The Myth of Prime Earth
“Talk about the past, sir/
Wrote for the ones who want to get away.
-My Chemical Romance
Welcome back to WE RAN. Again, a lot to talk about and a lot of my own personal emotions about this section of the story to get through, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t waste your time with preamble.
You must be SUPERCOOL to go beyond this point!
Your life depends on it!
We open on…Japan. Which I will admit is a bit of a stretch beyond where we LEFT the series, in the bedroom of the now mortal Nix Uotan, just outside of Metropolis. We also aren’t allowed any specific date or location stamps in the margins. No Johnsian over explaining or Tom Taylorian caption fuckery here, which always did trip me when I was reading this as a younger, dumber person.
The clues of the set dressing, as well as the dialogue seem to extend to the extent Morrison is willing to orient us within the world of this event so after a few times, you just kind of have to roll with it. The “hard cutting” transitions seemed to be a real sticking point to people when they were handling it upon release, reviewing as each issue came out and there is not really much I can do to explain it further here beyond “I dunno, Grant was just moving REALLY FAST here, I’m sorry.” But I absolutely understand how it’s frustrating because it was absolutely frustrating to ME when I first read it.
But honestly, even just looking at this splash NOW with my “critical eye”, I feel like it’s largely a pretty cool sequence with some neat story implications. Rising Son looks kinda like Sonny Chiba and that rules, plus we get little touches of Morrison and Jones attempting to allow us a largely more global perspective of a Crisis (something I think a LOT of “modern” Crisis books struggle with). I also REALLY love him returning to the theme of “Age vs. Youth” through the lens of the DC universe. We got touches of this in New X-Men and Invisibles obviously, but seeing the “punks” and youth of the DCU is something that is always a fun well to draw from. Especially when the designs are clearly aping “legacy” heroes and riffing on iconic costumes.
“All my life I’ve waited to be a gimmick.” I mean, C’MON. That’s SO GOOD.
But even better this sequence allows for the reintroduction of SONNY SUMO! One of the great unsung heroes of the New Gods canon and wonderful connection between Final Crisis and the Forever People saga! When we last saw Sonny, he was harboring a piece of the Anti-Life Equation, unknown to him and his manager and using it to whip wholesale ass down Suicide Slum way in Intergang funded fight-nights.
But after running across the Forever People and being swept into their conflict with Apokolips, Darkseid so feared Sonny Sumo’s might and noble heart that he exiled him to feudal Japan, trapping him and his Anti-Life supported body in time.
But now he’s back! And seemingly just as powerful as ever! We don’t have any real sense of his Anti-Lifeness (aside from a quick meet up with Shilo Norman, Miracle Man II, himself recently returned from the grave in 7 Soldiers of Victory.) but it’s a wonderful bit of continuity wank that I truly love (and have come to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older). Obviously, the critic in me says it would be a bit more powerful should we maybe have a “character card” next to him or perhaps a bit more explicit dialogue in his introduction to connect him back to the Forever People, but that might have spoiled the weird lore journey I had to go on.
Which brings us back to our main cast, Nix and Terrible Turpin. The former is…struggling. Not only were they basically ripped out of Heaven (and away from the being they love for the crime of feeling), but because they REMEMBER. Again, this isn’t exactly a new road that Grant is barreling down, but I feel like Nix’s plight is especially heartbreaking if you look into it a bit deeper.
Not only are they being tormented by memories and dreams of worlds they once monitored, but they now LITERALLY inhabit a world of Myth. An Earth of Myth down to its core! An Earth that once hosted multiple Supermen, where magic and science blend into wondrous, dangerous alchemy. It’s another story he somewhat told in the form of Ystin the Bold in 7 Soldiers of Victory. Another from Myth, ripped from their world and deposited into another one, but one tinged with magic that could allow them to return home.
We see Nix drawing the Supermen of his dreams and trying to explain to his fellow humanoids that there is Knowledge beyond their experience, beyond their comprehension of their already wondrous universe.. His cries fall on deaf ears. But still he tries, desperate to find the “magic word” that will return him to the Orrery and the being and Multiple Earths they so love.
On the other side of the coin, Terrible Turpin is earning his nickname. With extreme prejudice. Haunted by what he saw in the Dark Side Club (not exactly subtle is the Tiger Force That Beats at the Heart of All, huh?) Turpin is a man possessed with revenge and imbued with a sense of righteous fury, determined to save the children he saw in the thrall of Anti-Life. But is he possessed with something more than revenge and anger?
As a younger, dumber person, I didn’t really catch all the hints that Darkseid had now infected Turpin, but now as an older, slightly less dumber person, I am shocked I missed it. Jones and Morrison are about as subtle as Darkseid with the visual hints.
