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:
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!
Thankfully, Tony Isabella had other plans. Unfortunately his contract gave him a financial stake in the character that DC severely curtailed any attempt to have Black Lightning rise to the A-list for thirty-five years!!
Black Vulcan indeed! That's gangsterism for you!
Worse than that, it took him over thirty years to join the JLA, he was virtually unrecognizable, they gave him TWO previously unknown nearly-adult daughters and had him work for President Luthor!!
And Ollie Queen slept with one of the daughters! (Or was it neices?) The old lech.
It was a niece and that affected Black Lightning's character adversely as well.
Getting back to Lois' injuries, Morrison is clearly stating that no one is above the coming destruction. Perhaps this is a response to DC backing out on killing Dick Grayson during Infinite Crisis, a wise move IMHO. Did readers think that Lois was going to die? I don't think so but it's still unnerving to see her at death's door!
As for the gathering of heroes, we see Oracle/Barbara Gordon replacing the Martian Manhunter to link them all together. The new Aquaman, really a big unknown yet still summoned because he is Aquaman. Freddy Freeman looking so nervous and uncomfortable that even with the Powers of SHAZAM we doubt that he'll be that effective. Holy Moley!
I agree that it's nice to see Supergirl portrayed as a teenager, not a nymphette, with your basic young girl interests and saying goodbye to her cat. Green Arrow and Black Canary's scene combines sexiness, seriousness and passion between the two. Yet it is also seems normal, a calm before the storm.
There are a LOT of replacement heroes on that page: new versions of Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Hourman, Liberty Belle,Wildcat, Steel, Wonder Girl, and the Atom. But is Morrison celebrating them or showing us that they're not going to succeed as their predecessors would have back in the day!
Next: Leaving Japan and Knightfall!
FINAL CRISIS #3 (Part 3):
Here we go again!
In Japan, Mister Miracle almost convinces Sonny Sumo that evil has taken over the world. Shilo tells him how he "crawled out of his grave after three days", a surprising unsubtle Christ reference. But Shilo knows what he does is both real and impossible and they have to try to save the world. Two "entertainers" playing for keeps. But they are attacked by some Justifiers and are rescued by Super Young Team in their Wonder Wagon. It just dawned on me that SYT are "replacements" for the Forever People who are linked to Sonny Sumo. Now they are "on a mission from the gods" to battle gods, manipulated by gods, championed by gods and now champions of gods!
Meanwhile, in a Chemo contaminated Bludhaven, the lone original Justice Leaguer left on Earth, Wonder Woman joins up with the Atomic Knights (f/a Strange Adventures #117 [Ju'60]) reimagined for the modern day though still Gardner Grayle, Marene Herald and Doug Herald and still riding giant dalmations! On their way to inspect Command-D, a gene research lab, they find the multiple corpses of Replika on whom I could find no information on. He (they?) were murdered by a severely warped and altered Mary Marvel (f/a Captain Marvel Adventures #18 [D'42]), corrupted by the events from 52, IIRC. It is the twisting of innocence and the triumph over morality.
Dark Mary savagely murders Marene (originally a character trying to bring hope to a post-apocalyptic world) and claws at Wonder Woman, echoing a similar event from Alex Ross' Justice. The Amazon is infected with the Anti-Life Equation and through her, the world. Mary taunts her with a succinct "You @#%@$ up!" At the same time, the ALE is transmitted throughout the internet into every computer on Earth and not even Oracle can stop it! The heroes are beaten before they can start!
A few weeks later, the Flashes (Barry and Wally) break free from the timestream and find the world a much more sinister place. While Barry struggles with his doubt, they are confronted by the new Female Furies consisting of the Darkseid-dominated Wonder Woman, Catwoman (f/a Batman #1 [Spr'40]), Giganta (f/a Wonder Woman #9 [Sum'44]) and Mera (f/a Aquaman #11 [O'63]), riding giant dogs in matching outfits!
The skies glow red!
It is the apparent destruction of hope that permeates this issue. No matter what the heroes do, they are losing. Every original JLAer has been crosses off. Even the Aquaman seen here is considered "new". The Flash should be rallying a resistance but does he believe he can?
The fall of Mary Marvel is hard to see and harder to comprehend. The Shazam Girl simply does not belong in a story like this. Even if she "comes back", she still murdered Marene Herald and betrayed the world.
Mera wears a headpiece very similar to Ocean Master's.
Next: Superman Beyond (My Comprehension!)
It just dawned on me that SYT are "replacements" for the Forever People who are linked to Sonny Sumo.
That took you a bit longer than I expected... :-p
I think the "Mission from Gods" line is a tip of the trilby to the Blues Brothers, too.
