This will hopefully be an insightful part of our Grant Morrison Reading Project and a continuation of my own Bat-Journey. As I gather some references and take some notes before I delve deep into the Morrisonian version of the Greater DCU, I want to look at Final Crisis Sketchbook (Jl'08) which came out the same time as FC #1. It contains, naturally, some sketches by J.G. Jones and comments by Grant Morrison in this comic book version of a DVD extra. Some highlights, note-wise:

  • Darkseid--he appears to be "ossifying" and is in great pain. He is the shadow of decay!
  • Desaad-torturer of the gods and a hidden cross-dresser. Which gives certain scenes from JLA some unintentional comic visions!
  • The Black Racer-from goofy to frightening!
  • Terrible Turpin-- "Jack Kirby as drawn by Frank Miller"
  • Orion- No longer the Dog of War but the Soldier of the New Gods. His symbol is the sun!
  • Mister Miracle-he is the same one from Seven Soldiers! I'm going to have to finish that soon!
  • Kamandi-- how does the Last Boy on Earth fit in with Kirby's Fourth World?
  • The Forever People--- from Hippies to Goth?
  • Libra- nice to know that Grant and I read the same comics as kids!!
  • The Monitors--bridging the two Crises! Cosmic soap opera!
  • Big Science Action-- Morrison's Japanese JLA. The Silver Age meets Anime!
  • Super Young Team-- interesting combinations of classic DC heroes with a modern twist but these teen heroes are annoying!

Everyone please feel free to comment on this as I want this to be, as Figs believes, the culmination of the Post Crisis DCU that deserves to be celebrated!

Next: Who is the God Destroyed? or Just the Cosmic Facts, Ma'am!

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...he says so much about how our lives are formed by stories in these pages.

 

Hmmmm.  Hope you say a bit more about this in due course, Jeff, but it's already got me thinking...

One reason why I subtitled this "Morrison & Me" is that I believe not only did he and I read the same comics as kids but researched older ones as well. And were interested in many of the same characters. He did his homework here, digging up past heroes and referencing previous stories. He loved the details of the DC Universe and used that knowledge to craft an epic tale. I have been told that I share similar tastes.

Another feeling is that Morrison wrote Final Crisis for readers of my generation to enjoy, as if he knew about the coming changes and wanted us to have one last stroll through the world we knew so well. A comic book "pat-on-the-back" and a nod of appreciation, if you will.

Anyway...with trepidation:

FINAL CRISIS #1 (Jl'08): D.O.A.-The God of War

By Grant Morrison and J.G.Jones

It opens with Anthro the First Boy who first appeared (f/a) in Showcase #74 (My'68) and had a brief seven-issue run of his own title. He was supposedly the first Cro-Magnon in a Neanderthal Earth. He also made a memorable appearance in Crisis On Infinite Earths (COIE) #2. He is Man unspoiled by science yet not untouched by evil. The need of a hero is there at the start of civilization. 

Here he receives fire from Metron of the New Gods, shining in silver as if he is in a purer state. It parallels Prometheus bringing fire to mankind but without the altruism or sacrifice. It also seems similar to the Serpent bringing knowledge to the Garden of Eden. We don't know Metron's motives but it appears to be an experiment.

Anthro uses the fire to defeat a marauding tribe led by Vandar Adg, the future Vandal Savage (f/a Green Lantern #10 (Winter'43)). Here he is the Devil on Earth, trying to kidnap Embra, Anthro's mate, though she has redhair here, not blonde.

Savage made only two Golden Age appearances, the last joining the Injustice Society but he made numerous returns since and notable showings in JSA, Zero Hour, Kingdom Come and Secret Six.

The dual nature of fire is linked with the fate of mankind: the creative spark and the destructive urge.

In the modern world, Daniel "Terrible" Turpin (f/a New Gods #8 (My'72)) discovers the nearly dead body of Orion the Hunter (f/a New Gods #1 (Ma'71)) who warns that "Heaven (is) cracked and broken" before he expires with the Black Racer (f/a New Gods #3 (Jl'71)) hovering above him.

Orion is Jack Kirby's Fourth World Champion yet he is beaten to death! It's difficult to tell but he seems to die with his "good" face which is telling and apt. Throughout Kirby's FW saga and others' attempts to continue it, Orion is the Hero, the One who defeats the Evil. He is Superman, unstoppable and unyielding yet he is killed off quickly, almost callously. Also there is the Prophecy of his Final Battle. Has it all been undone? Now nothing is certain.

Turpin is the Good man, the Moral man fighting an evil he cannot fathom except that he knows it is evil. Post-Crisis he is the grown up Brooklyn (f/a Detective #64 (Ju'42)) of the Boy Commandos making him a double-Kirby character. On Superman the Animated series, Turpin WAS Kirby!

