Friday, January 30, 2009

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.

Next up:

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.

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At 9:08 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

Really, they almost seem to need to borrow a little bit from each other in order to make a more perfect cross-over. DC seems to be more about intellect and reason, whereas Marvel is all emotion and angst.

If DC would make things a little simpler and more emotional, it would improve, and similarly, Marvel could actually add a little bit of logic to all the emotional flailing.

End result, happy readers!

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Heartiac. said...

I really didn't get it.

I read it. I read Superman Beyond and Rogue's Revenge.

And even after having done that the story reads like Morrison is on cocaine.

Vampiric Monitors? Ultraman staked by the GLC?

This thing was confusing. I think I'll skip 2010/2011's crossover.

I will say this, at least this story ended and didn't just spin into DC's next event. (Like Secret Invasion...)

At 7:38 PM, Blogger The Pretentious Fool said...

I think you have a point here. I have only really been reading comics since 2001 or so. Read a small number of Marvel stuff in the 90's (the 2099 series were my first comics). Most of my knowledge of comic continuity is based on television. The DC Animated Universe is what I know better than the DC Comic Universe. Wikipedia helps clear up the rest.

I only knew anything about Infinite Crisis because I read the trade of Crisis on Infinite Earths years ago on a suggestions from a friend. DC has more continuity than I can handle at times.

This is why, much as I love DC comics, I stick with Marvel. At least there I don't need to know what all happened before as much.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Diamondrock said...

I certainly understand that viewpoint, TPF. I think DC does lend itself to people who like to learn and study the histories of fictional worlds.

That would be me, of course. I mean, I majored in history in college. It was Japanese history, but I would've done DCU history if I could've...

At 2:09 PM, Blogger SallyP said...

Ha! I was a History major too, although it was medieval and English history. I never thought about it, but your theory does make sense. I simply love continuity.

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you're right that Final Crisis doesn't make sense to anyone who isn't steeped in years of DCU history. But I don't think it makes much sense to anyone who is, either.

What it gives the "devoted fan" is nostagic or resonant images - the Zoo Crew, the 50 Supermen from different worlds, and so on. And those can be fun. But the story itself is a mash-up of contradictory elements, with little effort to distill any coherence out of them. That doesn't make for much of a story.

My reading experience (especially in Science Fiction/Fantasy, in novel-length or serial forms) is greatly enhanced by verisimilitude, coehrence, and continuity, as a way of making it easier for my suspension of disbelief to meet the author(s) half-way, and to create a welcoming "sub-created world" (to use Tolien's phrase) that I can enjoy entering into and visiting.

FC was basically the antithesis of this. Which is fine, I suppose, for an isolated story or miniseries meant to be surreal. But as the big-hype major DCU crossover miniseries that's supposed to set the tone for the DCU for years or decades to come, it does not bode well. And, even on its own terms, I didn't find the surreality all that compelling. I felt like I was being lectured: "This is the way you're supposed to look at comics to enjoy them!"

At 10:29 AM, Blogger The Blot said...

Sorry I'm just chiming in now, but I just got a chance to finally read Final Crisis #7 last night.

As a life long DC fan I 100% agree with you. I pretty much hated everything about Final Crisis #7 as I was reading it, minus a few key panels. I think the highlight of the issue was the return of Captain Carrot!

I don't know if any of you have read the exit interviews Newsarama did with Grant Morrison but they are def worth a read. The second one, which focused primarily on issue 7, helped subside my anger towards Final Crisis' conclusion. Morrsion explained his rationale and reasoning for how #7 was written and it cleared up a lot of problems I had with the story. With that being said, even though I'm still a huge Morrison fan I think DC did him, its fans and its characters a huge disservice by choosing him to write this year's company crossover. Especially one which was supposed to have such a big impact on the company for years to come. A writer should never have to explain his story after the fact to its audience so they can make heads or tails of what happened in it.

Sadly, I see this as just another example of DC management making horrible decisions on how to run their universe of characters.


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