Comic Book Review: Final Crisis #4

The Revolution has enjoyed Final Crisis much more than Secret Invasion. Morrison has given us a story that is plot heavy, detailed and well written. Final Crisis has plenty of substance to keep the reader satisfied. This is a multi-textured story that has many layers to it. The reader can go back and read each issue several times and discover something new each time. Having said that, it is time for Morrison to crank this story up a couple of notches. We have gotten all the set-up and foundation work that is necessary for this big event. Now it is time to implement plenty of plot progression. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Final Crisis #4.

Creative Team
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with The Ray narrating how the gods of Apokolips cracked every form of Earth’s technology. The gods of Apokolips turned Earth’s communications network into a god-weapon. The anti-life equation virus struck everywhere on Earth and at the exact same moment. That more than a billion people were contaminated by the first strike.

The Ray continues that he uses his powers to deliver the Daily Planet. To deliver the real news to the last remaining outposts of free human civilization left on Earth. The Ray arrives at the Hall of Justice and momentarily lowers the Hall’s shields and scoops up the Tattooed Man and brings him into the Hall. (This scene takes place right after the end of Final Crisis: Submit.)

Green Arrow steps on top of Tattooed Man and yells at the Ray for letting the villain into the Hall of Justice. The Ray comments that he was not leaving the Tattooed Man outside of the Hall at the mercy of the Justifiers. (The Justifiers are Darkseid’s anti-life soldiers.)

The Tattooed Man says that he is here to bring the heroes the last message from Black Lightning. Tattooed Man curses how high and mighty super heroes think they are. Ollie, Ray and Tattooed Man then head into the man meeting room where Black Canary, Oracle, Joan, Linda, Iris and Jai are hanging out.

The Ray tells the heroes that the Daily Planet’s printing press is still operating out of the Fortress of Solitude. The Ray continues that all of the Earth’s media are now broadcasting the anti-life equation 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The Ray then tells the heroes that the Bludhaven strike force failed.

We cut to Bludhaven and see the heroes lying in the battlefield in defeat. Turpin then narrates that he has to always tell himself that there is hope. We see Turpin hooked into one of Reverend Goode’s machines. The machine is prepping Turpin’s body for Darkseid to take it over.

Mr. Simyan and Mokkari point out that their cult has followers toiling without rest in an effort to build the Evil Factory production lines across the world. That they are building brave new bodies for the 5th World. Reverend Goode snaps that he has far more followers than Simyan and Mokkari. That Goode’s missionaries are spreading the anti-life equation night and day. Goode says that Darkseid will not favor Simyan and Mokkari over Goode.

Mokkari points out that Darkseid might favor Granny Goodness who is spreading their word across the universe. And that the cosmic power battery of the Guardians of the Universe is now within her grasp. Or maybe Darkseid with favor Kalibak who now has a new half man/half tiger body. Kalibak enters the room chewing on the arm of a dead Green Lantern.

Turpin narrates how he has he has fought monsters and gangsters. And that he never backed down and he never asked for help. But, at this moment, Turpin is begging for help. Turpin says that he cannot hold back this storm by himself anymore. Turpin questions how can he fight if there is nothing left to fight for anymore.

We cut back to the Hall of Justice. Oracle mentions how she only saw a fraction of the anti-life equation before she pulled the plug on the internet. That the anti-life equation is mathematical proof that Darskeid is the rightful master of everything in existence.

The Ray then uses his powers to fire up an old communications system that was used by the Secret Society. It is called the unternet. A mole in Libra’s organization tipped the heroes off about its existence. The Ray uses it to communicate with Watchtower 1 in Switzerland. Watchtower 1 is the Checkmate headquarters. Watchtower 2 is the Hall of Justice. Watchtower 3 is the Fortress of Solitude. Watchtower 4 is Gorilla City. Watchtower 5 is Superbia. Watchtower 6 is the Great Wall of China.

Mr. Terrific and Alan Scott are heading up the operations at Checkmate’s castle. Mr. Terrific then patches all of the six Watchtowers around Earth together so that Alan Scott can address all of them. We see Alan standing in front of a wall of video screens showing heroes who have been captured or killed. Alan starts off by saying that he will make this quick since it will be only moments before Darkseid’s forces intercept this message. As Alan is talking we see Renee being brought into Checkmate’s Castle and being told that she was brought here for a purpose.

