his multiverse mission and returns and heals Lois, returns to Earth.

Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1-5 – He returns just in time to be taken into the future.

Final Crisis #4-most of 6 – His adventures in the Legion of Three Worlds mini-series.

Final Crisis end of #end of 6-7 – Back on Earth and directly involved in the end of Final Crisis.

FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS #1-5

This series really does not tie in with Final Crisis. It exists more to let Greg Rucka do some good work with some characters he enjoys, namely Renee Montoya, The Huntress and Crispus “The Spectre” Allen. Rucka also debuts a new character called The Radiant.

One debated aspect of the comic came when Cain shows up in Vandal Savage’s body. It is not made explicit where Cain POSSESSES Savage or if Vandal Savage just WAS the guy who became the basis for the Biblical person known as Cain. I lean towards the former.

Since it is never made explicit WHEN The Spectre kills Dr. Light, I suppose it is possible that you could squeeze the recent Justice League of America storyline into the gap between Final Crisis #1 and Final Crisis #2. More likely than not, it just does not fit. And for the most part, it seems that Final Crisis: Revelations, as a series, takes place between Final Crisis #3 and 4.

FINAL CRISIS: RESIST #1

In this issue, Sasha Bordeaux began to be infected with the Anti-Life Equation. The cybernetic part of her body shut herself down so that she would not be enthralled to Darkseid. However, Mr. Terrific needed her to reboot to use her connections to the Checkmate computers, thus fully infecting her with the Anti Life Equation. Once again, her body shut herself down so she could not be used by Darkseid, but if when/if she woke up, she’d be fully infected with the Anti-Life Equation.

In this issue, Snapper visits the Justice League Satellite before the remnants of the League end up hiding out there themselves.

FINAL CRISIS: SUBMIT #1

This issue is quite straightforward, except the question of who gave Black Lightning the sigil/circuit. Since he is captured and enslaved before he can tell anyone, it is left a mystery. A theory I like is that the temporal vision of Kamandi gives it to him (as Kamandi had received it from Anthro at the end of Final Crisis #1), but it is never said for sure. That being said, the sigil/circuit appeared plenty of places (as established in Final Crisis #3), so it’s not like there weren’t opportunities to find the sigil/circuit.

FINAL CRISIS #4

While some people were able to keep themselves from listening to the Anti-Life Equation (especially as Oracle cut off access to the internet), quite a few people were “captive,” like in subways, airplanes, cars, etc. and they were all turned. They, in turn, turned as many people as they could, zombie-style.

Mr. Terrific is back at the Checkmate Castle after being in Antarctica at the end of Final Crisis: Resist #1. The the likely argument is that the “time distortions” mentioned in the next issue explain how he was able to travel back to Switzerland is so little time. As for HOW he was able to get there without getting caught, the OMACs that pop up at the end of RESIST are likely how he got back to Switzerland. And since we don’t see a lot of them, he likely lost most of them along the way to Darkseid’s forces.

“Time distortions” is also the explanation for how Renee Montoya is able to get from Gotham City to Switzerland from Final Crisis: Revelations #5 to Final Crisis #4.

By the way, there were not just “time distortions,” but there were also “space distortions” (thing got closer/further away), which would also tend to explain how people traversed great distances in short periods of time.

In the Justice League trophy room, there is a bottle with miniature versions of the Justice League. I have no idea what that is there for – perhaps just an in-joke by Carlos Pacheco?

Barry Allen cures Iris Allen of the Anti-Life Equation through some combination of the Speed Force and love.

FINAL CRISIS #5

A lot of the heroes in the double-page spread are riding vehicles made up of the Metal Men.

In this issue, we get the first hint that Desaad has possessed Mary Marvel.

Iman’s dialogue is basically “What hit me? Ah, $&#*! My armor’s useless. Weighs a ton… what would Superman do…?”

The person with the ape hands in this issue is never explicitly named, although the best theory I’ve heard is the typewriting monkey from Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run. Note that the monkey is even referred to in Superman Beyond. And like the typewriting monkey, the character in Final Crisis #5 knows a whole lot about the power of stories. Heck, this very well could be the origin of the monkey (a being experimented on in Command-D)! But really, that’s just a theory. It is mostly a mystery who the ape hands man is.

Nix Uotan finds the “magic word,” which is “Weeja Dell”, the name of the Monitor that he was in love with (we met her in Final Crisis #1 and Superman Beyond #2).

FINAL CRISIS: SECRET FILES #1

As you would hope, this Secret Files is pretty straightforward.

BATMAN #682-683

Batman is tortured by Simyan and Mokkari, as they are using the telepathic creature known as The Lump to attempt to mass-produce Batman’s powerful mind into an army of Batman clones to serve as soldiers for Darkseid.

The story mixes real memories of Batman with false memories, which allows Morrison to play fast and loose with various aspects of Batman’s career. Since that “not all of the memories are real” disclaimer is added, the question of Kathy (Batwoman) Kane’s existence is an interesting one. Kathy Kane was “erased” by Crisis on Infinite Earths. The current Batwoman, Kate Kane, alludes to having an older relative named Katherine Kane, so Kathy Kane MAY have already been back in continuity. So the question is, when Batman recalls Kathy Kane in Batman #682, is that Morrison bringing Kathy Kane’s career of Batwoman back into continuity? I don’t think it is a question we can answer for sure (although, really, with the return of the Multiverse, does it really matter?).

This issue places Final Crisis #1 as directly following the events of R.I.P. in Batman #676-681.

FINAL CRISIS #6

We have our tie-in with Legion of Three Worlds here. We are spoiled that Brainiac 5 and Superman do not die in Legion of Three Worlds. We also learn that the time distortions have ruined the Legion’s promise that they could return Superman back to the time he left. Instead, issues #4, 5 and most of #6 go by before Superman returns to Final Crisis.

Black Adam makes a comment about his powers fading due to “his gods” being “far, far from here.” This is most likely a reference to the fracturing of the multiverse (his gods might actually be far, far from there, thereby cutting off the access to his powers).

This is also where we get confirmation that Desaad IS, in fact, possessing Mary Marvel. It appears as though Morrison’s intent was that Mary Marvel’s heel turn was all due to being possessed by Desaad, but that does not appear to be how DC has decided to play it, at least not based on recent issues of Justice Society of America.

Iman’s dialogue translates to “Something approaches. Like the sound of horses.” This is the arrival of the Tiger Men, who Morrison shows here how the Tiger Men were sent on the way to their noble attitude in the Kamandi stories of the future.

Shiloh Norman is mis-colored in this issue. He appears almost Caucasian. That is a mistake and it will be fixed in the Final Crisis hardcover.

The two Atoms, Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi, are attempting to bridge a highway from the universe of New Earth/Earth-0 (Morrison seems to refer to the “main” DC Earth as Earth-0, while after Infinite Crisis, it seemed to be called New Earth – I’m fine with either term) to another universe (so as to escape the possible destruction of this Earth).

Lord Eye is based on the brain of Maxwell Lord, founder of this current version of Checkmate.

Batman shoots Darkseid with a gun containing a Radion bullet. It was established during Jack Kirby’s original Fourth World stories that Radion can kill the New Gods. This is the bullet Darkseid used to kill Orion. Batman shoots Darkseid in the shoulder.

