In terms of epilogues to Final Crisis, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance is more what I was expecting than the similarly-bannered Run! Writer Joe Casey (of whom I've been a fan ever since his post-Ending Battle run on Adventures of Superman, in which Superman avoided using violence for some half-dozen issues) builds well upon the thin foundation Grant Morrison laid down for the Super Young Team in Final Crisis, and offers strong statements about youth, culture, and superheroics in the twenty-first century.
[Contains spoilers for Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance]
In one of my favorite moments of Final Crisis, Grant Morrison caught me completely by surprise in introducing the Super Young Team as the Fifth World equivalent to Jack Kirby's Fourth World Forever People. Whereas Kirby styled the Forever People after that era's hippies, Morrison created the Super Young Team as an answer to a culture (theirs and ours) raised on superheroes -- the Super Young Team aren't the young members of the Justice Society, wearing the costumes of their elders as a tribute, but rather the Super Young Team has absorbed superheroes as cosplay, as toys, as fashion (the striking Killing Joke-cover jacket and Young Team leader Most Excellent Superbat's Superman-symbol costume are just two examples).
The key, however, that makes Dance and the Super Young Team so enjoyable is even as the team is definitely irreverent, and even as in their inception they've deconstructed superheroics almost as far as the concept will allow, they still want -- almost desperately -- to fight for what's right. Dance finds the Super Young Team with newfound fame after their role in Final Crisis, but it's this very role that drives the team to want to shake off fame in favor of good deeds (though still look good doing it). Joe Casey could have written a story about spoiled superpowered kids who learn the value of work over six chapters; instead, it's a story about superpowered kids who struggle to defy society's assumptions about them and do better than what's expected, and this struggle is infinitely fascinating.
Dance reminded me in part of Blood Pack, an enjoyable miniseries in which a handful of the heroes from DC's Bloodlines crossover joined, essentially, a reality show. DC published Blood Pack over ten years ago, and our culture's media involvement has only become more saturated. Casey takes the Super Young Team from a rave at their new headquarters to a comic book convention to, later, an Oprah-like talk show where they discuss the team conflicts; in every situation, it's more about the public's ability to be around the Super Young Team than the team themselves -- in becoming heroes (or perhaps celebrities), they themselves are as irrelevant as the Justice League are to them.
Even Superbat's narration throughout the book comes in the form of "tweets" to himself; even his private thoughts, effectively, are public consumption. While Casey's story doesn't delve much into international politics, I thought it interesting that the reason for the book's overriding conspiracy (apart from a clever but poorly explained master villain) was to disguise the relatively minor damage that occurred to Japan in Final Crisis; that is, Japan uses the twenty-four hour publicity of the Super Young Team as a ruse meant to keep publicity away from its own secret shame, only to have it revealed the shame isn't all that shameful. As with the Super Young Team's own conflicted values, this interplay between the public and private made Dance a gripping read.
Here's the big statement: superhero teen team comics are not dead. Lately when I've read Teen Titans I've begun to think they're dead, but Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance has changed my mind. Dance is edgy and smart, and a commentary on what it might be like to be a young superhero outside the pale of sidekicks and clones -- and Dance reflects comic book conventions and manga and all sorts of things not DC Comics-specific, and I like seeing those elements interact with this universe. If Final Crisis was meant to be ground-breaking, Dance breaks ground, and I'd sooner pick up a series with these characters than the same old thing.
[Contains full covers]
Unfortunately, my copy of Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink was missing pages (which made for a confusing read, I assure you) so I had to return it to my LCS and have them order another. Instead, coming up we'll delve back into some Superman, and maybe a few surprises. Don't miss it!