So, we talked about doing a group analysis on Final Crisis #2. We kind of started on Brucecastle’s review, but I thought I’d bump the idea up here for any interested party who missed our slow discussion over there. Also, my first entry is going to be big. Very, very big. Don’t worry about reading the whole thing in one sitting – or at all – but I have a lot of free time, a love of comics, and a 1 month old Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in English Creative Writing, so I may as well use ’em.
Here’s the schtick – Final Crisis is a dense book. It’s a fun one, but a dense one, and it’s always great to see how people interpret a particularly dense book. Anyone is welcome to contribute – in fact, the more people who do, the better! Contribute random facts or interpretation, or just drop in to say what you think of the issue! And don’t feel bad if all you want to do is link to useful sources. I’ll be doing it myself, and some of my talking points will be borrowed from these sources. As a warning, though, anything is fair game, and There Will Be Spoilers (starring Daniel Day Lewis).
Final Crisis: A Ticket to Bludhaven.
PAGE 1: Nothing major, obviously. Some nice touches, and it’s definitely scene-setting. It’s also a favorite of Morrison’s – superheroes as pop culture. In Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer, we saw Morrison setting up the Convention Scene of the DCU – where hopefuls and has-beens congregate to try and get their name out, for that miniscule chance that maybe, just maybe, the JLA will take them into their pantheon (this will be important) – and that there is an entire underground metahuman scene, and like any scene, it has it’s wannabes.
This was done in one fairly obvious way, and one slightly less obvious way. The first was with Eternal Superteens, the fetish porn site for the guys who want something…special. At Eternal Superteen, you can see girls pouring acid on each other, you can see bullets bounce off their flawless skin, and you can see eternal beauty – all for just a small monthly fee. For legit superhumans who are maybe a little down on their luck, Eternal Superteen represents one of the sadder realities of life – sometimes, you just can’t dig yourself out of a hole.
The second way superhuman sub-culture is represented in Bulleteer is at the hospital, in the discussion the doctor’s have with Alix about how hospitals dislike superhumans because idiots who want to emulate them will expose themselves to dangerous chemicals, deadly animals, the harshest corners of the world, all in an attempt to get powers and join the gods in the clouds.
Here in Final Crisis, we see another instance of all this – superheroes as fashion, as we get people wearing a Killing Joke jacket, cos-play, and teenie-bop super-herodom at its finest in the streets of Tokyo.
Finally, as a minor note, and given the return of Barry Allen on the last page, it’s interesting to note that this is an homage to an old Flash cover that I’m sure Morrison loves, as it has strong thematic ties to his 7S: Zatanna mini-series: http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=20236&zoom=4
The history of Japanese heroes. This establishes Big Science Action as THE Japanese superteam, while setting up the Super Young Team as posers and wannabes. Like the wannabes in Bulleteer, these kids are obsessed with being special. They’re fanboys with powers, and since being a superhero is cool, they jump on the bandwagon. They don’t ‘deserve’ anything, but they certainly think they do.
The transformation of man into merchandising! Spirit into toy!
That’s all Morrison talking. But what are we to make of the SYT? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Normally, Morrison is pretty clear on how he wants us to feel. Love ’em in Invisibles, hate ’em in Seaguy, pity ’em in 7S. Here, we just don’t know. They’re just kids. But they want to prove themselves…maybe. More can definitely be said on the Super Young Team, but I’m unsure what exactly that is.
Our first glance of Sonny Sumo since, I think, the 60s. Important note about Sonny Sumo: he has a piece of the Anti-Life Equation in him, which gives him powers and resistance to the Equation. He had the ability to temporarily heal himself, but it was extremely temporary – the wounds would return minutes later, unless he was healed by a Motherbox. In the 60s, he was healed by one, and that scene will be mirrored moments later.
Another important note? In Final Crisis #1, Empress led the attack on Dr. Light and Mirror Master, only to be shot down. Empress is a master of voodoo and can control people’s actions by speaking due to a shard of Anti-Life in her. The way the gods are acting in this series so far is very much like the Loa of voodoo in some ways, so wouldn’t a person who is resistant to Anti-Life, familiar with possession, the workings of gods, and spirit travel, be a nifty person to have around? Is she gone for good, or will she return with a vengeance?
