So, first issues, huh?
In what was probably the most scrutinized series debut, both on the stands and off, in the history of modern comics, “Final Crisis” #1 was a landmark release in many ways. It served as a catalyst for intracompany warfare, evidence to some managerial incompetence, and, oh yeah, the introduction of what will eventually be a seven issue limited series.
On that final and most important level, for this reader at least, that issue delivered. Sure, it didn't have widescreen spectacle on every other page, but it was overflowing with wild concept and laid the groundwork for intriguing developments in almost every panel.
So, does “Final Crisis” #2 silence the doubters with cover-to-cover calamitous catastrophe? Not necessarily. It does so in a much more enjoyable and invigorating way. See, the stakes here are clearly so high that an issue that is still just an upward climb of setup before the upcoming plunge into non-stop blockbusterness is crammed with some pretty enormous and significant happenings. And it does so with clarity (which many people seemed to feel #1 lacked) and the appropriate weight (ditto).
Now, if a big summer event comic doesn't have a Helicarrier falling out of the sky, can it still be just as awesome as one that does? Of course. While there is indeed plenty of very alarming property damage with great potential cost to popular and beloved characters, there is also plenty of just plain fun comics. Villains filing out to their cars in a parking lot, the long awaited debut of Japanese super heroes that delivers on every level, and, no lie, a final splash page that you have been waiting to read your entire life. It's just that perfect, succinct, clever, and immaculately rendered.
As with the first issue, there is a lot going on that isn't necessarily spelled out. The broad strokes are easy to read, as is the growing sense of apocryphal dread as so many things keep getting so much worse (this really is The Day [Or Actually Week or So Leading Up To The Day] Evil Won). But in the background, the themes of good versus evil and the powerful versus the powerless are still being examined in interesting ways. A regular joe like Detective Turpin is slowly being consumed by a force and a destiny much larger than his own.
I'll stop with spoilermongering there, because as the stakes are raised, a lot of really bad and surprising things happen to a lot of really lovable people. (I will tell you this, though, Shilo Norman is looking pretty sharp lately.)
Can (and will) people still find things to not like about it? Most likely. But it's hard to imagine a more inventive and sharply rendered single issue of a comic book. (And that Flash cover? Adding a simple black background has made it into one of the slickest covers possibly ever.) "Final Crisis" is an epic story, that much is clear at this point. And like any great epic, it requires a great deal of set-up to prepare for the calamitous events to come. But this comic proves that a set-up issue can have just as much intelligence, just as much high concept fun, just as much collateral damage, and just as much sheer audacity as even the most eventful and worldbreaking issue of anything else.
So congratulations, Mr. Morrison. Congratulations, Mr. Jones. You have discovered The Anti-Disappointment Equation and unleashed it onto an unsuspecting world.