Thursday, January 15, 2009

Comics Out January 14, 2008 (Final Crisis 6)

Final Crisis 6. I felt an overwhelming urge to write about this, so I am going to push the next Claremont piece to tomorrow so I can have my say fast. Final Crisis, along with Batman, has reached New X-Men status -- brilliant and audacious in fits and starts and drawn horribly. I am just going to REACT to this thing page by page.

The cover: wasn't the title disintegrating? I feel like it is more legible now, if only because someone worried that it would be harder to sell if they took the disintegrating title thing seriously.

Pages 1-3: classic Morrison JLA stuff; I guess we are going to have to wait till next issue to really get anything out of this seemingly randomly introduced super machine. It looks like Superman Beyond 2 was supposed to come out by now, but it also does not look that important that it didn't, which is lame. This seemed a really strangely powerful element to introduce in the penultimate issue. I thought the design pretty well failed. The art is bad throughout and this is one of the key failures. Still -- it will be interesting to see what this machine does next issue.

4-5. Boring. This stuff with Ray has me lost. Could have come from any comic.

6-9. Less than inspiring punch-em-up, with lame dialogue, and lame art. Could have been from any comic book. Unremarkable.

10-14. The Mary Marvel fight was the second key art failure. I do not follow the DCU very well but I am pretty sure Mary Marvel's loss of innocence has been a big deal for a while -- I remember people talking about her having a big role in Countdown or something at the New York City Comic Con last year. So this moment where she is transformed back is big, and it feels like it should be big even without the knowledge that this plot goes back a ways. But the art is just not there for it, in part because so much is jammed in, but also because it is just not that well dramatized -- the eye is not drawn to it among the chaos, and even looking closely there is not a lot to see. His plan to say Shazam and the word Shazam are jammed into the same panel, we see the lightning in the distance, and then on the next page it is over. Also, and I do not want to go on a whole thing here, but it needs to be said -- weak female character: psycho-bitch-whore or scared little girl. Sad. Supergirl in the miniskirt is not exactly helping the image.

I have mixed feeling about the Kalibak/Tawny fight. On the one hand, there is something weirdly exhilarating about an odd character from a corner of the DCU that I do not really know -- very much a Seven Soldier type -- taking down a major New God and then adjusting a tie. On the other hand, this is the kind of thing people have be complaining about for YEARS now right? The Geoff Johns style nostalgia-ultraviolence combo. It did not feel right that Tawny, a cute quirky comic book creation, just fuckin disembowels Kalibak, and then is fine about it. The juxtaposition was almost Robot Chicken. Also BIG ART FAILURE 3: Darkseid's tiger henchmen are just cuddly-wuddly looking. Generally I have felt that the redesigns of the New Gods has been a big step down from their old incarnations, but never moreso than in these panels, where the artist is making it even worse than it would have to be. I would also like to take this opportunity to bitch about the lettering, which has deeply lame images for emphasis. It seems childish.

15-17. The art in 15 is particularly bad here; not quite Korday on New X-Men bad, but only the next level up. Mr Miracle looks terrible. The tiny comic strip on the bottom of 16-17 about the Japanese characters was not good, and not helped by the better drawn poster someone hung above it. And was anyone else surprised by the 3 billion free humans thing? I was thinking Darkseid's invasion was way worse than that, like THE STAND proportions or something. I would have guessed 100,000 or something. 10,000 even. Are these just people in places where there is no email to get the evil broadcast?

18-19. Again, the art here is just bad. I might need to get the New X-Men issues out here but I think this is getting Kordey bad.

20-21. These two pages are supposed to be captured by Montoya's "Enough with the sensory fuckin overload" but the art does not give the sense of the overload, especially as the panel where she makes the comment looks generally clean and spacious. I did like the "Wait a minute. Say that whole bit again."

22-23. Ugly. Is Luthor's head coming out of a pillow in the armor? If that was the last we see of Libra in this book then Libra royally sucked. Also when someone says "They'll hear your voice as the voice of Darkseid if you speak into this" the art should show a "this." That is pretty basic. Like if someone says to me "where is the bar?" I do not reply "over there" while standing stock still unless I am trying to be a jackass. Also, how dumb is it to have these anti-life helmets be so easy to take out -- a watch, or some paint, seems to be all anyone needs to FREE HUMAN SOULS.

The more I write about this the more I realize how much I HATED most of it.

24-25. These two pages basically say "Hey lookalike Flash guys, lets run really fast." Right? To get to Darkseid? But Batman can just walk up to Darkseid? Because he is already in that realm? Or because that is not really Darkseid but only the incarnation of Darkseid? What? Ugly art make Geoff angry.

26-29. THIS I quite liked. The psychedelic art is the "real" Darkseid not to be confused with the shell right? Morrison and dodgy art. Anyway, Batman drawing down on Darkseid with a New God Bullet is pretty bad-ass -- Morrison really understands, and USES, the power of the image of Batman with a gun. I do not know what is going on with the Flash in these pages, [It is not the Flash -- it is a red tinged Batman. Fuckin art] but overall a Darkseid Batman confrontation was a pretty good idea, surprising and inevitable and pretty well awesome.