The great thing about the Omega Sanction is that there is no precise explanation for what it does and does not do, so anything pretty much goes for it, particularly when you add in the fact that Darkseid was shot by Batman before the beams hit Batman (in fact, you could read the panel as suggesting that Darkseid was shot AS he let loose the Omega Sanction) – who knows what kind of odd effect that would have on the effects of the beam? I imagine we’ll get more specific answers when Morrison returns to Batman in June.

That said, in extremely general terms, the Omega Sanction transports people across time and space, usually resulting in their deaths.

Here, the odd effect is that we have a corpse of Batman while Batman is actually somewhere in time and space, managing to survive what would have killed almost any other human alive.

Towards the end of the issue, we begin to see the effects of the power-stealing virus on a number of the superheroes who managed to stick around this far.

FINAL CRISIS #7

THE CHRONOLOGY OF FINAL CRISIS #7

A word about how this story is told. If you’ve ever watched The Godfather Part II or Memento (to choose two particularly notable films that I figure most of you have seen), you are likely familiar with the concept of telling a story non-sequentially. Directors figure that if you show an audience a scene set in the past after you show a scene set in the present, the viewers will figure out in their mind where to place the scenes, chronologically. Therefore, if you were to determine what order to view The Godfather Part II in to get the chronological order, you would get a very silly looking thing like:

Minutes 10-20 then Minutes 40-55 then Minutes 76-80, etc.

Not to mention the fact that the movie ends with a scene set at the beginning of the first Godfather!

So as long as you acknowledge that any time you put a non-sequential work in chronological order, it WILL look silly, I will provide the chronological order of the pages in Final Crisis #7 for those of you who cannot figure it out:

Pages 8-12

Roughly the same time – Pages 14, 15 and the bottom panel of 16 and Page 18, bottom four panels of 19, middle panel of 20, middle panel of 21.

Pages 5-7, top of 16, top of 19, Page 13, Top and Bottom Panels of page 20, Bottom Panel of Page 21.

Around that same time Pages 1-4, All But the Last Panel of Page 17

Pages 22-35, with likely the Top Panel of Page 21 and the Last Panel of Page 17 taking place around the time of Page 30.

Pages 36 and 37 are of indeterminate time. Likely Pre-Historic Past, but who knows?

While that’s the chronological order of the comic, I am going to address the various plot threads in the order they actually appear in the comic…

Captain Marvel is using the Ultima Thule, the multiverse-traversing vehicle of Superman Beyond, to travel the multiverse picking up versions of Superman. He was put on this mission by Superman in Superman Beyond #2. He hooked up with The Question on Earth-51, which is where she and the folks of Checkmate ended up.

Darkseid shoots the Radion bullet that kills Orion through time, all the while knowing that this bullet will later be used by Batman to kill him. Effectively, he is committing suicide. An interesting question is could Darkseid choose NOT to do this? It really comes down to what school of time travel theory you belong to. Some would say he could choose not to fire it, some would say he would not be able to avoid it, since it has been established AS happening.

The Flashes arrive, and they basically finish the job Batman started with the Radion bullet. Here we get why Barry Allen “had” to be the one that the powers that be released from Death’s grasp. Only he and Wally could outrun the Black Racer long enough to take it to Darkseid and finish off what was intended to happen to Darkseid a long time ago. So the Black Racer hits Darkseid and drives him out of corporeal form.

As the “second” of Darkseid’s death takes place, we are formally introduced to the fact that Aquaman is back. Morrison here is just looking to return a back-to-basics Aquaman to the DC Universe because he figures someone is going to do it ANYways, so he might as well help out future writers and say, “There, there you have a back-to-basics Aquaman. Do with him as you will.” The whole “Arthur of Atlantis is prophesized to return to his people in the time of their greatest need” is not an actual established Aquaman plot point, but rather a play on the King Arthur story.

Iman is saying “He’s going to start time, is all I’ve heard. To live in the world with a man like this.”

We see our first real connection to Final Crisis: Resist, as the OMACs make an appearance. They are in Switzerland, so I think that lends credence to the notion that they took Mr. Terrific back to Switzerland from Antarctica. And the fact that there are not that many of them in Final Crisis #7 suggests that the journey was a hazardous one (lots of Justifiers out there, after all), so they dwindled in numbers, which is why they were not a bigger factor in Final Crisis #4-6.

Black Canary and Green Arrow are floating in space with their life support on critical terms. They are saved before they die, though. And they do get to see The Ray burn the sigil/circuit on to Earth.

Ray’s sigil/circuit freed all the people on Earth within the sigil/circuit, which was a significant amount of people, although we have no way of knowing HOW many.

While Checkmate and Lord Eye are using the “interdimensional highway” that the Atoms have rigged up, the highway begins to fall apart due to the instability and fracturing of the Multiverse. Lord Eye malfunctions and decides to close the tunnel with everyone in it. To avoid this, Hawkman figures he has to destroy Lord Eye. Hawkgirl does not let him do it alone. They destroy Lord Eye, but are killed in the resulting explosion. Mister Miracle’s motherboxx then manages to teleport the rest of the folks to Earth-51.

A note on Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s deaths. They died definitely. This was clearly done with the intent of Morrison of them simply being reincarnated by whatever other DC writer who wanted to use the characters, and here Morrison’s point is to basically give the future writer a blank slate to do whatever he/she wanted to do with Hawkman, as we have established that the Hawks reincarnate. Morrison alludes to his last issue, where Hawkman is almost welcoming of death. So they die in Final Crisis #7. This is made evident by the two feathers later in the issue symbolizing their deaths.

HOWEVER, DC has decided to retcon their deaths, so they did not actually die. But if you were to ask me, “Did Wolverine kill Magneto in New X-Men #150?,” I would say, “Yes.” Marvel, however, then retconned Magneto’s death as not being Magneto but an imposter Magneto. Which is fair enough, they can do whatever they want. As can DC, who has determined that the Hawks are alive (badly injured, but alive). Fair enough. But that is a retcon of Final Crisis #7. In Final Crisis #7, they are dead (and annoyingly, their deaths are designed to specifically NOT be permanent, but even THAT had to be retconned, apparently).

There is great debate over how Wonder Woman ended up being free from Darkseid’s control, and to what extent Frankenstein was involved, especially as Morrison makes a point of establishing that Frankenstein was immune to the morticoccus virus.

It is unclear if he DID save her. But if he DID, it would have something to do with the fact that he was immune to the effects of the morticoccus virus. Honestly, it could be just as simple as “Frankenstein defeated her by, allowing the good guys to cure her with an antidote to the morticoccus virus off-panel.” I mean, the morticoccus virus was artificially made, and the “good guys” did have some of the greatest mad scientists in the universe on their side, so it’s not unreasonable to think that they could come up with a cure for the morticoccus virus, ESPECIALLY since all the villains had been inoculated against it. In addition, as we saw at the end of Final Crisis #6, heroes were beginning to lose their powers, so Frankenstein’s immunity could be as simple as Morrison’s way of saying “This is why he was able to fight her without losing his powers.”

Another theory is that Wonder Woman was within the range of the sigil that the Ray placed on Earth, so THAT freed her.

But really, the “true” answer is that Morrison leaves how Wonder Woman was freed up to the reader’s imagination.

When freed, Wonder Woman binds Darkseid’s “body,” which is now non-corporeal, and releases his grasp on anyone who was not already freed by The Ray.

