As discussed in yesterday's FINAL CRISIS post, here's the introduction to the hardcover, from Jay Babcock, editor/publisher of ARTHUR magazine. Enjoy:
It’s another rainy Wednesday. We’ve been doing errands all afternoon in a borrowed car and we’re on our way home after the last stop: Fat Jack’s Comic Crypt in downtown Philadelphia. I’m in the passenger seat, giggling like a monkey.
“What are you laughing at?” my girlfriend asks in that way you do when you’re concerned for someone’s mental health.
In my best solemn narrator impression voice, I read aloud: “‘As he speaks, the vast, slow motion INVASION OF REALITY begins. Machines bigger than CITIES arrive out of the VOID and ANCHOR themselves to the garbage heaps of LIMBO.’”
“It does not say that,” she says with a breaking smile.
I turn the page and continue: “‘Phantom armies clash on the battlefields of LIMBO. This strange, last outpost of EXISTENCE. The FORGOTTEN versus the YET TO BE. Like some half-remembered dream. All the rules of Existence are broken.’”
“It does not say that,” she says, starting to chuckle.
“And then Superman yells, ‘There are 52 WORLDS in the multiversal super-structure! …Warn everyone, like Paul Revere! Tell them Mandrakk is coming! I’LL DO WHAT I CAN TO PLUG THE HOLE IN FOREVER!’”
“Wow. And this is a Superman comic book? People are reading this?”
“It’s Superman Beyond 3D Number 2, which is part of the Final Crisis miniseries, the number one title from DC right now.”
We’re stopped at a red light that never turns, so I show her the comic book. And she starts laughing, too. How old are we? We’re both 38. But in this moment I feel like I’m 12 years old, reading aloud from Crisis on Infinite Earths, riding home from an after-school trip to Comics Plus in Pomona, California with my eighth grade friends, courtesy of Kevin Kolodziej's endlessly benevolent supermom. Or, closer, I’m 28, reading aloud to a college friend on the phone some fantastic captions from a worn-out back issue of New Gods (or was it Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Best Friend? I can’t remember) I’d just found at Another World Comics in Eagle Rock, California, where the excited narrator is describing the Forever People, Jack Kirby's cosmic techno-hippies who live harmoniously in a psychedelic tree village somewhere outside Metropolis….
It’s that laughter, that kind of involuntary-response joy/wonder/glee at first awed, disbelieving encounter with an over-the-top-and-beyond your idea/image in a comic book—something so WEIRD and GREAT and TRUE that you can’t believe it actually got published—that is happening here, in this moment, as we wait for the accursed light to change, as we turn the pages and get to the part where Captain Adam demonstrates quantum super-position, and then Superman reaches his hand through… Well, you’ll be finding out through what exactly soon enough. Let me just say this: I’ve been loving moments like this for as long as I’ve been reading comic books, which is a pretty long time, and no one has delivered more of them per issue during the last 20 years than writer Grant Morrison, from Animal Man, Doom Patrol and (Final Crisis overture) Flex Mentallo to New X-Men, JLA and All-Star Superman. But Final Crisis is his grandest-scale moment yet, a particularly harrowing section of the story that is the DC Universe, in which the ultimate conflict goes down—not who would win, Superman or Darkseid (although that’s in here, too)—but the real biggie: existence versus non-existence! Is versus Isn’t! UNIVERSE VERSUS !!!
Final Crisis is a major achievement of 21st century imagination and craft in mainstream media, works on countless levels, far too many for me to enumerate here. Final Crisis is so good that although it’s part of a continuing, decades-in-the-telling saga involving countless characters, you can follow the plot and dig on the ideas and the dialogue and the sheer spectacle of the events that spiral from the trash up into the transcendent, even if you’re not familiar with all the backstory. (Rest assured that there are detailed annotations available online regarding previous references to Darkseid’s hatred of music, which parallel earth Nubia and where her Wonder Horn comes from, and so on…) Of course, that’s the way it’s always been with DC Universe comic books: you don’t always know everything about everyone, and sometimes you miss stuff, and sometimes you only suss out later what something was really all about. (Same is true for life in the real world, actually…) Final Crisis continues in that tradition, but as you’ll see, it’s at a higher dose—a different pitch, a denser signal—than usual, one that mirrors the world we are living in, when too many things really are going terribly wrong all at the same time, when headlines really do scream about catastrophe, turmoil, doom, collapse and apocalypse.
And maybe that’s this audacious work’s genius, even more than its elegant architecture, its overwhelming dazzle, its virtuoso artwork by J. G. Jones and Doug Mahnke: the way that it shows us, sitting here in a car, a path beyond the current situation, out of economic cataclysm and endless horrible wars and ecological peril and unchanging red lights. We’re being flat-out wowed into a very psychedelic, progressive, imaginative space by a superhero comic book. And that makes us laugh. We hum a brighter, richer tune. And then the light changes, and we go.
Plugging the hole in forever,
Jay Babcock is the editor and publisher of Arthur, the free bimonthly magazine of "homegrown counterculture" and Rolling Stone’s “Hot Magazine” of 2005, whose contributors have included Alan Moore, Paul Pope, author Douglas Rushkoff, musicians Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), David Byrne (Talking Heads), and many others. His writing on music, culture and ideas during the last 15 years has appeared in Mojo, Vibe, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the LAWeekly.