I’ve just reread all of this, and I totally love it. It is difficult and demanding, and I wonder if the editors were tempted to provide annotations, footnotes or some such – but eventually I decided they weren’t needed. I’m not sure I have read stories featuring the Monitors before, and they are half of the key to this, and I have no clue what the fuck happened to New Genesis and Apokolips which is central to the other half, but I had no problems, given some concentration. The content is here, not reliant on outside knowledge. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t exploit the history, because it does, often brilliantly, with loving references to the past (Flash saying “Flash fact” twice – Grant and I always shared a love of the Silver Age Flash comics) and countless invocations of what makes me love superhero comics, right down to Superman saying “This looks like a job for Superman” and the line “Superman can,” which seems to sum up (in its context) as well as anything ever has what makes him the greatest. I can’t imagine anyone with a love of superhero comics being unaffected by such moments.
Its conception is on a grand scale: Darkseid finally managing to unleash the Anti-Life Equation and enslave billions, including many major superbeings; the coming of the Dark Monitor, capable of destroying every universe there is; and the alignment of all the remaining superheroes against them. I was sorry to see the Martian Manhunter killed almost casually, but it’s nice to have Barry Allen back. The best roles, as in Grant’s magnificent JLA run, go to Superman and Batman. The 2-part ‘Last Rites’ Batman story says so much about what makes that character special, his intelligence and strength of mind and passion, and his fatal confrontation with Darkseid was superb. The two 3-D Superman specials are mind-blowing, running through countless massive concepts and making explicit the meta element of the whole thing, the infection of narrative into the Monitor’s universe – ideas about story are all over this, strongly emphasised by the inscription Superman burns on his tombstone and the wish he makes with the miracle machine.
The ending has the usual Grant Morrison weakness, I suppose, the tendency towards an “Ooh, here’s an Ultimate Nullifier” resolution, but this time it did centre on a device that already existed in the DC Universe. The ending also features an unparallelled line up of heroes – the angelic armies of Heaven, a bunch of Green Lanterns, the new Forever People, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew (!), Captain Marvel, the fifty parallel Supermen of every other universe, and, centrally, Superman himself – not only spectacular in itself, but also a wonderful contrast to Batman facing off to Darkseid.
I don’t know what the fallout will be from this, whether the Batman we know will stay dead much beyond the story of the rivalry to take his mantle (there is a last-page suggestion that he won’t), whether someone will ressurect the Martian Manhunter or Orion, whether those that were enslaved by Darkseid will be affected by that, whether we will ever see the Super Young Team again, what will be made of the parallel universes or the return of the Barry Allen Flash. I don’t know if writers will be able to resist playing in what I take to be a version of the Watchmen world, for instance. I don’t know if the word ‘Final’ in the title will stop DC having another multiverse-threatening Crisis mega-event in five years. I don’t suppose I will know the answers to most of these, as Grant’s comics are the only DC ones I have bought in a while.
I also don’t know what the fallout for Grant’s career will be. He’s been given great license here, to write their biggest flagship event in years in his own way. I have no expert information, but I am told sales have fallen through the run. He’d been handed a privileged position at DC, creating concepts and redefining characters for others to run with, and I have no idea how any of those have gone (the only one I’ve noticed was the Metal Men, and I tried just one issue of that). I’m told we have another Seaguy mini-series to look forward to, but I have no idea beyond that what he is going to be doing. I hope he continues to get the top titles, as well as doing his own thing on his own creations, as his JLA, X-Men and Superman runs, and parts of the Batman run, have been among the best-written superhero comics I’ve ever read. I think by now he may be my favourite comic writer ever.