Final Crisis #7What.

The fuck.

Was that?

Seriously. Final Crisis #7 was every bit as crashingly disappointing as I feared it would be, and more so. Grant Morrison’s reach clearly far, far exceeded his grasp.

It certainly did exemplify a writing style he earlier described (warned? threatened?) as “channel-zapping,” though, and gods willing no one will ever be tempted to try such a style again. Morrison seems not to have considered just why the practice evolved in the first place—i.e.,  when people keep clicking that remote, it’s typically because they’re not interested in the random snippets they zap through along the way, but rather because they’re hoping (usually in vain) that something better will turn up that merits ongoing attention.

Further self-descriptions of his work? Well, there’s this

I had the idea to develop an approach to comic narrative that would actually benefit from becoming entangled in internet fan speculation, gossip and research… I’ve always liked to leave resonant spaces, gaps and hints in stories, where readers can do their own work and find clues or insert their own wild and often brilliant theories. I’m often trying to create a kind of fuzzy quantum uncertainty or narrative equivalent of a Rorschach Blot Test effect, which invites interpretation.

and this

Superhero comics should have an ‘event’ in every panel! We all know this instinctively. Who cares ‘how?’ as long as it feels right and looks brilliant ? …

I found myself wondering what it would be like if comics’ storytelling stopped aping film or TV and tried a few tricks from opera, for instance. How about dense, allusive, hermetic comics that read more like poetry than prose? How about comics loaded with multiple, prismatic meanings and possibilities? Comics composed like music? In a marketplace dominated by ‘left brain’ books, I thought it might be refreshing to offer an unashamedly ‘right brain’ alternative.

Never a model of humility, in the same interviews Morrison attempts to compare his writing to TV and film works like Lost and Donnie Darko, and dismisses the critics of his recent work as “lazier readers” and/or “a particularly jaded minority on the internet.” Sorry, but I count myself as part of the large and devoted fan followings of the examples he names, and of many similarly “complex” works—not because they’re stylistically complex, though, but because they tell well-structured, emotionally compelling stories—and FC isn’t even in the same ballpark. “Disjointed” is the word that’s come up more than any other in reviews of Morrison’s writing in recent months, but this issue takes the adjective to a whole new level. Morrison’s effect—indeed, apparently his intent—was to have his story swallowed up by its own lacunae, and that simply doesn’t make for a satisfying reading experience.

I won’t even to try to itemize everything that’s wrong with this comic, either as a single issue or as the culmination of a series, as a self-contained project or as a part of the DC Universe. Really, it’s not worth the effort. I’ll just quote a few passages from other online commentators to capture the flavor of reader reaction, and leave it to everyone to judge for themselves whether Morrison’s self-congratulatory attitude is deserved.

From one Dominik B.:

Some character we’ve never seen before appears and we’re to suddenly believe that he’s very dangerous and superevil. Even more evil than Darkseid… or not. We can’t really tell since we have no clue who the guy is and what he can do. …

I can’t remember there being a single human in the issue whose function was anything but dying… or doing some really bad and polemic narrating. …

If you like Mystery Science Theatre 3000 minus janitors and robots, you are in for quite a treat… We will be telling our grandkids of this book. “Son, you see… Final Crisis was the comic that totally redefined the word ‘bad’ and showed us just how bad you can fuck up a universe.” …

We basically get a lot of stuff we should probably care about, but really don’t since nobody really knows why we should even think about it for more than three seconds.

From “fiziko”:

The solution to the problem that we’ve been “building” to for the past six issues wasn’t a part of those six issues. No, the characters, the approach, the deus ex machina machine used, and the actual villain behind the whole escapade have not been seen in this series before…

The emotional response is terrible. This should have been the vindicating chapter, glowing as the shining beacon of hope in the face of doom. Instead, we learn that Batman sacrificed himself to defeat someone who wasn’t even the real threat, and that all the plot threads running throughout all these series and miniseries were even more pointless than they originally appeared.

From IGN’s Bryan Joel:

…plainly garbled and convoluted for the sake of it and provides little to no benefit for wading through the impenetrability to attempt a total understanding of its nuances. The issue is a bloated, histrionic 37-page braindump with very little connective tissue to bind it, desperately screaming out for a proper editing job. …

The issue does have a basic A to B thread that’s more or less understandable as far as it goes… [but] everything that’s lumped on top of that is disjointed and borderline irrelevant, driven forward with dialogue that’s cringe-inducingly ostentatious, even for Morrison. There’s certainly something to be said for unconventional storytelling and playing with the genre and all that, but Final Crisis #7 is just ridiculous and abrasive with it.

