Review: Final Crisis Companion trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, August 10, 2009

DC Comics set up Grant Morrison's Final Crisis unlike the crossovers that immediately preceded it. Rather than cross into monthly titles like Infinite Crisis did, the story limited itself to a small selection of one-shots and mini-series. Unlilke The Sinestro Corps War, which also featured companion one-shots, the Final Crisis specials for the most part told side stories the reader didn't need to understand the main story itself. DC did some reconfiguring of the Final Crisis hardcover before it's release, moving the more important Superman Beyond and Submit to the hardcover; what remained for the Final Crisis Companion was Resist and Requiem, along with the Final Crisis Secret Files and Sketchbook.

Constant readers know what a fan of Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann's Checkmate I was, so for me this essentially a collection of the Checkmate-focused Final Crisis: Resist with a couple other things thrown in. While Resist doesn't entirely have an opportunity to approach some of the political issues of the Checkmate series -- it's hard to step in between China and North Korea while Darkseid's taking over the world -- White King Mr. Terrific plays a lead role and has to make an enjoyably wrenching moral decision that's picked up, I understand, in JSA vs. Kobra.

Being a Checkmate side tale, Rucka and Trautmann also take the opportunity to focus on a lesser-known Checkmate operative, Snapper Carr. Keith Giffen revealed Snapper as a Checkmate agent in 52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen, but we haven't seen Snapper and his teleportation powers in Checkmate-proper before. I also appreciated that, as in the Checkmate series, the writers populated the story with random DC Universe guest stars, including Firehawk and the Wonder Woman villain Cheetah.

Resist takes place between the pages of Final Crisis and only barely makes a ripple in the main story; the rest of the contents of the Final Crisis Companion coincide even less. Len Wein's depiction of Darkseid in the Secret Files story inexplicably plucking Libra from obscurity only deepens the mystery of why this character was necessary for Final Crisis; one guesses this had more to do with Grant Morrison appreciation for Len Wein (who created Libra and also wrote the Seven Soldiers-inspiring Justice League story). And while I enjoyed the sketchbook and script pages, I might've liked to see more of Morrison and J. G. Jones' commentary on the series in the main hardcover than just their comments on issue one here.

Final Crisis: Requiem offers the other bright spot in this book, as Peter Tomasi relates the death and funeral of the Martian Manhunter. Any sorrow here is overshadowed by any reader's clear belief that J'onn J'onzz will be resurrected before too long (as opposed to Superboy's shocking and sad death, at the time, in Infinite Crisis), but Tomasi makes up for the lack of emotion with a good helping of nostalgia. Tomasi remembers and includes J'onn's good friend Gypsy, believably sets up Green Lantern and Green Arrow for JLA: Cry for Justice ("My favorite Martian," indeed), and combines well the various disparate Martian Manhunter series. I enjoyed Tomasi's work on Nightwing, and his contribution here is equally as good.

(Let me insert a completely random note here about Brad Meltzer's DC Universe: Last Will and Testament, which was to be included in the Final Crisis Companion and was later removed. The story is a brilliantly haunting homage to Meltzer's Identity Crisis in turning again to Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and Starfire; and also in a moving confessional scene between the Outsider Grace and Rocky of the Challengers of the Unknown. Most of the issue follows Geo-Force, however, taking revenge for Deathstroke's corrupting of his sister some twenty years ago (our time). It's not a terrible concept, and it plays out in a shockingly violent manner, but Geo-Force has been so off the radar of late, even despite Meltzer's Justice League stories, that this feels terribly random and mildly fannish, as if Meltzer himself has been waiting to avenge Terra all this time.)

Readers wanting the full picture (and Checkmate fans) will find some pleasant stories in the Final Crisis Companion, but this book is not quite the companion that some other volumes have been.

[Contains full covers]

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4 comments:

  1. Meltzer basically WAS looking to avenge Terra. He's supposed to be some big fanboy of the character and had a crush on her when he was a kid, which is why he introduced the stupid retcon that the character was being influenced. This, of course, defeated the purpose of the character, so I'm not sorry to see that one shot basically forgotten. Now it it would only be completely culled from continuity, everything would be peachy.

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  2. Except, as I understand it, it's being picked up now in the new Outsiders series. But an odd tale indeed.

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  3. "Tomasi remmbers and includes J'onn's good friend Gypsy..."

    Was that who it was? The story didn't give us a context as to why she's in the book (or even named her for that matter). I remember reading that scene and thinking, "Okay, I get why Superman, Batman et. al. are in there, but who the hell's this woman?"

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  4. Indeed Tomasi relied heavily (perhaps too heavily) on a reader's established knowledge of Martian Manhunter.

    Maybe he'll do a Martian Manhunter co-feature after Blackest Night?

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