Alan says that the gods of Apokolips have attacked Earth. That the gods have access to experimental technology from Bludhaven’s Command-D facility. Alan states that the gods of Apokolips can splice animals and people in order to create hybrid soldiers. Alan says that he has gathered all the remaining super heroes and consolidated them in six Watchtowers across the Earth. Alan says that this is the first moment that all six Watchtowers have shared since their enemies struck. Alan says that this is his last chance to tell everyone to have courage. That they are not alone. That it is not over yet.

We see Watchtower 5 in Superbia falling in defeat to Darkseid’s Justifiers. We see the heroes at Watchtower 4 in Gorilla City holding off an attack by the Justifiers.

We then cut to Captain Marvel meeting with Black Adam. Alan Scott’s message is playing on a large video screen. Captain Marvel asks Black Adam if he is going to rejoin the Marvel Family. Black Adam responds that the primal ones who lent their powers to the Marvels have been overthrown by the gods from Apokolips. Black Adam says that they are weak and doomed.

Alan Scott then states that sources confirm that Bludhaven is the entry point for the gods of Apokolips into Earth. Alan states that all the heroes from the six Watchtowers must give everything they have and meet at the Bludhaven Bridge at dawn and make their last stand against Darkseid. Black Adam comments that he likes Alan’s plan.

We cut back to the Hall of Justice as the unternet goes dead. Green Arrow states that they are on their own again. Ollie mentions that he always knew that Bludhaven was brewing trouble.

Tattooed Man then states that Black Lightning told him to keep something called “a circuit” safe. Tattooed Man says that he kept it hidden where no one would find it: in his skin. Tattooed Man transforms his skin to reveal the pattern of the circuit.

Suddenly, the Justifiers, led by Black Lightning, break through the Hall’s shields. Our heroes then rush to the teleporter room. The Ray states that he can use his powers to jumpstart the teleporters.

We shift to Barry and Wally in Keystone City. Wally is still stunned by Barry’s presence. Barry quickly states that Darkseid is threatening the entire structure of existence. The entire Multiverse is in danger. Wally doesn’t listen and stammers that they all thought Barry was dead. Wally asks Barry if he has any idea what Wally is feeling at the moment.

Barry answers that some unknown force just reverse-engineered Barry out of a blizzard of faster than light particles. Barry apologizes for being so abstract. Barry then hugs Wally and says that it is great to see Wally again. Barry asks Wally if he is ready to save the world like they used to. Wally answers that he has a wife and kids now.

Barry responds “They made it to safety. Flash Fact.” (LOL! Flash Facts returns!) Barry then tells Wally to grab an end of some nearby steel cables. We see the newest additions to the Furies in Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batwoman and Giganta appear on the scene. Suddenly, the steel cables spring up in front of the woman and take them all down. The two Flashes then race from the scene. Barry says that the entire Multiverse is avalanching to oblivion and that they have to save everyone. And that they will start with family.

We cut to the teleporter room in the Hall of Justice. Ollie points out that Justifiers never stop. That they will simply use the teleporters to follow the heroes to wherever they go. Green Arrow says that he will stay behind and destroy the teleporters after the rest of them have fled. Black Canary shouts “No!”

Ollie points out that the Ray is the carrier wave, that Tattooed Man as the circuit pattern on his skin and that Dinah is the leader of the JLA. Also that the Flash will kill them if anything happens to his family. Ollie says that there is nowhere on Earth safe. Ollie then says that he has an idea. Black Canary hates this idea. Ollie tells her that they will not get him. Green Arrow jokes that he will use his anti-anti-life arrow. Black Canary calls Ollie “My beautiful Robin Hood.”

The heroes then teleport away. The Justifiers then burst into the room. Green Arrow puts up a good fight taking out several Justifiers. But, Black Lightning ends up taking down Green Arrow. The Justifiers then place a Justifier helmet on Green Arrow’s head. Ollie then falls victim to the anti-life equation.

