Final Crisis - Grant Morrison grant morrison: super-hero or super-villain? you be the judge!

on the one hand, Final Crisis is an amazing achievement. it sure seems like dc just handed the reins to morrison and told him You Go And Do What You Do, We Don't Give A Flying Fuckeroo. they wanted to 'end' things with a bang and then press re-set. so he went for it. this is one of the most dense, layered, kaleidoscopic graphic novels i've ever read. the sheer amount of information being conveyed, page by page, is staggering and requires very close reading, an almost encyclopedic knowledge of what is happening and what has happened in the dc universe, and demands the constant flipping back and forth through pages in order to put things together in a way that makes any kind of sense. it is clear that morrison knows the dc universe inside and out - entire storylines are referenced glancingly but knowingly (for example, versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl - there are several - get two panels; within those two panels, their entire history and potential future together is summed up with shocking ease). morrison's imagination is one of the most fertile working in comics today, and the almost worm ouroboros-shaped narrative is refreshingly challenging and allows him to move in whatever direction he pleases while using the entire universe and all of history as a backdrop. at times he even can be touchingly sentimental, in particular in his loving attention to the Marvel Family (less so with their nemesis Black Adam, unfortunately). the man also knows exactly how to write the New Gods - in my opinion, that is a rarity. most significantly, morrison is possessed of a strikingly individualistic outlook, one that often seeks to attack and destroy the concept of "duality" - and moralistic binary systems in general. how such an anarchistic mentality became so central to the often mainstream sentiments of the dc universe is beyond me.

on the other hand, sad to say, Final Crisis also features some of the most laughably sloppy and shoddy writing i've ever seen by morrison. sure, the concepts are sophisticated, mind-boggling, just plain awesome. but a lot (not all) of the dialogue? good grief, what a load of eye-rolling crapola! seriously, morrison, what got into you? were you just too rushed and needed to get this done and over with? or, God forbid, were you just dumbing it all down because of your potentially mainstream audience? at times, it was a very big challenge to not just toss this across the room in aggravation. the complexity of Final Crisis means that a close reading is required - the multi-tracked and layered narrative(s) are the opposite of a casual, quick read. but that becomes really difficult to do when the things characters say are so damnably asinine. for example, the villain Libra. this character could and should have been so many things - he's the ground level villain (there are two more levels above him - Darkseid and then Mandrakk) engaged in picking off beloved super-heroes. and yet he sounds like a preening, two-bit nitwit, all badly-done juvenile posturing with no dark gravitas whatsoever. perhaps even worse than the often intensely stupid dialogue is the off-hand treatment of certain characters, including Libra. for example, the death of The Martian Manhunter...has there been a more pathetic, useless, pointless, disrespectful death for a major player in the dc universe? mind you, this is a character with actual depth, one with sadness & longing & tragedy at the core of him. instead of choosing one of the many flying fratboys or ditsy super damsels, morrison chooses to eliminate a genuinely interesting character with all the grace of swatting a fly or killing a mosquito. is this laziness or some kind of misguided attempt to confound reader expectation? either way, it doesn't work and is a clear symptom of this series' many lacks. i don't even want to talk about what he does to the Atomic Knights.

still, the concepts within are superlative...although i do think morrison owes a huge, worlds-within-worlds debt to moebius' Moebius 3: The Airtight Garage. and within the Superman Beyond segments, to jodorowsky's The Technopriests: Initiation - Book One which also features sinister, vampiric almost-gods.

despite the many giant flaws, there is a lot to treasure. my personal favorite moments include japanese wannabe super-heroes The Super Young Team and a black Superman from an alternate dimension whose alias is...President Barack Obama! morrison also creates a new character within the pages of Superman Beyond, who i found to be indelible...Captain Allen Adam, a fascinating Quantum Superman version of Captain Atom and Doctor Manhattan (who was himself a version of Capt Atom). poor, tortured Capt Adam takes drugs in order to lessen the intensity of his amazing empathetic powers. gosh, i sure know the feeling! of course Ultraman just mocks him for it. well, he would. that Ultraman sure is an asshole. and so is morrison, at times.

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