While Superman is trying to build the Miracle Machine to fix Earth, he proceeds to use a shrinking ray and then cryogenics to store the population of Earth while he is working, as he does not know how long he needs to work on the Miracle Machine. This leads to a great meta-commentary line where Lois mentions that when Superman is finished, he will take her “back from the fridge.” This is a clear reference to the “Women in Refrigerators” critique, which talks about a specific plot device that afflicts female characters in superhero comics (generally speaking, it is when a female character is killed/raped/mutilated/etc. simply to affect change in the life of a male character, with the charge being that it is unfair to treat female characters as though they are props in the lives of male characters).

Superman is confronted by the last non-corporeal vestiges of Darkseid, who is now sort of clinging to the Multiverse itself. As established in Superman Beyond, the multiverse exists on different levels of tonal vibrations, so Superman extinguishes Darkseid once and for all (until someone brings him back, of course) by singing a particular note to create a vibration that cancels Darkseid out.

The silence after the great song (so loud that it almost broke Superman’s vocal cords) allows Superman to discover the hum of Element X. There is some debate about the connection between Element X (which is an established DC supernatural element) and the Worlogog, the powerful map of space/time from Morrison’s JLA run. I see it like this – the Element X Superman finds is not the Worlogog. Howver, the Worlogog might very well have been made out of Element X. We just don’t know.

Mandrakk shows up, and we see basically the only direct connection to Final Crisis: Revelations, as we see the Spectre and The Radiant (from Revelations) drained by Mandrakk. Likely, things were just now getting serious enough for the gods like Spectre to get involved. To wit, when it was just Darkseid as the bad guy, they were content freeing Barry Allen from death’s grasp to take care of Darkseid for them. But when Mandrakk showed up, they really were in trouble, as Mandrakk eats universes, for crying out loud! So The Spectre and the Radiant get involved and they get defeated.

The Green Lanterns, who have been stuck in a holding pattern since they arrive outside of Earth at the end of Final Crisis #5, finally find a way into Earth by the pathway created by Mandrakk’s destroyers.

Nix Uotan shows up and he brings Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew back to their normal selves. They did not end up actually doing anything, but Nix was basically bringing out anything he could to intimidate Mandrakk. This is equalled later on the same page when Zauriel and the Pax Dei show up. Again, Mandrakk is a much bigger deal than Darkseid, so Mandrakk is a big enough deal for the heavens to get involved. But really, they are there more as “Look at everyone I have with me, Mandrakk, you are done.”

We learn here that Nix is Mandrakk (Dax Navu)’s son.

Let’s take a quick tangent to look at the Who’s Who of Monitors in Final Crisis:

WHO’S WHO OF MONITORS

Over-Monitor – The dude who got everything going.

Monitor/Anti-Monitor – Two halves of a probe the Over-Monitor sent into the Multiverse to study it. One became good, the other became evil. The Anti-Monitor is still running around somewhere.

Dax Novu/Mandrakk – The founder of the society of Monitors who was shunned when he figured out that the Monitors were actually cosmic vampires feeding off of stories, eventually was corrupted into Mandrakk while in exile. He likely is the Monitor mentioned above.

Nix Uotan – Soon of Dax, the good Monitor who was banished to Earth by the evil Monitor Ogama. He later becomes the only Monitor left on Earth (who is still a Monitor). He is the direct connection to the Over-Monitor.

Weeja Dell – Nix’s love, and the way he was able to access his powers on Earth.

Zillo Valla – Lover of Mandrakk (mother of Nix?).

Rox Ogama – The evil Monitor who organized Nix’s banishment and who later serves Mandrakk.

There’s some other ones, but their names are unimportant (incompetent leader #1, ineffectual leader #2, etc.).

Back to the issue…Nix calls forth the Forever People of the Fifth World, who are the Super Young Team.

Superman, the Green Lanterns and some others drag Earth-0/New Earth back from the abyss and then they repopulate the planet (the Miracle Machine has fixed all the damage done by Darkseid).

Superman’s wish for a “happy ending” has internal limitations placed on it by Superman himself, mostly he does not mess with things he does not think are his call to change, stuff like Martian Manhunter’s death and Batman’s “death.”

Earth-51 is now the place for all the Kirby characters.

The Monitors now fade away, to be reborn as human beings, with only Nix remaining (as a human) as the connection to the Over-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor is not connected to these Monitors, so he is still out there. The question remains of whether Superman’s wish for a happy ending included the Monitors. I don’t think it did, but I can easily see how it could have, especially since Superman would certainly think they’d be happier as humans than as cosmic vampires, right? The only downside would be that Weeja and Nix would be apart, but really, if they’re both humans, who is to say that they do not reconnect AS humans?

One of the big changes in the status quo is that everyone in the world is aware that there is a multiverse now. It is common knowledge. It will be quite interesting to see if “serious” DC comic books will try to downplay this revelation as much as they can.

We end the series with Anthro, when and what Earth, I do not know.

Batman takes over from Anthro, and again, where, when and what Earth is unknown until Morrison returns to Batman in June (and even then, it is unknown if he will get right on Bruce’s adventures or if Morrison will be concentrating on whoever the “new” Batman is).

Batman is so bad ass that he can project the shadow of a cowl without wearing one.

Okay, that about does it! I hope you folks found this a bit more straightforward.

71 Comments

Nice. I mean anything which helps sort out the confusing jigsaw puzzle that is Final Crisis is probably a good thing.

But Brian. Unless you know a person named “Cliff” who is making his own notes, it’s actually CLIFFS NOTES. With an “S”.

Did you say “Cliff’s Notes?”

Why don’t you publish this as an unofficial guide-book to F.C.?
I’m sure DC wouldn’t mind. A bit.

I dropped the “s”!

But it is back in there now!

Brian, don’t you feel that any story which needs to be explained over and over again is inherently bad?

I know you do.

Try try try, Sean, but I don’t think you are going to move him on this. People seem to be stubborn on the idea.

That said, since FC and its ramifications won’t just disappear into the ether, there’s really no bad side to someone writing an explanation of it. I can laud the work Brian put into it even if not the story it was done for.

For a second there, Spiffy, I almost thought you were taking Sean’s comment seriously. You really had me there for a sec.

Sean; you realise lots of books have had annotations published about them, don’t you? Are they all inherently bad?

I’m sure it wasn’t your intention, but this blog entry has probably done more than any event other than the big reveal at the end of Identity Crisis (the one about Jean Loring) to convince me that DC is dead, and there’s no point collecting or even paying attention to any of their big event crossover stories. You’ve saved me a considerable sum of money; thank you.

Ranald, Sean was joking.

Hey, whatever I think about Final Crisis is kind of irrelevant. If this is modeled on Cliffs Notes, then well… they DO exist to explain complicated works to less complicated people. That’s completely separate from any discussion about whether or not a story starring Superman and Batman should BE that complicated.

Or if readers should be that less complicated.

Interesting read. Wonder if the miniature copies of the Justice League in the bottle are the ones that once attacked Lois Lane back in the ’70s ( I’ve not got my issue of it easily to hand, but a quick google found a description at http://doctor-k100.blogspot.com/2008/08/tossing-softballs-to-get-back-in-shape.html . It says they were created by Darkseid so that would tie in).

Nice, Brian!

Just add illos, interviews etc. and you’ve got your book. Call Plume (or DC).