30-31. This seems like a dumping ground for a lot of weak plot points that we did not have room for: Hawkman and Hawkgirl? Olson and Kat? I missed why I should care. Also, superheroes are now sick apparently by Wonder Woman somehow, just one more thing jammed into a jammed page -- along with a new problem with humanity's escape plan from Metron. And Nix Uotan I guess we did not have time for after such an auspicious debut last time. Just on hard to see small panel. Oh well. Next time.

32-33. This Superman rampage is kind of underwhelming, as I am not really sure where he is coming from or where he is going and the eye is just not drawn to anything in particular-- also the background to page 33 panel 1 lost me, as did the sphere -- or cloud? -- in 33 panel 2.

34. This actually shocked me. I guess I should have seen this coming. Morrison gets Batman for a while, in a run that sort of concludes with Batman RIP. I thought the RIP was foolishly metaphorical there but I guess it is a kind of farewell to the character, as muddy and frustrating as that story was. Then we get ANOTHER tribute in The Butler Did It, but it feels pretty necessary now that I see where this was all going. Messy, but at least I have a better idea of what they were going for here, and I liked that Morrison got his two projects to converge in this almost satisfying way. Battle for the Cowl seems just like Death of Superman again, but I was still kind of taken aback here. An interesting revision of the Supergirl death as well, it feminizes Batman maybe? I do not know. I am still thinking about it. But it is sticking with me. Is there something to noticing that at the beginning of Final Crisis there was this whole debate about how Orion died twice in two books in two different ways -- and then Batman "dies" twice in two books in two different ways. Something about this is resonating with me. This double death thing. And in both RIP and Final Crisis Batman faces the "source" of Evil -- is this what Hurt was all about -- was he an incarnation of Darkseid somehow?

All in all I WISH J.G. Jones could have done this whole book. I do not know what to do with Morrison on Batman and Final Crisis. Messy but good enough that you can't quite dismiss it -- you just wish you could isolate and focus the good stuff somehow. Quitely seems to be the only one who can do that.


Stefan Delatovic said...

I loved the Batman stuff, but as I'm unfamiliar with DC characters below the A-List and am unable to interpret a lot of the artwork, I found much of the rest to be incomprehensible.

I found myself enjoying all the bits I could intepret through words alone, but I had no idea why there was a tigger fight midway through.

So, uh, will Lois die now?

This does make me like RIP more, but my main irritation with that was all the media crap outside of the story promising a massive explosion of status quo destruction.

Christian said...

Please tell me the illegible art isn't Carlos Pachecho's. I love his Arrowsmith.

James said...

I've been kind of obsessed with this since Geoff brought up the idea - no one else seems to care, but hey - more cover versions of comics (covers).

(See also: Matt Fraction's God-Size Thor special, uhhh, something else I forget.)

James said...

Oh, and Final Crisis #6 is in my bag, unread. It's calling to me like the One Ring.

Simon Mac Donald said...

I'll have to agree that the art was a mess in this book.

The Kalibak/Tawny fight was my favourite part of the issue. We are supposed to believe that this is the end of the world. In a situation like this I can see the usual mild mannered Tawny taking extreme actions and be willing to kill in order to so his part to save the world.

The way that I read the his "adjusting the tie" was that he was preparing to die. He did his bit by taking out Kalibak and he wanted to go out a proper gentleman. He was more surprised than anyone when he wasn't attacked by Kalibak's henchmen.

Pages 26-29 were very strong. Batman using a gun to kill Darkseid, or at least his physical form, breaks the two major Batman tenets. No guns and no killing. It's only logical that Batman would die after breaking his own rules. Of course this is putting aside the earlier Batman who used guns and killed with impunity.

Mind you I too was confused and had to re-read the pages a few times as I thought one of the flashes ran in and grabbed Batman before the Omega beam hit. That's how bad the art was on that panel.

Mikey said...

Geoff - "An interesting revision of the Supergirl death" - nice catch! (How did that pass me by? I am dumb.) Likewise the double death thing - more of the "apocryphal continuity" Morrison invented to explain the indignities and hassles of having to conform to editorial mandate. Although I don't think Hurt needs to be an incarnation of Darkseid, but rather, they're both the same couple of c*nts who're always trying it on, but this time, it's the structure of the event comic Final Crisis itself that's destabilised by their presence (the pacing of the series is completely skewed - a comparison to the predecessors in the trilogy Infinite Earths/Crisis would be interesting but I am not the man for the job). In the last issue, surely, everything's going to unfold and open out and people can breathe again.

And then, Morrison will be gone, at least for a while, reincarnating as the writer of Vertigo books like Seaguy 2, superhero-free before taking up Batman again next summer. I think he needs the break, personally.

Simon - Morrison's on record somewhere (Publishers Weekly interview this week I think) as saying that Batman's story comes full circle: The gun makes him begin his quest to battle evil and he ends up using the gun to eradiacte Evil Itself and complete his mission/life ("gotcha").

