An editor once noted on a panel that when you start seeing multiple inkers on a project, it usually means a deadline or two slipped along the way. With three inkers on board for “Final Crisis: Submit,” I think that’s more or less a given. The thing is, with “Final Crisis: Submit” originally slated for the month gap between “Final Crisis” #3 and 4, shipping it the same day as “Final Crisis” #4 has effectively removed a lot of the punch that this comic would otherwise generate.
The idea behind “Final Crisis: Submit” is a smart one, showing what the world is like once evil wins and everything falls apart. Grant Morrison focuses on a hero and a villain here, Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man, and while Morrison’s attempt to show how the lines between them are blurring comes across a little heavy-handed, it’s still an enjoyable story. I love Black Lightning’s relationship with printed material here, both discarded books as well as the copies of the Daily Planet that he’s distributing among those still resisting Darkseid. It’s a very human and recognizable moment, that sort of thing that Morrison is so good at bringing across the page.
Unfortunately, this comic wasn’t released in its planned gap, and instead people are reading it simultaneously with “Final Crisis” #4 and its resistance movement beginning to pick up. We aren’t getting that bleak, “This is what the DC Universe has come to,” view that lasts for a long time period. Instead, you blink and it’s already starting to come to an end. “Final Crisis: Submit” loses part of its punch right there.
A lot more of its lost punch, unfortunately, comes from Matthew Clark’s art. Clark seems particularly off of his game here, providing confusing and muddled storytelling on more than one occasion. There’s a very early moment where Black Lightning runs up a flight of stairs, before pouring water after himself and then electrifying the water to stop his pursuers. The only problem is, the actual panel of him pouring the water is so small you’ve actually got to squint to see what’s happening; most of the page is instead devoted to an overly-large portrait of Black Lightning zapping the ground (and with no sign of the water itself).
That’s not the only place where the art goes off the deep end, either. I never thought I’d see the Tattooed Man swing his hips out to one side and have a “come hither” look on his face in order to attack someone. And as for the big climactic final scene with Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man together? There’s an event in it that is so badly laid out and executed that it is almost impossible to figure out what happened without reading and re-reading the dialogue. Even then, part of the big escape there still doesn’t make much sense, presumably due to some sort of artistic hiccup having to do with perspective, and/or placement of characters.
I think it’s ultimately very much to Morrison’s credit that there’s as much to enjoy in “Final Crisis: Submit” as one can find. Between a bollixed schedule and wildly inconsistent art, the deck was highly stacked against it. And yet, in the end, I still enjoyed it well enough. Like the characters trapped in “Final Crisis: Submit,” I found myself with a little hope at the end of the day.