This penultimate chapter of Final Crisis turns the story from fast-paced event to a Grant Morrison fever-dream of DC mythology. That becomes evident as artist J.G. Jones just is unable to keep pace, as he is joined by five other artists to bring Morrison’s batshit insane narrative to life. Oh, and this is the issue where Batman is “killed.” Don’t worry, he gets better.
Final Crisis #6
(w) Grant Morrison (a) J.G. Jones, Marco Rudy, Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy (c) Alex Sinclair, Pete Pantazis
Jason Jeffords Jr (JJR): Damn, it feels like forever since we did the last one. That in mind, welcome back to Final Crisis, the last crisis ever—hopefully. Anywho, I remember absolutely loving this cover because I mean it’s Batman, one of my favorites. Nonetheless, let’s get into the penultimate issue.
We start with Superman and Brainiac 5 in the 31st century. I’ve always loved Brainiac’s name, just because it’s pretty funny to say out loud. Yet, we aren’t here to talk about funny names in comics, if we were we’d be here awhile. No, we want to talk about the machine Superman is introduced to, the Miracle Machine, which is a God Weapon that can turn thoughts into things. A literal deus ex machina. I mean, it’s in the name. Nonetheless, Brainiac 5 makes sure Superman sees the design of it before he is sent back to his time. That’s because this device comes in quite handy later on.
Dan Gehen (DG): With two issues to go, things are finally starting to take shape. Well, not finally, but the relevant crossovers are given connective tissue to the main event. Superman and Brainiac’s discussion refers to both the events of Superman Beyond and Legion of 3 Worlds. See, there’s a reason we read those!
This opening scene between Superman and Brainiac 5 is rife with little references and throwbacks to DC’s history, which is what we’ll get throughout this issue. The God Weapon itself is not a Morrison original, but rather a deep cut from 1968’s Adventure Comics #367, and later in 1975’s Superboy #213. That sets the stage for the rest of this issue, which is the comics equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. It looks like a complete mess, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a mad genius at work.
With that said, it’s a shame that this issue is usually thought of as simply “the one where Batman fake-dies,” so let’s dig into that up front.
JJR: I had no idea about the God Weapon coming from those issues, I shouldn’t be surprised, that’s a very Morrison thing to do. Nonetheless, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, or in this case, the dead bat in the room.
When I first read this I was devastated, because I had yet to understand the concept of death in comics. Unlike real life, it’s not permanent. So, when Batman “died” and Superman can be seen later carrying his body, I lost my damn mind. Be that as it may, I love how whenever a character dies and another is carrying them it looks like the Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 cover. I mean, that’s not many comfy ways to hold a body, yet it seems like that cover is constantly referenced. But, that is jumping ahead, as Batman’s interaction with Darkseid is bat-tastic.
As much as I love Batman facing gods, and other super-powered beings, I’m more of a street-level fan. But, the way Batman speaks towards Darkseid is fantastic. Here is a human who has been through hell as of recent, doesn’t give a shit, and stands up to a god, mocks him, then breaks his rule of shooting a gun. All of this is just a 3-pages long. The moment is epic, fast, and feels fucking great to read.
DG: I remember finding out that Batman was “dying” and had to pick this issue up. I was just getting back into comics at the time, so picking up Final Crisis #6 was a proverbial sink-or-swim situation. I was so lost, and when I got to the “death” scene I was still utterly confused. I wasn’t upset or devastated or anything to that effect. Even though I had been out of comics for a while, I was still disillusioned about death in comics, and I knew Bruce would be back eventually. It was only when I did some follow-up research that I learned about Final Crisis and Morrison’s overarching Batman epic.
Batman for me is a character that fits well in any type of story. I love the creature of the night from the 1930s, the bizarre sci-fi silliness of the 1950s, the camp of the 1960s show, the Dark Knight Detective of the 1970s, and so forth. The fact that Morrison had incorporated all of those elements into his Batman run is why I view his work as the defining take on the character. That is why I love this “death” so much. He’s using a weapon he swore off a long time ago. That alone adds weight to the situation, indicating just how serious it is. In addition, this sequence answers the question “Batman’s just a guy – why is he in the Justice League?” The answer is simply that he’s an extraordinary human.
Of course, Batman’s journey would continue on in the pages of Batman & Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne. The corpse Superman is holding on the final page is just a clone, and the story would twist and turn and continue into the New 52 era. But like you said, this death only lasts 3 pages. There’s a lot of Morrison fever-dream DC deep cuts in the rest of the issue. Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and the JSA are pushing back against Darkseid’s forces in the ashes of Bludhaven (decimated back in Infinite Crisis), which ends with the death of Kalibak at the hands of Talky Tawney, aka tiger fight! Call me old fashioned, but a dapper-looking anthropomorphic tiger straightening his bowtie while blood drips down his chin is my favorite visual of the whole issue.
JJR: Not to go on to much of a tangent, but the Batman & Robin series with Dick and Damian means a lot to me. Not only was the change of dynamic smart as hell and fresh, but it also was a great jumping-on point. At that time I wasn’t following too many comics, and I only knew bits of Morrison’s Bat-epic. Yet, when I say advertisements for Batman & Robin something clicked and I knew I had to pick it up. When it finally dropped I biked to the local mall where the LCS was located, bought the issue, then read it in the cafeteria downstairs. To say that issue/series meant a lot to me would be an understatement.
On your comment on the varying types of Batman genres, I would strongly agree. As a huge fan of the character, I’ve loved the vast array of genres he has been in and thought Morrison’s use of all those elements were amazing. As of 2020, I haven’t found a Batman run I love as much as Morrison’s. However, let me get back to Final Crisis #6, specifically your Kalibak and Talky Tawney moment. The fights between super-powered folks in this issue felt more intense than usual. The stakes are higher, the attacks seem heavier and the destruction/visuals are epic. Nonetheless, the “dead” Batman page still holds the best visual to me, especially so that they ended the issue with it.
DG: That final image is a nice tribute to Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, which itself saw the death of a beloved superhero. But Morrison and the art team also use imagery to begin wrapping up the series in this penultimate issue. Mister Miracle discloses to Mister Terrific that the design drawn on his face works as a shield against the Anti-Life Equation. The aforementioned God Machine will play an integral role in the series’ finale too. The villains turn on Libra (remember him?), referring to him as a hollow vessel before turning him into a literal one. And then there are the Flashes, who run off along with the Black Racer in a setup for Darkseid’s ultimate demise. There’s so much to take in here. Final Crisis #6 demands multiple reads, but putting in that work is a rewarding experience and pays off in the end.
Previously on “The Full Run: Final Crisis”