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The End Of The End

Graeme McMillan

So, I’m kind of conflicted about FINAL CRISIS #7. As the last issue of a company-wide “event” – Hell, even as a narrative – it feels like a failure, with lots of important plot points either muddy or entirely screwed-up in one way or another. But on an emotional level, as a shameless love letter to superhero comics, it was wonderful; moving, bold and purposeful and entirely successful. Maybe I should call this post “Crisis On Infinite Viewpoints” and get it over with.

To admit my bias early; I love Grant Morrison’s superhero work. It’s almost always flawed in one way or another, and sometimes to the extent that it’s a terrible mess, but it’s almost never a boring mess, and every failure can generally be traced back to being too ambitious or taking on too much at once, which is always something to be admired. One of the usual flaws for his superhero stories is his climaxes, which tend to either be of the deus ex machina variety or the “Wait, what the fuck was that” variety; Final Crisis has both, somewhat fittingly, and it’s a tribute to Morrison’s talent as a stylist that it still managed to work, somehow, despite at times feeling like the work of an overeager seven-year-old (“And then Aquaman came back! And then the Hawks died! Maybe! It’s entirely unclear!” Both of which deserved more than just the panel of attention that they got). But then, Final Crisis was always less of what you would expect – or, perhaps, deserve – from a superhero crossover, and closer to something like The Invisibles (or Seven Soldiers, more appropriately), anyway; something less a story than an experience that either works for you or doesn’t, with no in-between (By the end of The Invisibles, I didn’t care how the story ended as much as I wanted the characters to be okay, if that makes sense; I was so invested in the characters I’d spent years reading about that I would’ve been equally happy if the final issues had been Grant Morrison stepping into the story and saying “Okay, so they’re all going to be all right in the end. I just wanted you to know that” as much as, you know, the actual end of the story he was writing). The idea that Morrison could’ve been able to bring the story to a successful conclusion purely in terms of plot with only 40 pages was already unlikely, and so it was almost refreshing to see the approach he took.

Was I the only person who was reminded of Secret Invasion‘s final issue, when reading this? Not only the switch from watching the events “live” to being told what happened by participants after the fact, but also the construction of the issue so that the threat is dealt with by midway through the issue, and everything else was “what happened afterwards” exposition. Those similarities made it easier to compare the two, and draw (jumping to) conclusions about the two companies; while Final Crisis‘ finale was romantic, upbeat and embracing of the ridiculousness of the superhero genre (I mean, Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew being part of the heroes that save the universe? Really? And when I saw that, I was actually glad that JG Jones wasn’t drawing the issue, because I dread to think how realistic he might have made them), Secret Invasion was all… I don’t want to say pointless, but oppressive and never-ending, and without actually achieving anything, or making any greater point beyond “And here is more of the same, our poor heroes.” As much as Final Crisis may have made no sense on a plot level, at the end of it, I know what it was about and what it was trying to say; I’m not sure I can say the same of Secret Invasion, beyond “Selling comics.” And, yet, maybe that made it a better superhero event book?

In the end, I think Final Crisis was – for me, at least – a Very Good series overall, with a Good, if rushed and overeager, last issue. It makes superhero comics seem full of possibilities again, but considering what is likely to follow, it’s probably best not to think about that too much.

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