Sunday, December 14, 2008

Final Crisis #5 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE (Part II)

Sequart.org is still undergoing reconstruction, so Chad Nevett and I have temporarily moved "The Splash Page" to our blogs. The first half of our Final Crisis #5 chat is at GraphiContent, and the second half is below:

CN:
Of course, I've read Jog's take. His blog is among my usual "just woke up and want to read what others have to say about comics" rounds. Your question is one I've been struggling with for a long time, way before Final Crisis: how to explain something is awesome. I'm awful at that, especially because I always find myself using the same descriptors as those who hated what I so dearly loved. When you both use the same words to describe opposite reactions, is there any way to actually communicate meaningfully about a work?

I honestly don't know what to tell the Kennys of the world. In previous columns, we've discussed the techniques that Morrison uses in this book, which is a compressed sort found in his JLA work (were these people complaining about not understand things then?) plus loads others. The more I think about it, the more I don't see what's so confusing about this series, or this issue, which is pretty damn straight forward in that most of it is the forces of Darkseid versus the heroes. As it continues, it gets simpler, because Morrison reveals more... my advice, actually, is, if you aren't following along by this point, give up. A horribly pessimistic message that shows an odd snobbish cynicism, but we're five issues in and if things aren't making sense, I'm not sure they ever will. Grant Morrison is not known for ending that nicely and neatly tell the reader exactly what it all means. He does wrap things up, but it's in the same manner in which he's told the entire story. So, yeah, I have no means of helping those still lost. Maybe that's why I didn't go into teaching. But, you did, Tim, so do you have any ideas?

TC: Damn you, Nevett and your discussion-akido. I don't think I can really help the Kennys of the world either, beyond explaining the things that we've already explained in previous installments of "The Splash Page," but here's a list of things that make Final Crisis good: The way Morrison pulls in all levels of the DCU, from the street-level to the cosmic; J. G. Jones's almost tactile sense of dread; Carlos Pacheco's fluid panel compositions; Morrison's slow unfolding of the evil followed by the rapid acceleration of Darkseid's takeover of the Earth; the bastions of superheroism forming a resistance; Hal Jordan with 24 hours to save the world; The Super-Young Team's dramatic entrance; Rubik's Cube as Mother Box; Corruption vs. innocence; The way we jump from scene to scene without banal explanation.

These are all things that make Final Crisis work so well, but as you say, these are some of the same things that people complain about. And our sense of reality is skewed, as you know, since we appreciate the fact that this series draws upon Morrison's other work. Does this series work at all as an independent piece of superhero fiction? I've always assumed so, but others disagree. Yet that final page of issue #5 seems like a good litmus test for any potential reader, past, present, or future. If you don't think Nix Uotan's new look on that final page looks exceptionally cool -- and implies more excitement and imagination to follow -- than you probably won't be in tune with this series.

CN: I can't speak to how well this book works on its own since, like you, I've read what's come before. I pick up on the various references to Morrison's runs on JLA, Seven Soldiers and Batman. Would I be lost without that foreknowledge? Nah, because this book isn't half as difficult as some say it is, but I wouldn't be "getting it" as much as I am either. But, what piece of fiction, particularly corporate shared-universe superhero fiction, doesn't rely on what came before and subtle allusions to communicate its ideas to the reader? Unlike other books, this one doesn't just reference other big events or the "main" titles, it references "obscure" things like Seven Soldiers that, yeah, you should have been reading, because it was damn good. However, I don't think the actual plot references previous works to an extent that it actively hinders reading. I think the techniques Morrison uses probably cause more problems than quick allusions.

