By Hervé St-Louis
February 1, 2009 - 10:23
This is the final issue of Final Crisis, where the resolution, one hopes, to the current predicament of the DC Universe will unravel itself. Darkseid, having seemingly killed Batman last issue, is confronted with an army of Supermen from different realities. It’s up to them to fight the anti-life equation and bring order back to their world. Meanwhile the monitors seem contents that the humans have saved the multiverse but for what purpose?
Like many readers, all of Final Crisis was utterly nonsense to me. Mostly, it’s because writer Morrison is not playing with the same rules of storytelling. He is not interested in telling the story going from point A to B, like most comic book writers. Morrison even claims that he planted all the evidence leading to this story years ago, perhaps starting with his run on Animal Man, and of course his work on JLA in the late 1990s all the way to the early 2000s. There is no way to verify this, but having not read the full body of work by Morrison, it’s hard to prove that it is indeed necessary to have read a large amount of comic books to understand Final Crisis.
If it were in fact the truth, then Morrison is playing with some of the last vestiges of comic book fandom in an interesting way. The tendency of many super hero comic book readers to just amass large quantities of comic books, they ultimately have no interest in, just to keep their collection intact and have an easy repertoire to a single continuity that cannot be allowed to be broken, is, in my view one of the post struturalist ways with which Morrison is playing with readers, and it may be the only way to understand what Final Crisis ultimately stood for.
OK, before we go any further, I think it’s useful to provide a few bits of understanding on post structuralism. Post structuralism, is one of those French philosophical way of looking at the world that evolved from the work of several scholars in the 1960s. As evidenced in the name, it’s a reaction to structuralism. It doesn’t matter much, for the sake of this review to understand the inner working of Foucault and his tribe to understand what Morrison meant for Final Crisis. All that is required is the understanding that the linear way of gathering knowledge, making conclusions based on evidence, cause and effect thinking is not relevant here. Post structuralists like to turn things around. A comic book is no longer a comic book, but a social construct we call a comic book. There is no definitive essence to the comic book. There is no definitive essence to Superman or Batman or the DC Comics’ universe. There are only different interpretations of these essences. There is no truth or ways to find and prove truth without looking at the truth digger. It’s important to understand who is delivering the truth to understand what he means by truth. Thus, the differing truths provide a contingency of essences and ways to interpret the truth – or in our case, the comic book that we are looking.
A typical narrative has an introduction, a conflict, a climax, and a resolution. These linear building blocks form a story. It creates a determined path that both readers and writer follow. Writers, like Brian Michael Bendis like to switch some of these to liven up their narratives. For example, in Secret Invasion, readers were shown the climax, before they were ever introduced to the introduction and the conflict.
Morrison rejects these ways of writing a comic book and that’s why most of us have had problems with Final Crisis. Even when we’re college educated and have read tons of post modern theories, we just don’t expect to read this stuff in a comic book featuring Superman and Batman, fighting against Darkseid and Lex Luthor. So faced with something that doesn’t play by the rules, we blank out. If Morrison were a good sport, he would let his readers and editors in on his game. But doing so would give a specific meaning to Final Crisis and it would stop readers from interpreting this comic book in their own ways. Remember there is a contingency of truths and Morrison’s is as valid as that of anyone reading Final Crisis.
The name of the series, Final Crisis, pokes fun at the entire concept of linearity in comic books. That there is a way where characters are coming from and going to and that these large comic book events serve to redefine the comic book continuity as stepping-stones. In fact, super hero comic book history is nothing to but a circle jerk, not going anywhere with different variants of Superman, Batman and every possible continuity duking it out as the ultimate reality. Final Crisis may be called final, but it may just be the first crisis. Now a few “comics historians” will point out that the first crisis was the one in Justice League of America #21 where the League first met the Justice Society of America. It doesn’t matter. That’s the whole point. Any of those crises could be the first, the last, the most important the most this and that. What a post structuralist finds more interesting is how they relate to one another and how the various truths they contain can create a descriptive narrative commenting on the various aspects of the stories.
For example, in Final Crisis We are introduced to a black Superman and a black Wonder Woman. He is also the President of the United States. Here, Morrison plays with the social construct of President Barack Obama and how we see him as a saviour, a super hero, a modern Christ-like figure that will save us from evil and redeem us. This one aspect of how we have traditionally seen Superman. He was a man greater than us, willing to go beyond to save us. So the Barack Obama version of Superman is a truthful as the other Superman that fought Darkseid to a standstill in latter pages.
In another passage, Darkseid is obliterated by the omega rays that he shot at the Flash through time to destroy him. What is interesting is that the omega rays are the ultimate linear and deterministic symbol ever. It is said that they always hit their target, even if that target runs in time, changes course, or teleports. There are rules about how omega rays function, yet, Morrison used these rules to destroy Darkseid. How can omega rays destroy the very person that created them?
Final Crisis, tells the reader that it’s
alright to toy around with all these concepts and ascribe to them dubious
truths that are neither clear or real. There is not a single defining Superman
or DC Comics’ reality. There is a multiverse of realities and we just happen to
read more often, about the one where Superman is from Krypton, is married to
Lois Lane, works at the Daily Planet, is part of the Justice League.
My thesis about the post structuralism of
Final Crisis and Morrison's intents are my way of understanding what otherwise would be a mess to me. It is also a more pleasurable way of reading and thinking about this comic book than other approaches. I have no certainty of knowing if Morrison was going for a post structuralist approach, but it doesn't matter. Through this approach, I have enjoyed this comic book and what it represents and says about this hobby and the cultural phenomenon of super heroes. Post structuralism, allows the reader to make up his own truth independent of Morrison's or what is considered gospel by DC Comics' historians. If it works for me, it may work for you.
Mahnke completes this issue, replacing artist J.G. Jones. Mahnke is a talented pro and it’s a credit to his skill that he was called in to complete this issue when scheduling issues came up. Perhaps, it would have been better to hand him the entirety of the project instead of the last chapter. His presence here doesn’t break the flow of the preceding chapters. His rendition of Superman is different, but interesting. He is a great storyteller capable of assembling a disparate script together in one unit. If a reader cannot piece this comic book, it is not because of his efforts.
Rating: 7 /10