I've long since given up on DC's daunting and new reader-unfriendly continuity, and their barrage of interconnected miniseries that all seem essential to understanding the tapestry of their universe. One leads into the next, and I just don't have the interest or the knowledge to bother following them. But I do like Grant Morrison, at least some of the time (We3 is one of the best comics I've ever read, and I largely enjoyed his X-Men run), and I certainly like J.G. Jones, so I had been considering picking up the latest climax in DC's endless crossover cycle, Final Crisis (the title also indicates some finale to this perpetual cycle of event stories, but I don't really believe it). A big, self-contained, universe-spanning story from Morrison and Jones might be fun, although the last Morrison DC work I picked up, his Batman arc with J.H. Williams III, I found mostly impenetrable. And after reading advance buzz emphasizing continuity and underwhelmed-to-downright-hostile reviews, I decided to pass.
But, thanks to DC's publicity department, I got a copy of the first issue anyway, so it seemed like the least I could do was give it a shot. And I'd like to report that I was totally wrong, that Morrison brings his trademark cracked brilliance to bear on an exciting, epic tale of heroes and villains and et cetera and so on. Too bad that's completely not true - this was twice as impenetrable as the Batman arc that I read, and I think I'd have a hard time even telling someone what the series was about. Not solely because it was confusing, but just because it has no story to it, no focus. Basically, something bad is happening...probably. What? I don't know. Are the multiple Earths collapsing into one? Is the single universe becoming fractured again? I don't think so, but those are the sort of nutshell premises of past Crises (both of which I read and remember only vaguely), and so I imagine something similar might be happening here. The Monitors show up, but they've changed somehow. Something happened with the New Gods and Apokolips, which I think was in a miniseries I read about (but didn't actually read). There's some caveman character who might be existing in the past or some post-apocalyptic future. The Alpha Lanterns...appear in a panel. At least half the characters are never identified by name. The only plot thread I could really make sense of and that seemed to have the potential to drive a story involved a bunch of villains teaming up to take down the heroes, and killing Martian Manhunter. That took up three pages. I kept reading the last-page cliffhanger over and over to try to figure out what was going on, but I was completely lost.
I could go on, but the point is, this is not a story. It's a series of disjointed vignettes that may or may not add up to anything and require knowledge of dozens of other stories not just to appreciate on a deeper level, but to even understand in the most rudimentary way. Now, of course I could scour message boards and Wikipedia and find out who these people are and maybe make a little more sense of this issue. But why should I have to do that? Shouldn't I at least be able to follow the action and figure out why I might want to come back for the next installment? I realize that DC is catering to longtime fans, and that's okay. But I'm a longtime Marvel fan, and a book from Marvel structured like this would only be marginally more comprehensible or interesting to me, I think. Jones, as always, does excellent work, giving the story a sense of scope and representing a wide range of characters in exciting and striking ways. But ultimately this is a series about a sweeping, important story, and if I can't even discern what that is, then why would I bother reading the rest of it? (I will say that there is the remote possibility that this will all come together in future issues, and if DC sends me the eventual trade I will give it a chance. But this is no way to hook readers on something being presented in a serial format.)