Comic Fodder

Tpull's Weekly DC Comics Review – Part Two

Final Crisis 2

by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones

The opening of this issue mostly involves assembling the remaining unseen remnant population from the now-destroyed Apocalypse. There’s a great page of the funeral for the Martian Manhunter, but I wish they hadn’t divided it into a triptych, because it would have looked better as one entire, uninterrupted picture.

The investigation of Orion’s death comes up with a pretty cool idea, that of a bullet fired backward in time, but that’s really the best part of the whole thing. The art is superb, but I think I am beginning to understand why some things have been messed up at DC lately. The reincarnation of the New Gods is referencing back to Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory series, a succession of mini-series that introduced a different Mister Miracle, Darkseid as a big black man, etc. Which means the idea for all of this has been floating around in Morrison’s head for years now, and he was just biding his time until someone at DC said yes. Once that happened, it was agreed that continuity could be thrown out the window.

What is the problem with this? Let’s set aside the impossible number of times Orion has “died” in the last couple months, because that’s just a mind-bender. Let’s talk about bringing Barry Allen back. Barry died one of the noblest deaths in the history of comicdom, but the modern writers just can’t leave dead people dead. Supergirl really should have stayed dead too, because that character has been a mess ever since they brought her back. Is she on her fifth or sixth incarnation now, anyway? The point to mentioning Supergirl at this point is the common linkage: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The first and best Crisis min-series, it was full of great art and a cosmic story that truly shook things up. True, it created almost as many continuity problems as it solved, but every issue contained magic. It also did not kill “major” characters until the Flash. I was shocked when the Crime Syndicate bought the farm early on, but those weren’t really major. When Barry died, he became sort of like comic’s version of President John F. Kennedy: people treasured the memory of him more when he was dead than when he was alive. The presidential run of JFK was not legendary. Several mistakes were made, and you could easily grade his time in office and give it a ‘C’ or a ‘B.’ His death catapulted him into the legendary ranks of assassinated presidents, ensuring that his name will be forever-known.

In the realm of comic books, Barry Allen’s death was unexpected, and the full measure of the void of his absence was only felt once he was gone. Readers felt in their gut as they continued reading DC stories that there was a definite piece missing; the ordinary guy who was always there, whose presence you took for granted… until he was gone. Once gone for a long enough time, his status was cemented. Barry became the guy who you treasured in memorial, recognizing that you did not credit him enough when he was alive. It is a condition that is rendered meaningless and impossible to make up for by bringing him back to life.

Now we have to put up with Crisis after Crisis mini-series, always with a death of a character, always supposed to be shocking, always supposed to shake things up. We know the Martian Manhunter was chosen to die not for story purposes, but as shock value, and probably to reduce confusion with the heroine, also called Manhunter. We know that someone will bring him back, whether in six months or five years. We know that modern writers can’t resist recycling old plots and old heroes, which unfortunately means continually resurrecting characters they decide they want to have fun playing with, ad nauseum.

What does all this mean? It means Final Crisis looks like a years-old wish by one writer who wrote a bunch of stuff inconsistent with anyone else, and conned the executive editor into letting him do it, all the while making a mockery of the original good story that was Crisis by demolishing one of the biggest events that the first Crisis had going for it: the death of the Flash. To add insult to injury, someone decided that while they were spitting on Crisis of Infinite Earths, they should also rub salt in the wound by adding it as a bookend to the entire “Crisis” line, declaring this to be the final one. That way, they could cash in on the earlier, better success of the series by using the word “crisis,” and hype it with the word “final.”

Morrison: I’ve got a great idea! Remember Crisis where they killed the Flash? Let’s do a Final Crisis where I bring him back!”

Didio: Brilliant!

The result? A horribly mismanaged universe with a ton of inconsistencies, yet another mini-series misappropriating the name from a good work, super hero deaths just to give the internet fans something to argue about… and no real sense of anything major at all. When this crisis is over, things will go back to normal, and someone else will want to use the Crisis name, so “final” is a very poor joke, and DC should have known better than to try it. The only thing to be thankful for is that they got a top-notch artist, so at least I can look at some nice pictures.

