Review: Final Crisis #7

Final Crisis #7

This is it. The conclusion to Grant Morrison’s tour-de-force exploration — and dismantling — of the DC Universe. Plagued by delays, DC finally brought in a committee of artists to finish the whole thing just one month after it was originally intended to wrap up.

So how was it?

The word I’d actually go for is bittersweet.

Final Crisis is more ambitious and, in a way, more epic than Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, or Infinite Crisis. They destroyed alternate universes, revised the current universe, or went back in time to adjust the beginning of the universe, but despite the fade-out pages in the middle of Zero Hour, none of those ever gave the impression that it was all over for the good guys, and they were left picking up the pieces.

In this issue we learn just how hard it is to kill a god. We learn what super-heroes do when they can’t save the world by fighting. Multiple plots by multiple characters come together, and we learn just why some characters are in the book in the first place.

The narrative structure has fragmented even further, with some events only getting a panel or two and maybe a caption, much of it told in flashback from the end of all things. I’ve been saying for several months that it’s a 12-issue story chopped down to 7 books, but now I’m beginning to think to really do justice to all the ideas presented, and all the plot threads, you’d have to expand it to at least 24 issues, possibly more.

There’s also a heavy meta-textual emphasis on story, which I suppose I should have expected after reading Superman: Beyond. Thinking about it, this goes back at least as far as Morrison’s run on Animal Man, in which the title character learned that he literally was a comic book character, with writers artists and editors dictating his life. But it also made some parts of the issue feel like I was reading Sandman (more about that later).

It’s only in these last two issues that I really felt like pieces of the story from tie-ins were missing. I didn’t have a problem with the bits of Batman’s story that were told only in “Last Rites,” or the story with Black Lightning and the Tattooed Man from “Submit.” But then I didn’t read either of those, and just took things in stride. I did read “Superman: Beyond,” and while I felt that the yellow submarine and the multiversal Superman mission would have worked fine without that story, the introduction and nature of Mandrakk the Dark Monitor still felt out of place, even after having read the side story. (Interesting: I just realized I’ve actually provided supporting evidence for my Final Crisis Theory of Impenetrability.)

Anyway, at this point I don’t think I can say anymore without revealing too much, so spoilers after the cut.

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SPOILERS!

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Killing Darkseid is not easy. It took Batman with an unobtanium bullet just to give him a mortal wound, and two Flashes to bring Death to him…but it still took him long enough to die that he took the rest of the world — or possibly the universe — with him.

A significant chunk of the story takes place after the end of the world. That’s what I find so ambitious about this compared to the other Crises: We watch the world disappear until there’s nothing left but the Watchtower, then nothing left but a barren plain, Metron’s Chair, and Superman.

I’ve been trying to place what it reminds me of. It’s something like the scenes at the end of time in Neil Gaiman’s original Books of Magic miniseries, but it’s also like the destruction of the Dreaming in Sandman: The Kindly Ones, or the end of Elric’s world in Stormbringer. Or the final scene of End of Evangelion. There’s just this overwhelming sense that it’s all over, we’ve lost, the world is gone, and there’s nothing left but trying to salvage a few tattered survivors. Though I think the feel of it is more like the final sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey after Dave goes into the monolith.

That part works. The few surviving heroes on the Watchtower, trying to save Earth’s survivors. Superman alone in the void. The arrival of an army of Supermen from 50 universes, Green Lanterns from dozens of worlds, and other heroes gathered together by the rogue Monitor Nix Uotan.

The big villain, Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, being a cosmic vampire who literally sucked the life out of the universe?

Not so much.

I also found myself unclear on whether it was only Earth and surrounding space that had been destroyed, sucked into the singularity and transformed into Darkseid, or whether it was supposed to be the entire universe. I initially got the impression that it was the whole universe, but on second read, the Green Lanterns still seemed to be outside looking in (and still seeing an after-image of Earth) while everything inside was emptiness. It certainly makes more sense that way, because there’s no indication that they put the rest of the universe’s population in shrunken cold storage to keep them alive through the event. And what about animals? This concept falls apart pretty quickly once you start thinking about it.

