In Depth Final Crisis
I said a little bit about Final Crisis #7, but I wanted to go a little more in depth on my thoughts about the series as a whole. There were some questions about my declaration that I "liked" issue number seven. Well I did like issue seven. But I also didn't like it.
The final issue had a lot to like. It had President Superman, Wacky Japanese Guy, Aquaman, the Zoo Crew, Flash Facts, and 50 Supermen. Those were the panels that made me smile. But those were just a few pieces of one part of the series. As a whole? Final Crisis was a bit of a mess.
It seemed to have a lot of those Grant Morrison "let's throw crazy shit in and see how people flip out" moments. But by and large, it didn't make a lot of sense. Or it makes sense, but only to the fevered brain of one deranged Scotsman. And that's okay. Those are the kind of stories he wants to write and there is a place for them.
But are those the sorts of stories we need in our big blockbuster crossovers? (if we need big blockbuster crossovers at all!) As much as I am loathe to compare my beloved DC to their competition I'm afraid must. Because sometimes you have to give some tough love.
Let's compare some of Marvel and DC's recent crossovers. Now we're not going to compare the minutiae because for these purposes those things aren't important. Civil War may have been a mess as well, but the point I want to make here is about ease of transmission. To the casual reader (if he or she exists), to the lapsed fan, and to the outside world. Consider these sentences:
Civil War tells the story of two factions who fight over the right of the government to regulate super-heroes.
Infinite Crisis tells the story of a number of refugees from a twenty year-old series, two of whom are alternate universe Supermen who along with an alternate universe Lex Luthor decide that our world's heroes are corrupt because they let magic get out of control, chaos erupt on a distant planet, villains unite, and Batman builds a crazy satellite.
You see how complicated that is? I haven't even scratched the surface of Infinite Crisis there. You cannot describe it in one sentence. The title doesn't really mean anything. Civil War -- much to my chagrin -- does a better job of telling you exactly what it is in once sentence. And in a single two word title.
Secret Invasion tells the story of a secret invasion of Earth by shapeshifting aliens.
Final Crisis tells the story of a war among the gods which leads to the universe falling apart and... I got nothing. I can't do it. Maybe if I threw in the word "metatextual" it would make sense...
This is the problem with what DC has been doing with its crossovers. They are far to insular. They cannot be understood without being steeped in years of DC history. I won't pretend that I don't like that stuff sometimes. I'm one of a select number (probably including all you reading this) who do know that DC history. But a casual reader couldn't pick up Final Crisis and keep his head on straight. He or she could pick up Secret Invasion and know what it's about simply by reading the cover.
Now, this whole thing has very little bearing on the actual quality of the stories. Final Crisis wasn't my cup of tea, but I thought Infinite Crisis was a rollicking good yarn. And I understand that Civil War was as much of a mess in the eyes of some as Final Crisis turned out to be. But again, you can pick it up and know what it's about by reading the cover.
If DC wants to recover some of that market share that Marvel dominates they need to reevaluate the way they do big crossovers. Maybe Blackest Night is a step in the right direction. After all, "Blackest Night tells the story of dead super-heroes rising from their graves to take revenge upon the living" is both concise and kickass.