Whatever your feelings about Final Crisis, I think we can all agree on one thing: it’s over.
By “it,” I mean the overarching crossover culture which DC has nurtured for almost five years. No more Countdowns or Crises. No more Monitors or Forerunners. No more endings teasing the next part. (And yes, that applies to the last page of FC #7. That’s not a tease, it’s a promise.) Sure, there’s Flash: Rebirth, whatever storyline brings you-know-who back, and probably miniseries for the Fifth World and Aquaman waiting in the wings, but for the first time in a while, I have closure.
The past few years were all about process. Identity Crisis begat The OMAC Project, Villains United, and Day of Vengeance. Adam Strange (2004) begat Rann-Thanagar War. TOP, VU, DOV, RTW, and The Return of Donna Troy begat Infinite Crisis. InfC begat 52, which revealed the new Multiverse, which was explored in Countdown and its ancillary miniseries; and Countdown was supposed to set up Final Crisis.
And that’s just the short version. (I’d do a flowchart, but I’m not sure how to post really big images here.)
Ultimately, elements from many of these miniseries made their way into Final Crisis and its ancillary miniseries. However, in the end FC owed more to the progression of Grant Morrison’s DC-superhero work, from Animal Man and JLA (no room for the Doom Patrol?) in the ‘80s and ‘90s, to this decade’s Seven Soldiers, 52, and All Star Superman. Accordingly, FC concerned itself more with Morrison’s themes than with payoffs to the process-oriented miniseries mentioned above. While I don’t think that’s a bad thing (and I did like Final Crisis pretty well), I can see where readers looking for such payoffs would have been disappointed. There have been plenty of times during the past few years when I have thought “I read all of that for this?!?”
I didn’t get that feeling from any issue of Final Crisis. Each installment leading up to issue #7 left me with a good bit of lingering dread, not for Morrison’s mental health but for our heroes’ well-being. That in itself is an accomplishment, I think. It’s not like DC was going to leave Wonder Woman evil, Lois Lane comatose, or Batman dead; but with Final Crisis I was at least worried, and eager to read the outcome.
Final Crisis also managed to disconnect itself from the regular DC titles while simultaneously serving as the main representative of DC’s shared universe. I have written before (and repeatedly) that DC can’t foster its shared universe by making its superhero books too interconnected. The end result of interconnectedness is interchangeability, because it sacrifices each creative team’s individuality to the needs of the overarching story. In other words, it forecloses individual stories about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in favor of one big story about the world on which they live. More importantly, it smooths over individual creators’ distinctive voices and visions.
Of course, DC is presently telling one big story about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman’s shared adventures; but it all takes place in one book under pretty much the same creative teams. My point is, if you’re going to tell one story, tell one story, and don’t try to dress it up as the product of a dozen different ones. A healthy shared universe should reflect its creative teams’ diversity as well as its characters’.
Therefore, I liked Final Crisis in no small part because it was Grant Morrison’s story, not the product of Brad Meltzer’s, Geoff Johns’, Paul Dini’s, etc. (However, it’s intriguing to see the ways that Greg Rucka and Geoff Johns have used FC to advance “their” characters’ plotlines.) While Morrison built on past Events, he wasn’t relying upon their spare plot points or connecting various elements of continuity. Final Crisis was never going to satisfy everyone — either it would be too beholden to too many setup stories (e.g., Countdown); or it would be too independent of the setups, thereby frustrating those readers who had followed them. Just about every shared-universe story faces this choice, and to me independence is almost always the best alternative. Independence promotes accessibility, and accessibility strikes me as a much better marketing tool than the “prerequisite” approach. Final Crisis might have been inaccessible or impenetrable to some readers, but not because it followed a prior story too closely.
Yes, I know: the Miracle Machine (perhaps FC‘s biggest curveball) came from a relatively obscure Legion of Super-Heroes story. To me that doesn’t count, because the MM was still consistent with Morrison’s wishing-makes-it-so, magic-technology vibe. You didn’t need to know the Miracle Machine’s history — I certainly didn’t — to appreciate its role in Final Crisis.
Moreover, the Miracle Machine let Final Crisis tie off its affairs neatly. One of Crisis On Infinite Earths’ little graces was its self-destructive nature. It was designed to be forgotten, because the point was to open up new storytelling possibilities, and bring in new readers, without those readers and stories having to look back to the events of COIE. In the same way, Final Crisis doesn’t seem like it can (or should) be replicated or referred to — at least to any great extent — by too many subsequent stories.
Actually, I’m a little disappointed that FC didn’t really open things up like previous Crises did. I had hoped that FC would bring back the infinite Multiverse, because 52 parallel Earths still seem too restrictive. Even DC One Million, Morrison’s previous Big Event (also designed to be forgotten, at least by the characters) indirectly helped set up the multiverse-substitute Hypertime. Final Crisis does allow for some continuity tweaks, as the Monitors repair the damage caused by Darkseid’s fall, but that’s about it in terms of major cosmological changes. Regardless, I’m happy to have Final Crisis close out this latest constant-crossover era. I can’t tell you how glad I am not to have to try and reconcile any more mega-events with each other.
Now, I say that, and the next thing you know Blackest Night is a huge hit which rekindles DC’s lurve of big interconnected crossovers. Still, maybe it won’t be that way. (About the lurve, I mean — I don’t wish bad things for Blackest Night.) I don’t see how DC can plan smaller-scale “big arcs” for each of its main characters and have any hope of interconnecting them successfully. We saw how that turned out with Countdown. If any book can give hints as to how “New Krypton” relates to “Battle for the Cowl” or Blackest Night, obviously it’s Justice League. JLA doesn’t have to be the designated crossover-facilitator to do this, either — Morrison and guest writer Mark Waid juggled Electric Superman, Hippolyta-as-Wonder-Woman, “No Man’s Land,” and the Walter West Flash, all while telling their own Justice League stories.
For too long I’ve hoped that DC would just let its books be themselves for a while. Maybe, once the line “syncs up” with the end of Final Crisis, that time will have come. (It would definitely force me to find something else to complain about.) If DC could control itself for the rest of the year, I’d be impressed — but 2010 is its 75th anniversary (and the original Crisis’ 25th), so goodness knows what’s planned for that….
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