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I don’t want to be Left Behind…

Brian Hibbs

Hey, all of the cool kids are doing it, so I might as well join in too! What I thought of FINAL CRISIS #7 after the jump…

I pretty much agree with all of the gang; even Abhay in the comments — I liked it, I disliked it, I loved it, and I hated it. All at various points, and sometimes even at the same time.

Sure, it’s sometimes barely coherent, and you kind of NEED to read the annotations and commentary and interviews to really get all of the points of what’s going on. But that’s pretty standard for a Morrison comic, really — I felt the same way about THE INVISIBLES or much of his JLA run, for example. But I always ALWAYS come away with a line of dialogue or an image or a thought that will stay with me, pretty much forever, and that’s what a proper piece of art does for you, anyway.

I’m not a good enough of a critic (or, even more properly, a reviewer) to really handle a writer like Grant — it feels to me like he casually threw out more ideas and concepts in just the last issue alone than pretty nearly the entirety of the non-GM/Johns-written DCU did in the whole of 2007 — so I’m going to approach the rest of this as a retailer as well as with what my customers having been saying as well.

The major problems with FINAL CRISIS have less to do with the work itself, and more to do both with how it was POSITIONED into the marketplace, as well as its CONNECTIONS TO the DC Universe. None of this is Grant Morrison’s fault, or even something he as a creative person should have thought much about.

But FINAL CRISIS wasn’t ever positioned as “just a cool big story” or whatever — it was positioned as the culmination of the narrative thrust of the DC Universe over Dan Didio’s tenure. I don’t want to go digging through old interviews to find specific lines, but certainly this is the sense that Dan has given over the last, dunno, 18 months or so, or at least I think any reasonable person would agree.

FINAL CRISIS is buried under the expectation of the “Crisis” in the title; it had to bear the weight of having a 52-part weekly lead-in (plus several other series like DEATH OF THE NEW GODS) to the series that ended up contradicting Morrison’s story; and it had to suffer from the branding that not only impacted FC itself, but also RIP in BATMAN as well.

None of this is Grant’s fault, of course, but it is inevitable that it will color the audience’s reception of the work.

Y’know, art is supposed to challenge the audience’s expectations. But commercial products are supposed to conform to them. Well, or at least support them.

If you add up all of the comics that are meant to be part of this overall plotline as Didio has positioned it in interviews, starting with that TITANS mini where they killed Donna Troy, through the build up to INFINITE CRISIS, IC itself, 52, COUNTDOWN straight through to FC, you’re talking hundreds of dollars – perhaps in the $500 range. If you tried to READ it that way, you’d probably go insane, being given only crayons to write with in your padded cell. Extremely little of it adds up, or builds to anything of real lasting significance.

That’s why I think FC was “the last straw” for a really large chunk of my DC readers. I have customers dropping DC titles left and right, and they tell me the reasons are that they’re confused about DC continuity, and they feel like they’re being sold things that are not what they were told they are.

Of course some commenter will suggest that this is the audience’s own fault for not being discerning enough in the first place, and while as a human I might not disagree with you all that much, as a retailer who has to deal with the ultimate financial outcomes of these decisions, I’m not at all enthusiastic.

What FC is, in a lot of ways, is the culmination not of Didio’s path, but of Morrison’s. If you read this as the capper to an arc that began in ANIMAL MAN, through SEVEN SOLDIERS, and a number of other DCU books that Grant has written, then this reads a whole lot differently. In fact, I think he has utterly reversed the paradigm — in ANIMAL MAN, Buddy is ultimately shown to be powerless because of his writer, while by FINAL CRISIS, the stand-in for the writers are undone by their own story.

Anyway, this and RIP were just positioned badly, with a tidal wave of expectations that they crumble in the face of. If there’s any mistake that Grant himself is guilty of here it is that SUBMIT, SUPERMAN BEYOND and that two-parter in BATMAN are actually plot-essential to the story, but aren’t included IN the story. BEYOND especially — I’m not sure if FC works AT ALL without reading that. But I think all of those have plot points which were critical to have in the main series itself.

You can understand FC just fine without reading REVELATIONS or LoTW (and especially without REQUIEM or the SECRET FILES or whatever I’m forgetting) — I don’t think that is at all true for the other Grant books.

As an individual consumer myself, I’m not going to buy the announced FC collection — because it doesn’t have those in there. And I’m not going to buy a separate “companion” book, just like I refused the buy the split season sets of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Maybe maybe when they finally get around to putting out the Whole Schmeer Edition, I might still be interested in it, but who knows if I’ll still care by then?

Beyond the EXPECTATIONS, the other prong of the problem is the CONNECTION TO the rest of the DCU. As much as everyone complains about being “forced” to buy umpty-jillion tie-in books, it is really worse when you throw a Crisis in the DCU, and THE REST OF THE DCU DOESN’T EVEN NOTICE.

The DCU will supposedly sync up “over the next few months”, is, I believe, the phrasing, but that’s really too late.

And I suspect that 98% of the kajillion ideas that Grant threw out there will never be followed up again, unless Grant himself does so.

At the end of the day, I’m personally happy with a comic where Superman destroys the embodiment of evil with a song, then uses the magical-wishing-machine to write us all “a happy ending”. Superman is fucking awesome. I’m maybe a little sad he didn’t wink at us after doing so, but that’s about it. That makes it for me a GOOD comic.

But the retailer in me, who has watched the erosion of his DCU reader-base, and is looking ahead to the next quarter, and the next year, and the next decade, well I think this was AWFUL — a confusing jumble of great frustration and no immediate follow-through, culminating the last couple confusing jumbles of great frustration and no follow-through.

I love Grant Morrison’s DC Universe. I want to read much more that is set in that mold: where epic deeds of heroism are done in astonishing ways by bold & fantastic characters. But I don’t see anyone else approaching the DCU that way… least of all the editors.

What do YOU think?



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