Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The next big thing to read in comics?

It’s been a while since I have been excited by the breadth and scope of a comic, but that is exactly where I find myself now. After reading some quite full novels like The Book Thief – and a short controversial novel perhaps unfairly critiquing America called The Reluctant Fundamentalist (which was a good quick read), I have been ready to read something more light-hearted. So I finally started on the seven-issue comic Final Crisis, a bizarre and huge story set in the world of Batman, Superman, the Question, the Flash and other DC characters, where the “new gods” take over the entire earth and usher in an era of oppression, mindlessness, submission, conformity and “anti-life”.

It all leads to a (perhaps culturally significant) moment, when Darkseid announces there is only one true god, him, the embodiment of evil sadism, the one who enslaves humanity (“all is one in him”) and inspires his loyal followers amongst the new gods to produce ever greater works of genetic horror and horrendous destruction.

Not exactly light-hearted then! But it is great as it daringly pushes each character to their limit. Green Arrow, who always gets great political lines, has a fun moment to stand up against a wave of brainwashed foes before falling. Also I liked the inclusion of the low-level villain the Tattooed Man, who, in an extra part of the story called Final Crisis: Submit, has to face his hatred of self-righteous superheroes and grudgingly accept their help. It’s nice to see a couple of characters from the horrific/fantastic Seven Soldiers of Victory series here too.

The best part I got to read was actually Superman Beyond which focused on Superman on a personal mission to rescue Lois, by going beyond the universe itself to the “bleed” which makes up the universes to carry out his role in what is described to be an inexorable story that the monitors who watch the universes may have set in motion. The story is like an immovable force, a bit like the way stories or ideas are described in Terry Pratchett. And Superman proves his “super” by knowing the secret of the story, it seems. Very weird, but pushes the boundaries.

Also connected, Batman: Last Rites builds on the previous adventures of the Dark Knight (such as The Black Casebook and Batman RIP), and while looking back at his whole life in just 2 issues, it presents a cool twist that shows the new gods a thing or two, before Bruce Wayne is vaporised and killed in the main story of Final Crisis. He really seems to be dead, by the way, and will be missing for quite a while (until the inevitable resurrection)!

Of course it does briefly reference the previous big Crisis, which seemed mainly to be about irresponsibility, both on the part of the world and its heroes - but also the irresponsibility of youth, as shown in the re-appearence of an immature and over-powered "Superboy". More thoughts on that "Infinite" Crisis are coming soon, as I've been meaning to post a kind of guide to the whole thing.

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