Final Crisis #3

I have identified the problem I have that goes to the very core of Final Crisis. This is a book that cuts itself off at the knees. For the past two issues, it has had a wildly inconsistent tone. Whenever I read something interesting in the book,  it is invariably followed by a moment that is either blatantly self serving (Frankenstein cameo), juvenile to the point of being silly (Source Wall as a mouse cursor, Anti Life spreading via email), or needlessly esoteric as a masquerade for depth (time traveling “God bullet”). And every time something like that comes along, it immediately rips me out of the book. It’s undercutting itself. I have trouble focusing on the story and suspending disbelief when half of these ideas come off as childish fan fiction. No matter what sense of dread can be instilled by Morrison and Jones, I can’t keep that going in my head when Oracle and Mr. Terrific are trying to basically turn off the internet. It’s ludicrous. The rest of the book could be great (and at times it is), but these moments stick out so badly that they’re impossible to ignore. These are major plot points that serve as the foundation for an event that is rotting from the inside.

It’s not a two way street. The Final Crisis fans laud this series as the type of book that requires multiple readings to really get everything out of it. That doesn’t work for me, because all it does is point out the flaws of storytelling more and more each time I read it. All I can see are these paper thin scene constructions that are just thinly veiled ways for Morrison to promote his Seven Soldiers books. It just feels fake. And it really does just read like bad writing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing for a writer’s agenda to be so strong in a book like this. It hurts itself. Once again, it undercuts itself. So why should I care? I’m going to keep reading this book because I’m already on the hook through issue five, and it’s certainly possible that Morrison’s going to draw it all together (we’d better see more of Frankenstein or it’s going to be pretty damned silly that he got three pages of this issue), but it’s going to take a lot of legwork for him to make me buy into this. I can’t turn off my brain and ignore the flaws if I’m supposed to read this so intently to pick up on the little details that are really nothing more than references to other characters that (at least to this point) have no basis on any part of the story. I can’t talk about what’s coming up. I can only talk about what I’ve got in front of me. And no sir, I don’t like it.

You may look at the surface and see the pretty pictures and the gee whiz cool moments (most of which involve Libra), but all it’s doing is covering up the decay.

16 thoughts on “Final Crisis #3

  1. the stuff you label as flaws, i see as strengths.

    i don’t think his agenda is “buy more Seven Soldiers” or “look at me i’m so cool”. the man has nothing to prove. he’s a professional who’s been in this industry for over a decade. i think the agenda here (for example, using obscure characters like Frankenstein) is to give the event scope beyond the usual popular superheroes… something the main SI mini has failed to do. sure, we get tons and tons of tie-ins to cover it up, but the fact remains that for an alien invasion, the scope in the main SI book is not what it should be. we’re in the fucking Savage Land for FIVE ISSUES! with no development! and it’s all a red herring! five issues for a red herring? not even Jeph Loeb is that bad…

    okay, sorry, i’m getting off point… or maybe not. maybe that’s why you can’t enjoy FC? maybe it’s just not the type of crossover you’re looking for. it’s a self-contained continuity fest. or, continuity wank. yeah, i admit it. FC is for the fan boys, but i don’t think that make it bad writing. SI is easier on new readers, but i also don’t think that makes it good writing.

    marketing should have nothing to do with quality.

    back to FC: unlike SI, you can’t rightly say we’ve been stuck in any one place for more than an issue. inter-cutting all these subplots, to me, does not equal choppy storytelling. the plot is moving in so many directions (until about midway thru this ish, we’re still in the first act/set up) because all the action is taking place in the main FC title and not the tie-ins. Morrison and DC have chosen not to indulge in the luxury of decompressing this story. hell, it’s for that very reason that every issue so far as been over-sized. for what DC is trying to do, which is to actually tell a universe-changing event without infinite tie-ins, you’ve got some unreasonable expectations. sure, there’s a ton of stuff going on, but that’s the point. it’s supposed to be epic. every character in the DCU should be affected, and hell if we shouldn’t get to see it all! in the main book, no less! that’s how i want my crossovers. i want the main mini to mean something. now honestly, do you really think Morrison isn’t going to tie all this together? as the series nears its conclusion, i have every faith in his ability to collapse all these disparate sub-plots into themselves, thereby making it all fit. that’s what he does. that’s his MO.

    as for Bendis, no, i don’t think he’ll be able to reference all the tie-ins by the end of the SI. i hope he does, but i honestly don’t see it. hell, i don’t even think he’ll be able to close out all the strands he created in the first issue. where the fuck is Marvel Boy?

    as to the tone, i think that just comes down to taste. you either love it or hate it. it’s the flavor of the piece, like Seventh Soldier said. and that’s fine. if it turns you off, cool. but i don’t think that makes it bad writing.