We see our heroes from the Hall of Justice safely in the JLA’s Watchtower. Black Canary looks down on Earth and softly says “Oliver.” Black Canary then snaps back to the task at hand and barks out “Station weapons review. Now.”

We cut back to Bludhaven where Turpin is continuing to transform into Darkseid. Turpin narrates that he tried to show them what humanity’s made of, but that wrestling with Darkseid is like trying to beat the ocean unconscious. We see Mary Marvel walk into the room with Darkseid’s crown. Reverend Goode asks Darkseid to give him a sign. Thumbs up for the triumph of the Human spirit or thumbs down to summon a day of holocaust that will never end. Turpin narrates that this is his choice. All his.

We then see Alan Scott and Hawkgirl outside of Checkmate’s castle getting ready to fend off a horde of Justifiers. Alan states that they have to hold off the Justifiers until the Omega offensive is ready. Hawkgirl then points out the fact that it has begun to rain blood.

We cut to Iris’ apartment and see Iris under the influence of the anti-life equation. Barry and Wally enter the apartment. Wally states that they are too late. That there is nothing they can do for Aunt Iris. Barry walks up to Iris and says “My Iris. It feels like I have waited a thousand lifetimes for this.” Barry kisses Iris and lightning crackles from their lips. Iris then is freed from the control of the anti-life equation.

Barry then says “Hey you. Sorry I was late.” Iris starts crying and says that everything is going to be all right, isn’t it? Barry answers “You bet.”

We shift back to Checkmate’s castle where Mr. Terrific yells that there is an incoming object headed for them. The wall explodes and we see Mister Miracle (Shiloh version) and the young heroes from Japan arriving on the scene. Mister Miracle tells the Checkmate soldiers to not shoot. That he can save the world. Unfortunately, one of the trigger happy soldiers shoots Mister Miracle in the chest.

Everything goes black and we cut back to Bludhaven and see Turpin almost totally transformed into Darkseid. Reverend Goode states that freedom’s spirit falls. Goode asks for a sign from Darkseid. Turpin narrates “The choice is simple. Because, here, at the end, there is no choice at all. Only Apokolips and Darkseid. Forever. Give in.” We see Darkseid/Turpin giving the thumbs down sign. End of issue.

The Good: I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with Final Crisis #4 after my initial reading. I normally bolt from my office around 11:40 and make it to my local comic book shop by 11:50. I quickly scoop my weekly shipment of comic books out of the Diamond boxes while the owner is busy unpacking them. I then head out and do my best to read as many issues as I can in my lunch hour. Well, I actually take about an hour and a half for lunch on Wednesdays. Hey, it is a perk of finally being a partner at my firm.

Anyway, the point is that I rush through as many comics as I can during my lunch. So, when it came to Final Crisis #4, I blitzed my way through it and was initially disappointed. My gut reaction was to give the writing for this issue 6 Night Girls out of 10. But, as I often do, I withheld reviewing this issue until I was able to give it an attentive second reading.

And I definitely enjoyed Final Crisis #4 much more after a second reading. Morrison is crafting a story that truly deserves a couple of readings from the reader. And unlike other big events that are so shallow that an initial cursory reading is all that is required to understand the story, Final Crisis requires more attention.

Final Crisis #4 was a well crafted issue. Morrison turns in some technically impressive writing. Morrison is one of the few comic book writers whose command of the English language and literary skill is able to make me forget that I am reading a comic book. The language that Morrison uses is wonderful. The incredible descriptions and fantastic use of imagery are part of what makes the writing on Final Crisis #4 a cut above your typical comic book. There truly is a beautiful flow to Morrison’s writing.

The narration in Final Crisis #4 was fantastic. It is practically lyrical at points. Morrison also serves up plenty of well constructed dialogue. All of the various characters have well developed voices. For a big event, Morrison actually packs in some pretty good character work. Morrison demonstrates a nice feel for the various characters that have played meaningful roles in this story.

Morrison turns in a well plotted issue with Final Crisis #4. Morrison is weaving multiple plotlines in order to fashion an incredibly rich, detailed and complex story. In Final Crisis #4, Morrison is successful in giving Final Crisis the proper grand scope and scale that is necessary to get the reader to feel that we are truly experiencing a massive and important event.

