Good news! Barry Allen’s back from the dead! But Batman’s MIA, Superman is sidelined, Martian Manhunter’s still dead, and Wonder Woman’s over-matched. As more heroes fall off the board, it’s clear that Darkseid’s influence is literally tearing the world apart.
Final Crisis #3
(w) Grant Morrison (a) J.G. Jones (c) Alex Sinclair
Jason Jeffords Jr (JJR): Before we get into the issue I want to bring up something I forgot to awhile back. I love the covers for Final Crisis. How each cover is a focus on one singular character wonderfully illustrated by J.G. Jones. They were simple in terms of comic covers, with only the character and a solid color behind them. Issue 3 is one of my favorites out of the seven issues due to my love of Supergirl, and how magnificently Jones drew her.
Dan Gehen (DG): They really are visually striking. While there is a lot going on in this issue, it seems to read pretty straightforward. On first glance, this reads like a pretty standard comic. Our remaining heroes seem to be piecing things together, and there’s a glimmer of optimism between the group shot of the drafted heroes and Barry Allen’s return. Of course, things go to shit pretty quick.
JJR: As stated before when Final Crisis first came out I was a young newcomer to the DC Universe so there were multiple occasions I had no idea who was who. That’s what happened when I first cracked up issue 3 with Morrison opening on Frankenstien and S.H.A.D.E. storming the Dark Side Club. I had no idea who Frankenstien was in universe but I loved the 9-panel scheme that J.G. Jones went with on the first three pages. Having a few panels combined showing a wide scene making the time flow slower setting up moments while having multiple actions happen then having singular panels for actions and reactions work great when done correctly, which in this case it was.
The Question (Renee Montoya) escapes from S.H.A.D.E.’s grasp while telling them to look into Dan Turpin. But it doesn’t take long for S.H.A.D.E to catch up with her as she stopped at the site of Overgirl who had just plummeted down to earth. On the next page we jump to Nix Uotan and his work situation, but I’ll leave that to Dan, since he has spoken of his relatability to Uotan and his work place. But I would add quickly; J.G. Jones goes with another 9-panel page here that is different but works perfectly for what’s going on.
DG: Jason, you point out something that I don’t want to fly under the radar, and that’s J.G. Jones’ utilization of the 9-panel grid layout multiple times. The 9-panel grid layout is something that has seen a resurgence in recent years, thanks largely to Tom King’s Omega Men, Vision, and Mister Miracle. In addition, Geoff Johns has been making use of it in Doomsday Clock. While King uses it effectively for story pacing and Johns’ book is drawing parallels to Watchmen, Morrison and Jones’ use of it intrinsically tied to storytelling of Final Crisis.
The 9 panel grid is an iconic comic layout that immediately harkens back to the industry’s past, which DC is intrinsically tied to. As the events of the issue unfold, the world fall apart and the 9-panel grid disappears. As the world loses structure, so does the storytelling. It’s a deliberate breaking of the traditional comics model, which will escalate going forward.
On a lighter note, as we turn to Nix Uoton… he gets fired from Big Belly Burger. This little sequence seems relatively minor and a weird segue from the narrative, but as we’ve established earlier this series cuts out all the bullshit, so this must be of some importance. As he’s fired, his manager emphasizes that the word “gravitons” is disgusting. For the record, a graviton is a hypothetical particle which is thought to be responsible for carrying the force of gravity, in analogy to the photon, which is responsible for communicating all electromagnetic forces. This is one of the few “character moments” in the series, but it’s important to showcase that this world is not just inhabited by these superpowered beings, but regular people too. But what’s really important is that Nix’s firing leads to him walking past a news broadcast, showing a discovery by Cave Carson. The discovery ends up being a cave painting of Metron’s symbol, along with the scales of justice, calling back to Final Crisis #1 where Metron met Anthro.
JJR: For the next few pages we have Jay Garrick recounting the cliffhanger from the previous issue to Barry Allen’s wife, Iris. I love how Jones draws the Flash’s movements with ghost images following him, while Alex Sinclair amplifies the Speedforce background with blue, red and yellow swirling colors. In this moment we see Jay drop out first while Wally and Barry are chased by The Black racer as they chase the god-killing bullet through time that inevitably kills Orion.
DG: That sequence with Iris is so heartbreaking. Can you imagine what she must be experiencing? First, to have lived so long thinking that your love is gone, only to have someone say essentially, “Hey, he might not be dead after all.” Given the limited real estate of this issue, I think Jones does a decent job conveying all the necessary emotions this scene requires.
