The Story: The Fourth World ended with the cataclysmic fight between the New Gods Orion and Darkseid. The Fifth World is arising on Earth with Darkseid and his minions inhabiting mortal bodies and corrupting humanity and superheroes alike using the Anti-Life Equation. Darkseid’s plan is to remake the multiverse in his image, and with most of Earth’s heroes defeated already, it looks like he will succeed.
The Recap: Captain Marvel defeats the corrupted Mary Marvel by grabbing her and screaming his magic word. Wonder Woman has spread a disease that is depowering the superheroes. Luthor and Dr. Sivana turn on Libra. Batman, breaking his vow against guns, shoots Darkseid with the bullet that killed Orion, but is still hit by Darkseid’s Omega Sanction beams, burning the flesh off his bones.
This Issue: The Flashes lead the Black Racer directly to Darkseid. Spacetime collapses with only the Fortress of Solitude remaining to shelter mankind. Superman reconstructs the Miracle Machine from memory, with the help of Luthor, Sivana, etc. Supermen from 50 realities, together with Green Lanterns and others, defeat Mandrakk.
Grant Morrison continues to do what he does best: tell a colorful, mind-bending, epic tale with significant ramifications for its participants, though at the expense of some coherence and understanding of his story. In the frame of other series he was involved in, 52 and Seven Soldiers of Victory, Final Crisis makes sense and delivers a good, not great, ending to a long story arc involving the New Gods. It’s a shame that JG Jones couldn’t complete the art in this last issue to give the series a uniform look, but Doug Mahnke does a terrific job considering the time constraints put on him. Pay particular attention to how much detail he puts into the scenes showing the Supermen of the multiverse. The overall impression Final Crisis evokes is similar to the impressions that most Morrison comics give: lots of good ideas that could have been executed better and more cohesively.
Morrison took out the big three superheroes: Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman early in the series, to really give weight to “the day evil won.” Wonder Woman is handled well; she fights Mary Marvel and gets infected with virus that makes superheroes lose their powers. Batman is handled poorly; he is captured by Granny/Kraken, placed in a machine whose function is never explained and then he disappears for a few issues (before popping up out of nowhere to shoot Darkseid/Turpin). Superman is handled worst of all: he is confronted by someone in a costume in Final Crisis #3 and only shows up again in Final Crisis #6, having somehow been transported to the 31st century with barely an explanation as to how he got there (it appears that Superman’s whereabouts during most of Final Crisis are explained in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, but one shouldn’t have to buy an auxiliary series to make sense of the main one). This kind of storytelling, with characters popping in and out with few explanations is just sloppy.
Another major negative is the handling of the other villain of the series (if he can be called that), Mandrakk. Although alluded to earlier in the series as a darkness greater than Darkseid, Mandrakk is as underwhelming as they come. He looks like a worse-for-wear Monitor that’s been zombified. What threat he poses, other than his desire to eat Superman is never made clear. And apparently he’s the father of Nix Uotan, the Monitor of Universe 51 who was stripped of his power and exiled to New Earth, then reborn with some new powers with the help of Metron. Mandrakk is defeated in one page, leaving the reader to wonder what was so scary about him in the first place.
It’s the little out of sync or unexplained details that make it difficult to follow the narrative for many readers. In issue #4, how did Barry Allen break the spell of the Anti-Life Equation on Iris by kissing her? In issue #5, how did Green Lanterns Rayner and Gardner know the scar on Jordan’s head hid an implanted chip? In the same issue, Lord Eye is introduced; seemingly a newer version of Brother Eye. Who built it? How did they do it? Why didn’t it turn evil like the original? Why was the Black Racer after Barry Allen? Who was Libra really (I don’t buy Luthor’s explanation of Libra being the Anti-Life Equation)? In issue #7, what were those creatures surrounded Earth that the Green Lanterns had to get through? How did they end up getting past them? These inconsistencies, a frequent occurrence in works by Morrison, make comic reading a frustrating experience.
On the other hand, sometimes it is these small, unexplained details that enrich his tales like few other writers. How great is it that the black Superman is also the President of the US? How ironic is it that Superman’s home, the Fortress of Solitude (somehow merged with the Watchtower), is the final piece of Earth remaining, the planet that was once his home? Whereas the planet of humanity was Superman’s refuge, it is now his home that is refuge for a planet-less mankind. Who doesn’t love the idea of a Miracle Machine from the future, capable of turning thoughts into things, laboriously built from Superman’s memory with the help of the greatest minds of Earth? Although I was bothered by the lack of explanation for Lois’ miraculous recovery from issue #2’s injuries, I loved the parting of ways with Superman where he promises to bring her back after the final battle, before sending her off to be shrunk and frozen with rest of humanity. Only in a Grant Morrison book can you get quirky details like this.
When Morrison is bad, his writing is hard to follow, but when he’s good, his works shines. In one of the most badass moves ever, he brought together the Supermen of 50 realities to fight Mandrakk. In issue #6, he showed the coolest anthropomorphic tiger fight ever. Earlier in the series, he had a virus sent to every single email address in the world to enslave humanity. And the death that started the whole series was caused by a bullet sent back in time, which, after killing Orion in the present, buried itself fifty years in the past. These ideas are priceless. Perhaps the most touching scene in the entire series is after Superman has made an unpronounceable sound to counter-vibrate against the resonance of spacetime. Having taken great care to protect what is left of humanity, it is up to Superman to finish the Miracle Machine. He finds Element X, the Fire of the Gods, and the image evokes the fire of Prometheus, a destructive gift for humanity with the potential for good. As Superman steps up to the Miracle Machine, powering it up with his own solar energy, one can’t help but feel safe knowing Superman is the right person for the job of making a wish to save the world.
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