    Marvel keeps trying to convince me of the paranoid tone of SI, but i’m still not buying it. so far, no one we actually care about has turned out to be a skrull, so, why should i be anything but bored? there’s no danger of the popular heroes turning out to be skrulls, so, the paranoia we felt in the beginning was completely bogus. five issues of tension in the Savage Land led to fucking nothing.

    finally, a point i’ll bring up: why is SI outselling FC? simple i think. DC fails at marketing. Marvel is a marketing giant.

    and would everyone quit misinterpreting the “WE HAVE TO KILL THE NET!” line? it’s so obvious she was talking about their PERSONAL Internet connection, hers and Mr. Terrific’s, not the entire Internet. seriously. this is obvious. GAH!!!

    (sorry for being all ranty. it’s as if i’ve been waiting for your review… 🙂 )

  2. What I can’t believe is that people find two super-geniuses, one of whom has actually experienced world-wide digital telepathy, and the other of which is invisible to all technology not his own, in a world in which people can fly just ‘cuz, having the ability to shut down the Internet as being that ridiculous. Seriously, in a setting in which a character can eat the sun, is crashing the web really that far-fetched?

    Honestly, though, Des, I respect your opinion to not liking it, but calling it bad writing is just silly, to be frank. Why would Frankenstein, a character who worked for SHADE, appearing with a SHADE team be that ridiculous? How many other SHADE agents do we know? You can have an established ‘super-cop’ show up in a cameo leading a team of cops and have nothing come of it much more easily than you could introduce a completely new character solely to lead a team of cops to investigate a scene. And why would seeing Frankenstein with SHADE make people go buy Seven Soldiers? Wouldn’t this by more an example of using a character in a role he had been used in before, rather than marketing. People see Frankenstein leading SHADE agents. Either they accept this at face value and move on, because it’s not hard to grasp, or they wiki it, learn why he’s there, and drop it. No one goes and buys four full volumes of a two year old maxi-series just because a character from it appears for 3 pages of the 90 we’ve had so far.

    No offense, but it seems as though you are actively TRYING to hate this book, largely from complaints like that. I know you AREN’T trying to hate it, but that’s how it comes off when you show blatant favoritism like that. Do you accuse Bendis of shamelessly promoting New/Mighty Avengers just because many of the important reveals happen there, and the action happens there, and the book references those two books constantly? No, you don’t. And yet, Frankenstein appears for 3 pages and you’re accusing Morrison of jerking off to his own creations where most people would just see an agent of an organization leading other agents of an organization?

  3. @desiato
    I would usually write up a huge response to this but I think mostly everything I would say was already said more eloquently than I could put it by these gentleman.

    I’ll just say that you may want to take a step back and calmly evaluate why you hate Final Crisis. Seventh said something about you “actively TRYING to hate this book”. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at one time or another. So you may want to read an issue of Hercules or something. Get yourself in a good mood and then read the first three issues and try to keep an open mind. If after that you still dislike it as much as you do, then maybe it’s not for you. If so, that’s cool. Please, I’m not trying to be a dick or anything like that. I’m just trying to say that I’ve hated something for one reason or another, and then after I cooled off and came to it again with an open mind I liked it better. And remember, Morrison’s work usually looks better after you can see the big picture anyway.

    @billy- In addition to Marvel being a marketing giant, one of the biggest reasons why FC isn’t selling better is because of Countdown. It was called Countdown to Final Crisis. Final Crisis was in the damn title and you know how fanboys are. You said it yourself in your top 10 about spider man BND. That, and Secret Invasion is a lot easier on readers. As you said, new readers can get into it more and like all Grant Morrison books, it goes over people’s heads. I know people that dropped it after the first issue because they “didn’t understand it”.

