Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Crisis of Faith

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 28th, 2008

Final Crisis #1
“D.O.A.: The God of War!”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist/Cover artist: J.G. Jones
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN

After the awkward plotting of Infinite Crisis and inconsistent, patchwork storytelling of Countdown to Final Crisis, it’s safe to say that a lot of readers were leery of this latest DC Comics super-hero event title. Balancing that perspective is the fact that it’s penned by Grant Morrison, a unique and powerful creative voice who’s known the innovation and intelligence he brings to the super-hero genre. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book. While it feels as though he’s repeated himself a bit here, Morrison delivers a plot and script that’s challenging and engaging. Continuity fans might take issue with his script, as DC’s icons speak and react differently than what we’ve seen from them in the past. I rather appreciated it, though, as Morrison manages to mix two vastly different concepts. He approaches these characters as a larger part of a pantheon of gods, but the story also adopts a police-procedural tone that makes for a sharp contrast. Blending the disparate tones is intriguing, and I’m honestly interested in what’s coming next.

The New Gods are being murdered, and the latest to fall is one of the most powerful. Metropolis cop Dan Turpin stumbles upon Orion, son of Darkseid, in a dumpster as he investigates the disappearance of a number of poor gifted children, and that leads him to a private social club known only as “the Dark Side.” Meanwhile, Orion’s murder spurs the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League into action. Meanwhile, the mysterious force known as Libra proves to the super-villains he’s collected together for a common purpose that he can deliver what he’s promised by murdering a super-hero right in front of them.

I was a big fan of the “original” Crisis crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths, so I was a little disappointed that we don’t see as wide a variety of obscure characters here as I’ve come to expect from a big DC event. Still, Morrison has definitely established an immense, cosmic scope for the event while also including a few of down-to-earth moments to keep the story grounded. His script’s also clear and accessible; one needn’t be an expert on All Things DC in order to appreciate the story.

J.G. Jones delivered some fantastic covers for 52 in 2006 and 2007, and I remember his detailed, photorealistic work from Morrison’s Marvel Boy series with fondness. The strength of his artistry remains evident on this title as well. There were a couple of sequences in which his work reminded me of the dark, realistic style of artist Lee (Lex Luthor, Man of Steel) Bermejo, and others in which he brought the same sort of sophistication and magic to the visuals that J.H. Williams III did during his run on Alan Moore’s Promethea. He balances the wonder of super-heroes and myths with more refined, mature qualities perfectly. He also seems to be taking some cues from the art that was such an integral part of Morrison’s last big super-hero event, Seven Soldiers.

The simplicity of Chip Kidd’s cover designs for this series should help it stand out on the stands; a similar approach certainly worked for Marvel’s various Civil War-related comics. Part of me can’t help but long for the kind of detail and action that George Perez brought to the covers of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis, the predecessors of this event book.

Morrison has adeptly instilled a charismatic and dramatic personality into his resurrected Libra character, and I’ve enjoyed each of his recent appearances thus far, though the promises he makes to the villains in this issue strike me as being a bit redundant at this point. After DC Universe #0 and last week’s issue of Justice League of America, this is the third time I’ve heard this same song and dance. While one can’t assume all have read the JLA story, the low cost and wide availability of DCU #0 no doubt mean most (if not all) Final Crisis readers will have learned about Libra already.

Morrison sets up some clear parallels between Kirby’s Fourth World gods and the super-hero icons of the DC Universe. Orion is described as “a soldier god,” and his death is followed by the death of a hero who has a connection to war as well. We also see the evil New Gods rising to prominence as the good New Gods die, and similarly, we see Libra promising with confidence that the heroes’ time of triumph has come to an end. Contrasting all of these mythic elements and synchronicity is the matter-of-fact, down-to-business quality of the Green Lantern activity and Justice League discussions. Morrison has also pulled out the familiarity these characters have had with Fourth World figures in the past. While it may bother some continuity buffs, I found it brought some mystery and urgency to the tone of the story.

Countdown, despite all its flaws, was something of a love letter to the late Jack Kirby, “the King of comics.” Several plotlines revolved around his DC creations: the Fourth World, Kamandi, OMAC. Obviously, that weekly series was a buildup to this limited series, and it seems to be Morrison’s effort to give his creations and stories an ending, not to mention an effort to connect his various ideas together as part of a larger, cohesive tapestry. Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of Kirby’s efforts for DC in the 1970s. However, I do appreciate Morrison’s modern work a great deal, and the way he’s molded and matured Kirby’s original concepts has my attention. 7/10

12 Responses to “Crisis of Faith”

  1. Tim Agen Says:

    Don, I don’t know anything about the New Gods. My only exposure to them was in Morrison’s “7 Soldiers”, and I don’t think that really counts. Will I still understand what is going on in Final Crisis #1?