Turpin is investigating the disappearance of six children, possibly possessing the metagene, made popular in the Invasion! mini-series.

He confers with Rene Montoya(f/a Batman:The Animated Series, then Detective #644 (My'92)) who is now the new Question following the recently deceased Victor Sage from 52. This is an echo from COIE where different ethnic women assumed the identities of white males like Doctor Light II, Doctor Midnight and Wildcat II.

Next: The Heroes Get Involved or Sudden Death!

I was born in 1965 and began reading comics in 1973 but I was right there for the 100 Page Super Spectaculars, the Marvel reprint books and the earlier 52 pagers so I had a  great overview of the best of the Golden and Silver Ages.

FINAL CRISIS #1 {Part Two}

The first hero that is notified of Orion's murder is Green Lantern John Stewart (f/a Green Lantern #87 (Ja'72)) with a Code 1011, deicide. It's fitting that John appears here as he was Earth's only GL during COIE and that currently he was being portrayed as being more responsible than the later-responding Hal Jordan. Hal recognizes Orion but does not act like someone killed a former JLAer, which Orion is, even to Morrison. The Guardians of the Universe are naturally concerned. After all, anyone who could kill a New God could certainly kill them! They dispatch Alpha Lanterns to investigate. Did the concept exist before FC?

Later we see a newly formed League of Titans (Empress from Young Justice, Sparx from Superboy and the Ravers and Mas y Menos from Teen Titans Go!) quickly defeated by Doctor Light and Mirror Master who are after Metron's abandoned Moebius Chair, the circumstances of which are unknown. The Bad Doctor is also after some "power-ups" for a date with Giganta! Both villains were part of Morrison's Injustice Gang from JLA and the first Mirror Master was a member of the original IGW.

The Justice League is distracted by a super-villain protest over super-hero brutality led by Captain Cold and the Signalman!

Meanwhile the Secret Society leaders (Luthor, Vandal Savage, Talia, Ocean Master, Sivana and Gorilla Grodd) are at the Central City strip club HQ of Libra (f/a Justice League of America #111 (My'74)---more on this later). The Scales of Injustice is preaching a religion of crime, claims to be no longer human, says that heroes only win because they believe God is on their side, wants to grant the villains their heart's desire AND wants an End to the Age of Super-Heroes! Luthor is unmoved.

Very minor villain Mike the Human Flame (f/a Detective #274 (D'59)) records the meeting and tries to convince him that Libra can deliver. And he does as Green (Kyle Raynor) Lantern's foe Effigy (f/a Green Lantern [third series] #110 (Ja'99)) and Doctor Light lead out a disorientated and weakened Martian Manhunter and Libra kills him!

The death of J'onn J'onzz was shocking as he was just revamped with a new look but it also was similar to the death of the Flash in COIE as both were harbingers to the Silver Age!

Interesting to note that the Human Flame was the first villain that J'onn fought after he revealed his existence to the public.

That's the demise of two longtime DC super-heroes in the first issue alone. Morrison is very serious here.

Next: Dark Side Comin' Now Nothin' Is Real

They dispatch Alpha Lanterns to investigate. Did the concept exist before FC?

Yes, they were created after the Sinestro Corps War by the Guardian in '05.

Also wasn't this the time when Orion was killed 2-3 times in a one year span?

Yeah, evidently there was some umbrage between Starlin and Morrison over this one on Starlin's part. There was a series that was supposed to lead into FC called Death of the New Gods. It was written and drawn by Starlin. In it, I guess Orion, along with some, most, or all of the New Gods were killed. I didn't read this or even breeze through it at the store. I wasn't even interested in it. I'm not a fan of Starlin's art. His writing isn't bad--I really loved Cosmic Odyssey. But I just don't like his art, so I never read this book.

Then of course Orion shows up dead in the first pages of FC, which evidently contradicts Starlin's book. I personally get the feeling that Starlin's book was a money-grab for DC, and that Final Crisis clearly reads better without it, much like the spin-offs like Ink and Dance*.

*There was one called Escape, which reads absolutely wonderfully on its own. It features Nemesis (from the Suicide Squad). There was also a follow-up mini-series (was it called Nemesis?) which was also great. Unfortunately I don't think either found much of an audience.

Great stuff Philip.  Some fine commentary and little links and associations that I’d missed.

 

I think I only found out recently that Vandal Savage was a Golden Age villain, so he is ancient in more ways than one.  Savage hasn’t been a major villain, but he has, as you say, appeared in some of the most important crossovers over the years.  Apart from Morrison’s glancing references to him here, which are well-handled, I think he has yet to really live up to his huge potential.  It’s not just Metron who represents the snake in the Garden of Eden.  Morrison layers on the symbolism here, with different characters reflecting the same themes.

