Final Crisis #4 Reviewed!

Evil Has Won.

Grant Morrison and JG Jones kick our asses in DC Comics’ Final Crisis #4. Read on to find out how, but note that spoilers follow!

“SUBMIT.”

It’s not just the title of the most recent Final Crisis tie-in, nor is it simply an allusion to the grim will of Darkseid, the horrific manifestation of evil that at last appears as Earth’s new ruler under the regime of Anti-Life. (A regime that may well be born into reality next Tuesday should this villain seize power, but perhaps that’s neither here nor there.)

No, “submit” is often what I feel compelled to do when I am at the mercy of Grant Morrison’s writing. Dan Phillips, a reviewer for IGN’s comic book section might have said it best in his review of “Superman Beyond 3D” when he indicated that, though he loves Morrison’s work, he sometimes feels like a “Grant Morrison apologist.” That is to say, those of us caught in the net of Morrison’s magic are wont to gobble up anything he puts on paper, even works like “Seaguy,” a comic that revels in its unbridled lunacy and, based on low sales figures, was not well-received by the public.

The first three issues of Final Crisis were similarly controversial. Receiving thoroughly mixed reviews, they were at best inaccessible, and in the eyes of many, a garbled mess that could not be followed and failed to really deliver on DC’s dramatic promise that “Evil has won.” You may recall from my review of the third issue that I’ve felt the series has been a success from the start. And so, I suppose, I join the ranks of Phillips as a Grant Morrison apologist.

But with the release of issue 4 last week, that’s all changed. There is no apologizing necessary. Final Crisis #4 is absolutely proving that this series is the comics event of the year, displaying such storytelling prowess in both its art and writing that any previous criticisms now seem entirely unfounded, the plot being drawn into such sharp focus that any concerns as to its aim should be allayed. Hell, even Kirk Warren of The Weekly Crisis gave it the coveted “Must Read” status in his review, and I previously singled him out as one of the harshest critics of the series. It would seem Final Crisis has finally struck the right chord with everyone.

And what a grim chord it is. The entire planet is at the mercy of Anti-Life, executed with brutal precision and thrusting all people into a state of chaos and bloody violence. Men and women alike are chained up and massacred in the streets by the followers of Darkseid, many of them converted into mindless vessels for his dark gospel. The few heroes left are sequestered in watchtowers across the globe, but they are quickly being overwhelmed by the insurmountable forces of evil. Earth’s mightiest champions, the trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, have been compromised, the latter of which now a blood thirsty Fury for Darkseid, rampaging through the streets, killing all who stand in her way.

What makes Final Crisis #4 so impressive, however, is not merely the apocalyptic setting or grandiose action sequences (for those, we could just as easily be reading Marvel’s Secret Invasion, which is becoming woefully, even laughably less impressive with each new issue). Grant Morrsion and JG Jones (with a few pages of fill-in art from Carlos Pacheco which is quite good) have crafted a perfect comic here, one that is distinctly framed with a beginning, middle, and end such that it could be enjoyed completely on its own having not read the first three issues (whether or not that’s a knock against the previous outings is to be determined, I suppose). One could start and stop with issue four and have a cohesive product. Admittedly, it would be a product with a prohibitvely dark conclusion, but it would work.

Opening with some expository narration from a super hero named Ray, Final Crisis #4 wastes no time in throwing the reader into panic mode. I’d venture to guess that it’s not an accident that the first page depicts an airplane being sacked by the Anti-Life Equation; the entire narrative of the issue is extremely morose and foreboding, not unlike the uneasy climate of a post-9/11 world. Though I’d imagine that most readers may not have felt as strongly, the events depicted here made me uneasy, disturbed in a way that I might never have expected from a super hero comic. The DC Universe has lost all innocence. It is a violent, twisted, scary place. Evil has won here. For those of us that are invested in these characters, those of us who can choose to ignore the fact that, on an editorial level, Final Crisis is something of a disaster (no other books, with the exception of the blatant tie-ins and Batman, are tying into the event whatsoever), the macabre tone is overwhelming. Grant Morrison is making deliberate choices as a writer to make us feel this way. Dan Turpin, a human detective, gives a brutal last testament that pervades the issue as his body is converted into a host for Darkseid. “Lord, help me, now, someone help me. I can’t hold back the storm on my own anymore,” he says as a previously sympathetic character disembowels a murdered Green Lantern with its teeth. “How can I fight if there’s nothing to fight for? I tried to show them what humanity’s made of. But wrestling with Darkseid, well… It’s like trying to beat the ocean unconscious.” Reverend Good, a worshiper of Darkseid, interjects.

“Give us a sign, great Darkseid! Thumbs up for the triumph of the human spirit! … Or thumbs down to summon a day of Holocaust that will never end!”

Turpin at this point is drawn in agonizing detail, his fat body worn down, wrinkled, cracked, a number of tubes plugged into seemingly every inch of his broken flesh. Throughout the brutal torture scene, we see the last vestiges of hope shattered, the final watchtowers destroyed by Anti-Life goons, Mister Miracle shot in the heart the second he appears after proclaiming “We can save the world!” Turpin finishes his monologue.

“The choice is simple. Because, here, at the end, there’s no choice at all. Only Apokolips and Darkseid. Forever. Give in.

Thumbs down it is.

Massive accolades are due to JG Jones, whose unique style really makes the book. Without it, the previous sequence with Dan Turpin would probably not have been as effective. While there are a few pages of fill-in art, his flair for depicting the disturbing and fantastical in realistic detail could not be more valuable here. The top panel of page three seems minor compared to some of the other, more vivid spreads of the issue, yet it was here that I was really hit in the gut, a number of Anti-Life troopers chaining up a suffering man, moments away from slamming him with a massive spiked club. A riot occurs in the background. It was an image I found myself lost in despite being comparatively minor; there’s no word I can find for it other than raw. The blood almost leaks onto the page.

Blood. So much blood. Moreso than any event comic I’ve read, Final Crisis feels like it matters. Most critics seem to be proclaiming the exact opposite, that because the rest of DC’s line isn’t acknowledging it, it is necessarily trivial. “We know it’s going to be okay in the end.” I disagree. To say so is not giving due credit to the work unto itself. So often are comic book fans turned into cynics by nature of the business. I, however, am taking Final Crisis simply for the story it is. I don’t care that Wonder Woman isn’t a babboon-faced monster in Gail Simone’s monthly series. She is here, and she is having a blast wreaking havoc in a world gone so, so wrong. Why should Morrison or Jones be faulted simply because DC’s editorial staff doesn’t have a good head on its shoulders, their story viewed with contempt simply because other products are being pushed that don’t relate to it? It is unfair, and quite frankly, stupid.

Submit. I have. Others have. We are at the mercy of the Final Crisis team. The tale they weave is frightening, and I cannot wait to see where they go with it. Bring on #5! With any luck, Oracle will keep her damn mouth shut about “killing the internet” in it and we’ll unravel the deeper mysteries surrounding the event. In any case, it’s certain to be one hell of a ride.

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One Response to “Final Crisis #4 Reviewed!”

  1. dude……..i concur……….the series is building up greatly!!!Batman & superman issues are purely at their acme & DC is astutely constructing a prime phenomenal tale.I hated Secret Invasion so much that i am hesitant in even downloading the e-format of those comics.I really don’t get it though why the hype about it??I mean the story is weak(Secret Invasion) characterization is weak and the plot as rightly said is laughable still one of my friends yesterday said that it started with a better sales figure than FC.I mean WTF?!!!!!!

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