Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape takes an approach to this particular story that's apropos but at the same time remarkably byzantine, and its ties to Final Crisis are at points the most thematically solid and other times the most entirely loose. The bottom line is that down the road I'll be interested in what writer Ivan Brandon is selling with Escape -- it has ties to many of DC Comics' recent run of spy/intrigue series that I've enjoyed, like Checkmate, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, and Manhunter -- but the route it takes to get to its end is entirely bizarre.
[It's near impossible to talk about Escape without spoiling it. I mean it. You've been warned.]
Escape is a mystery, and as such Brandon puts the reader in the role of the protagonist, solving the puzzle. The thing about a puzzle, though, is that it only works if you're significantly intrigued by the journey to solve the puzzle, or if the solution to the puzzle is satisfying enough to justify the work involved in making the journey. In the end, I like what Escape promises for the hero Nemesis and the DC Universe going forward, but the story itself is a tease -- it all turns out to be a big test -- and the main player isn't so mysterious if you have a good handle on DC Comics history. I might've enjoyed Escape more if the story here were condensed to two issues and the rest started Nemesis in his new role; instead what we have is a six-chapter advertisement for Brandon's upcoming Nemesis book that follows.
Basically, if you liked Final Crisis #7, Escape is the book for you. It's told, as Final Crisis #7 was, non-sequentially; the crossover event offered "experimental" storytelling, and Escape picks up on that storytelling, though in mimicking Final Crisis, Escape feels a bit less "experimental." Similarly, Final Crisis discussed the idea of characters in limbo, and Escape discusses characters in limbo -- Nemesis' faceless opponents, and Nemesis' struggle to overcome his own facelessness and become a force in his own destiny (read, "get his own series"). Final Crisis played with classic Jack Kirby stories in the modern era; Escape offers Kirby "shout-outs" throughout. But in each case, Escape feels slightly "less than," perhaps because it comes to no great conclusion in the end; if Escape had built upon these ideas (as Brandon's Nemesis series might), instead of just carrying them forward, I might think differently.
As well, the story elements of Escape seem inspired by Final Crisis, but don't build in a way that's well-tied to Final Crisis. For instance, Countdown to Final Crisis created a new OMAC and Buddy Blank on an alternate Earth; Escape deals with OMAC, but never makes clear if this is the most recent OMAC or Kirby's classic (and the latter, as inexplicable as that may be, seems the more likely). Also, Escape follows the new Global Peace Agency, but doesn't jibe with Final Crisis -- Amanda Waller, for instance, is part of the GPA in Final Crisis but is refused membership in Escape. These are little details, but they add up; Escape is "about" this Final Crisis concept, but not really connected to it.
Good for DC Comics, seriously, for publishing a book that no one without a fair knowledge of the DC Universe is going to be able to understand. I recognize the value of jump-on titles, but I also value continuity and I don't mind being rewarded with a story that uses Jack Kirby esoterica or includes Peacemaker and Spy Smasher without copious explanation. At the same time, I cannot imagine someone without that knowledge coming back, especially in the single issues, after reading issue one. Escape is pure publishing risk on DC's part, mitigated maybe a little bit by the words "Final Crisis" in the title, and I appreciate the risk even as I'm slightly astounded that they took it.
Commenter Jeff whet my interest the other day with his mention of the interrelated Suicide Squad, Manhunter, and other titles from the late 1980s; I think it shows the good number of spy stories DC's been publishing for a while now. If the stories of Nemesis and the Global Police Agency continue, I'm probably in -- I just wish Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape had a bit more meat on its bones for this story's first outing.
[Contains full covers]
Coming up ... a guest review on horseback. Don't miss it! (And, out of curiosity, what was your favorite Final Crisis Aftermath book?)