 

I love the symbolism of Metron bringing knowledge/fire/ creativity/imagination etc to the first people.  It just lifts this story and our conception of the New Gods.  Historically though, it makes less sense the more you think about it.  It’s hard to imagine a community, well-organised and living in tents like this, who don’t already have fire.  Anthro’s loincloth there, for one example, would be pretty foul if the hide hadn’t been cured somehow!

 

Also, I’d always thought Vandal Savage was a Cro-Magnon man himself.  How would he pass as a businessman today if he still looked Neanderthal?  Anyway, his tribe is specified as Neanderthal in the script, but the art doesn’t differentiate too much between Vandal’s and Anthro’s tribes.

 

As well as evoking Prometheus and the Garden of Eden, Metron’s message to Anthro comes in the form of a burning bush!

 

We’ve talked elsewhere about Morrison’s love of the marginal, but in terms of humanity, you don’t get much more ‘on the edge’ than the very first boy and the last one!  Seven Soldiers went even further than this, showing us a prehuman Neanderthal advanced civilisation on one extreme and on the other, the decadent vampires at the end of time that we’ll finally evolve into.

 

Do you have the 'Director's Cut' of issue 1 that DC had to throw to the bewildered fanboy throng, Philip?  It's got the inked art in uncoloured unlettered form, Morrison's complete script for issue #1, and some commentary from him and Jones. 

 

Morrison's only comment on p4, is "The big clue to the ending of Final Crisis is right here."

 

I wonder what that might be?  Perhaps it is just Metron's words? - "Have no fear.  Here is knowledge."

The dual nature of fire is linked with the fate of mankind: the creative spark and the destructive urge.

 

Well put.  The cut here is very similar to the one in Kubrick’s 2001, where the thrown jawbone becomes the space station.

 

Since we are mentioning first appearances here, and the topic of our own ‘first appearances’ has been broached, it can’t be a coincidence that Orion, the Black Racer and myself all arrived in the same year!  :-P

 

Seeing Rene Montoya here, it’s clear that Final Crisis can be read as part of a mega-story stretching all the way from JLA Classified 1-3, through Seven Soldiers, 52, and Morrison’s Batman.  Rucka integrated 52 with his Batwoman and Question books, and both of them have roles here, so they tie in too.  Waid couldn’t stay at DC, so some contribution from him to the tapestry is missing.  Johns’ work subsequent to 52 doesn’t tie into this tapestry so much, which is a pity.  The Alpha Lantern sequences here build on Johns’ introduction of them earlier, but that is it.  (The DC wikia lists Morrison as the creator of the Alpha Lanterns.)

 

 

The fact that his huge Blackest Night epic doesn’t really tie into Final Crisis, and that Hal Jordan here is unrecognisable as Johns' Green Lantern, can be used to argue that Final Crisis does document the ending of a universe of which Johns’ Green Lantern wasn’t really a part.

 

The Justice League is distracted by a super-villain protest over super-hero brutality led by Captain Cold and the Signalman!

 

I have been trying to work out what this protest means in terms of the themes of Final Crisis.  Plotwise, it’s timing to coincide with the meeting of the big-time evildoers implies that it is a distraction, as you say.  The little guys here, Signalman etc probably don’t even realise that they’ve been manipulated into staging this protest for the benefit of Luthor and co.

 

Meta-textually, of course, this is just Morrison himself protesting at how brutal the heroes and their tales have become.  There is quite a bit of commentary on the state and direction of the genre scattered throughout Final Crisis.  It’s another level on which FC has meaning.

 

Very minor villain Mike the Human Flame (f/a Detective #274 (D'59)) records the meeting and tries to convince him that Libra can deliver.

 

Another level Final Crisis works on is to show us something of the evil at work in the world we ourselves live in.  Recording crimes on camera-phones and the emotional disconnection this enables is a very banal 21st century aspect of evil.  There will be other horrors of the modern world as we continue.

 

Apparently, J’onn J’onnz cries out the name of his wife as he is killed, which adds some pathos to an otherwise rushed and undignified send-off.  Morrison throws out the rulebook for how a superhero death is depicted, but it works well here. 

 

Most murders and executions are rushed and undignified!

 

Next: Dark Side Comin' Now Nothin' Is Real

 

Hah!  I hadn’t heard of this song until I googled it just now.  How appropriate.  You could have been a good copywriter in another life, Philip.

Regarding Orion's multiple deaths leading up to FC, there was also his death in Countdown. Like Jeff I can't bear the thought of going back and reading them now. Orion's death here was obviously meant to come out of the blue. Why in the name of Jeebus would DC want to undercut their marquee event of 2008 this way? Artistically, they made a huge mess, but it must have been a successful 'money-grab' as they still sold huge numbers of Countdown and Death of the New Gods comics, cumulatively speaking.

