Friday, October 24, 2008

Comics Out October 22, 2008 (Final Crisis 4)

Final Crisis Submit. This bored me to no end. There were some New X-Men stories that struck me as shockingly bog-standard superhero fare, and this is going to join that group. It is what Victorian art critic John Ruskin would call "furniture pictures" -- not good enough to deserve praise, but not bad enough to deserve complaint. This criminal guy doesn't like superheroes, which you can tell because he says it over and over. He meets Black Lightning and he and his family bicker. Then the drive a bus away from monsters. The criminal guy -- he has the same powers as the bad guy from the Elektra movie. Then, ironically, he gets a superhero's powers and responsibility. The last page makes it clear that we are supposed to be devastated by the fact that the hero has become one of the bad guys, but I did not know this guy before, and was not in the course of this issue made to care about him. The whole cast of this issue is black -- is that significant in some way? This cannot be the first all-black superhero comic book (Milestone comics was a whole line like this), but I got the feeling that it was important for some reason. It seemed notable, but did not really add anything significant to the comic as far as I could see.

Final Crisis 4. As you all know, nothing bothers me more than fill in artists. I have no patience for them, unless they are isolated, as in Fraction's Iron Fist, to some kind of flash-back or something. I meet a lot of people who just do not care about things like aesthetic unity, or enjoy the artistic chaos -- a mode Morrison played with in the second to last issue of the Invisibles, and which I thought was a total storytelling failure, especially compared to the picture perfect Quitely Invisibles finale. Final Crisis 4 brings in a fill in artist and worse -- the final issue will be drawn entirely by a fill in for the fill in. While I will see this through to the end, it now has no hope for me of cracking into the top tier of Morrison stuff (We3, All Star Superman, etc.). At this point it seems like a throwaway idea for an issue of his 1996 JLA run. At the end of issue 3, it seemed like the whole world was taken over by the anti-life equation, but here it turns out there are a surprising number of survivors -- I guess since they all have stuff to do in their own books and the Final Crisis spin offs you can hardly make them all into evil Justifiers, though that would at least have had the virtue of thinking the thought all the way out to the end. The Ray is delivering underground Daily Planet papers like Black Lightning was, and this is boring -- I think maybe Morrison likes the bit of Americana here, but it is not working for me. The Dark Gods as animal hybrids is also just not as visually interesting as the Kirby Cosmic Insanity, although they do have there really creepy moments -- the final page is a thing of beauty, especially that weird mise-en-scene. Barbara says "They've wounded our people, our minds, or planet in ways we can barely imagine" and in ways I think Morrison and his guys are incapable of showing, because I have not seen enough to believe her. I will also say that I hate the anti-life equation thing: it seems like looking for a moment will turn you into a zombie, but then Barbara saw it "for a moment" and was able to shake it off -- why everyone can't do this I do not know, and I really do not see how all these Superheroes are fine -- did they just never check their email? And the language if it is boring: Work; Consume; Die; Judge Others; Condemn the Different; Exploit the Weak; Anti-Life Makes it One; All is One; Darkseid = Self; Justifiers. BORING: I get it, they are like mean people we all know. I know the spread of superhero faces is supposed be grim, but a lot of them seem to be fine, according to the screen, a fact confirmed by the pages that follow. The Black Canary Green Arrow scene was boring, but I Oliver vs the Justifiers was fun, because of how much the typify everything he hates. What was going on with Mr. Miracle I do not know. This is the first time I have seen him since he died pretty much the exact same way at the hand of the exact same guy at end of Seven Soldiers -- is this some kind of weird commentary on the double contradictory deaths of Orion in Final Crisis 1 and Death of the New Gods? I do not know. But the final page was great. I wish the whole issue was a great as that final page.

If the world was just, Morrison would make tons of money off of prestige products like All Star Superman and would not have to spread himself thing on a host of weaker books like Final Crisis Submit, and Superman Beyond 3D.


Ultimate Matt said...

I think the reason for the all-black cast in Submit was to make some sort of connections to downtrodden minorities, the underground railroad, etc. A bit heavy handed but I'm pretty sure that was the intent.

Submit did feel pretty unnecessary, though I enjoyed Superman: Beyond a lot. That one, to me, felt at least like Morrison had a fun story he wanted to tell, and used Final Crisis as an excuse for it. It wasn't wholly necessary either, but it at least had enough fun energy to carry it, for me. Submit felt more like a chore.