  4. This is mostly at Billy, who appears to have read a post entitled “Secret Invasion vs. Final Crisis” that I certainly didn’t write.

    Okay, let’s get something clear off the bat. I have never tried to compare Final Crisis to Secret Invasion. I’m not the one doing that. I know they’re two different events and because they’re structured in such a wildly different fashion, I think it’s irresponsible to put the two events next to each other and compare and contrast. Which is exactly why I haven’t been doing that in my posts. Go back and check. I’m not the one making comparisons. And I didn’t mention SI when talking about Final Crisis outside of a passing reference in my post about the FIRST ISSUE. I’m not the one who’s trying to compare apples to oranges. Bendis is writing his event the way he wants, and Grant is writing his event in the way he wants. I completely respect that. If you’re going to rant about things I didn’t write about, do it in your own post, Billy.

    And if you actually did read my post, you’d notice that for the most part, my problems with the book have nothing to do with it being a continuity wank. Yes, the Frankenstein thing bothered me, but it’s not the main issue I had with the book. The plot choices that Grant made concerning the time traveling bullet and the Anti Life email virus ring false. They just do. And it gets worse after every reread. I can only speak of my own opinion. I’m not trying to write from the perspective of all people. I’m not arrogant enough to think I can do that. At the same time, I also don’t believe in wasting my time throwing out “in my opinion” or “IMO” after every sentence, because if you don’t realize that it’s all opinions at this point, I don’t think I can help you. So when I say that Final Crisis contains bad writing, I can only speak from my own sphere of perspective. And from this perspective, it IS bad writing, because I read these books and they read inconsistent. If a book is inconsistent, how is it not bad writing? If the major plot points fall flat, why would I enjoy reading it?

    I’m certainly going to go back and read Final Crisis all in one shot after the seventh issue comes out. I haven’t written off the series as a whole, but I’m also not going to clam up and not elucidate my opinions about the series so far until the end. I have no agenda nor do I have a reason to hate this book. I like DC. Always have. I want them to write good books. Because I’m not a moron. Competition breeds excellence. The better the books are, the better they will continue to get out of the spirit of competition. But I’m also not going to not voice my opinions because I don’t like something. It’s all opinion. Some may think that those who don’t like Grant’s writing aren’t giving it a fair shake or aren’t trying hard enough. Others think he’s being needlessly esoteric. No one’s right or wrong. That’s the whole point.

    I will make one quick comment about Secret Invasion. From go (hell, from before go) Bendis, Quesada and all of Marvel have NEVER SAID that Secret Invasion is a self contained book. Bendis himself mentioned multiple times that he was writing the book from the perspective that you needed to read the main mini, New and Mighty Avengers to get the “full story.” And these are books that are coming out at the same time united by the same banner and written by the same writer. Final Crisis has been designed to be self contained both from the perspective of writing and marketing, as well as through mandates from DC editorial. It’s the main reason why these events are so different. And that’s why Bendis using New and Mighty to tell part of the story doesn’t bother me. It’s because I knew that going in. There’s nothing in Final Crisis that explains who Frankenstein or SHADE is. It would take ONE CAPTION BOX of small and noninvasive exposition to explain what’s going on with that character. If Final Crisis is as self contained as they claim, I shouldn’t have to go to other sources to have a sense of what’s going on. That’s the difference.

  5. @bruce: ARGH! but i don’t think it goes over people’s heads!


    i can’t rant here?

    actually, i think it’s totally fine to compare the two events, since at their core, they are both summer events. and in that comparison, we can discover the differences and maybe why one works and the other doesn’t… or maybe that neither one works.

    please don’t clam up! otherwise, where would we rant? i wasn’t trying to attack your opinions. i apologize if it seemed that way. i like your opinions. i actually love reading your reviews. but i also love that you aren’t enjoying FC, because, maybe it gives me someone to fight with? (secretly the point of all of this… or maybe it’s not such a secret?)

    ah, finally… you’re talking about SI!

    ok, agreed. it doesn’t bother me either that Bendis is using MA and NA to tell his “complete” story. what bothers me is that the “complete” story actually entails buying every single tie-in crossover and mini. that’s bullshit. the fact that all the action, literally ALL the invasion action is in Mi13, X-Men SI, Black Panther, Thor SI, Inhumans SI, etc… is total fucking bullshit. also, MA and NA are suspect in their own right, as they’ve primarily dealt with back story and have yet to move the current SI plot forward at all.