I liked some of the nods to past stories, like seeing the Zoo Crew returned to their original state after the awful please-tell-me-this-is-setup-for-some-payoff ending of Captain Carrot and the Final Ark, or the Sunshine Superman from Morrison’s Animal Man run. (Now that I think of it, Final Ark actually fed into Final Crisis much more cleanly than Countdown or Death of the New Gods.)

I was also glad to see the Flash family reunion on-panel. I was beginning to worry that Iris and Jai wouldn’t make it out of this miniseries.

Also: it’s good that they didn’t hit the reset button such that the event never happened. I hope the next few months of stories show a world rebuilding, and deal with ramifications of ordinary people who did and did not fall victim to the Anti-Life Equation. It doesn’t have to be the focus of every story, just a background detail, like the way Keystone City is always repaving its streets.

As for wiping out the Monitors, I can see why Morrison wanted to end the story with them vanishing. But at the same time, I kind of hoped they’d stick around: they were far more interesting in a few pages of Final Crisis #1 than they were in 52 weeks of Countdown to Final Crisis, and it would have been nice to leave them available for other writers. (Though as has been pointed out with other characters, there’s really nothing stopping anyone from bringing them back anyway.)

Overall, I’d say that Final Crisis was similar to Seven Soldiers in that it was a bold narrative experiment that almost worked.

31 thoughts on “Review: Final Crisis #7

  1. Bill

    Excellent review, Kelson. I agree with pretty much all your assessments.

    There’s a lot of intriguing ideas in FINAL CRISIS. I liked the meta-text implications of the Monitors and the Bleed; And I liked the dire feeling of issue #5.

    Unfortunately, I think Morrison’s reach had exceeded his grasp. “Challenging Narrative” is one thing; I’ve enjoyed the challenging narratives presented by MOMENTO, BARTON FINK, THE PRISONER and DONNIE DAHRKO.

    But in FINAL CRISIS, it’s not challenging narrative, so much as a LACK of narrative. So, making me work to understand the full conceptual implications of the Orrery? Sure!

    Expecting me to have intiminate knowledge of all the New Gods and their current vessels, as well as a pretty deep understanding of the current multi-verse? And follow random channel-zapping scene changes with a cast that is not named or explained? Not so much.

    All in all, FINAL CRISIS can be labeled a noble failure.

    Reply
  2. Brandan

    Final Crisis was a success,imo. It told the story of how Evil won, it captured the essence of the New Gods and explained their roles. It almost brought on the 5th world. We saw the greatest hero in DCU in Batman versus the very definition of evil in Darkseid. I could go on, but it won’t change anyone’s opinion.

    Final Crisis 9.5/10

    Reply
  3. Fastback

    Final Ark was never supposed to end with Final Ark. There was another book slated to continue the story. Scott Shaw has said as much countless times.
    It was a cliffhanger.

    Still trying to figure out how Pig Iron got off Earth-C… since he wasn’t in the final scene of Final Ark…

    Reply
  4. Pingback: SmartRemarks » The final issue of Final Crisis, finally

  5. Ben

    Great review. Summed up my thoughts exaclty. Loved the flash moments, severly dissapointed by the GL moments.

    What really peeved me off was though, at one point we see Captain Cold and Mirror master with the anti-life equation helmets on. Do people at DC communicate with each other?

    Reply
  6. Kelson Post author

    What bothered me about the ending to Final Ark wasn’t that it was a cliffhanger, but that it was a cliffhanger put there for the express purpose of making people angry enough to demand another volume. In my case, that backfired, as I felt that I hadn’t gotten what I wanted from this volume, so why would I want more of that?

    I missed Cold and Mirror Master with the helmets, but then those helmets were used for people who refused to submit voluntarily, so it makes sense to some degree.

    On the other hand, no, judging on the whole Countdown/Death of the New Gods/etc. fiasco, I don’t think people at DC communicate with each other. Now that I think about it, the bit in this issue where Luthor and Sivana are complaining about only being able to see a tiny part of what they’re building may have been a comment on DC’s editorial process.

