A strange and wonderful way to begin an event: as a super-police procedural.
As promised “Final Crisis” really does begin with Anthro, DC’s “first boy.” It not only begins with Anthro, but the first seven pages of issue #1 take place in the Stone Age, with nary a word spoken–just a lot of grunts from the cavemen. Except for Metron, of course, who appears, speaks (telepathically, one presumes), and gives Anthro the gift of fire. “Here is knowledge,” says Metron, as his finger creates the spark.
I half expected the scene to end with a flying bone transitioning into a space station, but instead the fire of Stone Age destruction transitions us to a cigarette lighter in the present. “2001: A Space Odyssey” would have made an appropriate allusion, and perhaps the caveman sequence and knowledge-from-beyond is enough to connect this with Kubrick’s most transcendental work. Surely, as with anything Grant Morrison touches, the themes of transformation and transcendence will permeate the finished story, but here it’s just the suggestion of such themes; Anthro has transformed his world, and transcendence is yet to come. It’s early yet, and Morrison has a lot of groundwork to lay.
Unlike other series that have had the word “Crisis” in the title, Morrison doesn’t begin by assembling his heroes to face some great conflict. The conflict has already occurred. Evil has won. Darkseid has not been destroyed by the events of “Countdown” or “Death of the New Gods.” Instead, he is inside a human host–or human hosts, maybe all of humanity, if the fallen Orion is to be believed. And instead of a super-powered band of resistance fighters, the heroes don’t even yet know what they’re up against. So we don’t get that scene of the Justice League zooming into action, surrounded by peripheral characters, defiantly rushing into certain doom. Instead, we get missing children and a dead god. And detectives looking to solve the case.
One of the things Morrison does particularly well here is contrast the street-level detective, Dan “Terrible” Turpin, with the cosmic detectives of the Green Lantern Corps. Turpin, old-fashioned, cynical, and overweight, is nothing like the sleek and glimmering Hal Jordan and Jon Stewart, but they are all following the same trail. Except Turpin, with his lack of science-magic, is more successful. As the Green Lanterns, and the ruthlessly efficient Alpha Lanterns, secure the crime scene, Turpin has already found what he’s looking for. In a comic so vast in scale–a comic that ranges from the past to the future and stays as small as a city street and goes as large as a multiversal orrery–it’s fun to watch Morrison fit all the pieces together into something that works. Not everything is explained in “Final Crisis” #1, but the small and the large blend together as part of a single, complex tapestry and Morrison takes advantage of the scope of the DC Universe to tell a story. A major story. It may be a bit confusing, and the art might be a bit inconsistent in the middle, but this is a sophisticated, layered story that will surely become one of the most important events in years.
This isn’t just a giant team-up series. It’s not a billion heroes from the DC Universe getting together to punch some shadowy bad guys or stop an alien invasion. This is the story of a planet, a universe, coming apart at the seams. It may not really be the “final” crisis, but the first issue makes it feel like it could be.