I think it's safe to say that I was really excited about "Final Crisis" the second it was announced. J.G. Jones's art on books like "Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia" and "Black Widow" was jaw-dropping, and saying that I'm a big Grant Morrison fan is an understatement. The idea that "Seven Soldiers" was a prelude to "Final Crisis" filled me with glee, his runs on books like "The Invisibles" and "Doom Patrol" are some of my favorite comics, and when he and Jones created "Marvel Boy" together I thought it was fantastic.
So why, then, did the first issue of "Final Crisis" leave me cold?
Part of the problem is that so far we aren't seeing anything new, but the script seems to think otherwise. Characters are surprised and shocked to find one of the New Gods dead in the street, but didn't "Countdown to Final Crisis" over the course of the last year have that event happen over and over again? The emotional punch is gone for us as readers (even if, like me, you ultimately skipped that particular event), but it should doubly be gone for the characters who lived through 51 weekly issues, plus an 8-issue limited series titled "Death of the New Gods" and numerous tie-ins throughout DC Comics. Did the events of the last year get mysteriously wiped from their heads?
(If so, I have friends who actually bought all of "Countdown to Final Crisis" and I think they'd like to have their minds wiped, too.)
The problem is, that's not the only thing that feels a bit tired. Another teaming up of a large group of super-villains? Wasn't that the thrust of (just in the past several years) "Villains United" and "Infinite Crisis" and a recent "Justice League of America" storyline? Except now there's a new mysterious villain, Libra, trying to lead the pack. And so far, it isn't standing out in the slightest. (It's presented in such a tired and by-the-book manner you can almost see the inevitable twist of Libra being an undercover superhero being the climax of issue #5.) Even Morrison seems bored by his own storyline in places, having the death of a major DC Universe character casually occur off-panel, as if his attention had already gone elsewhere. (And if that isn't an out for that character to not really be dead, I don't know what is.)
The only piece of the script that doesn't feel like it's just limply going through the motions is Morrison's promise that "Final Crisis" will open with Anthro the Caveboy, and end with Kamandi the Last Boy On Earth. Maybe it's because it's such a deviation from the rest of the story that it feels fresh and interesting, especially towards the end of the first issue. Add in a revival of a story element from "Seven Soldiers" and it gives me hope that maybe things are going to start picking up. But right now, it's rather shocking how little seems to happen in a comic that was even given eight extra pages to its length.
On the other hand, Jones's artwork is beautiful from start to finish. From the most basic of settings in the Stone Age, to a two-page spread of Earth seen from space as new arrivals secure a crime scene, he nails each and every moment of the story. He's the sort of artist who can handle moments of all size; Turpin and the Question talking on a bridge looks just as great as the big show-stopping moments. He's able to put more emotion into the semi-masked profile of the Question than I've seen other artists do with a full-on facial shot, and the end result makes me relieved that Jones is on the book. (Special praise also has to go to Alex Sinclair, whose colors really help Jones' art pop off the page; they should definitely continue to collaborate in the future.)
In the end? "Final Crisis" #1 was underwhelming, and that's not something I was expecting to say. I wanted to like this so much more, I really did. The couple of bits in the comic that I liked have kept me from giving up hope entirely. But then I look at four pages of the Monitors scheming against each other and my heart sinks a little more. (I did have to laugh that one of the Monitors says that up until now, they didn't have personalities. I like to hope that was a wink towards the audience from Morrison.)
It's not too late for "Final Crisis" to pull out of its botched take-off. But the second issue is going to need to be big. Really big. This isn't a disaster just yet, but six more issues of this caliber and this could spell the end of the sales power for a company event at DC Comics. "Final Crisis", indeed.