For the record, I love Nix Uotan's new look. I was wondering when it was going to show up since I flipped through the Final Crisis Sketchbook last week. The Fifth World superhero/god has arrived! I really enjoyed the two pages before that with Darkseid taking over half of the world with a visual allusion to Marvel Boy #2 where Noh-Varr and Plexus took control of the minds of New Yorkers to defeat the final Bannerman... striking with one fist and such. See, I got that, but does not getting it hurt the scene? Not at all! I think people get too hung up on the idea that there is so much going on with fast cuts and short scenes that there must be tons of things shown elsewhere key to understanding what's going on when there aren't. There really are not. I can only think of one: Metron is the guy in the wheelchair who solves the Rubik's cube in 17 moves. I think that may be the only thing that having read previous Morrison work actually provides needed insight. The rest is pretty self-explanatory if you've read the previous four issues.

TC: I didn't remember that it was Metron in the chair when I read the issue, and it affected my reaction to the book not at all. When I later read online that it was the Metron from Morrison's Mister Miracle I just though, "oh, that's right." It is a bit confusing because a dialogue tag seems to be pointed in the wrong direction during the Rubik's Cube sequence, but whether you know about Metron is irrelevant to understanding the plot. The guy has solved the cube in an impossible way, he has broken free of spacetime. Things are unfolding. It's all good. Great, even.

10 comments:

mshaug1984 said...

You brought up Nix Uotan's new look. One of the great Morrisonian ideas in FC5 that has jumped out at me is the idea of the New Gods possessing humans. We've seen it with Darkseid and Turpin, Granny and the rogue GL, and possibly with the Forever People and the Super Young Team, just to name a few.Is it possible that Metron is now possessing a "humanized" monitor rather then just powering him up?

Chad Nevett said...

What I particularly enjoy about our posts: I know I bought the sliver cover (because those are the covers I'm buying) and I bet you bought the regular one, so we both posted the actual covers we bought, giving people a subtle hint as to a big difference between the two of us (that good art is more important to you, while I'll take a cool design/arbitrary structure over better art).

Timothy Callahan said...

Although that Wonder Woman cover is fugly! But, yeah, you're right.

md said...

"The more I think about it, the more I don't see what's so confusing about this series, or this issue, which is pretty damn straight forward in that most of it is the forces of Darkseid versus the heroes."

At the risk of sounding like a pompous ass, the people that don't get FC need to take a quick course in post-modern literature. Just because it's a comic doesn't mean it needs to remain within the same conventional narrative structure.

I greatly enjoy the fact that it feels and reads like a comic book without it being dumbed-down. I mean "It's a well known fact that death can't travel at the speed of light" is a line that's ridiculous but works perfectly in the DC Universe. In fact, the offhanded manner Jay says it makes it so much more believable. I think people need to learn the difference between "realism" and "believability."

And don't get me started on Darkside's (mis)quoting Scripture! How's that for post-modern appropriation? :-)

Also, I figured the wheelchair guy was Metron because Metron is always in a chair and the guy's eyes glowed when he solved the Cube. I haven't, unfortunately, read SS. I am working on acquiring them, though.

Shecky Shabazz said...

Just like R.I.P. is remarkable for all the good it's managed to draw out of the fan community in terms of discussion, Final Crisis is remarkable for the perpetuated myth that it's hard to follow or understand. I simply do not understand how people can honestly say that this story demands too much of them. There's nothing about FC that justifies the sort of luddite hate that is currently clogging up the message boards. Most of these seem to rest on the eternal tenet "come on, it's a comic book! It's not supposed to be great litterature!". It's one thing to not demand that comics be more than entertainment. To actively protest on the occasions when they are, is something else entirely.

It's a shame about the inconsistent art, though. So far it's been okay, but I think the addition of Mahnke (who's a fine artist in his own right) will mess things up a bit. But all in all it's a damned fine comic book. No other medium or company brings you anything quite like this. Morrison may be a either-you-get-it-or-you-don't type of writer, but there's no reason why people should voluntarily (as seems to be the case) opt for the latter.

David Uzumeri said...