Morrison is not simply going through the motions in trying to hit all the basic elements that you find your standard issue big event story. Whether the story works for some readers or not, it is clear that Morrison has poured his heart and soul into this story. It is evident that Morrison is trying his best to craft a story that he feels is truly special.

Morrison takes the time in Final Crisis #4 to clearly establish how the Earth has been transformed and enslaved since the end of Final Crisis #3. Morrison unveils that the remaining super heroes have gathered in six Watchtowers across the Earth. I appreciate that Morrison nicely explains how the gods of Apokolips have been engineering their attack on Earth. I dig how the gods of Apokolips employ the various forms of mass media that have become ever present in modern society in order to spread the anti-life equation.

The Justifiers are a pretty interesting fighting force. It makes it that much more daunting for our super heroes to have to fight their fallen friends and teammates who are now under the power of Darkseid.

I love how Morrison has utilized Bludhaven in this event. The gods of Apokolips using Command-D in Bludhaven as their main base of operations as well as their gateway to Earth is perfect. The ability to create monstrous half-man/half-human soldiers is fitting for the gods of Apokolips. Morrison’s use of Bludhaven builds nicely off of how Bludhaven has been handled ever since the end of Infinite Crisis.

I dig that Morrison has the various gods of the Apokolips all competing against each other in an effort to earn the coveted position as Darkseid’s favorite. Morrison does a good job giving each god of Apokolips their own specific purpose and role to play in this story. All in all, Morrison manages to give the reader a wonderful feel for what the Earth has been transformed into by the gods of Apokolips.

Morrison properly lays out the direction for the next issue by having Alan Scott explain that the heroes from the six Watchtowers will meet at Bludhaven Bridge and mount their final stand against the gods of Apokolips. I would imagine that the Omega offensive that Alan mentions near the end of this issue is the codename for this coordinated final attack on the gods of Apokolips.

I love the fact that Morrison has removed the big three in Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman from the mix. This enables the other heroes in the DCU a chance to shine. And I found the selection of Alan Scott to be the de facto leader of all the remaining super heroes to be a perfect choice. With all due respect to the big three, Alan Scott remains to be the dean of all the super heroes in the DCU. And it is only proper that during this apocalyptic moment that the heroes in the DCU all turn to Alan Scott for leadership and inspiration.

Morrison delivered several touching scenes in Final Crisis #4. I thought the scene between Black Canary and Green Arrow when Ollie stays behind to destroy the transporter machine was well crafted. Morrison made this scene sweet without it being melodramatic. Amid all the chaos and death spinning out of evil that has saturated Earth, the genuine love between these two heroes was a refreshing sight.

Morrison deftly handles Dinah’s character as he shows Black Canary’s tender side juxtaposed with her tough leader side. I enjoyed how Dinah gave herself a moment to be mournful over Ollie and then immediately snaps back to her job as leader of the JLA and begins barking out orders. Morrison treats the reader to a great version of Black Canary and this is exactly why I like Dinah’s character so much. She definitely has a tender feminine side to her personality, but at the same time she is a natural born leader who is tough as nails under pressure.

Morrison also does a fine job with Ollie’s character. Morrison gives Ollie the appropriate smart-assed personality. And the scene where Ollie stays behind and fights off the Justifiers was great. Morrison properly captures the fact that Ollie is a truly selfless hero who willingly sacrifices himself for the greater good.

The scene with Barry and Wally was well done. It was heartwarming to see uncle and nephew hugging. And it was fantastic to see Barry and Wally back in action together once again. Morrison also did a fine job playing with the theme of family which is so vitally important to the Flash franchise. Being a Flash is more about family than it is about a shared codename and powers.

Of course, the scene that I found to be the most emotional was the scene between Barry and Iris. Morrison crafts a strong scene as the power of love proves strong enough to defeat the anti-life equation. Obviously, Barry must be one hell of a kisser. This scene was one shining ray of hope in what was otherwise an incredibly dark and grim issue where evil rules the day at every single turn.

I actually did not mind the rather cursory and vague description of how Barry came back to life. The fact is that Final Crisis is not the proper place and time for that story. I would rather than Morrison focus on telling his story and not get sidetracked too much by going in depth into what happened with Barry. The full story on how and why Barry came back to life is going to be reserved for Johns to investigate and flesh out over on The Flash: Rebirth.

