FINAL CRISIS #4
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.
SECRET INVASION #7
Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Leinil Yu
Boom. Blam. Kapow. Noh-Var shows up for one panel, never appears again. Hawkeye shoots some Skrulls in the face. Wasp prepares to blow up due to the Skrull Hank Pym's growing formula, which he gave to her in the opening arc of Mighty Avengers. The end.
That's the entire issue's story in a nutshell and it's about as boring and predictable to read (if you can call looking at pictures of generic, non-descript 'big action scenes' reading) as the description I just gave.
If this wasn't enough to make it abundantly clear that Secret Invasion is, and will be, a complete dud when it's all said and done, several other books this week, most notably Captain America, spoil the big 'shock ending' of Wasp possibly killing everyone by telling us everyone survived and things are fine on Earth post-SI.
On the plus side for this issue, Yu's art is quite good and he does a great job rendering the huge cast of heroes and villains. He makes this the popcorn action flick of a comic book that many people are enjoying about with this series and I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying his artwork on this type of project. However, he does get a little lazy with the Skrulls and many turn into non-descript blobs, but when there's literally dozens of them filling up the backgrounds, I can cut him some slack on that.
The only other positive I can think of was the amount of useage Stature, of Young Avengers fame, received. She took down both the Galactus Skrull and the Hank Pym one in two splashpages. I assume Bendis is priming her or a spot on the new Mighty team post-SI.
This type of generic action filling up an entire issue (well, entire event in SI's case) doesn't agree with me and if you've been enjoying this series up until now, you'll continue to love it with this issue.
For me, I just can't get into it. We never receive any resolution to any of the fights the heroes are having with any of the Skrulls. It's just one generic, "Here's character X's powers in action!", followed by, "and here's character Y doing something cool!", ad nauseum for 25 pages or more. We spent months prepping a "secret invasion", marking one of the most covert and insidious take overs by an alien force in all of Marvel's history and the big conclusion is a frat party brawl in downtown New York. What the hell kind of planning did these Skrulls do? This is just pandering to fans looking for the next big fight or looking for their favourite character to "do something cool".
The thing that bothered me the most was the whole Noh-Var joining the battle scene. Bendis has everyone stop and look at this incoming and unidentified super-powered character and we get an awesome reveal of Noh-Var claiming to represent Captain Marvel and the Kree Empire and making it known the Skrulls are finished here and we never see him again. It's like every other appearance by him or Captain Marvel since this event started - it's a waste of time and a complete throwaway on Bendis' part. There's no follow up nor even any other mention of who he is or why the scene should be important and it's forgotten by the reader, and Bendis, as quickly as it happened.
The story telling of this event is like that of a child telling his parent his idea for a cool story. Bendis fails to follow up on any of his plots and just goes from one big idea to the next with no follow through, let alone a follow up. It's just one big explosion or reveal after another for the entire event and that is its biggest failing in my eyes.
Verdict - Avoid It. Go back and read my opening summary. That's all that happens. If you want to look at some big explosions and pin-up style fight scenes with no real story telling or flow to them, feel free to get this then.