Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reviews: 10.22.08 (er, posted 10.23)

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco

If you've not been following FINAL CRISIS thus far, here's a quick recap: the New Gods have died, leaving only their Apokolipian bretheren, who are all becoming "reborn" within human bodies. As this is happening, a man named Libra has assembled the villains of the universe to unite together to serve a greater purpose, and any villains not going along are shunted aside. Libra systematically removed the Martian Manhunter and Superman from the game board, while the Dark Side club has captured Batman and Detective Dan Turpin, who houses the spirit of Darkseid himself. To top it all off, once-dead Barry Allen has returned from particle vaporization, and he and Wally West have leapt forward in time a month to discover that the Dark Side club has unleashed the Anti-Life Equation through every communication device on Earth, subjugating the populace who have viewed it. Anyone who's turned away from it is hunted down, and on top of that humans and metahumans alike are being transformed into "justifiers" and are policing the world. Among them is Wonder Woman, who leads a team of furies, of which are Batwoman, Catwoman, and Giganta, and are currently facing down Barry and Wally.

Okay. That's summing it up as simply as possible.

Holy shit.

FINAL CRISIS #4 opens with the Ray beaming the Tattooed Man into the Hall of Justice, pulling him away from Justifiers outside, led by Black Lightning. Green Arrow isn't happy about a villain in the hall, but it turns out that T-Man was working undercover for Black Lightning before the hero was turned. Meanwhile, the Ray uses his power to connect the seven safehouses around the world to communicate one last time before they're shut down permanently. There's a strike force preparing to attack Bludhaven, where the Dark Side club is located, and now they just need the resources. Back to the Flashes, Barry and Wally make quick work of the Furies before taking off to search for their families. And finally, Dan Turpin, who's been fighting off the influence of Darkseid for a whole month appears to be finally losing his will, and Darkseid is coming to power.

Holy shit.

A lot of flack has been given to the series for unintelligible content and metaphysical references. Hell, some people have been hating on it simply because Grant Morrison is writing it or because DC is the house of evil. Whatever reasons given, there can be no doubt about one thing: the DCU is clearly fucked. Darkseid's presence is being felt everywhere, from Earth to the cosmos (where one of the Gods, Granny Goodness, has infiltrated the Green Lantern Corps), and it seems that there's literally no way out of this. No Superman, no Batman, and Wonder Woman's a Fury. That spells doom. And Darkseid hasn't even appeared yet! Morrison is truly ramping up the idea that there's nothing, not a single thing the heroes could do to save the day, and I'm beginning to believe it. Aside from the fact that DC's released solicitations into the new year, I have doubts that the world will survive. How could it? With this much planning, execution, and complete sadistic force, evil has already won.

There were a couple of scenes that stood out to me. One was Green Arrow's sacrifice. No, he's not dead, but possibly worse than that, as he stays behind as Black Canary and the others escape the Hall of Justice and Arrow holds back the Justifiers. Bad ass scene, one that elevates Ollie a little bit in my book. It was very much an Armageddon scene in that the main character stays behind to save the others. While cliche in a sense, the way Morrison went about it made it so cool and so bittersweet. And the other scene was where Iris Allen, Barry's wife, is seen under the influence of the Anti-Life, but Barry arrives, and with a kiss he pulls her out of the trance. That was romantic in the classical and literal sense; the white knight saves the princess with a simple kiss. Of course, there were Flash lighning bolts in the background, so maybe more was at work. Either way, it made my heart hurt, which is something that Morrison is getting good at. Finally, the last page (standard in the series thus far) provided the chilling cliffhanger of the month, and next issue stands poised to deliver nothing but the total annihilation of Earth.

The art was on fire, Jones' best stuff since the first issue, and Pacheco's art blended in almost seamlessly. I had to go back and forth multiple times after the first read to identify who drew what, and you can tell that they both worked really hard to match their styles as best as possible, a labor considering how different their work really looks in other books. One poster on Newsarama, BlindMessiah, noted that the only different he could tell was the coloring was brighter in Pacheco's sections, and he's on the money. Otherwise the book was solid with the art. Very, very solid considering how messy it might have looked.

