[Contains spoilers for Final Crisis]
Being in addition to my official review of Final Crisis, some looser, free-floating thoughts on the book:
It took me about a week to read Final Crisis. Lately I've been annoyed at how quickly I can read some trade paperbacks, often an evening, which I chalk up not to the speed of my reading but the thinness of the trades. I blanched at the cost of this hardcover, higher than most, but I feel I received my money's worth in time spent reading.
That Final Crisis took me longer to read I credit both to the amount collected, ten issues, but also to the complexity of the story. Ultimately I enjoyed the story, and managed to glean some meaning from it beyond the superheroic plot, but certainly this was one of the most complicated comics books I've read in a while. Grant Morrison mentioned in a Newsarama interview that he wanted to "leave our boring ... connective tissue" in the story, but it often seemed the story became the most sparse at the complex moments it needed most detail -- the end of Superman Beyond, for instance, or the last chapter of the book.
I debated (and ultimately omitted) a paragraph in my formal review of Final Crisis that considered whether the comic was subjectively "appropriately complex," or too complicated. Oftentimes a comic book's complexity is considered commensurate with its value -- comics have been for so long considered the playthings of children that for a comic book to "talk up," even over the head of its audience, is a sign of worthiness. In Final Crisis, I vacillated between admiring Morrison's genius and suspecting the book was a collection of overblown nonsense. Are we so desperate to say "look how smart comics are" that we'll trumpet anything that uses big words, even if the joke's actually on us?
I've read Morrison's work long enough to know he's got something here, of course. But I wouldn't hand Final Crisis to a new comics reader. Though not as steeped in DC Comics lore as its immediate predecessor, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis demands so much of the reader's understanding (rightly or wrongly) of the interaction between comic book words and pictures that a new reader would be lost. When a comic isn't accessible to new readers, I feel it's not "supporting the cause," if you will -- but don't comics readers deserve once in awhile a book that rewards dedication? There's "hard novels" and "easy novels"; why not the same for comics, even DC comics?
It's this uncertain space that Final Crisis occupies. I want to recommend it wholeheartedly, even feel that I should, but a part of me wasn't completely sold. (I feel guilty even as I write this.)
The packaging of Final Crisis certainly presents itself as not quite superheroics as usual. Compared to the wildly colorful Infinite Crisis hardcover jacket and the equally colorful Infinite Crisis printed case, Final Crisis is very stately -- a moody JG Jones image on the front jacket, a couple small faces on the back, and a paper case with bright red stamping. I'll be curious to see the inevitable Blackest Night hardcover collection -- will its case, too, suggest "I'm a book, not just a comics crossover," or back to business as usual?
DC's made a controversial decision to put a great big spoiler on the front cover of this book. In my opinion, it's to tie the book that much closer to Morrison's Batman RIP without actually saying so, but certainly it greatly separates the reading experience of those who read this in monthlies from those who read this in the trade. In the Internet age, I knew what was coming, but I wonder if anyone avoided spoilers all along just to get to the front jacket and groan. As it is, Batman's unfortunate incident isn't really the penultimate rising action of the book anyway; that comes in a rather unlikely fight between Supergirl and Mary Marvel, and Kalibak and Tawky Tawny (which works, amazingly enough).
Indeed the whole of the Final Crisis collection has a sort of uneven tempo -- Final Crisis #1-3 are sort of traditional superheroics, then WHAM! Superman Beyond blasts cosmic hyper-realism all over the page, then WHAM AGAIN! Final Crisis: Submit is a gritty tale of social politics, before rejoining a more natural flow from superheroics to cosmic action. Morrison writes each of these genres well, but there's a scattershot feel to the first six issues that, again, I'm not sure a new comics reader would know how to handle.
Infinite Crisis had ground-breaking moments, as did Green Lantern: Rebirth, but I believe I can point to them on my shelf and say "there, comics." Not entirely so with Final Crisis; I find myself looking slightly askance at the book, not unlike with Identity Crisis (though even that I'm more sure where it fits in the canon than Final Crisis). "I liked Final Crisis," I say, with a pause ... but then again?