Final Crisis #4

Okay. That was pretty dark.

It’s difficult, in a sense, to really take the necessary steps back to appreciate the story being told here. The delays have, of course, caused a lot of interruptions to the flow of things in terms of the usual schedule of going to your local store and picking up a new issue. As opposed to just laying out tendrils that stretch out to attendant tie-in materials in a frantic attempt to sell books that usually stagnate, Morrison is actually telling a contained and sustained narrative that, for four issues now, is almost exclusively devoted to cataloguing the absolute decimation of any shred of hope and goodness in the DC Universe.

This issues jumps ahead one month, with the Anti-Life Equation holding pretty much complete sway over the planet, Darkseid’s forces infiltrating every corner of society. Not the best scenario for humankind. Technology has been completely subsumed, heroes are forced to communicate through the Daily Planet, now being printed out of the Fortress Of Solitude. With Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and Wonder Woman all uniquely incapacitated, Morrison shoves characters like The Ray and The Tattoed Man front and center in the fight against the now almost ubiquitous Justifiers.

In ways that are almost intangible, Morrison and his dual art teams manage to completely sell the sense that the straggling survivors of Darkseid’s assault are truly up against a global wall of antagonism opposing their efforts. Scattered across the globe and made up of B-through-Z listers, the heroes sheepishly gather for one final stand.

It is unfortunate that starting this issue, J.G. Jones’ involvement starts to wane and will be even less in future issues. Pacheco’s art does not in anyway jar the reader nor does it feel rushed like much of the fill in art found in “Infinite Crisis.” But only Jones could capture such a human moment like Barry and Wally sharing a hug in such a naturalistic, real way. It’s a Jones specialty and that kind of emotional weight will be missed in the story still to come.

As I said, though, Pacheco and Merino are no slouches. They deliver a fantastic moment of their own involving Black Canary and Green Arrow that lands with the same kind of effectiveness, but in its own unique style. And the work between the two art teams is split over separate settings, so there’s never any moment ruined due to inconsistency.

In a recent interview, Morrison cited a creepiness to Jones’ style, a skill at capturing dread, that drew him to the collaboration, and it’s a good thing that no matter what his future is with the series, he was at least available for the final pages of this issue, which serve as a devastating coda to both the last chance that any force of good may have had, and the four issue story of Danny Turpin, who emerges as a surprisingly critical figure, thematically. That thread I alluded to earlier, that might have been lost in the months between issues (I recommend a full reread of all four issues, anyway), really centers around Turpin’s story. His evolution from a grousy old detective to his ultimate fate at the close of this issue is both harrowing and deeply tragic. I don’t know that anyone but Jones could deliver the last page of this issue with apocryphal weight that it ends up having.

The cultural touchstone that “Final Crisis” keeps reminding me of is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia”. Almost operatic in its accumulation of tragedies and yet completely mundane and ground level in its detail, Morrison has created the same kind of panoramic vision of sadness and loss. Heavy stuff indeed for a superhero comic. Some might wonder if this genre is the right place for something so baroque and depressing but, let’s face it: Heroes have been “fighting” evil for decades now. Isn’t it about time someone took a step back and showed us what that evil really looked like? While I doubt this will really be the “Final” Crisis that ends up thrust upon the DC Universe, with a setup like this, if good can really triumph over this kind of obstacle, the story could certainly end up being the best of its kind.

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