Friday, January 30, 2009

Why 'Final Crisis' is both a success and a monumental failure

I'm going to say something right now that will sound like it goes against all of my previous opinions on the subject, but just hear me out.

"Final Crisis" was undeniably successful in doing what it set out to do.

Oh, and it was also one of the worst series DC has put out, ever.

As I said, hear me out. Grant Morrison had a story he wanted to tell. He wanted to involve the New Gods and bring a conclusion to Jack Kirby's dreams. He wanted to explain his love for the DC Universe by telling a quick-hitting, wide-spanning tale which truly ignores all the details in order to show the DCU at its core. And, after learning this story would be a "Crisis," Morrison wanted to incorporate his ideas on the Monitors' mythos and bring a conclusion to their tale. Oh, and it had to fit into seven issues.

Yeah, readers were given absolutely nothing but bare-bones events happening one after the other after the other, but that's exactly what Morrison wanted in order to strip each character down to his or her essence.

Whether you were able to follow Morrison's oddball concepts along the way, is one thing, but by the end of the story (if you bought a couple of tie-ins as well) it was even impossible to say the story as a whole was confusing, because it was all out there on the table. It may not have made sense, but it wasn't confusing.

In all this, his tale was a success, with flying colors.

The problem is, Morrison's goals were in direct conflict with what DC was trying to sell fans.

The idea of a DCU "Crisis" implies certain truths that fans have come to expect:
1) "Crisises," especially those involving the Monitors like "Final Crisis," have ALWAYS been in direct continuity with the rest of the DC events leading into the story.
2) Because of that continuity, the series has its impact felt in the rest of the universe, creating cogent tie-ins and a lasting aftermath that must be dealt with.
3) The storyline itself is told in a much more conventional manner, in which one issue leads directly into the next and the antagonist actually makes appearances before the final issue.
4) That antagonist, as well as other story points, like "Lord Eye" and the "Miracle Machine" also come from a logical place, not from the depths of one writer's imagination at the last minute in a feeble attempt for drama.

"Final Crisis" should NEVER have been a "Crisis" at all. If this story was released as a side mini-series, possibly even out of continuity, with no need for all the fanfare, then "Final Crisis" would not have needed the Monitors involved and it would have likely gone down in DC history as the greatest Darkseid story ever told. We wouldn't have expected it to adhere to continuity, the "channel zapping" story telling style would have been praised from the mountaintops, and the HORRIBLY GLARING lack of an aftermath would not be a major issue.

DC's first mistake, was making Morrison's story become a "Crisis."

DC's second mistake was letting Morrison, a man known for his wacky concepts and higher-than-though attitude when it comes to continuity, do whatever the heck he wanted to with this story, regardless of what else was going on in the DC world. The other side of this same problem is, DC editorial failed to accurately get Morrison disclose all of "Final Crisis" in advance, which would have allowed for proper lead-ins.

What resulted was "Final Crisis," "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods" crashing together in one massive trainwreck of continuity before the event even began. Once the event began, DC also had the problem of characters acting differently in tie-ins and the "Final Crisis" mothership. In "Rogues' Revenge," the Rogues are looking to get out of the evil business, in "Final Crisis" they're in the thick of Libra's meetings. In "Revelations," Catwoman and Batwoman are attacking a church and The Question is helping the Spectre, in "Final Crisis" they are thralls with The Question sailing around the Multiverse. In "Submit," Mr. Terrific is busting out of his fortress with the power of the OMACs fighting the Anti-Life equation, and in "Final Crisis" Mr. Terrific is running away to a different universe and the OMACs are barely seen. Heck, Morrison could not even let his buddy Geoff Johns know how to introduce Superman to "Legion of Three Worlds."

NONE of that could be communicated to anyone else? Really? None of it?

It all comes down to DC editorial needing to do a better job of keeping its talent in check. I don't care how much reverence for Grant Morrison there is out there, if he's writing a company's flagship event, he has to be able to be a team player. I don't know how hard series editior Eddie Berganza worked at keeping Morrison within the parameters of the DC Universe, but it wasn't good enough.

Because I wasn't looking to buy a "Look at how funky Grant's mind is" story. In fact, I tend to avoid Morrison's work because I know I don't like how he thinks his wonky ideas should be viewed as intelligent and coherent. I wanted to buy a "Crisis" book and a DC Event book.

But none of it fit together as anything more than a thesis by Grant Morrison on "This is why Superheroes are cool." Which would have made for a monumental mini-series.

Unfortunately, DC took a great story and tried to make is 10-times bigger and more inclusive than it was.

Want the proof of this? Even DC isn't trying to use any of the story points from "Final Crisis" in the coming months or spin-off any mini-series.

When have you ever heard of that? Every single DC book next month should deal with the fallout from Darkseid's onslaught. Mini-series should be popping up on the New New Gods on Earth 51, or on Nix Uotan.

But no. The only series springing from "Final Crisis" are the ones created by DC mandates. DC wanted Flash back, so "Flash: Rebirth" is on the way. DC wanted Bruce Wayne dead, so "Battle for the Cowl" is on the way. Heck, DC wanted Arthur back as Aquaman so a tiny little throwaway panel with Arthur was in "Final Crisis #7" for no good reason.

DC is not carrying on any of Morrison's ideas or plot threads, because even DC knows it made a mistake by giving Morrison the creative keys to the castle.

And so, I've come to my conclusion. "Final Crisis" was a peerless success in achieving what it set out to do. But it failed miserably in giving most of us what we were sold, and because of that, "Final Crisis" will be a blackeye for DC for years to come.

Bring on "Blackest Night."

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