    Reply
  7. rob g

    This was the worst piece of garbage I have ever collected. The entire series was a complete failure. This could have been the most unbelievable showdown between darkseid and the heroes on a single earth! All other universes really did not need to be involved. Thanks DC! I will officially never buy another comic of yours again.

    Reply
  8. Jesse

    To some extent, I’m with Rob G here. This wasn’t the worst garbage I’ve ever collected – that was Countdown. I enjoyed some moments in FC, and I liked the art all the way through, but that’s not enough. It was a completely missed opportunity. I could go into a bunch of reasons why, but it’s making me too angry to type right now. DC in my opinion has been doing a pretty terrible job with just about everything since about when 52 ended.

    And why is Barry back? Why? How? Huh?

    Reply
  9. Julian Drew

    After 30 years of reading comic books, I have to say that Final Crisis was a major disappointment.

    Maybe I’m just not bright, but I really don’t feel that I have to WORK to enjoy what I’m reading.

    The epic nature of this story was lost on me when I had to re-read and re-read an issue … scratching my head wondering what I had missed … what had happened. I would end up Googling each issue just to make sure I did indeed get the gist of it.

    There were no recaps of any kind; nor were there any “see this issue before you read this!” warnings, and every issue I just felt lost.

    Final Crisis jumped from one thing to another, and in many cases did not explain what happened in between.

    Although I didn’t expect this series to compare to the original Crisis — it can’t because the first was epic for just being the first of its kind — still, I expect some level of enjoyment.

    I figured I finally had gotten it, and then the “Legion of Supermen” thing shows up … and then, what at first glance appears to be some lame vampire villains appears with Zombie Ultraman(?) … I gave up trying to care.

    Final Crisis was supposed to have been this MAJOR thing for DC, and yet it didn’t feel like it was played up at all. With Trinity and New Krypton, for example, I have no idea where this is supposed to fall into continuity. It doesn’t seem to have done anything but set up for the next “BIG” storyline featuring Batman.

    I liked some aspects of the series, such as the use of the Miracle Machine and Superman’s total recall; the idea that world was lost and a new one would have to be started … but in the end I just am left with, “that was lame.”

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  10. Peyz

    I think this was Morrison’s weakest work ( after his superman beyond ). There were just too many plot-holes in the narrative. I’m sure his general idea and direction for FC was great. But he should have left the more detailed writing like panels, dialogues, … to other writers like Johns who would not want to write a weird tale just for the sake of being weird !!!

    The deaths of two major league characters ( Batman & Darkseid ) in FC was mishandled quite badly. It would have been more grand and befitting the occasion if the two killed each other instantaneously … rather than having Darkseid go on talking, walking and jiving panel after panel, page after page , then fighting with supes and …… .
    It sort of made Batman’s death in Vain & insignificant!!! That’s no way to treat comic-dom’s most popular character’s supposed death.

    I feel totally let down by FC, which last year promised to be a magnificent event from the promos and predictions. It had so much potential … but in the end, was mishandled and ended up as just one of those events you just forget or deem unnecessary.

    No crisis ought to be deemed unnecessary. Afterall this is the same company that gave us the fantastic “Identity Crisis”. What happened to you all, Mr. Dido ?

    Reply
  11. Wally East

    I read Superman: Beyond 2, FC 6, and FC 7 last night. Maybe I need to go re-read the whole series but I still can’t say, “Well, X would’ve happened if it weren’t for the good guys.” Sure, Earth would’ve fallen to Darkseid, but was it his plan to have the planet/universe/multiverse disappear? How was Mandrakk involved with that? Would Darkseid and Mandrakk have fought?

    You want to leave me in the dark until the end and make it a big mystery? I’m down with that just fill me in at the end.

    President SuperObama was cool.

    If the Black Racer was chasing Barry until he caught him, why was Barry able to just stand about talking with Linda? Why would the Black Racer stop chasing him to do in Darkseid all of a sudden? I’ll some of the really good annotations that are out there when I get a chance but whatever.

    I wonder what the novelization of this will be like. It could be more confusing the James Joyce’s Ulysses.

