Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance trade paperback

Monday, April 12, 2010

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!
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5 comments:

  1. I´m glad you liked a series about these characters. I couldn´t care less about them. DC is really missing the forest for the trees.

    They need to re think what they are doing. Geoff Johns can´t write EVERYTHING!

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  2. I really like how Dance gives us a broader view of the DC world's picture. It and The Great Ten (which I am loving right now) open up the picture and I'd fully support more books like it, something on the Rocket Reds and other Russian heroes, or international waters Sea Devil stuff.

    What I disliked about Dance was the failure of research. Grant Morrison does some serious work when he writes a new book but he fell short here on the characters. The worst is Shy Crazy Lolita; a Lolita who wears a Sailor School Uniform rather than Lolita wear, and rather than shout out "Irrashyaimasen" (Please Enter!) as her description would imply (tie-ing together the Harajuku Shopping theme) she yells out "Sumimasen" (I'm Sorry!) which would be an excusable translation error if it weren't her battle cry. There's no real reason for her to be small either. Lesser offenders are the Big Atomic Lantern Boy (A reference to Japan's nuclear history? Really?) and Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash (He's nothing more than Japanese Impulse, which seems lazy).

    Most Excellent Super Bat and Shiny Happy Aquazon are the only ones who really come out well, and @Mosexbat is just a fun, Extreme Japanese Bruce Wayne and Shiny Happy Aquazon is reminiscent of my favored Government Teams in the Godzilla Films.

    This is a shame only because Grant Morrison helped put together Big Science Action, which is a fantastic Western Mash-Up on Japanese Super Heroes. Hulk-ized Totoro with a dash of Psychic girl, Ghost Rider-ed Akira, a Giant Robot, and my favourite as stated before the Wavemen who seem like the teams in Godzilla Films.

    It's good that I enjoyed the story so much, but this stuff kinda ate at me as I thought "This Character CULTURALLY doesn't make sense". If there were other examples it'd be easier, I suppose, to swallow, but they're supposed to be the shallow stereotypes who overcome their blahblahblah... so yeah.

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  3. Reading Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance, and even Final Crisis, I knew there were plenty of international cultural references I wasn't picking up; I'm so glad Liang Xiu chimed in about some of this. There wasn't much in terms of real politics in this book (as opposed to Checkmate, for instance), and that's one place where I felt the story didn't live up to its potential. I'll be curious to check out Great Ten.

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  4. I wish there was a bit of more politics in this book, too. I was enthralled in the pop-culture Vs. Superhero culture thing that, in re-reading, I realized there was some name dropping of North Korean Super...beings. I dunno if you'd call them heroes...

    But I for one would like to see that expanded on, maybe in the Great Ten of The Shield (another series you should pick up if you like the international politics bit)

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  5. Just got done reading "Dance" myself - I think Joe Casey did as good a job stepping in as someone who's not Grant Morrison could do. Obviously GM is the only one who *gets* these characters (heck, I don't even get them), but Casey did a bang-up job building Most Excellent Superbat into one of my new favorite characters (I'd love to see him turn up in Batman, Inc.).

    Apparently the Super Young Team are supposed to be reincarnations of the Forever People; hopefully this means we'll see more of them in Multiversity. The thing that disappointed me most about this title - and with Final Crisis Aftermath - was that it hasn't gone anywhere since. I think Tattooed Man is the only one who's appeared in a post-FC title (Titans), which is a real shame, because the Super Young Team must hate being out of the limelight

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