Re “don’t you feel that any story which needs to be explained over and over again is inherently bad?”

Answer: Yes, it’s inherently bad. If this is the best Grant Morrison can do, he must not be a very good writer.

Thanks for the Cliff Notes, Brian. But if a series needs this extensive an explanation, something has gone horribly wrong with the storytelling. I’ve read every “complex” storyline from the Kree-Skrull War to Watchmen to 52 and I haven’t needed a user guide until now.

wow this is great. thx B.

I suggest outright stating a list of which characters were possessed by which New Gods of Apokalips.

“and Captain Adam (a Dr. Manhattan take-off).”

Rather a Dr. Manhattan meets Captain Atom take-off.

I know Manhattan was originally derived from Atom, but this is clearly Captain Atom.

52 and Kree-Skrull War are not complex stories, they are merely complicated (and pretty arguably so at that). To be honest, while I liked Final Crisis, it is also not complex, merely complicated.

Watchmen is a complex story, but not very complicated in terms of plot. It is possible for stories to be complex and complicated, one or the other, or neither (your average Michael Bay movie).

I think Final Crisis probably would have been less complicated with a consistent artist, more issues in the core mini to tell the story, and without the white noise spewed by the DC marketing machine before release.

I !KNEW! I had seen those tiny JLA’ers before. Couldn’t place them for the life of me tho. Thanks!

Lynxara – Um, what?

Complex [kuhm-pleks, kom-pleks] adjective 1. composed of many interconnected parts; compound; composite: a complex highway system.

Complicated [?k?mpl??ke?t?d] adjective 1. composed of elaborately interconnected parts; complex: complicated apparatus for measuring brain functions.

So 30 comics in the “Entire reading order” (I am counting Last Will and Testament. It was sold on the basis that it was what the heroes were doing on the edge of Final Crisis and leaving it off the list is disingenuous at best), and less than half of them are part of the story?

So, I read FC (the Morrison list) for the first time this past weekend. I wasn’t going to, but the love it vs. hate it positions on the old internets piqued my curiosity. That being said, I’m honestly confused that people seem to have had so much trouble following it. Maybe it’s because I read it all at once, but there were only 3 things that I didn’t get:

1. Where does Black Lightning get the circuit?
2. What’s up with BBQ Batman in #6 if he’s alive in #7?
3. Who’s the monkey guy in the cell with Metron?

I don’t think that it was “Great Art” the way that a number of folks seem to (the characterization, for example is very flat, and I thought that Superman Beyond had WAY too much expository text & dialogue) but it was very good comics. Morrison took a lot of risks, and they didn’t all pay off, but it certainly doesn’t deserve all the hate, especially since most of it seems to be motivated by the fact that he told a complicated story with superheroes. Just my two cents, I guess.

oh, I forgot: the marketing was really disingenuous, and I can totally see people being irritated about that.

Thanks, Brian. I was having a little trouble with issue 7, and your notes really helped. I re-read the whole thing again, alongside the notes, and it was great to seek out all the details.

I suppose one problem I have, besides the metacritical debate about whether the story is too complicated, is about the ‘war in heaven’ and the Fifth World.

If the ‘war in heaven’ is a kind of black box for Morrison: a thing which happened somewhat off-stage, a prior to the story he wants to tell, it’s hard to know what to make of Darkseid’s determination to drag the universe down with him.

At least since Paradise Lost, there’s been a readily understandable short-form way to understand Lucifer’s determination to fight a hopeless battle against God and inevitability: extreme individualism, pride, a desperate desire to create. Tolkien cribbed from that for Morgoth, and a lot of similar antagonists in speculative fiction do as well. Darkseid’s position in Final Crisis seems to be better that there be nothing at all than for there to be his personal nothing; better that all creation be unified with him and die with him. Fine, that’s Anti-Life more or less as we’ve seen it in Kirby, and a bit of what Simonson did with it in his Orion series as well. But it lacks dramatic punch precisely because the ‘war in heaven’ is off-stage–we don’t see Darkseid resolving that if he must lose or die or fade away, he’ll drag the universe down with him. We only see the after-effect of that drama. We don’t know why (or whether) the other New Gods accepted their inevitable deaths or replacement peacefully. We don’t know what they were fighting about in this final conflict, in fact: to stop Darkseid from falling into the mortal world? The usual stuff that the New Gods fight about? Was the ‘war in heaven’ just the entirety of the history of the Fourth World, or a specific untold tale of what happened at its end?

This becomes especially potent because of the little scene in Final Crisis #7 that basically says, “And then the New Gods lived again”. So, including Darkseid? Presumably not. But how come they all get to come back to life on Kirbyworld and he didn’t? Did all the New Gods have some promise of resurrection in the Fifth World to come, but Darkseid not? If that’s so, it might explain further his rageful determination to burn all of creation down and even give him a bit of pathos: everybody gets to live again *except* for him.

P.S. on Morrison’s argument that versions of the Death of the New Gods contradict because mere mortals can’t understand that story because it happens so far beyond their comprehension: girlfriend, please. It’s better to just say what he seemed to be saying originally, “DC fucked up, and those are pretty shitty stories that aren’t what I had in mind at all”. I grasp that he’s trying to be polite and walk back from the harshness of that judgement, but seriously. Mere mortals garble the story of the “war in heaven” in various ways, but they’re somehow able to understand and represent facing down a multiversal vampire who feeds on metafictional narrative with the help of an army of angels, talking-animal superheroes and an army of incarnations of Superman?

Excellent… and very helpful! Thanks for doing all this work, Brian.

@David:

Your definitions are correct in general use, but in my experience, “complex” and “complicated” have very different connotations in critical discussion of a work of fiction. I presumed you were using them in that deliberate fashion and apologize if I misunderstood you.

“Complex” denotes a story that is sophisticated primarily on the thematic and structural level– something like Joyce’s Ulysses that challenges preconceived notions of forms and content in art. “Complicated” is merely something hard to summarize due to extreme length or primitive form. A lot of early Asian novels like Romance of the Three Kingdoms or The Tale of Genji fall under the “complicated” banner, due to issues like characters not having names (in the latter) and the narrative running into the thousands of pages with a plot that spans generations.

In terms of comic work, it’s easy to argue Final Crisis is complicated but I would have a very hard time accepting the argument that it was truly complex, at least in the critical sense.

Timothy-

I completely agree with you on the “contradictions”. However, there are many comic fans who won’t accept that as good enough. They need an “in-story” explanation to make continuity work. I blame us as fans.

Why are you people even still discussing this? Did you all somehow miss that Rob Schmidt has declared it inherently bad?

Conversation over!

“Shiloh Norman is mis-colored in this issue. He appears almost Caucasian. That is a mistake and it will be fixed in the Final Crisis hardcover.”

Please confirm – Empress appears as Caucasian in her appearance in the early book as well.

Additionally, mentioning that Countdown established the placement of the Zoo Crew on Earth 0 during “CC&HAZC – The Final Ark” would probably be useful.

Annotations and indexes are fine and all, and I applaud Brian for his efforts, but this is turning into less of an annotation and more of a doctorate thesis. Which is just ridiculous. It’s no wonder comics can’t pick up new readers. I miss the Doom Patrol/Animal Man Grant Morrison who was quirky and inventive and showed his love for the DCU in a manner that didn’t involve multiple flow charts. Or at the very least, DC could have done a better job of laying out the reading order for the books, also pointing what past/older comics were important to understanding the story too.