    Reply
  12. Joe Thompson

    Ok
    I’m an old comic geek from the sixties, and for years I have thought I should give up the habit. Thanks to Final Crisis it won’t be very hard. I didn’t think there could be a worse ending to a story line than spiderman’s one last day, or the twin peaks finale – but I was wrong. after a very slow pace for too many issues, it seemed like they tried to stuff the real story into one issue. and it was too confusing and too hurried and many other things as well – the story could have been interesting – the last remnants of earth – I would have liked to have seen that developed over several issues. That would have been interesting and dramatic – but several pages?
    The threads from the other comics – specifically the Specter and the flash story lines were dealt with in a very throw away fashion or not at all.

    Reply
  13. Don Kapla

    Crisis on Infinite Earths was fantastic. Infinite Crisis was okay. Final Crisis was horrible. I’m gonna be 61 in spring, so you know I’ve been reading comics for a long, long time. Last week my 10 year old grand daughter asked me if I still read comics. I asked her if that bothered her. She said yes. After reading all 7 issues of Final Crisis I now feel it is time to say so long to comics. It’s been a great ride, but the direction DC is taking is way off course, so I’m hopping off. I’ll make my granddaughter happy and save a few bucks each month.

    Reply
  14. Kelson Post author

    Personally, I found Infinite Crisis to be a dull re-tread of the original. The first two issues showed potential, but ultimately it was the same old, same old, with a bonus of turning heroes into villains for no apparent reason. I’ve pulled out Crisis on Infinite Earths to re-read from time to time. Admittedly it’s only been a few years, but I’ve felt no desire to re-read Infinite Crisis beyond looking things up for research purposes.

    Final Crisis certainly has its flaws, but at least it was interesting.

    Reply
  15. Doris

    Here’s what it boiled down to: They killed Batman, and it was almost a ho-hum moment.

    When they killed Barry, it was the stuff of legend. The guy died saving the universe, and it was foreshadowed through the whole COIE series.

    Here, Batman’s death didn’t pack the emotional punch of Supergirl’s death in COIE. Think about that.

    Reply
  16. Jesse

    Doris – totally agree with you, but can even take it a step further. Not only was Batman’s death ho-hum, but it was incorrectly billed as not-ho-hum. In other words, they had a ton of issues about Batman R.I.P. only for that ENTIRE story to be a RED HERRING and not relate to Batman’s death at all. Then his death quietly happens in 4 pages of not-Batman’s-comic. So then what was the point of Batman R.I.P.? It’s getting lost in all the talk about Final Crisis, but remember R.I.P. was confusing and weird, too.

    I didn’t mention before, but the ending of FC really bugged me, too. There is no more cliche deux ex machina than “Wish it back to the way it was,” which is what Superman did. Well, I think.

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  17. Jason West

    am i the only one who enjoyed this thing from page one of FC#1 to the final page of FC#7?

    seriously, you can’t just say “that didn’t entertain me enough, so it was terrible” or “i didn’t understand half of it, so Grant Morrison’s a terrible writer”.

    c’mon, guys (and girls…), you half to see the big picture from beginning to end. that’s the only way to truly enjoy this epic. AND STOP TRYING TO COMPARE IT TO THE OTHER CRISES!!!!!!!! yes, we all know it’s not Crisis on Infinite Earths or Identity Crisis!!! we get it!!! you don’t just say “i don’t like suchandsuch hero because he’s not Batman or The Flash” do you?

    what was this story?

    it was Orion and Martian Manhunter dying.

    it was Barry Allen returning from the dead.

    it was Bruce Wayne thrown into Prehistory where he won’t be found until at least next year. (final page, people!)

    it was the Hawkpeople dying together so that others could live.

    it was Darkseid FINALLY being destroyed so that Apokolips could be reborn.

    it was an exiled Monitor becoming “the Judge of All Evil” and kicking @$$!!!!!

    it was epic.

    9.5/10 (no Flash-stuff in ish 4…)

    .-= Jason West’s latest blog post: The Final Crisis! =-.

    Reply
  18. Jesse

    To respond to Jason,

    am i the only one who enjoyed this thing from page one of FC#1 to the final page of FC#7?

    From the looks of it, Yes.

    AND STOP TRYING TO COMPARE IT TO THE OTHER CRISES!!!!!!!!

