‘Blackest Night’ stealing ‘Final Crisis’ thunder? by Alan Kistler
The major event in DC Comics in 2008 is Final Crisis, written by Grant Morrison. Unlike many summer crossovers, Final Crisis is not its own event so much as the third story of a trilogy (the first two stories being the crossovers The Crisis On Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis).
The opening premise is that all of the New Gods (celestial beings who inhabit a higher dimension) recently seemed to die, except for Darkseid, leader of the evil New Gods. Darkseid has found a way to survive through human hosts, his power fueled by the faith of his new followers under the prophet Libra. Determined to become ruler of reality, he has been resurrecting his sinister forces (an ability Kirby established decades ago) by placing their life-forces in new bodies as well. And since he has now learned the powerful "Anti-Life Equation", a prize he has sought for centuries, he is able to destroy free will in any who hear the equation, thus creating a new army of slaves.
So evil god-like forces have been freely walking among us and because the super-heroes didn’t realize it, they’ve been vulnerable to sneak attacks and manipulations. In short order, John Stewart, Hal Jordan, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were all removed from the game board in one way or another.
But this is a Morrison story so that means there are usually layers to be peeled away. There are other things going on as a result of Darkseid now attempting to break the universe down to serve his will. There is, of course, the matter of the Multiversal Monitors, beings charged with maintaining the structure of the multiverse, one of whom is also living among us as a mortal man, unaware of his true nature. And there is the return of Barry Allen, the second Flash, a hero who became energy and merged with the universe even while saving it during the first Crisis over twenty years ago. Barry’s sacrifice saved the universe during that story and in DC Universe #0, it’s implied that the universe itself has brought him back so that he can save it again. It’s also possible he is here as a reactionary force to Libra, who is his opposite number in the sense that this a villain who also seemingly died years while merging with the cosmos.
And Libra and Barry are not the only dead men to show up in this story.
In Final Crisis #2, readers got to see Sonny Sumo, a Kirby creation who has not shown up since his first story decades ago. In that tale, Sonny learned the famous Anti-Life Equation but was then transported centuries into Earth’s past by Darkseid (who was unaware of what Sonny had learned). Sonny had no powers involving longevity or retarded aging. He should be dead by now. Yet here he is.
Similarly, Shilo Norman (the new Mr. Miracle who was an apprentice to the New God Scott Free), has remarked about how he seemingly escaped death and isn’t sure how.
Finally, in Final Crisis #3, Oracle was calling several super-heroes to action. Among them was a "mysterious new Aquaman" she’d heard about, a man whose face we don’t see. He seems to be dressed like the classic Aquaman of old, Arthur Curry, who was mutated and then died not too long ago, succeeded by his relative Arthur Joseph Curry (who prefers you just call him Joseph). But this guy isn’t Joseph Curry, that’s definite. Is it Arthur, back from the dead somehow?
And how exactly is Barry back? He’s not sure himself, but DC Universe #0 implies that the universe itself recreates Barry, expelling him from the Speed Force energy field he had merged with, because it’s in such grave danger that it figures this is the guy who can save everyone again.
In a recent interview with IGN, Grant Morrison commented on the appearance of this new Aquaman.
MORRISON: "One of the things that we’re doing is, obviously as part of the story the whole DC Multiverse is under threat, and we’re beginning to see a little bit more of what that means now that Darkseid’s ‘Fall’ has actually caused the entire structure of the Multiverse to collapse. So we’re starting to see characters who may be from elsewhere and may be coming from different worlds in the Multiverse or from different timelines. And Aquaman could well be something like that, although I’m not going to blow the whole thing yet. But yeah, he’s going to be quite big in it, and we’re bringing him back just to try and get an Aquaman in position that we can all understand. You may notice that J.G. drew his legs with the ‘water camouflage’ effect from the Craig Hamilton -era costume and he has a slightly-unshaven Clint Eastwood look so he’s not entirely the man we know."
So basically, a cosmic event is causing the dead to rise and return in some way. That’s dynamic, that’s entertaining, that tells me there are high stakes.
But here’s the problem. It causes me to be a bit disappointed in DC Comics. Because months before Final Crisis #1 even came out, I’d been seeing ads for Blackest Night which have been telling me "The Dead Will Rise." So, some dead people return in this story and then in Blackest Night the big deal is that MORE dead people will return? Really?
Come to that, it’s a bit odd to be advertising Blackest Night so much as the big end-all, be-all event of 2009 when we should really be wondering and worrying about whether or not our heroes (and the multiverse) will survive past Final Crisis. I guess everything turns out okay, since the Green Lantern Corps will have to worry about Blackest Night next year.
Now, yes, I know that logically the DC heroes will survive because they are as much marketing tools and licensed properties which sell t-shirts and video games. But I’d like at least the illusion of not knowing that most of them will be around for a crossover that’s happening NEXT year and which I already know a few details about.
It’s not just Blackest Night. I already know about the upcoming Kandor story-arc and we can see that Bruce Wayne survives the events of Batman R.I.P. because Final Crisis takes place afterwards and Morrison himself (along with the one-shot issues Final Crisis: Requiem and Last Will and Testament of the DCU) has confirmed that it is Bruce Wayne wearing the cowl in FC.
Perhaps I’m looking at this wrong. But I think it would’ve been great if DC kept their mouth shut about Blackest Night until at least a month or so after Final Crisis. I think it would be great if comics kept their mouths shut more often and gave us plot revelations and discussions only after a story was completed. Some of my favorite stories are the ones where they ended and I wondered to myself "Wow, I wonder what happens next!"
But in this case, I already know a good deal of what happens next. So how excited do you expect me to be?
But the sad fact is, the way things have been the past ten years, where Marvel and DC release pages of comics two months in advance and where people demand spoilers and leaks, I don’t know how to change it. I can ignore internet spoilers, but I can’t ignore the ads in my comics each week that tell me "Next year everyone’s an alien!" or "Where were you when Orion died twice in one month?"
I guess I just have to shrug my shoulders and say, "Ah, well." And that kind of sucks.
Alan Kistler doesn’t dislike comics, he just misses being surprised. He has been recognized by Warner Bros. Pictures and mainstream media outlets such as the New York Daily News as a comic book historian, and can be seen in the "Special Features" sections of the Adventures of Aquaman and Justice League: New Frontier DVDs. His personal website can be found at: http://KistlerUniverse.com. One of these days he’d love to write for DC, Marvel or Doctor Who.