That must be why James Joyce can’t get new readers either. People write entire books about his books.

Obviously, I’m not actually saying that Final Crisis is Finnegan’s Wake, but the idea that somebody writing an article such as this doesn’t actually mean that the story is bad. Now you may well feel the story is bad, but Brian’s article isn’t actual evidence of that fact. As with all stories it works for some people and doesn’t for others. I mean my dad loves CSI Miami and Numb3rs and I think they both suck, but whattayagonnado?

Final Crisis certainly wasn’t my favorite comic of 2008 (and 2009), but I enjoyed it as obviously did Brian. I also didn’t find it hard to follow, but I get that some people might. It’s definitely not “new reader” friendly.

Also, I’d like to apologize to Rob Schmidt. I was kind of a dick to him in my previous post.

You know, it is a fair point that basic issues like “What’s the reading order for Final Crisis?” would’ve been handled in-house had the book been published by, say, Marvel. And there’s really no good reason for DC not to have done so, other than they wanted market Final Crisis as something where there wouldn’t be a lot of tie-ins and you’d only need to read the core story… even though you did pretty much need to read certain tie-ins.

Re “you realise lots of books have had annotations published about them, don’t you? Are they all inherently bad?” An annotation that adds background info to an already comprehensible story is different from an annotation that makes an incomprehensible story comprehensible.

“Complex” and “complicated” are synonyms:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/complicated

com?pli?cat?ed

–adjective
1. composed of elaborately interconnected parts; complex: complicated apparatus for measuring brain functions.
2. difficult to analyze, understand, explain, etc.: a complicated problem.

A storyline can be complex or complicated (e.g., structurally speaking) even if its literary themes are simple and timeless. Besides, I put the word “complex” in quotes, so I meant it somewhat ironically.

But yes…why are we still discussing this? No one has explained how a series “difficult to analyze, understand, explain, etc.” can be good storytelling.

What was the last series that generated almost a hundred questions of head-scratching perplexity? Was that also an example of good storytelling?

Brian seems to be the master of FINAL CRISIS. I’d enjoy hearing why he thinks it’s a good or great series.

“Or at the very least, DC could have done a better job of laying out the reading order for the books, also pointing what past/older comics were important to understanding the story too.”

That’s a fair point. As I’ve been saying ever since the out-of-left-field finish to FC#7, they REALLY should have put more emphasis on Superman Beyond. They did a much better job of structuring Infinite Crisis, even if they dropped the ball with the hardcover by not including the specials there.

“Additionally, mentioning that Countdown established the placement of the Zoo Crew on Earth 0 during “CC&HAZC – The Final Ark” would probably be useful.”

Not really – that’s practically the definition of the type of thing that doesn’t matter at all to the pace of the story. I thought they’d been pulled from whichever Earth they inhabit, not that they were there already. Didn’t make a difference to the story, so it’s safe to not fret over the detail.

Rob –

1) Lynxara already explained what they meant by their use of complex and complicated that way. I’m not saying you have to agree, but somebody else already did the copying and pasting of dictionary definitions.

2) Brian reviewed each issue in depth as they were released. Check the archives.

3) As I said I didn’t find it difficult to understand.

4) This isn’t entirely directed at you because there are plenty of others I could have addressed it to… why does it stick in your craw so much that other people might like something that you didn’t? Leaving aside the obvious answer that the internet exists for arguing and porn.

QUANTUM BLUNDERBUSS, people. Get some perspective.

Oh, and while I think I made this clear while I enjoyed Final Crisis I certainly didn’t think it was “great”.

Wow. All of these explanations and lists and FAQs… Just telling me I really don’t wanna bother with any of this Final Crisis stuff. DC kinda lost me back in the Identity/Infinite Crisis storyline, anyway.

QUANTUM BLUNDERBUSS, people. Get some perspective.

Yeah, FC was still lightyears more enjoyable than Secret Invasion.

Brian seems to be the master of FINAL CRISIS.

You do understand he runs the blog here, right?

““Additionally, mentioning that Countdown established the placement of the Zoo Crew on Earth 0 during “CC&HAZC – The Final Ark” would probably be useful.””

“Not really – that’s practically the definition of the type of thing that doesn’t matter at all to the pace of the story. I thought they’d been pulled from whichever Earth they inhabit, not that they were there already. Didn’t make a difference to the story, so it’s safe to not fret over the detail.”

They were there already. As animals. Not pulled from their original Earth, but planted, originally without rhyme or reason or explanation, at the end of “CC&HAZC – Final Ark”, which I surmise pretty much no one read beyond the first, terrible issue.

Lynxara, it seems to be like you have the assessment of FC backwards. The plot to FC isn’t complicated: Darkseid tries to take over Earth, he succeeds for a month and then the heroes stop him, with a Mandarrk interlude at the end. That’s not complicated unless you want to call the “channel-surfing” presentation complicated rather than complex. (I think Morrison was trying for complexity with that experiment, but it’s possible that it ended up being complicated instead.)

It’s clear Morrison tried for complexity with his comments about meta-fiction and this being the Final Crisis for the Monitors. It’s unclear that he succeeded (and a lot of people who defend Final Crisis are giving him a lot of credit for trying for complexity, which may be unwarranted.)

I found the first four issues of Final Crisis to be nigh-incomprehensible, and I’ve been reading DC Comics for 30 years. When a long time fan like me can’t make heads or tails of the story, something is seriously wrong.

I think Grant Morrison is now writing comics that only he can fully understand & enjoy. Kind of a limited audience, if you ask me. Grant, Dan Didio — Thanks for helping drive me away from my favorite comic company.

Thok, I don’t really agree that your synopsis of FC indicates a story told in a non-complicated fashion. There are entire issues of the work concerned with story material your synopsis doesn’t consider, and Mandrakk’s appearance during the story’s climax cannot be dismissed as an interlude. The battle against Darkseid, in structural terms, is really the prelude to the battle against Mandrakk. Which, yes, means Superman Beyond’s events not happening in the main series is a pretty significant problem of packaging, at the very least.

I actually don’t consider the “channel surfing” style something that makes the story complicated. I really don’t understand why some people have issues with that, myself, beyond perhaps being unfamiliar with densely compressed storytelling in this particular genre.

I can actually agree with you that Final Crisis was a story striving for complexity that it may not have achieved. That said, I don’t think a story is complex necessarily because it is metafictional. There are too many (non-superhero) genres I’m familiar with where such themes are extremely commonplace, and one of them is children’s lit. While I think Morrison put the theme to clever use in FC, to me it felt like a story intended primarily to entertain moreso than to provoke serious thought– though I admit some of the commentary I’ve read on the story makes me wonder about that…

It seems like what’s going on here is that different people have entirely different preconditions about what the job of a story is. Several people consider it self-evident that the FAQ proves that the story fails in some objective, obvious way. I think that what they really mean by that is not that this proves the story is “bad” (which is subjective), or that nobody honestly enjoyed it (which is clearly untrue). They’re saying that it didn’t do its “job”.

So the question becomes: Does every story have a (inherently implied and promised) job to do, regardless of whether it’s “good” or “bad”?