Sonny Sumo is a bad-ass. He didn’t used to be, I think – I only know from second-hand info and rare scans, but I think he used to be Mr. Honorable. Now, he’s killing people. Not only that, but he’s doing so almost ironically. What’s up?
Well, Morrison hates the grim ‘n’ gritty stories. A lot of his recent work has been a denunciation of this idea, and his grimmest, grittiest story, Arkham Asylum, is something he’s almost ashamed to have written. It’s undeniable, though, that in the past few years, comics have gotten darker, especially at the traditionally light-hearted DC. He’s frequently said “It’s always darkest before dawn”, and he said he’s trying to lighten the DCU up. Also, the Dark Gods have been working in our time for God knows how long, and we’ve seen the corruptive influence they can have.
What if one major upcoming theme will be the spreading corruption, the spiritual corrosion, of Dark Side. Evil in the DCU, which we’ll see in just a few more pages, is taking the easy way out. It’s ugly, but it’s easy and it’s immediately effective. Here, we see the once-honorable warrior tear out someone’s heart in a bar-room brawl. Will he be ‘redeemed’ in his struggle against Dark Side? Will the whole DCU? Is this Morrison’s way of making these characters likable again?
I was kinda hoping you might be able to help me put some kind of team together…
Shilo arrives. Shilo probably would’ve fit right in here before 7 Soldiers happened. A poser. He had powers, but he used them for entertainment, to make money, rather than to save lives. He could have been so much more than he was, but instead he’s the madcap celebrity superhuman, who keeps talking about a war in heaven, about angels and demons walking secretly among us, hidden from even the greatest protectors on Earth. Still, Shilo obviously knows what’s going down, and he came to Sonny Sumo, a former companion of the New Gods, now acting a little bit like Orion (the rage, the scarring), who has a piece of Anti-Life in him, to form a team. This will obviously be important, but while it opens up some great discussion topics – what is the plan, how important is having Anti-Life, who has it, how did they get it, how connected is Shilo with the Life Equation (the opposite number of Anti-Life) and what does that mean? – that’s all I’ll say on that for now.
…who built the machine made of parallel universes.
Nix Uoton, trying to find the magic word, Welcome to Tranquility/Black Adam style. The Orrery of Worlds here is referred to as a machine MADE OF parallel universes. This could be imprecise grammar, but if it isn’t, that implies that the machine isn’t FOR parallel universes, it isn’t a way of VIEWING or THINKING ABOUT parallel universes, but it’s a machine MADE OF them. That means, it may have some other purpose. What do you all think?
Who knew the sound of breath whistling through smashed cartilage could be such a turn-on?
This is, I will say it right now, the most important two-pages in the issue, in my opinion. Then again, I suspect that everyone will have a ‘most important page’ or ‘most important scene’, the thing that they got the most out of that or read the most into or just thought was absolutely too important to skip over. This is mine.
Why? Because I believe that Final Crisis is a story about gods in every sense of the word, and this is the first time we truly see just how gods operate. This is some stuff by a user on www.gaiaonline.com named pinderpanda, a Brit who seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge all things Kirby, and since his explanation of this scene is so good, I think I’ll just copy it verbatim. Apologies for the language in this segment.
Because obviously a scene of a once-decent cop brutally beating a pedophile while threatening to smash his brains open with a toilet seat doesn’t belong in a superhero summer event. The superheroes haven’t realised it yet – they’re on Mars, almost anticiapating J’onn’s ressurection because they know how the DCU’s rules work – but they don’t live in the DCU anymore. Evil has won the day. They’re living in Sin City.
In the first issue Turpin was capable of horrible things, like mocking Vic’s death, but of then immediately recognising that he’d done wrong. This Turpin keeps on with the horrible, because he belives his actions are justified, which is a huge bit of the Kirby Mythology. Look at the posters around Granny’s school in the flashbacks to Scott’s youth or to Godfrey’s first sermon in Forever People. Darkseid doesn’t work so much by inculcating evil in others, so much as by allowing them to justify thier evil to themselves and take it further.