    why do you need a caption box to tell you who Frankenstein is? i would have thought that was obvious. 🙂

  6. Marvel did shoot themselves in the foot from the perspective of scope. The scope of Secret Invasion is massive and completely out of control. But I think it’s a situation where they knew that going in, and they knew that there would be so many books that tied in in a way that was much more meaty than the old school red skies/Beyonder tie ins from the 80’s that Bendis didn’t really have a choice but to write the books in the way he did. He’s not mentioning the stuff from Britain or Wakanda or Detroit and so on because if he did, every panel would have to be a different scene. So the decision was made to make the main mini as readable as possible to anyone. It’s impossible for me to tell if this was successful or not, because I’m reading everything and I can’t pull myself out of my own perspective.

    And I want to reiterate AGAIN that I can’t fathom how not liking the plot of a book does not seem to be a valid reason for not liking a book. It’s a bit hard to ignore that and just sit back and enjoy.

  7. How is finding two MAJOR PLOT POINTS OF THE BOOK (time bullet and the email Anti Life delivery system) silly, stupid and distracting not criticizing the plot? It’s the crux of my entire argument!

  8. @Desiato-Just for the record, all Bendis said you need to reed to enjoy secret invasion is just secret invasion. This link contains an interview where he says it himself.

    Also in that interview, he talks about how it was originally going to just be in New Avengers until someone convinced him otherwise. Damn whoever that was! SI might actually be pretty good if it was just a MA NA crossover.

    @DC- A tip of the hat sir for saying “bee in your bonnet”. I love to say that.

    @Billy- Sorry my friend but in this crappy fanboy world of ours it does. People don’t understand it. People think that it completely goes over everyone’s head. That’s what a lot of people think about most of Grant Morrison’s writing. You know these people. I know these people. Some people even think that countdown had something to do with Final Crisis! People think that FC is making countdown better or that countdown makes FC better. Hell, some people even liked countdown! Grant Morrison pretty much said himself that countdown sucks monkey balls! ARRGHH!

  9. First of all, SI is good EXACTLY because it’s everywhere. You can’t say to the otherwise because you aren’t reading everything. And I have read multiple interviews where Bendis strongly recommends New and Mighty as companion pieces to SI. He has to toe the company line from time to time in order to not piss off the fans, but it’s extremely obvious for anyone who’s been following the lead in to the event as well as commentary he’s made during the event that he is writing this book as a 24 part story (8 SI, 8 New, 8 Mighty). And I know quite a few people that are only reading the main SI mini and are enjoying it quite a lot. So I guess Bendis was right either way.

    Say what you want, man, but Countdown has had TONS to do with Final Crisis. Where did the Monitors first show up? Countdown! Bondage Mary Marvel? Countdown! Commmand D? Countdown! The Morticcocus virus? Countdown! Darkseid’s initial formulation of his plans to take over the world? Countdown! The death of the New Gods that led to them being reborn in human hosts? Countdown! They’re completely interrelated, and the fact that Countdown sucked doesn’t change these things. Blame DC Editorial for leading people down the incorrect path. But don’t snipe at the fans for their confusion and/or taste of books. Makes you come off as an elitist, arrogant prick.

  10. My original review consisted mostly of ranting about Frankenstein? I made TWO ASIDES (in parentheses! Like this one) that mentioned Frankenstein. My opinions about Morrison’s agenda are just as much about the other problems I had as it was about Frankenstein. Did I ever say that the plot was hard to follow? Nope. Just because a plot can be logically followed from point A to point B to point C does not make it immune to criticism! Plot holes are immaterial to the discussion at hand because I never mentioned them and I don’t think they’re there. But that doesn’t make the plot GOOD.

    If the plot doesn’t work for me, or it’s uninteresting, or it’s the main catalyst for a book being tonally inconsistent the way I feel it is when I read Final Crisis, that is CERTAINLY a situation where it can rightly be criticized! Morrison’s “style” is completely irrelevant. Those plot devices (which I will once again stress are MAJOR occurrences around which the entire book moves) would be stupid and silly to me regardless of who wrote it.