I enjoyed seeing the Ray getting plenty of panel time in this issue. Ray is a great character and I dig how Morrison utilized him in this issue. I also enjoyed how Morrison handled Tattooed Man’s character. I never liked this character at all before, but Morrison actually got me to warm up a bit to T-Man in this issue. I am curious to learn more about the circuit pattern that T-Man is carrying around on his body.

Morrison continues to do a fine job writing Turpin’s character. Turpin’s narration is by far the best part of Final Crisis #4. The line by Turpin that fighting back Darkseid was like trying to knock the ocean unconscious was excellent. I enjoyed how Morrison handles Turpin’s valiant but ultimately futile struggle against Darkseid. The human spirit is strong, but Darkseid’s will is even stronger.

Morrison ends Final Crisis #4 with a dramatic hook ending. Turpin has Darkseid’s crown place on his head. Mister Miracle arrives at Checkmate to save the world and is shot in the chest. And then Turpin succumbs to Darkseid and gives the thumbs down signal. Morrison effectively conveys to the reader the fact that evil has truly won. That our heroes appear to have no hope and are facing an unwinnable battle.

I was surprised at how nice the artwork was for Final Crisis #4. I generally do not enjoy artwork by committee, but Jones, Pacheco and Merino do a fantastic job with the art in this issue. These three artists manage to deliver a fine looking issue that does not have the inconsistent and schizophrenic look that many comic books possess when they have artwork by committee. I am glad that DC went this route rather than delaying the title.

The Bad: Final Crisis #4 certainly has some defects. And to be sure, this issue is not for everyone. Final Crisis #4 moves at a slow pace. Many readers will be turned off by the controlled and measured pace that Morrison has employed during the first four issues of this event. I was certainly hoping that the pacing would pick up a bit with Final Crisis #4.

Another complaint would be that it sure seems like an awful lot happens off-panel and in between issues. The reader gets the impression that we are not always getting the entire story with this event. I understand that Morrison wanted to show the reader all the scenes that fall in between the large fight scenes that are usually skipped over in big events.

Rather than delivering a traditional big event and focusing mostly on the large fight scenes, Morrison is eschewing the large fight scenes and giving most of his attention to the “in between” scenes that we usually do not see in big events. This is a neat and original take on the format of a big event. But, the unintended consequence of making the reader feel like we are constantly missing portions of the story is sure to turn off some readers.

I also dislike the fact that in order to be fully up to speed with the story, the reader has to read Final Crisis: Submit before reading Final Crisis #4. It isn’t that Final Crisis #4 is incomprehensible if you have not read Final Crisis: Submit, but Final Crisis #4 certainly makes a lot more sense if you have. If anything, DC should have at least placed some type of warning or suggestion on the front page of Final Crisis #4 urging the reader to read Final Crisis: Submit first.

I am also not too sure how new reader friendly this story is. Morrison is weaving a complex and dense story with Final Crisis. Despite my criticisms about how shallow and unoriginal Secret Invasion is the fact remains that Secret Invasion is extremely new reader friendly. And it is reflected in the sales numbers. I just do not feel that Morrison has made Final Crisis a story that has much mass appeal.

Overall: Final Crisis #4 was another fine read. Morrison continues to treat the reader to a delightfully dense and complex read that gets better with each reading. Readers who love to really sink their teeth into a substantial story with plenty of finely crafted dialogue, strong plot development and great character work will probably enjoy Final Crisis #4.

However, readers who do not enjoy Morrison’s style of writing probably will not like Final Crisis #4. Readers who prefer a faster paced story with more action will more than likely not enjoy this issue. And readers who prefer pure entertainment in their comic books that does not require much effort to read and digest will also probably not enjoy Final Crisis #4.

