Comics / Cult Favorite

Final Crisis Final Exam

By Philip Schweier
February 3, 2009 - 17:40

Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Comics. I’m glad you could attend this meeting. I’m sorry to say we’re here to talk to you about your son, DC, and his latest project, Final Crisis.

Despite claims that DC is telling compelling stories and producing quality product, the fact remains he is falling way short of expectations. We know he is capable of doing better; we’ve seen it. In the past, he has delivered on that promise. Lately, those promises have been, shall we say, empty.

In the interest of fairness, I will say that Final Crisis is a complex story, and requires a pretty healthy knowledge of the universe that DC has created. It is ambitious in its scope, so the fact that it comes up short may not be the bigger issue.

And short may be the very problem. It seemed to be told in an extremely abbreviated fashion, assuming that a reader would be aware of prior events. Perhaps if it had been extended into more than seven issues, a greater degree of exposition would have been allowed.

Grant Morrison
One might suggest that it was scheduled for seven issues, therefore seven is all that is needed. Well, not according to Grant Morrison, whom I understand had a great deal to do with the structure of the overall story. In an interview with Matt Brady at, shall we say, another website, Morrison indicates the proper reading order is:

Final Crisis #1-3
Superman Beyond #1-2
Final Crisis #4-5
Batman #682-683
Final Crisis #6-7

By my reckoning, that is 12 issues. But we’ll leave any mathematical judgments to others.

Now, call me a nitpicker if you will, but this isn’t the first occurance of something like this. It also happened a few years back during The OMAC Project. The first three issues of that series came out without a hitch, only to suddenly veer off into no less than four other titles (Superman #219; Action Comics #829; Adventures of Superman #642; Wonder Woman #219). While promised that each series comprising the Countdown to Infinite Crisis would be told in a stand-alone format, writer Greg Rucka offered readers a mea culpa, suggesting the story was just too big in scope.

Without belaboring the point, may I suggest that if a story grows beyond its intended schedule, perhaps the schedule should be extended?

Also in the aforementioned interview Morrison comments that readers should enjoy buying additional chapters as they criss-cross among other titles. Personally, I find this view short-sighted, woefully unrealistic and frighteningly arrogant. Not every word that flows from any writer’s fingertips is a polished jewel to be cherished.

Perhaps while in the paid service of a comic book company, one’s budget for comics is virtually non-existent, as many employees of the industry receive them as part of his or her compensation. But to the struggling college student and the young couple on a budget, comic books do not come so cheaply. The seven issues of Final Crisis, at $3.99 each, retail collectively for $27.93, not including sales tax. That can be significant investment on a story that jumps from one scene to another, often into another comic book title altogether.

But Final Crisis has been a dismal disappointment for a number of reasons. For one, linear storytelling seems to have gone out the window. I won’t begrudge anyone a degree of creative license and experimentation, but there is a lot to be said for following events chronologically. If something occurs in flashback, it helps to indicate so in no uncertain terms. I refer to page 6 in Final Crisis #7. Panel two shows Supergirl paying homage to the fallen; panel three shows her battling robotic versions of the Justice League

And even a fragment of backstory might help with characters with which a reader may be unfamiliar. Final Crisis #6 featured a race of tiger-beings, of which I had no prior knowledge. It is my understanding they came from Kamandi, an obscure series that was canceled some 30 years ago.

Frankly, Mr. and Mrs. Comics, we’ve become weary with DC’s unfulfilled ambition. Were we to simply enjoy a consistent level of quality in the form of a tale well told, we’d have no problem. But we’ve grown fatigued of the constant series of events, and claims of radical changes, only to find ourselves more and more confused, and expected to invest more and more hard-earned dollars into one disappointing “crisis” after another.

Perhaps, once these ambitious projects can be completed and collected, they will be judged on their merits as a whole after completion, rather than seen as a downward spiraling trip to nowhere. I know the age-old argument that if everyone waits for the trade, the regular series won’t accumulate enough readers to keep itself going. GASP! Survive on merit alone? Perish the thought.

In the meantime, Final Crisis receives an F in my book. “F” as in final, for it will indeed be the FINAL crisis. I felt you should know that I refuse to throw away any more good money on a bunch of smoke and mirrors and endless hype. I’ve lost all faith in DC, and if he expects to earn my respect, he’ll have to buckle down, put his shoulder to the grindstone, and turn in quality work of which we can all be proud.

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? E-mail me at

Last Updated: June 23, 2021 - 00:29

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