The older I get, the more my personal answer becomes “yes”. When I was a younger man, I loved to “tackle” obtuse narratives and make sense of them. Even if the sense I made was totally independent of what was actually in the text. Now that I’m older, I tend to scoff and say “Bah, I don’t have the time to do the work the author should have done. If he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) convey an easily coherent narrative, then I’m not going to meet him halfway. He had a job to do and he didn’t do it”.

One reason I’ve adopted this attitude is that I discovered a paradox: Even though the job of constructing a personal narrative to fill the gaps in a problematic text is by nature very subjective, once one has has done it, one tends to be fiercely defensive of one’s own personal interpretation. For some reason, one become MORE convinced that one’s personal version is the ONLY acceptable version. You can see this several times in Brian’s FAQ. It’s overwhelming obvious from the comments that the text did not made it clear that the Hawks died. In fact, no one but Brian has commented that they interpreted the text that way. Then DiDio and subsequent actual comic books made it clear that they didn’t die. Yet Brian INSISTS even NOW that they died. The text was unclear. It left a gap. He chose to fill that gap a certain way in his own personal reading, which is fine. Then, when it turned out he was wrong, he became even more insistent!

Why, oh why, does this happen? We defend the author’s right to write an ambiguous narrative, but then, when push comes to shove, we insist our interpretation of that that ambiguity is the one, true interpretation. We can’t have it both ways! This is one big reason why I now find myself inclined to let the text carry the burden of comprehensibility, rather than take that burden onto myself, even if that makes me an old fuddy-duddy.

Put another way: Some people think the text had a job to do, and it didn’t do it. Others think that no, the readers who didn’t like it were the ones who had a job to do and they were the ones who fell down on the job. Either way, this isn’t really an argument about this comic, it’s a fundamental disagreement about what a story is.

Brian: Excellent piece (the other one too). You’ve clearly and concisely spelled out all the key plot points, so for all those complaining that they couldn’t understand, while this likely won’t change their opinions (i.e. their dislike) of the story, it may heighten at least their appreciation for Morrison’s ambition now that the logic is so plainly laid out in front of them.

That said, I think Timothy Burke touches on a strong criticism of Final Crisis. I didn’t find the work very difficult to understand (though I did learn a couple of things from these notes), but what I did find was that during certain key moments toward the end of the series – not so much at the beginning – I wasn’t feeling what I was supposed to be feeling. So many things are happening so fast and often off-panel that it diminishes the series’ drama, and the emotional notes that Morrison wants to strike begin to sound like far-off clinks (or should I say “pings”?). This is especially true in the “climactic” scene of the final issue where Morrison shoehorns in some animal character to bolster his folktale motif and similarly, a revelation that Nix Uotan is Mandrakk’s son, not to mention some awful, awful dialogue there too. “Don’t fuck with the judge of all evil.” Really? Yikes.

So yeah, Final Crisis is no less comprehensible than Batman or Seven Soldiers, but both of those other works did much better jobs than Final Crisis in scaling towards their emotional payoffs. Somebody earlier in the thread commented”If this is the best Morrison can do….” It isn’t, though, not even close, and that’s why it’s a shame.

“There are entire issues of the work concerned with story material your synopsis doesn’t consider, and Mandrakk’s appearance during the story’s climax cannot be dismissed as an interlude.”

The better thing to say is that, until #7, things could very easily have been simplified to the basic descriptions various people have been posting, because, ultimately, it’s all just another variant on Darkseid taking over the planet. If, for instance, you appended the scene of Superman confronting Darkseid and the Flashes running in for the save to the end of #6 and ended things there, the core story would still hold together for the most part. There are subplots, but it’s not as though they take up entire issues and leave everything out. Each issue has a piece of the plot that sprung from the murder mystery. Turpin’s story links the first four issues nicely, as does the Libra plot (even if that didn’t really go anywhere after Superman was neutralised).

Really, I could see the bigger complaint being that the subplots weren’t referred to often enough (EG, Batman disappears offscreen for three issues with only one dialogue hint that something’s happening with him). But the story had momentum throughout.

For the little things I missed, for an eye toward all the side stories I passed on, for the pre-history I never knew, for all the hard work you put into this… I am in your debt sir.

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

February 26, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I have to agree with the small number of people here who seem to have “gotten” the themes of Final Crisis perfectly well, but gained little to no entertainment or emotional connection out of the series. There are words for themes presented without either narrative satisfactions or the emotional impact of good surrealism (or good narrative): essay, commentary, critique, et al.

And that’s what Final Crisis feels like to me: a statement about the DC Universe and superhero comics dressed up a story set in that company’s playground and that genre. And as it was marketed as, apparently edited as, and effectively presented as a big entertaining crossover crisis story, it’s really, really easy to work out why lots of people didn’t like it at all. The things it’s good at aren’t things they were told it would contain; the things they sought from it weren’t in it.

The best steak in the world still isn’t going to appeal to a committed vegetarian, and the best or cleverest essay in the world is not satisfying to the reader who wanted a novel.

the shpongelettes

February 26, 2009 at 8:29 pm

- finnegan’s wake is quite complicated.
–so, it’s bad
— the bible?
–bad
—- pilgrim’s progress?
– bad
- how about king lear?
– ultra-bad
—how can you say such thing?
– there have been books explaining these pieces of fiction. they are inherently bad.
- oh.
— ok, that makes sense.

[...] Final Crisis “Cliffs Notes” (tags: comicbooks DC FinalCrisis) [...]

Omar, i agree with you totally. Ever since Morrison left Marvel after New X-Men, he seems unable to just write a story about something happening to a bunch of characters. Everything he writes seems to be a commentary explaining his views on where comics have been and where he thinks they need to go. It’s like his Joker story, Dini just writes two great stories about the Joker in his Detective run. In Morrison’s first Joker story in his Batman run, we get a long dissertation on the evolution of the Joker and what he represents to every era, and i felt zero connection to the story, characters or plot. The star of Morrison’s stories lately is himself and his opinions on comics.

He needs to release a book of comic-related essays to get this out of his system and return to writing actual stories primarily about people rather than his current rut of writing stories primarily about what Grant Morrison thinks about earlier stories.

Matt Bird above goes a long way towards putting into words something that’s been bothering me about the debate over Final Crisis. A lot of people – hopefully most – are content to like it or dislike it and let others do the same, but some people seem personally – and aggressively – offended that other people don’t see it exactly the same way they do. A lot of the more zealous defenders of the book come across like someone pointing at a Rorschach ink blot and screaming “If you can’t see that’s a butterfly then there’s no hope for you!” while the more zealous detractors come across like, well, the guy in the green shirt in Comic Critics #39 (at first I thought he was kind of over the top, but that was before we got all the “if you have to explain it, that proves it was bad” arguments which, if they were correct, would brand Shakespeare as an utter hack).

To be clear: I think it’s natural to see your own viewpoint as the most logical (that’s why it’s your viewpoint, after all) and everyone should be welcome to make their point and defend it. It’s only the people flinging insults on the one side or trying to “prove” that something other people enjoyed wasn’t on the other good that I’m complaining about (and while they have the right to do those things, I have the right to complain about it).