I haven't read this issue yet, but Final Crisis has been very strong so far for me. The different tones it's sustained and the pitches it hits have affected me more like music than anything else: the saturated, shriek-in-the-woods horror-ambience of Nadja and Burzum, the camp militaristic histrionics of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein and Laibach ("I. Am. The. New God." Bitch, please.) A touch of Zeppelin and even notes of Queen, all with Four Tet lapping round the edges. But I think I'm ready for the gallop home now.

I cannot wait to read this.

Ultimate Matt said...

I didn't hate the art like you did, but I agree that Superman's rampage at the end seemed oddly unfocused - surprising, since Mahnke is usuall such a reliable artist.

Actually, speaking of Mahnke, the only really big, horrible art failure for me in this issue was Superman's face on that final page. He needs to look more enraged, or saddened, or something. His face and posture needed to evoke his feelings right there and he just looks like a statue. Maybe I'm the only one, but that really bothered me and undermined the whole moment.

Did anyone else think it was funny that right after that page was a two page spread for Battle for the Cowl, featuring, apparently Bruce Wayne totally alive and fine off to the side? Talk about undermining the moment.

Gary said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who slowed down at 3 billion free people being left. That seemed way high for the ideas I had in the earlier issues.

This whole series for me just seems to scream out that I should care, but doesn't back it up with any reasons to care.

Lou O' Bedlam said...

This issue did nothing for me. Wait, no, that's wrong. It made me mad.

For every golden "Morrison" moment, there were three that utterly failed.

There's so much going on in this book, no one story really gets the attention it deserves. There's enough in here for several really good books, but whereas Morrison is usually able to balance Big Ideas with emotional resonance, here's it all ideas with no one to care about.

I understand the Black Canary/Green Arrow thread, but I don't care.

Same w/the Tattooed Man.

And the Flashes.

Not to mention the various errors throughout the story.

If the earth is on Green Lantern lock down, how do the ships make it to the JL satellite?

Why is Mister Miracle white all of the sudden?

Why is Mr. Terrific's big plan to run away?

Why is the big battle in Bludhaven, and only involves three or four superheroes?

Why am I supposed to care about Talking Tawny, and why does he get more screen time than anyone else?

How did Wonder Woman make people sick?

What did Sivana mean by "and that's a classic 'we haven't heard the last of him'..." is Libra supposed to look like he disappeared, as opposed to it looking like he was actually killed?

Why does Batman vs. Darkseid only make me realize that I saw this already? Ah, I've got the answer to that one. JLA: Rock of Ages.

Sorry, this got really long. Whole thing just chaps my hide.

Ultimate Matt said...

Yeah, I noticed the Batman/Darkseid thing as well: he's continuing to cut/edit/paste moments from Rock of Ages. I can't decide if there is some analysis to be done with that, or what.

I want to say that the Ray's prominence in this series is some kind of parallel to the New God lightray, the same way Orion & Martian Manhunter paralleled one another in the first issue, but Lightray hasn't been in this series yet.

I did actually like this issue (and there's a really neat storytelling trick in the middle of pages 2-3, where the scene "skips" like a scratched record), but yes, there are definetly some problems with the story still. I'm actually still totally unclear as to why there are multiple Earths floating around, and that seems like it should be a central part of the story by now.

Mikey said...

Yeah - so I read it.

I'd agree on some of the points made about the art, including that final page. Who IS Superman looking at there anyway? The colouring was particularly weak in this one. There are a few times he's synched up nicely on the right project, but people are forced to keep asking: Why does Morrison only get the artist he needs once every few goes round?

This is the first issue that's not blown me away, but I'm willing to hold off as the penultimate issue is often slightly weak sauce as it tries to set up for the pay off (although not usually with Morrison). Hopefully Billy Batson will get his moment in Superman Beyond!, as the the return of the purest and most innocent superhero to sort everything out just belongs in this melee (hell, even Waid and Alex Ross figured that out).

One thing I don't get: people need to go back and re-read Rock of Ages because I think just citing one as a rewrite (remix?) of the other is missing the point. At least, using it as a criticism is missing the point.

Just because they both feature "Batman vs Darkseid written by Grant Morrison" does not make them the same story (and neither does "oh yeah! And Darkseid's trying to destory the universe AGAIN!" Well shit, what the hell else is Darkseid meant to be doing in any story?). Anyway, in the JLA story it's Green Arrow and the Atom who have the "gotcha" moment and it's a joy. (For my money, Morrison DID write the Black Racer better in Rock of Ages, but different times call for different instances of everyone's favourite skiing avatar of death).

Anonymous said...

The "Bruce Wayne" in the BATTLE FOR THE COWL as is Hush from the "Heart of Hush" story running in Detective Comics. The bandages around the leg are the clue.

Verdancy said...

Superman's look in the final scene worked rather well for me actually, the contrast with his rage in the previous panels made him seem to be holding in his emotions, which emphasised that he's got more to do. And I loved the shot of him slowing down to punch in the bunker door, great sense of momentum there.

sexy said...
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