“You’re not a beast — if you kill for Darkseid”
“You’re not a liar — if you lie for Darkseid”
You’re not a thug, if you beat someone to death trying to find missing children.
But of course, there are no missing children. And if this were a film then Godfrey’s simple and creepy, “But you already met the children, back in New York” would be the equivalent to “You’re eating worms” in The Lost Boys. It’s possible there’s a metafictional joke going on here, in that Turpin’s first scene strongly appears to break the continuity of the previous issue, until we get that little bit more information.
Too much going on to dwell on that though, as watching Turpin’s progress lets us know how the Fallen Gods work. They’re in everyone (evil was in Turpin when he made his cruel joke) but sometimes they’re really in someone (Turpin’s now being so fully riden by the God of Evil that Godfrey can talk to him as if he was that God).
I love the lack of any glamour attached to evil in this series. It’s just brutal and ugly and nasty. The various series that’ve lifted Darkseid out of the Fourth World context and used him as an all-purpose Generic Evil Space Tyrant have generally tried to make him cool and majestic and awesome and stuff. But that’s not really very much what evil’s like. Darth Vader’s cloak swishing about and the Imperial March booming away are one thing, but evil looks a lot more like the decaying body of the three year old on the news yesterday who was locked in a room full of flies and dog shit and starved to death while her mother went to the pub.
The best line in Millar’s Wanted, which seems more relevant to Final Crisis by the page, is “People love facists, man. You ever met a woman who fantasised about being tied up and raped by a liberal?”
Kirby’s mythos has always offered us facism without the erotic fantasy. There’s a pretty obvious biographical reason for that.
His Fourth World asks a very strange question. One that could only have arisen via the culture-fuck of one of the War generation trying to tell his most personal story while simultaneously trying to get down with the kids of the Woodstock generation; what if fascism wasn’t a political ideology but was a cosmological principle? All those hideous ideas, which compelled artists to become soldiers in order to slap them down, what if they weren’t just Something That Happened In Our History but were hardwired into the very mathematics of the universe?
If the logic of facism, of anti-life, were something as fundamental as that, could we still fight it? Should we still fight it?
(One of the reasons The Fourth World never feels concluded is because nobody’s ever understood that and finished the saga with the “HELL YES!” it demands)
So here’s how evil is in Final Crisis then. All shit and tears and smashed cartilage. It’s getting Turpin hard, but hopefully we’re all feeling a little ill. People might fantasise about being raped by some idealised facist, but nobody fantasises about being raped by Josef Fritzl. The Dark Side is less sexy than the one they’ve been selling.
So there we have it. Anti-Life is fascism meeting universal mathematics. A hard-wired law of physics in the DCU that could steal free will. It’s owned by the God of Evil. And he’s here. This is why this scene is so important. Because we see what the rules are, how they work. Darkseid isn’t forcing ANYONE to do anything evil – he just helps them justify it. Remember when I said that evil here was ugly and easy? This is the scene that demonstrates that beautifully.
And pray for a resurrection.
The funeral on Mars. The prayer for resurrection could be very important here, as there have been rumors that Earth is the cradle of the Fifth Age, and the JLA have always been god analogues.
That was how Morrison treated them in his famous JLA run – as a pantheon. Specifically, there, as the Greek pantheon, but nonetheless, the JLA were treated as gods in JLA, and here, we see them acting like gods. They know how things work – if they want someone to come back, they will. Almost everyone there has died at least once, I bet, and every single one of them has friends who’ve died and returned. At the birth of the Fifth World, we see the people of Earth beginning to act like gods.
Hurt Superman, perhaps I’ll take you more seriously.
Libra is back, as a prophet of…something. Personally, I believe he’s a profit of Dark Side. Why? Well, look at how he operates. He makes things easy. He gives it to you. All he wants is for you to promise something, to help him out, and he’ll make all your dreams come true. Hell, some of them are fighting for the chance to sell themselves or give themselves over to Libra, caring only that they get what they want, not how they get it.