Meanwhile, this Barry and Wally sequence unintentionally demonstrates the problem with bringing Barry back from the dead – it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. Wally has grown up and become his own hero. Depending on your point of view, he has either equaled or surpassed Barry as a hero. To that end, Jones’ art does a good job of visualizing this. While it’s pretty well documented that Geoff Johns had long-term plans for Wally that were nixed by the New 52, in retrospect this is one classic Wally’s last significant role in DC Comics.
JJR: We then make our way to Libra at The Hall of Doom thrusting a small helmet on the gullible Human Flame, who starts to hear voices whispering inside the helmet before Libra gets it on him. Once said helmet is on The Human Flame, Libra explains that the voice he hears is the Anti-Life Equation; thus setting up a huge plot that carries through Final Crisis.
Once the helmet is fitted Lex Luthor arrives-one could say perfect timing on his part. Between what he just witnessed and how easily Libra was in getting Superman out of the picture Lex believe Libra may be to powerful and he can’t have that. Luckily Libra has minions and threatens Lex with a helmet that would make him mindless, or renounce science while swearing allegiance on the Crime Bible. You can figure which one he picked.
These two moments advance the plot quite a lot for the heroes and villains side in a span of five minutes. For the heroes we have the return of Barry Allen, granted they couldn’t stop the bullet, they at least have one of their A-gamers now. With the villains we learn how Libra will start to take over the earth, and how easily he can get whatever he wants no matter who opposes.
DG: That Libra sequence can really be picked apart depending on how you want to look at it. Morrison rarely brings politics into comics, but how these events unfold over the space of a couple pages is very reflective of how power is brokered in modern politics. We saw it after 2016, where Republican politicians either willingly chose to go along with Trump’s messaging or be forced to in fear of being primaried.
In a more traditional sense, this is a strong-arming tactic often seen in classic crime stories – including those from DC’s history. Characters like Lex Luthor and The Joker have time and again forced others to go along with their schemes out of fear. What Libra is doing here is executing a similar plan on a grander scale.
JJR: Yeah, for only two pages you can look at it in a multitude of ways. One more thing for analysis is the panel layout. I don’t know what it means – if it means anything – but Jones starts it off with a small rectangle panel that doesn’t fill the page, then a rectangle paneled followed by two squared, and ending on another rectangle. When you go to the next page it’s the same layout, but flipped upside down. Like I said, I could be looking to much into it, but it could be Libra flipping the script?
It’s crazy because we’re only 10 pages in, yet so much has happened, and there is even more to come. Our next two pages focus on Superman and the aftermath of the previous issue, with Lois Lane in the hospital barely alive. The dialogue between Clark and Jimmy in this scene highlights Clark’s human side quite well with him replying that, “…Superman has problems of his own…” and “I have to stay with my wife.” Morrison essentially showing how much Lois means to him, and how human he is in fact; even with the revelation that his heat vision is the only thing keeping her alive. These two page alone could be broken down to show Clark’s humanity, then we have the entrance of a “mystery” character that knows his secret. This in turn spinning off into Final Crisis: Superman Beyond.
DG: I don’t think that Jones layout means anything. But the showcase of Superman’s humanity is interesting given how Morrison uses the character going forward. For most of the story, the “super” in Superman is a point of emphasis. So to see his journey kicked off with an emphasis on his humanity – you know, the thing people always complain about Superman lacking – is a nice touch.
But enough of that sentimental crap. With Batman and Superman effectively off the board, Wonder Woman takes charge. From interviews given, Morrison admits that one of the series’ shortcomings is his underutilization of Wonder Woman. From his “exit interview” with Newsarama:
“I love what Gail Simone (especially) and other writers have done to empower the Wonder Woman concept but I must admit I’ve always sensed something slightly bogus and troubling at its heart. When I dug into the roots of the character I found an uneasy melange of girl power, bondage and disturbed sexuality that has never been adequately dealt with or fully processed out to my mind. I’ve always felt there was something oddly artificial about Wonder Woman, something not like a woman at all.
Having said that, I became quite fascinated by these contradictions and problems and tried to resolve them for what turned into a different project entirely. Partly because I didn’t want to use any of that new material in Final Crisis, I relegated Wonder Woman to a role that best summed up my original negative feelings about the character. My apologies to her fans and I promise to be a little more constructive next time around.”
With that in mind, I do think that Morrison’s handling of Wonder Woman for the remainder of this issue is very well done. Yes, she is ultimately corrupted the Anti-Life Equation, but that is a result of her taking charge, recruiting a boatload of heroes for the battle against Darkseid, and being at the front of the battle-lines. A lazy reading of this would interpret her being corrupted by the Anti-Life Equation as an anti-feminist message. Rather, it is a means to get the last remaining member of the DC Trinity sidelined.
JJR: It’s my first time seeing that interview, and it’s a pretty damn good read! In the following (after the Supes part) pages Morrison’s Wonder Woman is great with her interactions between the Alpha Lanterns, Black lightning and Green Lantern (Alan Scott). Starting with the Alpha lanterns yelling at a shackled Hal Jordan -who is an arms length away might I add – “No lantern escapes the Alpha Lanterns!” And Hal re-affirming his ‘commanding officers’ that he will come quietly.
Angered by this Wonder Woman interjects claiming Hal is innocent and that they Alpha Lanterns have no evidence, while showing annoyance of the lanterns ignorance on the Evil Gods. This is a great Wonder Woman moment, showing how she is willing to step in if she feels something is wrong and try to fix it. This scene mirrors society were people can be arrested and even when they comply they are treated as if they aren’t, and that even if there isn’t much (or any) evidence if they want to lock you up, they will.
Hal tries his best to calm the situation down by claiming he will talk to the guardians (as he has many times), even though he barely remembers what happens. As you previously said Dan, Morrison takes out the Trinity, and in this scene he takes out another heavy hitter—Hal. Wonder Woman even mentions the missing of Batman and curbsiding of Superman. Dropping this in conversation with Alan Scott, who in turn mentions that anytime they’ve called upon the New Gods to help combat the Evil Gods, but without their help they need a new plan.
This leads to Scott mentioning Article X, or The Drafting For Superheroes, in which Roosevelt helped make a team of over 50 heroes quickly. Thus moving into the three page recruitment of a “boatload of heroes”, as you called it. I loved when they called upon Black Canary and Green Arrow, because Canary is making her way out of bed, getting dressed, while Green Arrow is in his boxers laying down. I feel like anytime these two are called they are in bed, or getting out of it.
DG: The Article X draft feels like it’s pulled directly out of the Golden Age, back when heroes would talk about “joining the war effort” and “support our troops – buy war bonds!” And it’s great to see a group shot of all the drafted heroes together. If you squint hard enough, it looks like Kevin Maguire’s classic cover to Justice League #1 (1987) and each subsequently reworked version.
JJR: We then hop over to Shilo and Mister Miracle whom we haven’t seen in awhile, only to be ambushed by a group of people wearing the Anti-Life Helmet, as the duo try to make their way onto a plane. They are saved by none other than …The Super Young Team. Yep, they make a comeback! They’ll be shown more later on. Transitioning to Wonder Woman in a broken down Bludhaven where she (and we) are introduced to a transformed Mary Marvel, whose new character design is… something, to say the least.
DG: Each time I see the Super Young Team, my brain wants to just tune it out. They are easily my least favorite element of the story and make me tempted to skip ahead. And I can’t skip ahead because if I do, I’ll likely miss something key for later in the series.
While the new, punk rock version of Mary Marvel and Wonder Woman go toe-to-toe, we also see Oracle trying to contain a global, self-executing computer virus containing the Anti-Life Equation. How Morrison and Jones structure this page builds tension, similar to a ticking clock in a movie. With each panel comes increased tension until it is thankfully released with a cut to black. It’s also prophetic that the story shows the internet and modern consumer technology weaponized. It’s easy to connect the dots between how the influence of the internet is used here and the 2016 U.S. elections, where various social media campaigns were used to indoctrinate the public with a desired mindset. Both in Final Crisis and in real life, the internet is a crucial tool used to get people to blindly follow the wills of a leader who is evil.
Let’s wrap this up before I go on a full-on political diatribe. We wrap up with Wally West and Barry Allen being pursued by the Black Racer, ultimately ending up a few weeks into the future – a future where Darkseid wins. They are met by the horrific image of a Darkseid-controlled Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Catwoman, and Giganta. What this means for the DC Universe… we’ll have to wait and see.
Previously on “The Full Run: Final Crisis”