Aren't the post-atomic knights on the backs of giant dalmations a wonderfully strange dreamlike image, though? I can see why Morrison wanted to use them. Still, like OMAC and Kamandi they are post-apocalyptic concepts that Morrison is shoe-horning into the then-current DCU to try to make them fit going forward. That's something I find hard to see the point of.
The deaths of the brother and sister were tough to read though. All we knew about them were that they were siblings, but that was enough, as most of us are blessed with such, and it's a terrible thing to see them die in front of each other like that.
He (they?) were murdered by a severely warped and altered Mary Marvel (f/a Captain Marvel Adventures #18 [D'42]), corrupted by the events from 52, IIRC. It is the twisting of innocence and the triumph over morality.
I think Darkseid merely brings to fruition a process that DC Editorial had happily been enacting on the heroes for years! Morrison/Darkseid naturally makes the most innocent young female in the whole pantheon into an over-sexualised sick sadistic psychopath. We find out later that there is a kind of (mental) rape going on here too by a lecherous old man, just to underline the point. Morrison tends to play a double game of bemoaning the slide into depravity that modern superheroes have had to live through, while actually showing us some of the sickest scenes he can think of.
Lately I've realised that there is usually an artistic integrity to it, though. Morrison's love for the innocence and positivity of the heroes is evident throughout his work, and there is plenty of that even in Final Crisis. Showing something sick and making no bones about the fact that it is depraved and to be condemned is a million miles from showing us the likes of teenaged Supergirl flashing her panties to the readers and pretending it is ok, or Spider-man being shown in a heroic light because he is willing to torture people if he has to.
I find it strange that Spider-man torturing a captive Sandman has raised barely a word on the internet, whereas Alan Moore's (yes, frequent) depiction of rape as a terrible crime against a person's whole being brings out the righteous moralists in so many.
I think that's the kind of a point Morrison is making with this horrible depiction of Mary Marvel. It's a worthwhile point and once again it hits longtime fanmen right where they live.
Morrison is making the point very baldly when he has Barry, who hasn't been around to see what his superhero buddies have had to live through since 1986, say
"Why did I have to come back? Wally ... What have they done to the world?"
It's the cynical, exploitative machinations of DiDio and co he is talking about there, isn't it?
I think Mary fell from grace in Countdown rather than 52, but Countdown was just a daft half-arsed project cribbed from Morrison's notes for Final Crisis anyway, and doesn't count. For one thing, the writers of Countdownhad Mary become 'good Mary' again by the end of their story.
Even if she "comes back", she still murdered Marene Herald and betrayed the world.
Hal "came back", didn't he?
I'm pretty sure that is Batwoman rather than Mera in the new Furies on the last page.
Great to see you stuck into this fascinating and multi-layered series again, Philip! Looking forward to your thoughts on Superman's epic journey beyond your comprehension. I'm sure you'll surprise yourself with what you find there...
Super Young Team is annoying!
That's Gen Y for you!
You know, what I loved (LOVED) about this series is that it took characters that we've kind of known for many years now, and threw them into a chaotic situation together. I loved the fact that the characters were just in a mad scramble along with whoever they were close to in proximity at the time. I loved, for instance, that it paired up Snapper Carr and Cheetah as well as Black Lightning and The Tattooed Man. I need to pull the HC off my shelf and look through it again. I just thoroughly loved this series.
FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND # 1 of 2 (O'08) by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy and others.
After focusing so much attention on the Batman, Morrison crafted this two-issue mini-series spotlighting the Man of Steel on whom he obviously has some affection for. Spinning out of the events of Final Crisis #3, Superman is hurled from one epic crisis to another! He is confronted by a female Monitor, Zillo Valla, uttering the phrase that he spent 70 years combatting: "Clark Kent, I know you're secretly Superman!" Only this time he does not care. Lois Lane, his wife and eternal love (no matter what the DCnU says), is dying in intensive care. But Zillo claims if he helps her, his reward will be a cure for Lois. Zillo needs "the greatest super-champions of the multiverse" and will grant him his heart's desire, echoing both Crisis On Infinite Earths (COIE) and Marvel Super-Heroes: Secret Wars.
Literally between seconds, Superman agrees. Zillo appears to be introducing terminology as she goes as she freezes time with her chrono paralyzer. She speaks of the Destroyer, "the Echo of Midnight". With a kiss to her forehead, Superman leaves Earth-Zero and goes 4-D! The magic elixer is called ultramenstruum or bleed. The words suggest that the multiverse has one body and its lifeblood is powerful. It connects the power of women with the power of creation or destruction. She calls her people the Monitors of Nil and the Masters of the Overvoid, phrases that connotate both superiority and nothingness. They go Fourth Dimensional aboard her ship, the Yellow Submarine the Ultima Thule. We also meet its crew:
Almost immediately, they are attacked, the ship damaged lost in the Sea of Green the dimensional ether. Superman and the others must prevent it from crashing on any inhabited Earth. They pass through a Marvel analogue going through their Civil War and a Pulpish looking one until they crash on Earth-51 which is lifeless. As they try to repair the ship ("What do you think?" "I think I burnt me finger.") they find that they are in Limbo!