Less countable on the books, but surely disastrous for their finances in the long run, was the cost in trust with the readers. Putting financial concerns so obviously above artistic ones is not a good look. Then no-one likes to be suckered into buying scores of comics that turn out not to 'count' when all is said and done. DC squandered a lot of 'loyalty capital' with this fiasco.

Final Crisis, and a lot of DCs subsequent 'events' would have been better received without it.

Make as much money as you can every quarter, but try to not damage the brand while you are at it, guys...

It also gives a picture of the degree of trust that exists between DC editorial and the creators, when both sides keep so much of their work a secret from the other. This at a time when Morrison was supposed to be 'creative consultant' with them.

Just as Morrison was counting on, all that is water under the bridge now. We are left with a handsome self-contained volume that will continue to sell to fans and deletentes alike for years to come, and two series that will probably slip into footnote status, like Invasion, or ... that other event whose name escapes me right now.

Even having said all that, Morrison does 'explain' the multiple deaths of Orion later in this series. Good corporate man is Grant, covering his employers ass after they've interfered with the pooch. Just don't blink or you'll miss it.

I was going to bring up Starlin's Death of the New Gods but I thought, apparently rightfully, that it would be more trouble to explain it than to simply focus on Morrison's "version". A lot of big name creators (Conway, Bryne, Simonson, etc) wanted to do their take on Kirby's Fourth World. None really succeeded.

As for J'onn's degrading demise, I read Final Crisis: Requiem by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Manke and Christian Alamy which directly deals with that. Some points:

  • Before he dies, J'onn unleashes a psychic attack on the Secret Society where the Justice League "kills" them!
  • Great bit where the Elongated Man crushes Doctor Light!
  • But Batman just kisses Talia...odd storywise but fitting as part of Morrison's Bat-epic.
  • J'onn tells Libra that he will fail because that's what villains always do.
  • He also mimics Spock by sending his mind and soul to Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Black Canary and Gypsy (f/a Justice League Annual #2 (1984)--part of Justice League Detroit) even though she is never identified.
  • Hal has a Godfather moment, "Look how they slaughtered our friend."
  • And Ollie's "He was my favorite Martian."
  • Very ironic that J'onn's Silver Age origin, a Martian stranded on Earth should end with a burial on Mars where all the heroes on Earth attend.
  • But that last image of J'onn's spirit reunited with his wife, M'yri'ah, and daughter, K'hym! The bliss on his face. That's where his story should have ended.

 

We are left with a handsome self-contained volume that will continue to sell to fans and deletentes alike for years to come

And soon all of my issues can be had for 50 cents a pop.

FINAL CRISIS #1 {Part Three}

Terrible Turpin is brought by the New Tattooed Man (connection to the Vertigo series? Mark?) to the Dark Side Club where very quickly he is in the prescence of Darkseid, Kalibak and Kanto in human forms where he learns the fate of the missing children as they have become slaves to the Anti-Life Equation, in a direct line to Morrison's Rock of Ages.

Then we see the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman briefing the Justice League on the New Gods, still showing no emotion over Orion's death. It would if Hercules was killed and the Avengers merely mentioned some Olympian conflict. Also Darkseid is on Earth and they don't know that....yet.

Meanwhile the Alpha Lanterns arrive, sealing up Earth as a crime scene. They are the Green Man (f/a Green Lantern #164 (My'83)) who gave up his ring to join the Omega Men's rebellion against the Citadel, Boodikka (f/a Green Lantern: The New Corps #1 (Ap'99)) who was one of Kyle Raynor's recruits and Varix (f/a ?).

All this is being observed by the Monitors of the 52 Earths, where Earth 51 has been destroyed and its Monitor young Uotan (a play on Uatu the Marvel Watcher) is blamed and exiled. The multiverses are interlocking and connected by the Orrery of Worlds. The Monitors themselves now have stories, male and female, old and young, content and ambitious....good and evil.

Back in the prehistoric past, Anthro is doodling something very complex in the sand and has a vision of Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth (f/a Kamandi #1 (N'72)) wanting Metron's "weapon against the gods". It passes but now Anthro has face-painting similar to Metron's hood!

Back in the present, the world learns about the murder of the Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow's reaction to it! Now it's WAR!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The title "D.O.A. The God of War" refers to Orion but since the Roman god of war is Mars, Morrison apparently will use double meanings in his titles.

With all the spin-offs and mini series attached to this, Morrison dictates the pace of his story. Others follow with what he gives them and we must seperate the important from the commercial. Obviously Kirby is a big influence here with his Fourth World but so are the DC comics from 1971-1975 and COIE. Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Zero Hour are all represented here, interwoven into a cohesive grand scale epic. It succeeds greatly as an opening chapter.

Next: Plot Twists, Time Twists and Faster than a Speeding Bullet! 

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