Mikey said...

I'll have more coherent things to say on this in a bit, but:

Submit was awful. Even if it was just bland, it would still be awful because this is Morrison and every time he does bland I feel a little bit less hero worship than I did before and a part of me dies. Hmm, that is actually entirely in keeping with the mood/plot of Final Crisis and the Anti-Life Equation (so maybe deliberate on Morrison's part? Must think on more.)

For all everyone going on about how hard this is to follow, FC is still more mood than plot at this moment and that's why I'm enjoying it.

The Anti-Life Equation IS boring. That is because (and why) it is the Anti-Life Equation. Evil can be both mundane and fucking terrifying and that is why the last page is great. But I agree, I'd hoped that this would be the point where we stop wallowing and get on with the action, the resurgence of good etc. Instead Morrison does all these weird little things that undercut what went on in the issue before.

Half-formed thought: Tattoo guy calls Green Arrow (famously the most liberal, anti-authoritarian superhero) a 'cop', which must rile him no end but which I liked. Tattoo guy is black, while Green Arrow is a white liberal who does not know what to make of Tattoo guy and is quite prickly and condescending toward him, despite his liberal nature. He may be a liberal superhero, but he is still a superhero who hangs out in something pompous called "The Hall of Justice" and therefore still a 'cop.' There is something there, but I don't know what it is.

Re - the entire cast of Submit being black. This struck me as well. I'm taking it as an extension of 7 Soldiers, although the 'why' escapes me. Morrison has said that in the original 7 Soldiers: Mr Miracle series the entire cast was meant to be black, with the entire New Gods cosmology reworking itself through the lens of afro-futurism and Sun Ra (I think this could've been a great idea - imagine a Metron in Sun Ra gear atop his throne). But ultimately, as usual with Morrison, either the artist or colourist didn't understand his script, or chose to ignore it, which meant that it turned out that only the evil gods were coloured black, which rightly raised some uncomfortable questions for some people.

(Actually, when Shilo arrives at the end of FC#4, because of the colouring he looks white. Jesus, you'd think they'd have sorted this out by now).

louobedlam said...

As a long time fan of Morrison, I'm well used to some of his work being better than others.

But even given that, both of these books were incredible letdowns.

FC: Submit barely felt like a Morrison book at all, the quality was so low. The art was shody, the storytelling thin and repetitive. And while not downright offensive in its depiction of black folk, it did ring a tad stereotypical. There is a surprising lack of diversity among Morrison's black characters, I've found. Most, if not all of them, are of the same basic background, with the only variety being in how noble they are. Boy, Mr. Miracle, Guardian, Black Lightning, Tattooed Man, Josh Clay, all feel cut from the same cloth, the generic "proud Black person from the streets but not Of the streets."

And FC itself was an enormous failure. I've given it a lot of leeway, as I remember both Morrison and JG Jones saying that the story was a slow build, but that by #4 things would really start moving.

Instead I feel a definite lack of any weight, I have no particular emotional attachments to any of the characters, the entire story is too patchwork to ever hit any strong emotional notes. It feels as though we're meant to care about these characters even though we haven't, within the story itself, been given a reason to. After the end of #3, it feels like a trick to have there be so many folks unaffected by the Anti-Life equation, enough that the unaffected have their own newspaper?

I'll read anything the man writes, but both these books are going right into the recycler.

Triumph of the Underdog said...

Hey Geoff-- I asked you last week but the Comics out post was already buried, so I'll ask again -- are you reading the Matt Fraction Uncanny X-Mens stuff?

Geoff Klock said...

Mitch -- I totally switched to trades on some titles, picking up only prestige stuff like Final Crisis, All Star Batman, and Casanova and stuff like that.

Streebo said...

Since the Comics Out post always serves as a second free form comments, I thought I would mention that my zombie film made it to the top five of the American Zombie Film Contest and will be judged by George A. Romero in February.

For this I say "squee."

Geoff Klock said...

Thats great news Streebo. You deserve it!

Marc Caputo said...

I love the phrase "bog-standard".

'Pushing Daisies' has been top-drawer this season. What an amazing show.

I can't believe it hasn't been cancelled.