But even more than that, he feels a sort of calling, one corroborated by the confession he beat out of Mad Hatter with a toilet seat. One pulling him toward the ruins of Bludhaven, former home of Batman’s first ward Dick Grayson. When last we saw Bludhaven, it was getting hammered into a pulp by Ol’ Geoffy Johns in Infinite Crisis. Time hasn’t been kind to the “Gotham on Bathtub Crank” and it’s regularly referred to in these pages as a “war-zone”. The perfect place for the new generation of Hunger Dogs to be grown, right?
And boy, oh, boy does Grant start to lean into the weirdness and slightly Lovecraftian nature of Turpin’s new “Dark Passenger”. As soon as he arrives, he has to sprint and dart through shadows in order to escape the views of the Military who have declared Bludhaven a fallen city and patrol it constantly to keep it that way. Touches of Morrison’s now famous critical view of the military and American “defense” institutions. I maybe wish he had leaned on this a BIT harder, but he’s got bigger and weirder Joker Fish to fry at this point.
Fish like literally thickening the plot and introducing the rest of our Apokoliptian antagonists. Here we see “Reverend Good” the current flesh avatar of Glorious Godfrey (or maybe Granny Goodness, I can’t remember at this point and I’m not allowing myself to read forward to these, for Authenticity Reasons, but I am pretty sure it’s Godfrey). Good has just been a background character up until now, but now with Turpin in Bludhaven, they make themselves known to bring him deeper into chamber of horrors where he, along with Mister Simiyan and Mokkari, are using the flesh of the psychic kids at the Dark Side Club to “grow” new bodies for Darkseid, his cruel son Kalibak, and the rest of the missing Hunger Dogs.
Again, I feel this stuff could be a bit stronger if it was made a little more explicit on panel but the implications and dread heavy mentions the script makes to these grisly events happening off panel are really effectively creepy. Especially when put into concert with Good’s “sermon” where he’s dropped the act and is now just straight up referring to the rapidly declining Turpin as the “new” Darkseid.
Making matters SO much worse is the reveal that the Darkness has spread into the Alpha Lanterns. Honestly, I think the Alpha Lantern stuff is some of the weakest elements of Final Crisis as a whole. We aren’t really given much texture for them in the opening issue, aside from some set dressing about how they are the regular rank-and-file GL’s “superiors” as well as a bit of dialogue about how “infallible” they are. It’s almost a proto-version of his fussy and cheeky take on them in The Green Lantern, but there isn’t much real story here like there is on that title (which I am quite fond of).
So with that and really ONLY that their heel turn isn’t really interesting of a turn. Aside from the speed at which they subdue some of the League’s heaviest hitters like John Stewart (the 3rd Best Green Lantern behind Kyle Rayner at 1st and Guy Gardner in 2nd) and Batman. The sequence itself is also a little truncated, probably because of the “set-up” of the Alphas trying to get Hal off the board (spoilers, I guess for a nearly 15 year old comic), but it all is very sudden and not super texturized like the rest of the comic (which might be more Editorial’s fault and not Grant’s). It does give us this boss ass panel though.
That just objectively rules.
As does this!
This is one of the biggest moments supporting my “Myth of Prime Earth” thesis. Even at the funeral for the Martian Manhunter, we see Superman explicitly stating that death isn’t as final as mere mortals believe it to be. A faith that is then tested stringently going into the issue’s cliffhanger.
Returning from the wake on Mars, Superman needs to show his “face” at the Daily Planet in order to keep his secret identity alive. But a bomb cuts through the workday, destroying the main bullpen of the Planet and grievously injuring Lois Lane. Once again, the Darkness has always been here and can touch you where and when you least expect it. I feel the briskness of the sequence overall undercuts the “omph” of the set piece, but again, Jones just REALLY nails the anguish and pain of Superman along with the suddenness of the explosion, which is rendered in a bravura largely “silent” exterior panel.
But far away in Central City, Superman is proven RIGHT. Death ISN’T final. Nor is murder simple. Especially when Gods and Heroes are the victims. Following up on Batman’s working theory that Orion was “shot” and on the murder scene of J’onn J’onzz, Flashes Jay Garrick and Wally West travel to the one-time meeting spot of the Libra-ized Secret Society of Super-Villains.
They commiserate and theorize, bolstered by their experiences with time travel and exposure to the theory of Hypertime (the Grant and Mark Waid creation that “explains” how comics can operate across multiple timelines simultaneously). Batman says Orion was shot, but Wally wonders from where…and when the bullet came. Again, it’s all kind of over too quickly to REALLY try and grapple with the implications of a TIME BULLET fired from a TEMPORAL GUN, but holy shit is it awesome. I think Grant could do some really cool things with a lengthy Flash run. That’s just me blue skying though.
Special vibrations suddenly then rattle their palaver. Vibrations heroes and readers haven’t seen (at least in 2007) for a long while. Something is coming through the veil of reality. A race is being run through the web of the Earths along the fabric of the Multiverse. A race against Death itself.
NEXT TIME: III! “Three Generations of The Flash”, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.. Article X, and KNOW EVIL.