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Tom wrote:
    Don, I don’t know anything about the New Gods. My only exposure to them was in Morrison’s “7 Soldiers”, and I don’t think that really counts. Will I still understand what is going on in Final Crisis #1?

    I think so. Morrison’s vision of the New Gods from Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle factors heavily into this story, so you should have no problem. Furthermore, the Justice League meeting provides some exposition on the New Gods for newcomers to the concept.

  3. Blair Says:

    One things for sure – nothing will ever be the same again ! ;)

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    I wouldn’t count on that, Blair. A cornerstone of the super-hero genre (and the marketable intellectual property they represent) is the status quo.

  5. Nelly_in_SJ Says:

    Just picked up and read Final Crisis #1. Coherent story, beautiful art, but no real “whoa..!” moments. Hoping for the best from the issues to come.

  6. Tim Agen Says:

    I picked it up and was indeed surprised to see the “7 Soldiers” Darkseid. My problem is that even though I didn’t read it, I know that Orion killed Darkseid in Death of the New Gods. So having “Dark Side” in the story and a dead Orion just kinda confuses me. I read Final Crisis and am bugged by the fact that more is going on here. I know.. i know one answer is, “go read the rest everything else to figure it all out!” but yeah.. that ain’t going to happen. So I guess I’m done with FC.

  7. B Smith Says:

    Tim wrote:
    I picked it up and was indeed surprised to see the “7 Soldiers” Darkseid. My problem is that even though I didn’t read it, I know that Orion killed Darkseid in Death of the New Gods. So having “Dark Side” in the story and a dead Orion just kinda confuses me. I read Final Crisis and am bugged by the fact that more is going on here. I know.. i know one answer is, “go read the rest everything else to figure it all out!” but yeah.. that ain’t going to happen. So I guess I’m done with FC.

    After ONE ISSUE you want everything explained??

  8. Maurice Says:

    I believe that people were expecting too much from this first issue. I am also positive that comparisons are being made with the first issue of Secret Invasion. Grant Morrison and company have to get “pieces arranged on the board” before serious moves can be made. Having to deal with a huge amount of continuity and Countdown is not an easy task. So please just relax and read Fables (or some other Vertigo title) before issue two hits the stands.

  9. ra's al ghul Says:

    I missed the Death Racer (or whatever his name is) hovering over Orion when I read my copy yesterday. Weird. A couple things that bugged me: Orion is mostly dead, gives Turpin his ominous warning, then he’s completely dead; that weird little aside that Soloman did after Nix’s banishment, and I feel like I should have read DotNG before reading this, since the New Gods seem to factor in heavily.

    All small beer, though. I am intrigued by where it could go, I liked the art, and I think Morrison mixed the large scale and small scale stuff well. Can’t wait for #2. Batman #677 was good too, fwiw.

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    7/10 is a fair rating for this book. It’s not crap, and it’s not gold, and it’s only the opening chapter of Final Crisis.

    Do I care that DC has killed the New Gods? Yes, because I likes them the way they were. No, because they obviously didn’t sell the way they are, so why not try something different.

    Did Darkseid actually die in Death of the New Gods? I don’t remember. I have a memory problem sometimes. It’s called getting old.

  11. kanami Says:

    As a big DC fanboy, I really recommend that you should NOT, ABSOLUTELY NOT read and/or be bothered by anything that happened in Countdown and Death of the New Gods. As far as I can understand, Morrison is making his own story and ignoring those comics completely.

  12. KG Says:

    This was so not a user-friendly book. Completely inaccessible. I only skirt around the DC Universe, so this issue didn’t do much in the sense of wanting me to “buy in” to this Crisis gimmick or pick up any new titles. Honestly, most of this stuff completely went over my head.

    I was going to pick up this series, now I’m dropping it and hoping that it’ll read better in TPB.

    My nephew asked me whether he should pick up Secret Invasion or Final Crisis. I went to my LCS and bought him Secret Invasion #1 and #2 and told him to completely forget Final Crisis for now.