As the ultimate endpoint of “Final Crisis” is now in sight, the goal of the series is becoming clear, and it’s looking like nothing short of a complete reboot of everything we knew about DC Comics. Now, before you scrape your seats back and storm out of the room, it’s not the kind of “Rebirth” you might be thinking of. It doesn’t look at all like this will be an opportunity for “Someone You’d Never Expect!” to take the mantle of one of “Your Most Beloved Heroes!” No, it’s much broader than that. “Final Crisis” is the origin story of a brand new DC Universe.
Decades ago, Jack Kirby described the Universe as he knew it (and we know it for the next few months at least) as "The Fourth World." The stories that birthed so many of the characters in “Final Crisis” were archetypes of a prototypical battle between the crotchety and conformist evil of the old guard and the zazzed-out finger-snap hipster good of the new. Here, Morrison is systematically destroying that world and making way for the Fifth.
The impetus, we now know for sure, is a little complicated. But imagine Darkseid is eating at a fairly tony restaurant, the kind with tablecloths. On his way to the Men’s Room, he slips on a napkin or an olive or something and on his way down, he grabs a table to try and break his fall. Instead of it righting himself, though, he instead pulls the tablecloth down with him.
The Multiverse is the tablecloth, and “Final Crisis” is that tiny spot where the very tip of his first finger starts to pull. The Fifth World is the maple tabletop underneath.
In the wake of such calamity, there are two very Kirby forces looking to grab their seats. This time, the conformist evil is even more insidious, as Morrison writes in a time where there are just so many more ways for people to be swayed. The youthful good is now celebrity obsessed and basking in strangeness and mystery.
And like in any good story, at the center of it all is awkward, desperate, and fundamentally weird teenage love, as Nix Uotan returns to the forefront in this issue. The exiled teenage Monitor with a ceaseless crush on one of his co-workers (I mean, really, how resonant is this story, when you take a step back?) is finally finding a way to correct the fallout of his perilous transfer from the Home Office to one of the dingier satellite ones. Solving this relocation problem could very well save and recreate a universe hip deep in disaster.
We also find the forces of good and evil in even broader strains of actual combat, each side making advances. But remember the tablecloth. As they gain and give away ground, the entire universe around them is crumpling to the carpet. (In a magnificently artful summation of the chaos, Morrison gives a Red Shirt the simplest of descriptive lines: “Radar says the Swiss border just. . . just got further away. . .”)
The ultimate victor of the battle is still unknown at the close of the issue, but things don’t look very good for the good guys. But it’s looking less and less important either way. Darkseid is gaining power, and the pockets of resistance are weakening. It’s up the strangest among them (and a truly inspired redesign of a Monitor) to usher in the right universe when all is said and done.
As was the case with #4, JG Jones is splitting the art duties with Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino, but the results are not as artfully separated. Teams switch in mid scene and although the effect isn’t particularly jarring, considering the limitlessly badass stuff Pacheco gets to draw (two words: Frankenstein, Motorcycle), one wonders how Jones might have tackled it. But Pacheco and Merino are no slouches, and no page of the book feels or looks rushed (although the two pages before the final splash do give the slightest impression that the Fed Ex guy might have been impatiently ringing the doorbell of the studio as the last brush strokes were blown dry).
DC has done as good a job possible at maintaining a baseline level of quality across the board, which is a blessing. The story deserves that kind of consistency if we’re over going to see a bookshelf shattering Absolute edition.
Considering how sweet a Fifth World Monitor looks, how cleverly and surprisingly the newer and weirder good guys fight evil (trust me, you’ll never see a Rubik’s Cube in quite the same light), and how snappy Super Young Team looks in a group shot, the new age Morrison is ushering in through blood and tragedy and despair is looking to be an exceptional one. There will always be Nightwing, and a Superman, and an El Diablo; but the foundations beneath them all have never been this cool. Lord only knows how he convinced DC to let him pull this off.