Madame Xanadu 1

by Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley

We start in the past, with a Camelot setting, and some very interesting art, very clean and with nice coloring. The Stranger also makes an appearance, looking slightly different than usual so he matches the time period. The series looks to start with the always-interesting question of being able to see parts of the future, but can you really use that information to change anything? Can you manage destiny, or is it impossible to alter what is fated to be? It is too soon to see where the series is going, but it was a good enough first issue, and it has raised my interest enough to read the next one. And what more can you really ask of a new series, anyway?

Tangent: Superman’s Reign 4

by Dan Jurgens and Jamal Igle

backup story by Ron Marz and Fernando Pasarin

The lead story has more members of the JLA getting dragged into the Tangent universe, with action and betrayal galore! John Stewart faces off against the Tangent Superman, to little effect. The cool thing about this is the effort they are making to give us a little more detail on the Tangent universe with the backup stories in each issue. They have taken care to give us great pencils for the backup feature, so even though a lot of it is expository, it is still a pleasure to read. It may not be the best limited series on the stands, but if you have an extra couple bucks, it’s wroth a look.

Trinity 4

by Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, Fabian Nicieza, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens

Someone must have been listening to my rant a couple months ago about interlacing covers. Every three issues of Trinity, the covers can be combined to make one big picture, with all of the Big Three involved. That is so much better than issuing the same comic with an alternate cover, I cannot say how pleased I am with that.

The plot seems artificially slow, as the team spends a little too much time cleaning up Konvikt’s mess; the heroes are constantly trading places to alternately fight the monster or rescue civilians. Black Canary is wearing thin, as she simply stands on pipe and barks orders again. It would have been much more natural if she was at least helping to save someone while she did it. At least the Flash is back in gear. Last week I grumbled about how Canary had to tell Flash twice to do something, when he should have already had it done. This time around, Wally has put out some fires by the time she finishes telling him to do it. No way could Busiek have changed that before it went to print, it’s not like he saw my complaint and changed something, but it is amusing to see that his mind and mine are finally working on the same wavelength as to how the characters should properly behave.

Morgaine and Enigma have been folded into the main story, as I thought they would be, but that has given way to yet another faction of the story which is using up pages in another backup feature. It’s not bad, but the main story still feels over too soon. That must mean I’m enjoying it.

Busiek does get sloppy at one point where I must vehemently disagree. Batman goes into the alien spacecraft and calls Superman on the comm system, calling him “Kent.” Maybe this would not be quite as big a deal if the communication were done via J’onn J’onzz’s telepathic link, but they don’t have him anymore. In what universe does Batman break operational security protocol in the field and call a superhero by his secret identity name? It just doesn’t happen. This is one of the primary jobs of an editor, by the way: with superhero stories, every time someone calls a hero, the editor has to ask if the personal name or the superhero name is the right call. What if the alien hiding above Batman’s head heard him? He now potentially has a new name he can use against Superman. It is unprofessional, and a slip-up, and one that Batman, of all heroes, should never make. Busiek is one of my favorite writers, so I expect more from him than others. He better shape up, or he’ll be getting a letter! (All together now: “Ooooh, I bet he’s scared…”)

The nitpicks aside, it’s still an enjoyable read, and I’d like to see where it goes.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

It's probably worth noting that Grant Morrison originally wanted to use an alternate-universe Barry for Final Crisis, but Geoff Johns and Dan Didio convinced him to just bring Barry back instead.

I'd link to the interview, but your blog software seems to remove anything that looks like a link or even a URL. You'll have to look for IGN's interview, "Grant Morrison's Master Plan For Batman" and go to the fourth page, where he talks about Final Crisis.

-- Posted by: Kelson at June 30, 2008 1:44 PM

Good interview link, Kelson, thanks!

-- Posted by: tpull at June 30, 2008 8:36 PM