But the fugliness of the Wonder Woman cover is half the point! It's hideous, garish pop art, clashing colors, as the series goes on! As far as I'm concerned, we're seeing design structure masterpieces on both side of the board. (Then again, I'm buying both covers because I lend this series out to my slacker friends too much.)

I also really like how the art is breaking down as reality does; we've even got a brand-new, totally-untested artist stepping in and doing stuff like that last page, like the Forever Person to Jones's Mister Miracle and Pacheco's Orion.

(Note: I win any lovefest over who likes the last page more, as I just bought the original art.)

Kris Krause said...

First of all, I never understood how Secret Invasion, an event built off of years of continuity in Bendis' books and that referenced all sorts of older Marvel moments with the Skrulls as different versions of the heroes, was not deemed inaccessible. I think that charge has more or less become a fanboy crutch of both DC's work and Morrison's work that people repeat it without thinking. Fanboy-Crutch Justifies My Hate!

Personally, I think everyone should take a quick course on postmodern literature, as md suggested only for comic fans. Why stop there?

When Final Crisis is over I have a analysis shaping up in my head, but I hate to go too in depth about incomplete works. I look forward to seeing others' reactions to the big picture as, unfortunately, too much talk about the individual issues almost always is distracted by trying to deal with those who didn't like it.

Ultimate Matt said...

I think my dissapointment with FC has had to do with my own expectations - one of my favorite superhero "epics" of all time is Morrison's WW3 from JLA. I think I went into this series with expectations of huge, bombastic battles and declarations like in that series (every single thing that Orion says or does in that story is comedy gold, BTW) and I'm getting something very different. But yeah, it hasn't been difficult to understand at all. It's really pretty straightforward, almost dissapointingly so (almost).

ComicsAllTooReal's Chris said...

Hey, are you realizing you're saying people who don't like Final Crisis are either stupid or uneducated? That's rather snobish and couldn't be farther from the truth.

You even mention that to get Morrison's references you've had to read Seven Soldiers and his strange run on Batman. No one said it was a must read before getting into Final Crisis, which by the way, is a huge event that is meant to be accessed by everyone, not just an "intellectual" elite. It's okay if a series such as Seven Soldiers plays for the post-modern readers. But this is not the case with Final Crisis. It was meant to reach a broader audience and, with this in mind, it failed miserably. Even if it is genius to some, or if it should earn Morrison a literature award, it is failing in its primary mission and that's why it has become such a marketing nightmare for DC, and such a high debate among readers.

And no, I'm not taking a post-modern literature class to get what's going on in Final Crisis.

Volt said...

I think Final Crisis is everything good and bad with Morrison, really -- good and bad being relative terms here.

I'm not an unbiased reader. I'm a comic nerd and, on top of that, a big Morrison fan, so I can't separate out my experience reading it vs. someone who has never read Seven Soldiers, Batman RIP, etc. However, when I read Final Crisis, I don't feel this huge need to know all these byzantine references to get what's going on.

What I do need to know to get what's going on is as much a mindset as anything else, and it's just a mindset that says "this is complicated enough you need to pay attention and accept that there may not be clear-cut answers given." Comic book fans are a fickle lot -- God knows they don't want to read something that's "all ages" but if you actually give them a book that doesn't read like an action movie you get a revolt.

And that's what it comes down to with Final Crisis. It's not a perfect book, no, but it's not this piece of elitist crap that some people claim it is. It's just a mildly complicated superhero story. People are flabbergast because of that; no offense to the comic book world, but it has always seemed to me that the typical superhero reader expects complexity (thanks to Watchmen and other works) to come from deconstruction of the genre and a reversal of stereotypes, not through actual plot complexities presented in a manner no more confusing than, say, Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22, or one of many other 20th century novels that are assigned in high school. That's not an undue amount of complexity, if you ask me.

And that's Morrison in a nutshell. Many of his works seem far more difficult to unravel than they really are because, honestly, most of his mainstream stuff has been very straight-forward, just different (and therefore jarring). Just my two cents.