So Earth is doomed, the Multiverse is doomed, and everyone's just screwed in general. Great. THIS is the kind of situation where I just can't figure out how the hell it's going to go, regardless of soliciations, and that's exactly the reason I'm loving this book. High concept, high quality, high fives all around. This is the kind of product DC needs to raise their stars in the industry, however, with all the currently controversy surrounding J.G. Jones, FINAL CRISIS, and Dan DiDio, one has to wonder if this book will help DC or hurt it in the long run.

Either way, this is the best event book from the past three years.

Overall: 5/5

Written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson, and Sterling Gates
Art by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal, Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalháes, and Pete Woods

Oh. My. God.

Oh my god.


This is what you will be saying when you hit the final page of NEW KRYPTON SPECIAL (henceforth known as NKS). It's shocking, amazing, and revelatory. But there's pages before it, so let's get to looking.

The comic opens with Jonathan Kent's funeral in Smallville, direct from the events of ACTION COMICS. Clark Kent delivers a eulogy, then daydreams of breaking into the prison where Brainiac is being held and beating the alien despot to death. He's angry, Clark Kent is, he's angry and despondent and unsure of what to do or where to go from here. Cue flashback montage of some of Pa Kent's wisdom over the years, and Superman fills himself with a little more hope. Then, in a mysterious underground bunker, a group of scientists find out the hard way that Brainiac is still dangerous, even while inert, and a character named Assassin takes out Brainiac temporarily while a shadowy figure must find more scientists to examine Brainiac. Then, in Kandor, Superman has a hard time dealing with the Kryptonians and getting them to understand that Earth isn't just New Krypton, it's a planet that they all have to share and learn to co-exist on. Kara shows up and is reunited with her parents, a Kandorian shows off a blue whale he's killed because it "threatened" him, and Superman is beginning to have doubts about introducing the Kryptonians to Earth. Finally, a certain super-scientist whose name rhymes with "Sex Suthor" receives the call to examine a certain alien super-computer despot. And it's who contacts Luthor that's the big surprise of the big.

Johns, Robinson, and Gates set up the main beats of the coming Superfamily stories. Dealing with Pa's death, Jimmy Olsen knowing too much about a certain government project, Supergirl getting to know her parents again, and the Brainiac resolution. Someone is hiding something from Lois Lane, and it just might be her sister. Something is clearly wrong with Ma Kent, and it just might be that it's her husband's death taking the life out of her. And out of all of this, Zor-El makes mention that the Kryptonians of Kandor might just be wandering out on their own to meet Earth, not vice versa. Considering what happened to the blue whale, a scary thought indeed. Each of those writers clearly has set goals and thoughts for their own books and the story as a whole, especially Johns, whose work on last year's SINESTRO CORPS WAR set the standard for the mini-event along with Marvel's MESSIAH COMPLEX. If the one-shot is any indicator, NEW KRYPTON will end up being the Superman story of the decade. The artwork fluctuates between the artists, but I must admit that I'm a huge fan of Gary Frank, and wished he'd have done the whole book. That's no slight against Guedes and Woods, both artists are excellent, as showcased in the trade SUPERMAN: UP, UP, AND AWAY! If Guedes stays on SUPERMAN, and Woods does more Super-work, this is going to be nothing if not a pretty storyarc.

As a stand-alone, NKS is a must-buy. As a lead-in, it's essential. For that final page alone, this is the book of the week. Buy it or die, but if you die, come back as a zombie and buy it anyway. There's life in this one, folks.

Overall: 5/5

EDIT: Eagle-eyed readers will noticed that, yes, that's BRUCE WAYNE at Pa Kent's funeral, standing off to the side in the shadows, coat whipping in the wind. Took me two reads to realize who that was, as no one states exactly who it is. Am I reading into it? Maybe. But it makes sense. Johns FTW!

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