Or how about this (all emphases mine), from the lovingly detailed annotations of David Uzumeri, who actually enjoyed the book:

Some of the [multiple] Supermen seem identifiable…

The Watchtower seems to be composed part of the JLA satellite, Titans Tower, the Fortress of Solitude and what I can only guess is a section of Checkmate Castle. (I’m not even sure why Titans Tower is there; it hasn’t been in the series at all thus far and wasn’t one of the six Watchtowers.) This point, Lois narrating from the Watchtower, I’ll designate as the future timeline for now, as things jump around quite a bit. …

[Darkseid’s bullet] gets sent back in time by, I guess, the wake of the Flashes…

[Checkmate’s] Black Gambit is, apparently, starting to fail. …

Ollie and Dinah were still up on the satellite at the end of #6, and apparently they’re still floating there while running out of oxygen. I know Ray was supposed to take the Metron face tattoo down to Earth, but I’m not sure how he got it to show up on the entire planet…

Hawkman and Hawkgirl… have a death that’s only referenced later by a picture of two feathers…

I’m guessing at some point the Ultima Thule dropped in on Earth-51, which was abandoned, and met Montoya there, who followed along as a guide. …

…the wormy things around [the GLs] are Mandrakk’s missiles and destroyers, which are apparently ridden on by the Green Lantern Corps into the atmosphere…

There are easily over 52 Supermen here, so I have no idea what the hell is up with that… maybe they got multiple Supermen from some universes?

Then [Nix] Uotan calls down the army of God (where the Hell did they come from? Did Zauriel just call on them or something? Why did Uotan bring down angels?)…

Here we get a flower in the ruins of … where, exactly? The text implies that this takes place on what used to be Apokolips, and that it’s been turned into a world for the New New Gods (who we glimpse very briefly here, unfortunately — I wonder if they were originally supposed to play a larger part in the story?

And keep in mind that the post from which all that uncertainty is extracted does yeoman duty in making the story clearer to readers. Meanwhile, from Seb Patrick, who proclaims that he “loved it”:

Alright, look. Final Crisis, if it needed repeating, has pretty much been a failure as a summer event story.  The format was entirely unsuited to what Morrison was trying to do…

[The ending is] frustrating, of course, because you realise just how little of what went on in the first four issues actually mattered. …[but] the sheer amount of quality [ideas] packed in even makes up for those parts that still seem superfluous.

Others will complain about the structure, given that it jumps around in time and narrative with no real explanation – but it’s really not as difficult to follow as some early messageboard commenters and bloggers would have you believe. If … you can cope with non-linear storytelling — and don’t mind reading things more than once — it’s hardly a struggle. …

Of course, as far as critical opinion on the book goes, I know I’m fighting the current rather than following it. On the whole, Final Crisis was a disappointment. There’s no denying that. And structurally, the entire thing was a mess.

Yes, that’s what passes for praise. In a similar vein, from CBR’s Brian Cronin:

[D]ue to the fact that this is the issue where the story is wrapped up, there are some awkward moments where Morrison simply does that — wrap the story up. Some “and then this happened and then this happened” storytelling in a few of the spots. … [and] Mandrakk should be in the series more — actually, the Superman Beyond stuff was explained pretty well EXCEPT for Mandrakk, there were some awkward moments of exposition and some scenes seemed rushed for lack of space…

From Kelson Vibber:

The narrative structure has fragmented even further, with some events only getting a panel or two and maybe a caption, much of it told in flashback from the end of all things. I’ve been saying for several months that it’s a 12-issue story chopped down to 7 books…

It’s only in these last two issues that I really felt like pieces of the story from tie-ins were missing. I didn’t have a problem with the bits of Batman’s story that were told only in “Last Rites,” or the story with Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man from “Submit.” But then I didn’t read either of those, and just took things in stride. I did read “Superman: Beyond,” and while I felt that the yellow submarine and the multiversal Superman mission would have worked fine without that story, the introduction and nature of Mandrakk the Dark Monitor still felt out of place, even after having read the side story. …

The big villain, Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, being a cosmic vampire who literally sucked the life out of the universe?

Not so much.

And so it goes:  the criticism is cutting, while the praise is halfhearted.

And deservedly so. This is a story, after all, in which Darkseid was first shot with a god-bullet by Batman, then zapped with his own Omega Beams courtesy of the Flashes, then captured by the Dark Racer, then had his body lassoed by Wonder Woman… yet still lingered around as a carping disembodied presence until Superman finally defeated him by, umm, singing at him. And then, although the Earth had been destroyed, Superman set everything aright by… wishing for a happy ending. No, I’m not making any of this up.