Think about that in terms of the recent DCU, with things like Identity Crisis. Dark Side has been operating in secret on earth for AT LEAST a year – probably 2-3 years. One of the main points of Infinite Crisis was the examination of just HOW… corrupted, I suppose, Earth’s heroes had been. Think about it in that light. Think about everything that happened in that light – Dibny’s rape, Max’s betrayal, Batman’s paranoia, WW’s killing, etc…. It’s not all bad, but it’s definitely doing things easier than they used to. It’s lazy. Libra’s making the supervillains lazy, getting them used to life with Anti-Life. Just surrender your will to Darkseid, because that’s so much easier than making these choices on your own…
Another excerpt from gaiaonline…
Entropy’s kind of involved. Or at least an entropy of semantic ontology is involved in submission to anti-life. The sheer entropic complexity of the world is so overwhelming that people are driven into the certainty of absolutist systems of total control. Can’t work out what is and what isn’t? Then accept one propostion and anhilate your will; DARKSEID IS.
That’s why appeal to transcendent concepts which lie outside strict systems of meaning can pwn anti-life (‘Love’ if Morrison’s writing, ‘Hope’ if Gaiman is).
Also, love the scene with the supervillains leaving the strip club and…walking to their cards. Remember what I said about DC and Morrison loving the juxtaposition of mundane and mythical? These are enormously larger-than-life figures, and here we see them leaving a clandestine meeting, full costume, to walk to their cars.
This is another fairly important page. There’s a lot to be said about their varied reactions to Manhunter’s death – Wonder Woman is almost panicked, realizing that they just lost a crucial player as something huge is going down, Superman just wants to go home, and Batman is all work, grim and angry.
That’s not why it’s important, though. Remember above, when I discussed the heroes becoming gods, the Dawn of the Fifth World? Well, look at the interaction between Batman and Kraken. Above, they were deific in attitude, knowing that they don’t really die. Perhaps they’re playing by rules that no longer truly apply as the Dark Side wins, but they had the mindset. But think about this.
Kraken claims that no one bar, no one on earth could have the tech necessary to investigate the murder of a god. Especially no mere mortal. Batman isn’t a mere mortal any more, though, as he immediately shoots back that he knows exactly what killed Orion. An Alpha Lantern thought it would be impossible, but Batman proves that his tech is that of the gods.
Also, a few minor notes. The Kirby Crackle around Kraken when Wonder Woman tries to touch her is a nice effect to let us know on the down-low that Kraken has something to do with the Kirbyverse, and two huge nitpicks on my side are addressed in various ways in these two pages.
1) I can’t imagine the Lanterns are very happy about Hal, John, Kyle, and Guy being so involved in organizations like the JLA. It’s the equivalent of a member of a the FBI being involved in a heavily-armed local militia that shuns the authority of everyone but themselves.
2) I can’t imagine Earth is very happy that they have this intergalactic peace force out there that was elected by no one, is watched over by no one, and is accountable to no one. This can NOT sit well with us.
A few ideas here.
1) Theotoxin – brilliant. I’m so glad that term was invented, because I’m going to steal the hell out of it. Radion is a substance that the New Gods and their opposites have always been weak to, and it looks like Morticoccus, a virus important to the forging of the Kirby-based Kamandi mythology, is inside the bullet.
2) The nice hint dropped right there as to who is messing with him, as his ring is shut down just as he learns what caused this.
3) John Stewart is a bad-ass.
The framing of Hal Jordan. Plenty to be said about it, I’m sure, but by someone far more familiar with the Green Lantern mythology than myself.
Did you think the gods would tread lightly when they came among you?
Batman confronts Kraken. The ring-imprint on her hand gives the game, as Batman quickly figures out that it was she who attacked John, and he calls a ‘black alert’, which I’m sure something could be said about – Blackest Night reference in a corrupt Alpha Lantern, maybe? Normally, you’d think ‘red alert’, but whatever.
Also note – even though Batman MAY be becoming a New God, just like everyone else in some way, his power is obviously not physical, or at least not yet. He is prone to wild leaps of speculation that prove shockingly accurate, making him an amazing detective and investigator, but he can’t take on an Alpha Lantern in combat – he’s put down in seconds and taken. Here we learn that Granny Goodness may be possessing Kraken, and it’s our first hint that the Evil Gods have moved on to bigger things. Before, they were normal people, corrupted. Now, they’ve moved onto the ranks of superhumans. What comes next?
