This post was originally published on my now defunct site, New to Comics.
New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic-books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
Although I have themes planned out until the end of the year, sometimes plans change, and to round out the superhero-comic section of my mythology-focused month, I decided to switch things up by looking at Darkseid, one of the most dangerous villains in the DC Universe. Partly for something different, partly due to budgetary restrictions, this week’s comic is Final Crisis, a story I read before some time ago, but have decided to come back to as it sees Darkseid’s ultimate goal realised…
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: J. G. Jones & Marco Rudy
Real Name: Uxas
Affiliation: The New Gods
First Appearance: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (November 1970)
Uxas began his reign of tyranny by using his devious nature to sow seeds of discontent among the Old Gods, before stealing their powers one by one. With the Old Gods wiped out, and only he and his brother remaining, Uxas became one of the first of the New Gods. But while his brother created the paradise of New Genesis under the alias of Highfather, Uxas created the hellscape known as Apokolips. Here, he raised a vile and wretched race of beings, who teetered on the brink of war with Highfather’s own purer species. To hold off all out war, the two New God Lords traded their infant sons. As a result, Darkseid’s spawn grew up to be the great hero of New Genesis, Orion, while Highfather’s son lived a tortured life where he learned to be the master escape artist Mister Miracle. With his sights now turned away from the other Gods, Darkseid has since turned his attention to Earth and discovering the Anti-Life Equation.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
DC have a tendency to put out ‘Crises’, every now and then. Big events that have universe-shattering stakes. There have been many smaller crises events, but the first truly noteworthy one was Crisis on Infinite Earths. In this story, the heroes of every reality in the DC Multiverse faced off against the threat of the Anti-Monitor, a being who destroyed whole universes. Unlike more recent event comics, the stakes were truly high, as the outcome changed the multiverse forever (it would be changed back, in a way, but it would never be quite the same).
Other Crises followed, such as the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time, the Infinite Crisis and most recently, the Final Crisis.
When speaking about the story, writer Grant Morrison said the following:
“The DC superheroes see the ‘New Gods’ as other superheroes in the way that Orion or Barda can join the Justice League. They’ve never understood that what they really are are fucking gods. This story’s about the first time Darkseid actually manifests on the planet. Everything we’ve ever seen before has been kind of projections from the world of the New Gods and for the first time we’re seeing them in their full power. And it’s like what would happen if a god appeared on the planet. Galactus is one god. This is a whole bunch of them- that’s how bad it is”
As such, the comic was teased as the day ‘the bad guys win’, and as such, the stakes are in some ways higher than usual, with some pretty prominent characters (founding Justice Leaguers, no less) amongst the number to die within these pages.
There will be some spoilers in this breakdown, as I will discuss those deaths later because one kicks off the story and the other is on the cover (of the graphic novel, that is, not the cover of this article).
The book is also famous for bringing back Barry Allen after over twenty-years (real-world time) of being dead, which then was followed up on in The Flash: Rebirth.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
The world is plunged into darkness, as the heroes of Earth are unprepared for the ‘Final Crisis’ heralding the arrival of the ‘Fifth World’.
It all starts with a costumed criminal called Libra, who wishes to take the reigns of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and to prove his worth, promises his future allies anything their hearts desire. Leading by example, this mysterious villain manages to incapacitate Superman and execute the Martian Manhunter himself.
As the heroes of Earth mourn the passing of one of the most respected amongst their number, the Green Lanterns investigate a crime-scene, where the victim is a God and the murder weapon seems to be a gun that’s been fired back through time. The Justice League realise their Earth is in terrible danger, but it’s too late, as Darkseid and the Gods of Apokolips’ plans are already too far along.
With Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman unavailable, the remaining heroes are faced with what might just be the end of the world.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Holy convoluted plot-lines, Batman! This may in fact be the least accessible story we’ve looked at so far!
That title previously belonged to The Flash: Rebirth, so it is perhaps appropriate that these two are linked, with one being an indirect sequel of the other. Like Flash: Rebirth required you to have a decent knowledge of the Flash mythos, Final Crisis requires you to have at least a decent knowledge of the Justice League members, the Green Lantern Corps, Grant Morrison’s penchant for incredibly intense science-fiction concepts and a whole lot of comic-book jargon (and maybe Frankenstein and the Agents of S.H.A.D.E. – no, you didn’t read that wrong; Frankenstein’s monster is in this).
Heck, even the characters in the story aren’t overly fond of it:
But I’m in danger of getting ahead of myself there, so let’s just move on to the review stage.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
When I first read this comic-book, with my lesser knowledge of DC Super-heroes and their concepts, I came away confused and slightly disappointed.
Having re-read it, I could tell you what was going on, but I couldn’t promise you that it would make any sense. If I could compare this book to a superhero movie, it would be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, due to the fact that its story is unnecessarily convoluted. However, in this case, it’s been dialled up to twelve. Yeah, that’s right. We skipped eleven. That’s how all over the place this comic-book is.
Although things get off to a good start, with the stakes raised high and the menace of Libra and the Gods of Apokolips feeling like a genuine threat, everything is soon undone as the stakes are continually upped to an unnecessary degree. First, it’s a story about super-villains targeting superheroes for an unseen master. Then, it’s about the return of a group of evil Gods. Then it’s about those Gods demonstrating their true power over mankind for the first time. And then the universe is collapsing because of course it is.
Why are the stakes being so needlessly ramped up? I get that DC’s Crises generally endanger the multiverse, but that last part doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story being told up to that point. It’s just – suddenly the whole multiverse is in danger.
And with every raising of the stakes, the book loses another bit of its soul, as it becomes less a story about character, as it does about ridiculous concepts that seem like they’ve been cooked up during a week-long drug bender.
And the more zany, unnecessary concepts are introduced into the story, the more the focus has to be given to said concepts and taken away from the characters. Characters who, by this point, just enter and exit with little time for exposition or emotional beats – never is this more apparent than when Batman shows up after several issue absence, is around for two pages and gets killed off. BATMAN GETS KILLED OFF. And it’s done in such a way that you can’t really bring yourself to care. BATMAN.
Beyond this severe mishandling of characters, everyone, for some reason, seems to understand and speak in this ridiculous jargon as if even the most Z-List of heroes has a decade worth of experience with studying and exploring the multiverse. If it was just, say, Superman, the Flash… maybe Wonder Woman and Batman, and a couple of others. Fine. But every superhero (and even some supporting characters) understands their weird cosmology to such a precise degree? Why? How?
The good thing about this book is that it demonstrates what things could look like if evil Gods made a power play on Earth. The bad thing is that the writing is so horribly intense, convoluted and nonsensical that it’s not worth getting in to see such a display of power.
I’ve decided to change-up my rating system going forward. I had considered it previously, but when looking at this comic, it’s incredibly difficult to quantify a rating that encapsulates its every facet. And so, in part inspired by my favourite podcast, The Weekly Planet, I’m going for a simple ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ approach, because as TWP say, “there’s no nuance on the internet”. As such, I give this a New to Comics…
I will refine the look of that at some point in the future.
Anyway, this is particularly appropriate in this case, as one of the more important pages in this comic is: