Darkseid’s forces have taken over, and the world’s heroes are scrambling for survival. Things look dire – with little to no hope for the future – but a spark of optimism lingers.
Final Crisis #4
(w) Grant Morrison (a) J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco (c) Alex Sinclair
Jason Jeffords Jr (JJR): It’s been awhile, but we’re back to the main series! Yay! First off; Final Crisis #4’s cover may be one of the most well known out of all 7. This is due to the imposing Darksied smacking his two big ole fists together at the reader. Out of all of the covers DC used this one for their omnibus printing. Pretty spot on as the omnibus’ size is also imposing. So why not scare the reader away even more? Alas, we move on to the interior.
Dan Gehen (DG): After the different tie-ins, it’s really nice to get back into the proper story. I feel like a broken record saying this, but there’s a lot to unpack in this issue, especially within the context of the superhero genre.
Before going any further, I do want to call out some of the antiquated technology found in this issue. It’s always a danger to include era-specific technology or even pop-culture references, but it’s something that Morrison seems to revel in. Early on, J.G. Jones includes a Blackberry and a Garmin-style car GPS, both of which have been put out to pasture with the rise of modern smartphones. Often, such inclusions are retroactively seen as negatives, as they “date” the comic. But to Morrison, such antiquities – like pop-culture references seen in earlier issues – are important. Much of Morrison’s storytelling is contextual, and certain point-in-time references can help ascertain the writer’s intentions. We mentioned in an earlier installment that Morrison is rebelling against the “grimdark” trend of comics, and seeing these items reminds readers of when this story was written.
JJR: Adding on to your point (to a degree), these items make sense in the story being told. That being, the Anti-Life equation broadcast through all technology (via the internet). Phones, GPS’s, and television. It’s surprising that we don’t see more stories that revolve around a threat like such. If it was such a huge threat ten years ago, it’d be much worse now. Thinking about it, nowadays you have Google Homes, Alexas, and whatever Facebook has made. Everything is connected, hell some people’s houses are so connected to the internet via these devices that if the internet went down they wouldn’t be able to turn on their lights or control the temperature. Pop this story into 2019 and most people are screwed, crazy enough, a plan of spreading a disease, or a way of taking over earth isn’t the worst plan. Recently that was part of DCeased, where Cyborg got infected with a techno-virus and spread it there everyday technology.
Before I pass it back to you Dan, I love how Final Crisis #4 directly references Submit, with Green Arrow attacking Tattooed Man who has recently turned a new leaf. Alas, Green Arrow doesn’t know this, and once Oliver learns of what transpired he still acts like his good old, hot-headed self towards the former baddie.
DG: I’m assuming that if you were reading this when it was coming out, you might skip Submit and feel that Green Arrow’s reaction here is totally justified. Then again, Tattooed Man is kind of a deep-cut villain, so reader probably shrugged it off. With that said, I do appreciate Morrison’s use of a more obscure, redeemable baddie instead of trotting out the Joker.
Throughout this, we’ve talked about how Final Crisis is full of commentary on superhero books. In a way, it’s an “anti-Watchmen” that instead of showing how fucked our world would be if superheroes existed, it shows how fucked this world would be without them. As each hero succumbs to the Anti-Life Equation, the DCU becomes more bleak. But Morrison’s ultimate thesis of this story is one of optimism, and drops some bread crumbs throughout this issue’s pages.
Probably the most overt clue is when Wally West’s children ask “when will things go back to normal?” Morrison knows that it’s the nature of superhero books to have no lasting changes. As Stan Lee famously stated, readers don’t want change but rather the illusion of change. It’s inevitable that the bad guys will lose and the heroes will win, the only differentiation is in the journey. Jai and Irey West understand this, even as the adults in the room concern themselves with “all being lost.”
JJR: I’m glad you mentioned the comment by Wally West’s children. It was one of the things I wanted to mention. For the same reason you brought up, that superhero books have no lasting changes. It’s a nice little line that shows optimism, while saying, “Hey, this won’t last forever.” Plus, the adults don’t even reply to this question, instead they carry on with their conversation.
This issue felt much darker than the previous issues, with the destroyed Blüdhaven littered with bodies, and most of earth now under the Anti-Life Equation. But, I absolutely love Green Arrow line towards Black Canary. Having thought up a plan of sending everyone to the moon base with himself staying behind to destroy the portals. Knowing he will be converted he has one of the best lines directed towards Black Canary, to help alleviate the seriousness of the situation. “… I’ll use the Anti-Anti-Life Arrow.”
I do like your comparison of Final Crisis showing how fucked this world would be without superheroes. Thinking about it that way makes me want to go back and read again.
DG: To be fair, Bludhaven’s destruction is nothing new. Nightwing’s one-time hometown was destroyed by Chemo back during Infinite Crisis – when Dan Didio was pushing to off the character completely (it ended up being Superboy that went the way of the dodo). However, I do agree about this issue’s descent into darkness. Things look dire, but then there’s ridiculous shit like that “anti-anti-life arrow.” It’s a great example of Morrison fearless embrace of Silver Age ideas in a modern setting. But because of the rapid pacing of the story, readers really don’t have time to question it. Instead, the approach is “welp, that happened, let’s keep going.”
There’s also some macabre humor threaded throughout this issue. Joan Garrick and Linda West are referred to as the “Flash Widows Club,” ironic as they’re the spouses of the two Flashes that haven’t died. Turpin’s painful and horrific conversion into Darkseid continues, all while his minions wax poetic about their glorious reincarnations. And then there’s the Oliver Queen, defiant and brash even as a submission helmet is forced onto his head. In the face of heroes falling, Morrison offers these instances where uncomfortable laughter is welcome, even as the issue ends with a fully reincarnated Darkseid.
However, even though this issue ends on a downer, with all hope seemingly lost… it is not. That’s because of the Flash. This series does not take a lot of time for quiet character moments, but we get one here with the reunion between Barry Allen and Iris West-Allen, providing a much-needed moment of optimism while vanquishing the short-lived Flash Widows Club. It is sweet that in his reunion with Iris, Barry says “Sorry I was late,” a reference to him being notoriously late for everything which dates back to the 1950s. It also shows that the Speed Force, which Barry uses to negate the Anti-Life equation in Iris, may be key to stopping Darkseid’s plans.
JJR: I honestly don’t have much to add, as I agree with all of what you say. But, I do want to note one thing, and that’s on the reincarnated Darkseid image; I always loved that ending. The page alone is epic looking, plus the title, Darkside Says is hilarious. Wouldn’t mind having thumbs down Darkseid on a t-shirt.
DG: That image is a classic callback to the emperors of Rome, which makes sense as Darkseid himself is an ambitious conqueror. It’s crazy to think that we’re finally past the halfway point of the proper series. We only have one bit of tie-ins remaining, but from here on out Morrison’s scripts get a little tighter. Unfortunately, J.G. Jones’ notoriously slow pace will result in him being unable to finish the series, which is unfortunate because his artwork is really wonderful.
Speaking of wonderful, we get another appearance of Anti-Life Wonder Woman, known as “Wunda.” It’s a shame that the character has been sidelined for most of this series, especially given her rise to prominence in recent years. Last thing I want to point out is that the famous catchphrase “Flash Fact” used in an interaction between Barry Allen and Wally West. It’s a term that originated back in the 1950s Flash comics in which Barry would explain something scientific to readers. See? Comics can be educational.
Previously on “The Full Run: Final Crisis”
- Final Crisis #1
- Final Crisis #2
- Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge
- Final Crisis #3
- Final Crisis: Superman Beyond
- Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds
- Final Crisis: Submit