Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Final Crisis #4 Review

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco

It's been quite a while since Final Crisis #3 and, since then, we've seen several tie-ins and we're being greeted with the addition of a fill-in, er, I mean, collaborating artist, who was brought on board to help Jones. How did the long layoff and artist change affect my feelings on this event? Read on to find out.

First off, Final Crisis #4 is easily the best issue of the series. While it wasn't perfect, it was far better than anything that came before it for many, very simple, reasons.

One such reason is that the writing seems to be focused and Morrison appears to have a clear agenda as to what he wants to tell us after the time-skip. Gone are the schizophrenic jumps between unrelated plot points and we are left with a story that, while still as dense and jam packed with near encylopedic knowledge of the DCU, is both straight forward for casual readers and rewarding for those that have put the time into reading the various storylines Morrison draws upon.

Picking up roughly one month later, Final Crisis #4 depicts a world caught in the throes of the Anti-Life Equation. We quickly jump between the various surviving heroes and their safehouses or Watchtowers, as they are calling them. These include the Fortress of Solitude, JLA Hall of Justice, Checkmate's castle and several other super-hero bases. We're also treated to glimpses of the world as it is now with Anti-Life Justifiers systematically seizing control of every major population center and, in general, showing off the affects of the Anti-Life Equation on Earth. It paints a grim picture and has done its job of making Final Crisis into a Crisis-level event, moreso than any other save the original Crisis.

However, the real stars of this show are the Flashes and Green Arrow. Morrison has a firm grasp of these three characters and, with only a few pages featuring him, has gone a long way towards selling the whole return of Barry Allan to me. Whether it was Wally and Barry's brief dialogue about his being back (Flash fact!) or Barry and Iris embracing, Barry stole every page he was on. Now, whether that's a good thing for poor Wally or not is hard to say...

On the Green Arrow side of things, he definitely had the best lines of the issue with his "Anti-Anti-Life Arrow" and his slight alterations to the Justifiers', "Anti-Life justifies our actions.", line. After nothing but Winnick's Green Arrow to read, it was nice to see some quality Ollie action for a change.

In fact, the only thing I really disliked about this issue was Darkseid, or the lack thereof. For months, we've been teased with that cover image of Darkseid and told how everything changes with issue four when we finally see what happens when evil wins. Well, we saw the consequences of evil winning, but we never even see the big baddie until the very last page of the issue, where, after struggling to contain Darkseid's essence for most of the issue, Turpin finally falters and Darkseid's persona emerges, red eyes, concrete skin and all, giving a big thumbs down to life on Earth. These were all written extremely well and I did enjoy the way it was handled, but I was just expecting, with a time skip and all, that we'd see Darkseid triumphant and in action. Not sitting in a chair being contained by one human's strength of will for 30 pages.

Okay, I lied about only disliking one thing. There is one other thing that I have to talk about before wrapping this review up and it's the art. While many decried Final Crisis and called DC down from on high when they announced the art changes / addition of Pacheco to the event, I think it's safe to say that, while the change is fairly noticable, it's far from the worst thing to ever happen to a title and Pacheco does the be he can to emulate Jones' work.

However, while Pacheco does a great job emulating the style, he certainly lacks in the details. Every hero and villain looks fairly similar to scenes clearly drawn by Jones, but Pacheco's backgrounds are bland and barren by comparison. Many look like they were simply white washed with non-descript walls, giving a 'floating heads' or body look to the panels.

In the end, though, the only people I can see really being upset about the art are people that are just looking for another reason to bash a book they probably aren't even reading. This isn't Countdown quality fill-in art and they did a great job breaking the two up into various subplots in the book, giving each storyline its own feeling while still remaining similar in style. To be honest, it's better than I anticipated and I imagine Pacheco was rushed in to fix this before any delays occurred. I imagine, in future issues, his work will look much better than this and, as I said, this is far bad artwork as it is.

Verdict - Must Read. I think it's safe to say this event starts with this issue. I'd honestly recommend not even reading the first three issues at this point. All you need to know is evil won and this is the aftermath and you should be able to enjoy every aspect of this issue with even the vaguest knowledge of DC. Oh, but make sure to read Final Crisis: Submit first. It fills in a fairly large chunk of story for the Hall of Justice scene with Black Lightning and the Tattoo Man.

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