Honestly, I think whether most people see FC as understandable or not has less to do with their ability to understand it than with their standard for what’s required for something to be considered understood. The general plot of the book is pretty clear (Darkseid unleashes Anti-Life, heroes fight back, heroes win,
Mandrakk shows up, heroes win again), but no one knows who the monkey guy was or how Wonder Woman was freed and opinions differ on the final fates of several characters (I agree that the Hawks were supposed to be dead, for what it’s worth). If you think it’s important to know how Wonder Woman went from being Darkseid’s slave to tying him up (my guess: he forgot the safeword) then that whole chunk of the story was basically like an Underpants Gnome plotline (South Park reference, for those that didn’t get it – basically a plan with a step 1 and 3 but no step 2). If it’s enough for you to know that she escaped without being told how, then it made perfect sense.

A lot of the details don’t make sense, because (and Morrison has pretty much confirmed this in interviews) some of them aren’t SUPPOSED to make sense, either to underscore the confusion the characters are experiencing or to allow the reader to interpret events as he or she will, and frankly Morrison likes to throw a bit of nonsense into everything he writes ’cause it’s fun (minimum number of moves necessary to solve a Rubik’s Cube? C’mon, he just thought that was cool). If you’re the kind of person who gets to the last scene of a murder mystery and just wants to know who the killer was, you’re probably fine with that; if you’re the type who needs to see how all the clues fit together and gets bothered by red herrings and evidence introduced at the last minute, the little things may bug you too much to enjoy FC too. You may fall somewhere in between. Really, it depends on your reading style and what you bring to the table, and really, no one’s wrong. It’s impossible to misenjoy a comic book.

I think FC really is a seven-issue long Rorschoch test.

Which means it’s really just viral advertising for the Watchmen move.

And I apologize for misspelling Rorshach at the end there. I blame my upbringing. In my defense, I misspelled it 35 minutes ago and by the time I realized it, it was too late to do anything about it.

“Ever since Morrison left Marvel after New X-Men, he seems unable to just write a story about something happening to a bunch of characters.”

This sounds really stupid, since the logo for this blog comes straight out of We3.

I would say that yes, the story did have a job to do, and it failed at it because it was impossible. The story is “Final Crisis”. Not “Final Until the Next Crisis Crisis”, not “A Really Big Crisis”, not “Wow, Lots Of Amazing Stuff Happens Crisis”, but “Final Crisis”. It is implied to be (and I’d argue that Morrison intended it to be) the Ragnarok of the DCU. We get the “war in heaven” and the end of the Fourth World that’s been prophesied since Kirby came up with the idea, we get the Great Disaster, we get angels fighting alongside man and the return of King Arthur (albeit a different King Arthur)…this is the end, the grand finale, the Apocalypse!

But it isn’t, and it can’t be, and frankly it shouldn’t be. Lots of other writers have lots of other stories to tell about these characters (heck, Grant Morrison’s still got more, judging by his plans to return to Batman in a while.) There is always a “what happens next?” in comics. It’s part of the joy of the medium, knowing that you’re following a part of a narrative that was begun before you were born and that you will pass off to your children and your children’s children.

But there are people who don’t want that. They want to be able to say, “I wasn’t there at the beginning, but I was there for the end.” They feel like the whole thing has gotten old and stale because they’re losing interest, and so they think that means it’s time to wrap the whole thing up and move on to something else. (Hmm…parallels to Darkseid’s attempts to end the universe with him?) These people got their hopes raised dramatically with the very announcement of a “Final Crisis” series, and it feels like a personal betrayal to them that it wasn’t the final crisis they hoped it would be. I think that’s where a lot of the hate comes from, the feeling that they were going to be there for the ultimate event, the end of the universe, and now it’s seven months later and not much has changed. (Me, I disliked it because I’m bored with comics that are preoccupied with the past. Any series that spends its whole time tying up loose ends from comics that came out before I was born is a series that is looking the wrong direction to me. But that’s my personal preference, and I see no need to inflict it on others at length.)

So in short, I think that the biggest problem with “Final Crisis” was the title. If Grant Morrison had called it “This Week’s Crisis”, people might have liked or disliked it, but I don’t think they’d have hated it.

Honestly, I think whether most people see FC as understandable or not has less to do with their ability to understand it than with their standard for what’s required for something to be considered understood.

This is very perceptive comment, I think. It partly explains why some people (including myself) felt they understood the work just fine, while others seem to have had so much trouble. On the other hand, some of the stuff in these Cliff Notes is very, very obvious indeed. I’m quite content to say that anyone who didn’t get that the final scene is issue #1 showed a banished Nix Uotan simply wasn’t reading very well. Perhaps they were reading the words and not the pictures, a mistake when it comes to reading any Grant Morrison (who is a lot less word-focused than, say, Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman).

You know, the best criticism of Final Crisis that I’ve heard so far, was by comparison to Watchmen…

They pointed out that Watchmen has a straightforward surface story that can be read and enjoyed easily enough. It’s only when you read the textual pieces and re-read thestory a couple of times that the underlying complexity and hidden layers start to come through…
In comparison to that, Final Crisis doesn’t have the surface story to skim through (a life-line for readers not trained to spot symblism, metatext, etc.) and that is what caused the uproar…
How many people said they read Watchmen, but have never read the text parts?

Personally I really enjoyed Final Crisis (far more than Secret Invasion) BUT it was hard work.

I for one would have preferred a skeleton story like Watchmen had that I could then flesh with re-reading…
As it stands, I still feel like I’m missing a few patches of skin… but it’s a nice body of work.

Wow. I’m really glad to see the discussion of this step up a level.

Personally, I think the job of a story is the same as the job of a poem, painting, symphony, or sculpture. It’s job is to take you away from your life. In my mind a great story should take you over somehow, emotionally or intellectually. Final Crisis did not do a lot for me emotionally, but intellectually I was fascinated by what Morrison seemed to be saying to me. Of course, what I thought he was saying is not going to be the same as what anyone else thought he was saying, necessarily. I think the amount of conversation going on about Final Crisis is a sign of it’s success, not failure. This story has made people passionate, which is great. I’m excited about the conversations we can have because of Final Crisis.

Now, for my part of that conversation. I think this was a complex story which asked a lot of it’s readers. By complex, I don’t mean the plot, I mean thematic ideas. I enjoyed the fact that it seemed to be more of a rebuttal of Crisis on Infinite Earths rather than a sequel of a sequel, which I was afraid I would get. I hope that Morrison’s attempt to free the stories of the DC Universe works in the future. There’s no reason for any story to be chained now. I think it’s sad that Dan Didio has said he’s going to wait for Morrison to do stories in the Multiverse, because I interpreted Final Crisis as a call for creators to tell more stories, anywhere in the Multiverse, with any character. This is of course most clear when the Zoo Crew show up in #7. Even funny animals have great stories to tell.

I completely understand that Final Crisis didn’t do for everyone what it did for me. I just wish that people would not call it incomprehensible. Final Crisis is no more difficult to understand than “Lost,” and that show is watched by millions.

ParanoidObsessive

February 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

>>> So the question becomes: Does every story have a (inherently implied and promised) job to do, regardless of whether it’s “good” or “bad”?

Honestly, I’d say that most stories have several jobs to do – or, at least, the best stories do. And that, on some level, the success of some of those jobs affects the overall quality of the whole, regardless of how well it handles the other jobs.

To put it another way, even the most allegorical and complex of stories can be seen as a brilliant success if it manages to succeed on multiple levels. This is even more important when you’re writing for an audience in what is ultimately a “simple” genre (comics), as opposed to writing deliberately obtuse prose for an advanced literary critique class. To use an example, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics are incredibly dense, and annotated guides certainly exist so that readers can understand references that they didn’t even realize WERE references, but in the end, it also tells a simple story which is both easy to understand and enjoy, even if you don’t have a PhD in symbology. Different readers can enjoy the story on different levels.