6 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Final Crisis #4

  1. It would be better if DC Had published Final Crisis as a 12-issue limited series out of continuity, like Justice or Kingdom Come. That way Morrison would be able to do what he wants with characters and he would have more space to include action scenes.
    I think that was done then Final Crisis would be something like the opposite of Kingdom Come. With Kingdom Come being a story of hope and better days to come, and Final crisis being… well, the day that evil won.
    For sure Final Crisis will be read better as a trade paperback

  2. I actually really enjoy Final Crisis for its huge span. In a way, it reminds me a little bit of the CLAMP manga series “Tsubasa” and “xxxHolic” because of the way time and space interacts–how the past and future and players across the Multiverse have parts. It’s very intricate and has such a far reach. It’s much more expansive than Secret Invasion, but it’s so subtle that most readers, I think, would miss it. I do think that Morrison’s problem is that he’s so subtle that people who give his work a superficial read will be doomed to not enjoy it.

    As for me, I can’t wait for the next issues to come out. I think it’s unfortunate that Final Crisis will be a footnote on 2008’s big events, in comparison to Marvel’s, like, three or four big events.

  3. I like FC, but I love the FC tie-ins. In some weird way I would say they are the rare exception where the tie-ins are actually superior to the big event.

  4. ..

    I got a big “ho-hum” from this and every other issue of FC.

    It’s like I’m in 1985 again and I’m reading everything BUT COIE, just the tie-ins. That’s the way these books hit me.

    Let’s compare this to Seven Soldiers. Seven Soldiers was SO COMPLEX I read it three times and I still don’t think I “get” it. But FC I “get” and I don’t care. It’s “new DC” at its worst. Let me explain:

    In “new” DC, most, if not all of the action sequences happen off-panel or we are told by the Editorial Staff that the “meat” of the story is in a cross-over book. With books approaching $3.99, (I think) the fans want the STORY and the elements PRIMARY to the progression of the “plot” in the series of books they have chosen to buy.

    The key example (so far) of this for FC is FC:Submit, wherein we have (of ALL characters) The Tattooed Man II becoming the key MacGuffin to the resolution of the story. (Oooh, it’s Metrons PATTERN…BOO!).

    I’m ALL FOR the re-birth of Darkseid in the means Morrison is using. What I’m NOT FOR are these after-the-fact “gotchas” where Editorial tell us “we” don’t “get it” or “we” didn’t buy that one special tie-in that EXPLAINS IT ALL.

    Just let me buy the books and tell me a story. Don’t make me piece together some editor/writers “cool” puzzle.

    It’s a STORY I’m here for,not to wonder at the ego strokes of a writer or criticize a late artist or sloppy editor. And that is all that “new” DC seems to give.

    Just get a load of Mark Waids defense of Jones over on the CBR boards. The job of comic artist requires you to complete a page a week, not a page a month. And a page a week STILL only adds up to 52 pages a year. It’s a piece-work JOB, not being voted in as POPE.

    Characterization, motive, plot, climax in six issues. Am I asking too much? Each issue should take 30 minutes to read and for that the artists think they’re producing meisterwerks. It’s sequential storytelling, not completing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

    We are all watching the demise of something that we love, in whatever form we love it. I like messy, nonsensical 1970-1975. I dont’ care about world-changing epics, I want costumed vigilantes searching for Justice in an unjust Universe (you know, Watchmen or the average Bob Budiansky comic).

    This is why Iagitate for chid-friendly books. I want to read a universe where I can escape from the darkness outside my window, not let it wash over me. I’ll take HOPE for something better over ACCEPTANCE of Merciless Fate any day.


  5. I have to agree with Kirth all the way. Your line about hope vis-a-vis acceptance nailed it. Excellent.

  6. yeah, the whole thing about the artists, i justy dont understand it, you are paid to do your work and that is it, do it to the best of your ability but do it on time. People like Mark Bagley, Leinil Yu, Mike Choi and Stuart Immonen deserve to be praised. I am pretty sure that in the year before he left marvel, Bagely put out like 15-16 issues of Ultimate Spider-man. That is just insane. And say what you want about Leinil Yu’s art but you have seen the splashpages in secret invasion, can you think of an artist who puts that many characters into an event comic and still has it ship on time? The only delay that i can think of that is in any way shape or form tangentially related to SI was when Cho delayed Mighty avengers during the first six issues of that series. Everything else has been on time. Dont get me wrong, i think that Jones is one of the best artists in the industry, but if you cant meet deadlines then what is the point? Same goes for you mcniven! i want my next issue of wolverine already!

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