Wow, that was crap.
I kind of enjoyed issue #5, enough to be hoping for an upward trend as this story neared the home stretch. Apparently that was too much to hope for, though. (Which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise, given the book’s multifarious agenda to be simultaneously a big accessible “event” story, a sequel to Jack Kirby’s New Gods work, a sequel to the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths, a thematic capstone to Grant Morrison’s body of super-hero work, and a thematic capstone to Dan DiDio’s chaotic tenure as DC’s executive editor.)
What did we actually get in this penultimate issue? Well…
First, there’s Superman talking with Brainiac Five, a thousand years away from the main action, in a scene that apparently follows on the Legion of Thee Worlds tie-in, which according to the dialogue apparently follows on the Superman Beyond tie-in… although the conclusions of neither of those have yet seen print, which is typical of the scheduling SNAFUs that have characterized this entire project. The point of this highly expository sequence appears to be to (re)introduce the Miracle Machine, exactly the sort of deus-ex-machina device that’s like catnip to Morrison… apparently enough so that he’s chosen to shoehorn it into this story despite the fact (already pointed out by two out of the three commentators I’ve found who have so far blogged about this issue) that the Machine was decisively (and wisely) destroyed—in fact, eaten by Matter-Eater Lad—in a classic Legion tale nearly thirty years ago.
Then we shift to the present-day JLA satellite for the first of several two- and three-page scenes that wind up comprising the bulk of this issue. They lack any narrative connective tissue, and very little of consequence actually happens; they’re just placeholders that remind us of all the plotlines being held up in the air simultaneously, without actually moving them discernibly forward or helping them converge.
The notable exception to this skipping around is the big fight scene in Blüdhaven, continuing from last issue, to which nine pages are devoted—even though it’s a painfully clear example of much sound and fury signifying nothing. Mary Marvel is rescued from her DeSaad-possessed eviltude by a trite and familiar plot device, and there’s gratuitous flying viscera—involving a character for whom it is mind-blowingly inappropriate.
In a series of additional scene-snippets, we get Shiloh Norman (still miscolored as a Caucasian for no apparent reason) and his Japanese allies standing around being useless for the second issue in a row. We get Checkmate planning to “ride the graviton superhighway” in order to play “the black gambit,” aka “the omega offensive,” using “Lord Eye,” to escape into a parallel universe (at least when Jack Kirby scattered these kinds of grandiose neologisms into a story, he typically enclosed them in quotation marks; Morrison doesn’t bother)… and inexplicably drafting a discredited ex-cop with a mask (Renee Montoya) to lead the whole mission, never mind all the high-powered government operatives the organization already has. We get Luthor betraying Libra as foreshadowed from the start, aided by some technobabble from Sivana… but with no real point, since all of Libra’s scheming since the first issue has barely intersected the larger plot. And we get the Flashes (all three) running off again, to escape the Black Racer (who Barry knows is chasing him, never mind the Racer’s previous exclusive concern with New Gods) and locate Darkseid (because Barry knows how to stop him)… and how does Barry know all this stuff? Well, apparently because (in another idea Morrison pulled out of some random orifice) matter accelerated faster than light “converts to pure information.” (Einstein said it converted to energy, but what did he know?)
Then, finally, the attention returns to the A-list players. The long-hyped “final fate of Batman” (as set up in Batman #682-83, which I actually liked) takes up a grand total of four pages, two of which are a single splash panel. And they’re disappointingly predictable: Batman is able to defeat Darkseid because (A) he conveniently happened to have placed the “god-killer bullet” in his utility belt before being captured, and (B) Darkseid’s minions conveniently left said utility belt where he could retrieve it (along with a gun to fire said bullet, apparently). Oh, and it involves Batman breaking his vow about firearms… which is radically out of character, especially since Darkseid in this case happens to be a possessed human cop. And then Darkseid zaps him.
In the last few pages, things start to converge. Sort of. Or maybe not. Is that Lois Lane with Jimmy Olsen, holding the cat? Because if so, last we saw her she was in the hospital in critical condition… and if not, who the hell is it? What are Hawkman and Hawkgirl talking about, and does it have anything at all to do with the story? We also see brief glimpses of the two big cliffhangers from the previous issue, which seemed promising then but have amounted to absolutely nothing in this issue: the Green Lanterns, still falling helplessly toward Earth, and Metron and Nix Uotan, still just standing around watching things. And finally Superman returns (how? we have no idea), blazing a trail of heat-vision destruction through the city (why? it’s a strange tactic)… and emerges holding Batman’s dessicated corpse.
That last image is evocative of previous Crises, to be sure, but its dramatic impact is considerably blunted by the fact that it makes no sense. For one thing, Batman was inside the so-called “personal singularity” with Darkseid, the one which just a few pages earlier Barry said no one could penetrate, so how did Superman get him out? For another, Darkseid’s “Omega Effect” historically doesn’t leave a body at all; it makes its victims disappear completely. For a third, we all know that Bruce will be back… not only for obvious publishing reasons, but also because almost everyone the big D’s ever zapped with the Effect eventually returns, and particularly because Morrison altered the Effect into the “Omega Sanction… the death that is life!” back in the Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle mini-series, in which Shiloh Norman was zapped with it, lived through some sort of alternate reality, and then came back to life hale and hearty, as seen in this very book. (And the third of the bloggers I mentioned above offers several other reasons why the whole Batman sequence is underwhelming and, as he puts it, “just weird.”)
So, what does all that amount to? A book full of disjointed scenes, erratic storytelling, and godawful pacing, with perhaps three or four pages of real plot progression, but otherwise filled as usual with lots of pointless symbolism and random ideas thrown at the wall in the hope that something will stick. The characterization keeps hitting wrong notes, bits of dialogue keep failing to match the art, and even Morrison’s careful attention to story structure (which I was willing to credit him with in earlier issues) seems to have been abandoned.
There’s one more issue to come (allegedly in two weeks), but whatever hopes I had that it might redeem what’s gone before are pretty much shot at this point… with a god-killing bullet.
Addendum: Yeah, here’s Morrison talking about it today: on Batman…
I keep on stressing for people not to think of this as death.
Oooh, no kidding. And on the final issue:
The finale is pretty insane. Parallel universes. It’s the end of the universe. Everything breaks down. … Final Crisis #7 is almost inventing a new style. We had widescreen comics and decompression and super-compression. This is channel-zapping comics.
Great. I frigging hate channel-surfing. This is supposed to be a story, not a music video or a sensory-overload experiment. Just in case there was any doubt that I wasn’t going to be happy here…Tags: Batman, continuity, Darkseid, DC Comics, Final Crisis, Grant Morrison, Green Lantern, Legion, super-heroes, Superman