    And I have already mentioned in these comments (or at least I think I did. It’s been a couple days) that I can only comment on what I’m reading from my perspective. So when I read the book from my perspective, and I see something as an inherent weakness, I’m certainly going to point it out if I review the damned thing. What the hell would be the point of trying to review a book when I would have to qualify every statement I make with some kind of “in my opinion” or some other disclaimer, then I’m going to stop reviewing for this site right now, because that’s insanity. Every review I ever wrote would be about a sentence long. “I liked/hated this book, but you might not have so I’m not even going to bother going into it because others might not agree with my opinions, so discourse is null and void.” OF COURSE IT’S A MATTER OF TASTE! THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT! So if I think the book cuts itself off at the knees where parts of it specifically hinder my enjoyment of other parts of it, then for all intents and purposes, it DOES, because all I can know is my own perspective.

    Apparently, I shoudn’t even bother anymore because everyone has forgotten how to read.

  11. See, going out of my way to not “state my opinion as fact” is the type of thing that I would consider putting disclaimers on my opinions. Any fully functioning person in this day and age should know that things stated in a subjective critical capacity are going to be opinion. I’m not going to deny that not enjoying various moments of the book due to personal preference is a position that is difficult to defend because it inevitably comes down to gut instinct and opinion. And I think part of my problem with the book is exactly that it isn’t for me, but I don’t think that invalidates my ability/need/right to review the book, nor does it invalidate my criticisms, especially considering that I am the only one on this site that seems to have a dissenting opinion regarding Final Crisis.

    And as for Seven Soldiers, it’s a HUGE part of Final Crisis. It’s not just Frankenstein. It’s Shilo Norman and the New Gods being reborn in human hosts, which was an integral part of the Mr. Miracle mini. And he’s mentioned Seven Soldiers quite a lot in his interviews both before and during Final Crisis. You don’t think he’s trying to drive sales of those trades to pick up some residuals? And that’s an example of the type of thing I get out of reading this book. Billy may not agree, but to me it sticks out quite a lot.

    Complexity and intricacy are not bad things (and as a huge fan of Casanova, I know from complexity and intricacy), but there is a breaking point for me when you take away a good reason for it other than what for me boils down to “it’s cool.” I see it as an attempt at depth or a wow factor that completely rings false and hollow to me.

    We’re obviously going to continue to disagree about the whole plot thing. And I do think that Grant’s agenda does factor into much more than Frankenstein’s appearance. What you see as little Morrisonian flourishes I see as needlessly overcomplicated mucking up of core concepts to the point that it pulls me out of the book (which goes beyond Frankenstein) and affects the plot in a negative light. That’s the agenda that I see. And it affects the entire book. Suspension of disbelief is a very powerful and important device in any fictional medium. And when you push it too far to the point that it shatters, all that remains is skepticism. And it’s very hard to put that away once it’s out in the open.

    And yes, I’m angry. I’m in the minority. And I think that my review is being attacked more because of my difference of opinion than the quality of the review itself.

  12. What I understand is that in FC is the culmination of all the stuff Morrison has done in the DC universe. He’s bringing it all together. I guess that would be his agenda.

    The anti-life virus being released via the internet is obviously a play on computer viruses. This virus can operate in both the virtual world and the real, physical world.

    I’m not sure that the “god bullet” was meant to be esoteric. I think it’s a clever device.

  13. I realize this is is probably redundant, and I haven’t read number four yet, but being a comic book reader for 29 of my 32 years, I re-read it, and still had difficulty with this.

    My younger brother and a friend of mine feel the same way. I have read the first three issues, and I find it confusing … or at least I have to really work at figuring certain things out and I can’t really enjoy it when I have to go back and re-read a page, or read a director’s cut in order to really understand why a certain character is here, who a certain character is there, and so forth.

    I would also like to know where Final Crisis fits with Trinity and the New Krypton storylines. But, I find that DC is terrible at letting the reader know what is going on in general. I picked up a Batman and had no idea what was happening, and I wasn’t about to pick up every other issue just to figure it out. If anything I’ll wait for the trade or download the issues.

    I’m currently boycotting Marvel for what they did with a favorite character of mine, but I appreciate that they put at the beginning of the issue a breakdown of what has happened or what is relevant to the issue; why is DC so afraid to do this.

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