In reference to the quote above: of COURSE the League thought the gods would tread lightly. They’ve ALWAYS treaded lightly before. Darkseid would show up, there would be a fist fight, he would leave. No lasting harm – it’s not the way things work in the DC Universe. Or at least, it wasn’t. Things, they are a-changin’.
Rejoice! The Evil Factory is open for business!
Another few important pages, though not as crucial. Kamandi has been captured, somehow, and is being held with the corrupted children. Kamandi, however, has not been corrupted – not yet, at least. How will this come up?
Note that the Evil Factory seems to be making man/animal hybrids – furries. The Evil Factory makes furries. Just sayin’. However, the furries are important because in Kamandi’s future, it is only man/animal hybrids that survived, Morticoccus mutants. Dark Side and his Evil Gods seemed to be manufacturing the Great Disaster. Why?
Warn the Justice League! Warn everyone!
Another portion I’m going to steal from gaiaonline poster pinderpanda, because he says what I want to much better.
This doesn’t just mean, “Get a big team of like, loads and loads of superheroes together!”
This means that everyone is fighting this war. On every level. You and your mum and your dad and your gran and a bucket of vindaloo.
One of the most fun things about the series so far is how it’s eliminating the distinction between a ‘cosmic’ book and a ‘street level’ book. The distinction’s entirely false anyway – Daredevil’s struggles are all concerned with huge abstract concepts just as much a Doctor Strange’s adventures are. The only difference is that in Doctor Strange’s adventures the huge abstract concepts get externalised into big nasty Demon Princes and stuff, and in Daredevil’s adventures then the huge abstract concepts stay internalised as Guilt and Anger and Shame and so forth.
This can be a huge problem for storytelling at the Huge Summer Event level because you’ve got characters who normally fight their Big Eternal Struggles inside thier heads side-by-side with characters who normally fight thier Big Eternal Struggles against the Demon Prince of Guilt, the Elder God of Anger and the Spooky Ghost of Shame. You get Spider-Man trying to fight Thanos.
But what we’ve got here is something that’s been set up so cleverly that the conflict happening on every level is explictly the same one. This is nothing new to comics, try and argue whether Sandman, Hellblazer or Lucifer are ‘street level’ or ‘cosmic level’ books and watch the grown-ups laugh at you. But it’s very unusual for a big crossover thingy to mange to set up a story in which the actions of the Question and the actions of the Spectre carry equal importance.
If you’ve got conciousness, you’re a cosmic entity.
EVERYONE notices Clayface blowing the Planet to bits, seriously injuring Lois Lane. Slightly more subtle? Posing as Olsen, he also steals all the information on the missing children story…
Again, on the JLA becoming gods – Batman makes an insane theory out of the blue: a bullet shot backwards in time. More than that though, think about Wally’s line “So he asks me to read through the ENTIRE Internet, looking for any ‘unusual’ activity around the time J’onn was murdered.” Wally read the ENTIRE Internet. All of it. AND HE GOT THE LOCATION. That’s, strangely, pretty damn epic – Wally is becoming deified, too. And he must have read A LOT of porn.
Those vibrations! Wally, don’t you recognize those vibrations?
I was hoping someone with a better handle on the Flash mythos could do something with that line. Is it to do with the vibrations that took Flashes from dimension to dimension in the original Crises?
Also, that last page was insane. Barry Allen chasing the bullet that will kill Orion in the past, Black Racer hot on his heels? Epic. Not to mention, that’s one nice Black Racer redesign.
So that’s it. My initial run-through on Final Crisis #2. It got a little scant towards the end, both due to me being tired and me using up many of my best points early in the run-through. Anything else, I’ll save for a more protracted discussion.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this novella, and I can’t wait to see what some of you think about the issue as a whole. I’ll likely be editing this a little for clarity over the next few days, but the gist should remain the same.
Also, for those who want probably a better rundown, or at least a more concise one…