This is why I love comics.
After that it’s more hit-and-miss, as writer Grant Morrison skips among no less than seven other plotlines running simultaneously throughout the book, with a couple more relegated to the back burner. (Where are the Flashes? Why is Superman still missing?) Still, he’s obviously making an effort to pull some of the disparate threads of this massive story together, which is a welcome (and overdue) development.
Aspects of his storytelling style—so careful about metatext and symbolism, yet so offhanded about narrative qua narrative—continue to rub me the wrong way, though. I can’t help but suspect that one of the reasons for introducing the whole bit about “spacetime around the earth [being] crumpled, weeks smashed into days” was so that he could get the lengthy time-lag he wanted between issues three and four, yet still follow up directly on Hal’s trial and bring him back into the story here in issue five, no sooner. Grant’s very careful about how he structures his stories, but his notions of structure (recursive, cyclical, sometimes even numerological) don’t always mesh well with the most logical or effective dramatic pacing.
Along the way, he’s also prone to sprinkle in a lot of ominous- and arcane-sounding terms, some of which are real (M-theory, higher-dimensional branes, God’s number) and some of which are off the top of his head (the “suppressor field chip,” the “doomsday singularity,” the “quantum blunderbuss”), without ever stopping to explain any of them. (In fact, an increased gravity well around Earth should slow the flow of time planetside, not accelerate it; and it should also have obvious effects on the surface, none of which are seen here.) The details aren’t important, apparently; it’s just that Grant thinks these things sound cool.
Plotwise, not all of the scenes throughout the rest of the book live up to the opening. The scenes inside Checkmate’s castle are interesting, the battle outside not so much; and it’s irritating that none of this appears to dovetail even slightly with the Checkmate-related events in the FC: Submit tie-in. Greg Rucka’s a talented writer, and the tie-in was an interesting story in its own right, and he no doubt did his best to integrate it with the information he’d been given… but one can’t help but feel he must have been left out of the editorial loop (which rather undermines DC’s assertions about better editorial coordination in the aftermath of the fiasco that was Countdown).
The battle in Blüdhaven is even worse, living down to to the standards of stereotypical comic-book space-filler, with two double-page spreads (and where but in a Grant Morrison tale would Frankenstein’s Monster get pride of place as the heroes ride in?) and lots of sound and fury signifying nothing.
The issue picked up again a bit toward the end. The single page revisiting Libra and his subjugated villains hints (subtly but clearly) that Luthor is working his own scheme behind the scenes, which is entirely predictable but still perfectly in character. And if the cliffhanger seems unduly evocative of the previous issue, with Darkseid exerting (yet more) control over the Earth, at least the transformative returns of Metron and the amnesiac Monitor Nix Uotan (and who’s the third “misfit” with them, by the way?) promise some unpredictable developments as the story moves toward a climax.
Artwise, this issue had less of J.G. Jones and more of Carlos Pacheco, but I have no complaints there; the styles remain compatible. On the other hand, I don’t care at all for the new visualization of Darkseid; give me the granite-hewn original, thank you.
So the issue overall was a mixed bag… but that’s still a marked improvement over the hamfisted storytelling of previous issues, and readers seem to be responding (at least online) with increased enthusiasm. As DC’s multiverse-shaking events go, 2005’s Infinite Crisis got progressively worse with every passing issue; let’s hope that this one continues to pick up steam as it moves toward the finish.Tags: Darkseid, DC Comics, Final Crisis, Grant Morrison, Lex Luthor, super-heroes