    Totally agree. Each story stands on its own merits. HOWEVER, when DC in promotional material and Dan Didio in interviews do the comparing, and then the story doesn’t live up to their promises, we have a right to be disappointed.

    c’mon, guys (and girls…), you have to see the big picture from beginning to end. that’s the only way to truly enjoy this epic.

    Maybe, but I read it again in one sitting and have the same complaints as before. Plus, it was released in a serialized form, implying that it should be enjoyed in that format. FC would have been more acceptable as a standalone graphic novel.

    seriously, you can’t just say ‘that didn’t entertain me enough, so it was terrible’

    Yes, you can. As the consumers of entertainment, this is our right.

    or ‘i didn’t understand half of it, so Grant Morrison’s a terrible writer.’

    When I can’t understand something, my first instinct is, maybe it’s just me. When NO ONE can understand it, it’s obvious that there are basic tenets of storytelling that were violated. If I can understand Ulysses and Primer and Lost (so far), but not Final Crisis, I have a right to complain about this. For example:

    it was Orion and Martian Manhunter dying.

    I saw Orion die three times, I think. (That one’s on DC, not Morrison completely.)

    it was Barry Allen returning from the dead.

    HOW?? How did he return from the dead? Why now?

    it was Bruce Wayne thrown into Prehistory where he won’t be found until at least next year.

    I like this, I do. But how was Superman holding his skeleton then?

    it was the Hawkpeople dying together so that others could live.

    Man, I don’t even remember this.

    it was Darkseid FINALLY being destroyed so that Apokolips could be reborn.

    Which Darkseid: the god, Turpin, Boss Dark Side? And didn’t Piper destroy Apokolips? But now Apokolips is New Genesis? Are there 2 New Genesii?

    it was an exiled Monitor becoming “the Judge of All Evil” and kicking @$$!!!!!

    Why was he exiled? What happened to the Monitors now? Is that guy back as a human?

    it was epic.

    That is certainly true. Except, what is the outcome? Was the DCU changed? Not much, since Superman wished everything back to happy normal.

    [Edited for formatting]

    Reply
  19. Kelson Post author

    Was the DCU changed?

    Does it matter? Why does every “Crisis” crossover have to change the DCU? Why can’t they just be big stories — stories that, yes, have consequences, but don’t transform everything?

    For that matter, why does every change have to be done through a crossover? Why couldn’t DC simply issue an editorial edict and retool the entire line? Okay, they tried that with John Byrne’s Doom Patrol reboot and fans didn’t like it, so they explained it away with a Superboy Retcon Punch. But that was changing one team and its history with the rest of the DCU. If they changed everything at once, Ultimate style…?

    Reply
  20. Jesse

    Thanks for the formatting on the last post.

    No, not every story has to change everything, but again, if it’s billed as changing everything, and then doesn’t, it’s a letdown. I think I specifically remember an FC ad that basically said, “Everything will change.”

    Marvel didn’t change their universe with the Ultimate line, they added it as an additional version. (A DC version would be great – look how good All-Star Superman was. Perfect for Morrison to play with.) But one time Marvel did change the universe recently was to wipe spider-man clean, which was a disaster. The reason it was a disaster is that fans are invested in the characters, their histories, and continuity.

    Reply
  21. Doris

    Geez, did they kill the Hawk-people too?

    One thing I liked – are they bringing back the real Aquaman? That would be good.

    Reply
  22. Jason West

    to Jesse:

    thanks for debating with me, btw. i always appreciate a fellow cb geek who’s willing to argue level-headedly over controversial issues (such as this).

    “HOW?? How did he return from the dead? Why now?”

    i believe that’s what we’re finding out on April 1st… 😉

    “I like this, I do. But how was Superman holding his skeleton then?”

    if he was thrown into the past, and he stayed in pretty much the same area, he would’ve died there, no?

    “Man, I don’t even remember this.”

    7th ish. right as the “tunnel” in Checkmate was closing, the Hawks sacrificed themselves and, from the looks of it, burned to death. on the page near the end where everyone’s cleaning up/reuniting, you see the Bat-cowl, J’onn’s pyramid (see Requiem), and TWO feathers as they talk of their losses.