But, the problem becomes that, failure on one level can affect other levels, regardless of how brilliant they are. Write a story that is enjoyable but not deep, and you basically have a success in spite of how shallow it is. Write a story that is deep but not enjoyable, and at BEST, you have an essay, not a story… and at worst, you have pretentious twaddle. When I was in college, I actually came up with the term “Literary Masturbation” to describe that sort of writing… the sort that basically screams “LOOK AT HOW DEEP AND MEANINGFUL I AM!” This is NOT a good thing.

In that sense, I don’t think the real question is whether or not Final Crisis was “understandable”, or whether or not the people who “understood” it are somehow superior to those who didn’t. I think the REAL question is, is Final Crisis capable of succeeding on all levels, or is it simply a work that succeeds at being dense and symbolic, but utterly fails at telling an enjoyable story? And I think, ultimately, the answer to that is that it fails at the most basic level – the narrative level. His intent may have been noble, but the end result falls short of the mark.

In a way, the problem is that Morrison seems to be hell-bent on writing philosophical cryptograms when he’s supposed to be writing comic books. And hey, that’s his call – and I wouldn’t even necessarily say it isn’t a worthy goal in and of itself. But when said work is turned into the cornerstone of an entire company, in a medium that is dedicated to turning out enjoyable stories (and not Philosophy PhD thesis material), there is a serious problem.

I’ve said for years that Morrison does his absolute best work when he’s either working on original characters, or characters that no one really gives a damn about, and I think Final Crisis proves that utterly. Granted, that’s more DiDio’s fault than Morrison’s, but that doesn’t really change anything.

You may have discovered the literary masturbation metaphor on your own, but you hardly coined the term. I’ve heard it and used it many times. Hell, google it and see what comes up. I’m not saying you didn’t invent the term in your own mind, but it’s hardly a brilliant piece of wit as many, many others have come up with it as well, and certainly before you did.

Check out the Comic Geek Speak podcast of Final Crisis 7 (The synopsis) for a page by page disection of #7 plus EXACTLY how all this fits together! It’s very good!

Timothy Burke said…

“Mere mortals garble the story of the “war in heaven” in various ways, but they’re somehow able to understand and represent facing down a multiversal vampire who feeds on metafictional narrative with the help of an army of angels, talking-animal superheroes and an army of incarnations of Superman?”

I think Morrison’s dismissal of Countdown and Death of the New Gods as apocrypha worked as a nice reference to Alan Moore’s Miracleman, and as a polite answer to a question he was being asked in every interview. I don’t think the ‘mere mortals can’t comprehend the war in heaven!’ thing was ever actually referenced in-story.

And judging by the comments in this thread and all over the internet regarding FC – clearly, there are a lot of fans who really weren’t able to ‘understand and represent facing down a multiversal vampire’ etc.

As long as everyone’s weighing in with their opinion on FC, I count myself in the ‘understood it, enjoyed it a lot, but didn’t think it was a particularly great work’ camp. IMO, Morrison’s best DC work was All-Star Superman, and even though he finished it less than twelve months ago, it seems to have been forgotten post-FC. Not just by the ‘Morrison sucks!’ crowd, either – you rarely see his defenders point to it as a recent example of his ability to tell a fairly straightforward, easily comprehensible story.

[...] Comics Should Be Good by Brian Cronin: COLLECTIONS OF FINAL [...]

In a way, I liked Final Crisis because it provides lots to mysterious events and people you have to go back and review-research-learn their previous stories and background to get the grant effect of the story. My ignorance of not knowing these background stories made me not like it. So what I’m doing now is going back and buying every DCU comic book ever made just so I can know what’s going in Final Crisis. GREAT BUSINESS! Maybe that is the problem with everyone out there that doesn’t like Final Crisis. They just don’t understand the characters.

Now, with that said

There are 52 multiverse worlds DC has been playing with. Isn’t the purpose of the 52 to give its writers full control (maybe that has already been going on ) over a character to make a good story to make money?? Who cares about the continuity because we have the 52 and in the end we can just say, “Oh that story and the characters took place on Earth-14.”

I wonder what Earth Action Comics and the “New Krypton” series are on? Because doesn’t fall into Final Crisis. It would have been nice to see all comic titles with in the DC universe, including “Tiny Titan” HA HA – have a one issue where the sky turns “Red” to symbolize the “Final Crisis” and wonder what is going on just so any reader not reading “Final Crisis” can pick it up and hopefully get hooked.

Does that make sense? I don’t hopefully.

In regards to saying Nix was just summoning all these different heroes as a way to intimidate Mandrakk…isn’t an alternate/cooler way of reading it is that Nix is basically showing that he has “story” after “story” after “story” to throw at Mandrakk, and no matter how small or insignificant or forgotten these characters (stories) were, Nix and his side would always have stories to fight Mandrakk with? The animal crew would be an example of a story long long forgotten, and the Super Young Team (with the name Nix used to bring them) would be an example of a story that hasn’t even been written yet.

I guess basically, you’re right — this would pretty much intimidate Mandrakk, possibly weakening him to the extent that his death was, in essence, pretty uneventful (one small somewhat murky little panel box).

I’d still like to see some of the stories of what actually happened in final crisis. I don’t recall the Hawks dying, did not know that Mr. T was in a different place and had travelled to Switzerland or was ever in Antartica. I am not a DC reader and would have loved some more explication from this book. This really was a limited audience book. That audience may consider itself ‘elite’ amongst comics readers but really they just love Grant Morrison. Thats all well and good, it does not make FC a story though. This is really just a collection of events that happened sort of.

I’d still like to see some of the stories of what actually happened in final crisis. I don’t recall the Hawks dying, did not know that Mr. T was in a different place and had travelled to Switzerland or was ever in Antartica. I am not a DC reader and would have loved some more explication from this book. This really was a limited audience book. That audience may consider itself ‘elite’ amongst comics readers but really they just love Grant Morrison. Thats all well and good, it does not make FC a story though. This is really just a collection of events that happened sort of.

The other Mr. T stuff was in other stories you really did not need to read. I only address it here to appease those who care about stuff like that.

As for the Hawks dying, it’s right in the comic book. They’re blown up well good right there in the comic (issue #7).

“But there are people who don’t want that. They want to be able to say, “I wasn’t there at the beginning, but I was there for the end.” They feel like the whole thing has gotten old and stale because they’re losing interest, and so they think that means it’s time to wrap the whole thing up and move on to something else. (Hmm…parallels to Darkseid’s attempts to end the universe with him?) ”

After reading through Brian’s awesome Notes and all the comments, I wonder if maybe Morrison is saying real life Comic Book Readers are the Monitors (metafictional vampires that feed off stories….) and maybe Darkseid is the bitter old Comic Book Reader and Mandrakk is the bitter old Comic Book Editor, both of whom are fed up with the current status quo and want to tear it all down around themselves?

I say…READ IT AGAIN!

I must’ve read Watchmen close to a hundred times, and it never gets old. Every time, something new pops out. That’s just how much work Gibbons and Moore put into it.

I bet that there’s all sorts of fun stuff in Final Crisis.

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