Next: Hey, aren't you....?
FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND #1 (Part 2)
In Limbo, which Morrison used in Animal Man, the Super Squad encounter characters who are no longer being used, cancelled, rejected and discarded from too many reboots and revisions. I couldn't figure out all of them but there is:
There are no heroes in Limbo. There's no need. Nothing happens. Superman and Captain Marvel go to the Library of Limbo even though there are no stories. But there is one book. It contains EVERY book in existence, encompassing all knowledge, even the way home. They see the Heart of the Universe.
There was ONE Monitor once who existed during the First Crisis which ended the Multiverse. But the One Earth that remained had to much energy and began splitting up again. This created a race of Monitors that were forced to have a culture, a history and defined stories of good and evil. Thus came an Ultimate Evil, Mandrakk who was defeated by the Monitor Dax Novu, the Radiant One though his self-sacrifice. Merryman is horrified. Something is happening in Limbo!
But then Captain Marvel is transformed back to Billy Batson who has forgotten his magic word! But the wisdom of Solomon tells them that the "Ultimate Good is Ultimate Evil." Can one exist without the other?
Superman wants answers but he is losing his allies. Allen Adam is lost in his senses, out of touch with reality. Zillo Valla is a vampiric being who killed Overman. And the sky shatters. Ultraman has the Infinite Book and claims Evil Wins in the End!
Next: But What Does It Mean?
Wandering Sensei said:
You know, what I loved (LOVED) about this series is that it took characters that we've kind of known for many years now, and threw them into a chaotic situation together. I loved the fact that the characters were just in a mad scramble along with whoever they were close to in proximity at the time.
I think that is part of what Morrison is doing here. Philip is on to something that Morrison is throwing these heroes from different decades (and even cartoons etc) together. The first appearances really do stretch across 7 decades (not including Frankenstein!) He's showing us that only superhero comics, pretty much, can do this. It's a celebration, even as the darkness descends on them all.
Thus earlier we got weird Atomic Age knights on horseback paired with Wonder Woman and Mary Marvel, both from the 40s. Looking at it now they are all subjected to modern era grimness and 'degradation'.
I argue above that Mary's erstwhile innocence is part of what Morrison is highlighting by subverting it completely, but he has said in interviews that the sicko, gimp-masked Wonder Woman of the final page, and the alternative cover above, is just a kind of development or study of the S&M elements in her earliest stories.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Marvel Girl, Supergirl and Uber-fraulein all appear the same issue. Supergirl is shown in an idealised form, Mary Marvel is corrupted by the needs of modern comics storytelling, and Uber-Fraulein heakens back to the Aryan super-person origins of the Superman myth, while graphically illustrating the literal fall and death of the female super-hero archetype, and pre-figuring Mary and Diana's descent.
They are all obvious (female) variations on the Superman archetype, and together give us a pocket guide to what the archetype is about, and how it's been handled over the years.
But there's more! Wonder Woman is easily the most successful female variation on the Superman archetype. Her name even riffs on his, and she is draped in the flag even more than he is. People just don't see her as a female Superman in the same way they do Supergirl, because Superman and Wonder Woman have ssuch strong seperate 'brands' in pop culture, and she is less obviously a simple 'spin-off' of him.
Which is all to say that maybe many of these characters aren't really 'thrown together' at all. On the one hand he is celebrating that characters from such different origins can interact like this, but there are also thematic reasons why they are put together.
Frankenstein meeting the Montoya Question highlights that they both came into comics from mass-media - an 18th Century novel and and a hugely popular 1990s cartoon. In this light their operations on the S.H.A.D.E.y fringes of the DCU are ironic, as they are each much more widely known than the likes of Martian Manhunter or Black Canary.
As Philip has already pointed out, in issue one, Orion and J'onn J'onnz are both Gods of War and another avatar of the 'God of War' appears in that comic even though we don't realise it yet.
I loved, for instance, that it paired up Snapper Carr and Cheetah as well as Black Lightning and The Tattooed Man. I need to pull the HC off my shelf and look through it again. I just thoroughly loved this series.
Well, Snapper and Cheetah are in a Rucka-scripted comic, but maybe we'll get to them.
Final Crisis continues to unfold in front of my eyes, revealing more all the time. I can see myself coming back to it many times. Maybe I should buy the new complete edition? God knows reading Superman Beyond again in the original 3D version was a pain in the hiney!
Which brings us nicely to....