    “Which Darkseid: the god, Turpin, Boss Dark Side? And didn’t Piper destroy Apokolips? But now Apokolips is New Genesis? Are there 2 New Genesii?”

    i never understood Kirby’s stuff too well, especially New Gods-stuff. sooo…ya got me! (i think it was just Darkseid in general…)

    “Why was he exiled? What happened to the Monitors now? Is that guy back as a human?”

    exiled?: his earth (51) was destroyed.
    now?: dunno…we’ll see(?)
    human?: apparantly…

    .-= Jason West’s latest blog post: The Final Crisis! =-.

    Reply
  23. Villain Zero

    To answer a couple of questions:

    1. Orion died Once – in Death Of the New Gods before the end he refuses medical aid and walks off to die. He does this in Final Crisis 1 where he was shot by Darkseid in issue 7 to silence him from warning the heroes. My guess is he had enough time left to outline the threat, and his dad was pissed for having his HEART RIPPED OUT!

    2. Barry Allen never really died, he pulled a Libra and ran so fast he split into trillions of pieces and entered the speed force – SOMETHING put the pieces back together.

    3. The vampire creature was Mandrakk a pun on Mandrake the first DC Comic Hero. The son of the COIE Monitor (not antimonitor) he realized that all Monitors drained energy just like the antimonitor and embraced his vampiric nature.

    4. Darkseid had his body destroyed along with Apokolips in Death of the New Gods but because he finally gained the AL equation he was able to possess Boss Dark Side and then Dan Turpin.

    5. Apokilips is GONE – New Genesis is the New Earth 51.

    6. The exiled Monitor who became the judge of all evil was stripped of his powers in Countdown because his earth was destroyed twice in the same year (from a multiversal perspective). He regained his memory and gathered almost every superman from the 52 earths (I think I saw 45 Superman + Earth 5 Captain Marvel and Mr Majestic). He reliquineshed his power because he felt it was time for there to be no more MONITORS PERIOD.

    Reply
  24. Villain Zero

    The big changes?

    1/Darkseid is gone for good
    2/Earth 51 is New Genesis
    3/The ONLY monitor is the anitmonitor who is trapped and being used as the Black Lantern Corps battery (pwn)
    4/Orion is Dead
    5/Batman is trapped in pre-history and de-aged
    6/Bludhaven is toasted
    7/Doctor Light (Mr. Rapey Raperson) is dead
    8/We found out about the Radiant (G-Ds Spirit of Mercy)

    And by the way, Mandrakk munched both the Specter and the Radiant so Vengence will take a break for a bit

    Timewise – *Deep Breath* Both New Krypton and Trinity took place before FC. Trinity was before New Krypton and so far it looks like when Trinity is over no one will remember (in-universe anyway, ironic because no one remembers the Heroic Trinity sort-of). The thing with the Green Lantern Corps starts after Final Crisis 1 but does not end until after Final Crisis 7, WAY after.

    Hope that helps sort everything out – SYWWTBY

    Reply
  25. Jason West

    “7/Doctor Light (Mr. Rapey Raperson) is dead”

    Villain Zero, i Laughed Out Loud when i read that! freakin cracked me up, man…

    oh, and thanks, VZ, for clarifying what i was lost on…

    (you forgot 2 big ones, though:
    J’onn J’onnz is dead and rejoined with his fam &
    Barry Allen has officially returned! yay!
    btw: how do you know Bruce was “de-aged”?)

    2000th comment! heck yes! go me!

    .-= Jason West’s latest blog post: The Final Crisis! =-.

    Reply
  26. George Fischer

    If Hawkman is dead then why is he beating up the JSA’s conferance table? Or does the latest issue of JSA happen before Final Crisis?

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  27. Jesse

    I think most of the DC books out now take place before Final Crisis. That was one of the problems with the whole series. It didn’t interact with other books in the DCU, and the timing has been totally off.

    Reply
  28. Kelson Post author

    If I may, I’d like to point out that Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s fate was not explicitly stated, but left up in the air in Final Crisis itself.

    I’m just sayin’…

    Reply

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