Oh, and the dénoument in which our heroes somehow “reestablished the symmetry of the… multiverse “? That feat rated a single panel.

Really, I don’t know what more to say. The entire project would be utterly forgettable, except that it’s been so painful. I may be a longtime fan, but my patience is not without limit; I’m more skeptical than ever about where DC and its characters may go from here, and in particular I cringe at the thought of the next time Grant Morrison gets his hands on them.

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8 Responses to “The final issue of Final Crisis, finally”
  1. Andrew says:

    Dude I really enjoyed the finale myself, really intense!

  2. It’s really amazing to me how polarizing this series has been to the comics readership.

    Take, for instance, The Mindless Ones. It’s a thoughtful bunch of folks over at that blog, and they often have interesting things to say… but in this case, when a poster like “Amy” can write of FC #7 (emph. mine),

    Grant Morrison’s comic, whilst being a big ol’ mess, blah, blah, is just about the most insanely superheroic thing I’ve ever read. Ridiculous, history-defining events occur pretty much every other panel, and that’s what I want to see. Superheroes as metaphor for the impossible…

    And as is befitting a comic that aims to capture the throbbing core of superheoism, there’s lots of talk about ‘mythic time’, Argos and heroes cluttering up this two page spread. Here the superpeople aren’t even attempting to sound like *people* per-se…

    [The wonderhorn] transcends partisanship and division, nodding to some kind of fundamental ur-religion and source of holiness from which all of our different belief systems, perhaps, sprang…

    …and this is part and parcel of explicating why she likes the book so much, well… obviously we’re just operating on totally different wavelengths, with totally different concepts of what’s “cool” or “entertaining.”

  3. Chris says:

    I read it at first, and hated it. Then I went back and read all the tie-ins (Revelations, Submit, Superman Beyond, Secret Files, Batman R.I.P.). Then I flipped through Death of the New Gods and Seven Soldiers and 52, just to refresh my memory. Then I read the interviews with Morrison on IGN.

    Then, and only then, could I re-read Final Crisis and understand what the hell was going on. Turns out it’s actually quite good, it’s a great story, and a fantastic way to tie together everything in the DC Universe in one neat little package.

    So I think the real question isn’t really “Was Final Crisis any good?” but “Was Final Crisis told in a way that will just confuse people and keep everyone but the most dedicated nerds from understanding or enjoying it?”

    As a story, I think it was a success, but as a method of telling that story, I think it was an abject failure.

  4. […] me, anyway; other people’s mileage, oh it varied – the vitriol’s been a little surprising, even although I girded myself against such an […]

  5. Steve says:

    There were some “neat” ideas thrown about in Morrison’s take on “David Lynch-ing” a Crisis, but the fact of the matter is, for all the “creativity” and “imagination” and “magick”, Morrison is crapping out a lot of also-ran ideas he’s harped on for his entire career, and in this case it’s one of his most inept deliveries of this stuff.

    Final Crisis, while containing some fun moments, sucked as a whole. Thank you, Mr. Miller, for not feeling you have to praise poorly written drivel just to join the Geek Elite in “getting it”.

  6. RAB says:

    Speaking as an impartial observer who knows neither one of you: Seb, I don’t think Chris took your words out of context or misrepresented your sentiments.

    For that matter, having given us a link to the post in question, anyone reading this can see for themselves whether or not the characterization was accurate and doesn’t have to take the word of Chris or anyone else.

  7. SP, I didn’t mean to misrepresent you, and I’m sorry if you feel I somehow did so. I made clear that you liked the book, and that I was only excerpting your post rather than quoting at length, and of course the link was there for anyone to read the whole thing. My main point, though, was to illustrate that even FC’s fans have to offer careful and lengthy qualifications of their praise for the wrap-up of this story. Fair enough?

  8. Seb Patrick says:

    >Yes, that’s what passes for praise

    No, that’s what passes for all the qualifiers that surrounded my praise. What passes for praise are things like :

    What makes it work is that the scope is absolutely massive, characters everywhere get to have their triumphant moments (in the “punch the air” stakes, it comes close to matching Captain Britain and MI:13), and it has all the satisfying epic resonance that the likes of Infinite Crisis lacked. The gathering of an entire multiverse’s army of Supermen is exactly the sort of huge ending that this type of story should be doing.

    There are ideas and moments that I want to sit here and list, but to say too much would give away things that are a joy to discover as they happen.

    Lois Lane’s [narration] drives the story in a truly elegant way

    this issue thrilled, entertained and gripped me more than almost any other in-universe superhero title I’ve read in quite some time.

    But, y’know, you can say anything by chopping and splicing together someone’s words in an out-of-context way!

    (but hey, thanks for reading!)

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