Thursday, 25 August 2011

Books: Final Crisis


Final Crisis
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J. G. Jones and Marco Rudy


Available now from Islington Libraries
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My theory about why so many people tend to write stuff about Grant Morrison is that the stuff he writes is so much fun to write about. Observe: The following quote (taken from this interview below) sums up both everything that's great/awesome/stupendous and everything that's oh-so deeply wrong/muddled/bad with Final Crisis (you ready?): "superhero comics should have an ‘event’ in every panel! We all know this instinctively. Who cares ‘how?’ as long as it feels right and looks brilliant?" The end result of this philosophy is a mainstream superhero comic book that feels like a crazy avant garde experiment - reading it feels like trying to make sense out of several stories all playing over the top of each at the same time - as you struggle (fruitlessly) to hold on to any small scrap of sense or meaning before being awashed by the noise (it's DC via Merzbow!). I keep getting visions of myself running through empty fields chasing a manically laughing Grant Morrison (played for some reason by Spider Jerusalem?) as he sits upon a magic cloud dangling the small thread of "story/character motivation/understanding what the hell is going on" in front of my face - my hands swiping frantically as it bounces this way and that in the wind - each time never quite managed to grasp it - each time cruelly yanked away by the giggling Scotsman above me - before he finally decides he's had enough and ascends into sky - leaving me below - dejected and alone. That's the best way (the only way) I can describe my experience of reading this book. And - honestly - I still don't really know what I though of it. I don't know if I enjoyed it. Or if it angered me. Or upset me. Or what. I just know that it was something that happened that I didn't quite understand. An experience. An event of my life that is now over (although I do sometimes still get crippling flashbacks - but c'est la vie).

Moving on - I guess I could try and tell you what it's about - or at least as much as I could understand (see above). In 1985 - DC comics decided that their 50 years of comic book history (that's the history inside the comic book universes instead of the real life history of the comic books) needed a clear out - so they came up with Crisis on Infinite Earths - that as far as I could tell (I've never read it - and am probably never going to): made more of a mess than the thing it was trying to clear up - in that it was followed by Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (in 1994) then Identity Crisis (in 2004), Infinite Crisis (in 2005 and 2006) and then - finally - Final Crisis (2008). My own personal opinion about all of this (and I'm sorry if this offends any of you DC fans out there) is that all this getting bogged down by continuity stuff isn't really what stories are about - and hey - as long as the stories are good - who cares? And - anyway - I'm more of a Doctor Who kinda guy when it comes to continuity stuff - where the motto is generally - if it feels good - do it. (for full lovely discussion read this - it is awesome). But anyway. I don't know if reading the other big DC Crisis events would help any - but that's at least the history leading up to it. Plus - there's this evil guy called Darkseid (pronounced "Dark-side" - but you knew that already right?) who's an evil all-powerful New God dedicated to being really really evil - all the time (from Jack Kibry's New Gods series - that you probably should also try and read before this) - he's less a character - and more just something for the superheroes to fight against - you could switch all his appearances with the word "EVIL!" standing in his place and you'd have pretty much the same effect. Also - most importantly - you mustn't forget that running up to - and into this - before getting lost somewhere in the middle: you also have Grant Morrison's run on Batman - that was taking place at the same time and that has important information that will help you make sense of this (or was that the other way round? It's so hard to tell with these things).

That's as much background reading that I'm currently aware of (and yes - I'm well aware that what I'm writing is starting to disintegrate into the same sort of unfocused noise that I've been accusing this book of - but oh well): carrying on (and this is hopefully going somewhere - so hold on): I read somewhere once that the difference between reading Marvel and DC comics - is that the way that Marvel is written - you can pick up any issue at random - and even if you don't get all the references (and let's face it - you probably won't get all the references) - you can still understand what's going on and get involved: it's more inviting, more willing to do stuff to help get you up to speed, more kinda welcoming and friendly. DC - on the other hand - is more insular than a möbius strip - and writes stories that don't really care if you've just joined in: keep up or be left behind - this is serious stuff (hell - it's called FINAL CRISIS!) and we don't have time for laggers... So my point (haha! I have a point!) is that - although my experience of Final Crisis was all huh? and what? and I don't understand? and noise noise noise and general story-telling static: this stuff does make sense (apparently) and that there are whole blogs devoted to getting all of the many, many the references (take a bow final crisis annotations!) that is basically what makes up most of the noise. My expectations the first time round reading this was that it was gonna be a superhero blockbuster kinda thing that was all contained in one volume and could be enjoyed by everyone (DC's version of The Ultimates with an apocalyptic edge) - and well - it's not that. What I've given here is my experience of what it reads like - and if you're looking for advice on whether or not you should try it yourself. Well. I reckon the people who would get the most from it - the hardcore DC fanboys and girls who will nod their heads at every allusion and nod to past events and stories - have already read this back when it first came out. For the rest of us mortals - in which I include myself even tho I've read a fair few comic books in my time (well duh): it's still worth taking out from the library. There's small sequences that surface fleeting out from the rest of the book that are pure comic candy: " my other job" = awesome, the spread of the Anti-Life Equation is proper 28 Days style awesome, that moment with the rubix cube is action movie awesome and the Japanese superhero Most Excellent Superbat (self proclaimed power: "being rich" [1]) is - yes yes yes - very much awesome (does he have his own comic book? Because I would totally read the hell out of it). So yeah: "superhero comics should have an ‘event’ in every panel! We all know this instinctively. Who cares ‘how?’ as long as it feels right and looks brilliant?" Ok then...

[1] I have a theory that you can trace the slow decline (or hell - ascent - if you're that way inclined) of Grant Morrison from rebel underground cultural terrorist to - basically - mainstream corporate comic's spokesperson from the way he deals with the idea of money: there's a line from Bruce Wayne in Batman and Son that goes: "And while we're at it, let's make wealth compulsory. It would solve so many of the world's problems if everyone were a millionaire, don't you think?" Which - the first time you hear it kinda sounds like a good idea - until you think about it just a little bit and realise that - oh - actually: it's a stupid idea. I mean obviously for a rich person (and - spoiler alert: Grant Morrison is a pretty rich guy) the idea that money can solve everyone's problems would just seem obvious - but (for me at least) it doesn't really seem like the firm foundation for a properly moral outlook on the world... (I mean - let's not get too deep into all the ins and out of it but just leave it with the simple observation that money isn't always the best solution to things - yeah?).


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