Final Crisis is exhausting.
In multiple ways. The story is exhausting in the sense that "what else could Morrison possibly throw at our heroes?" The artwork is exhausting because of the ability of J.G. Jones...and now a few others. Even the scheduling is exhausting, because whatever day Final Crisis was supposed to come out on, it hasn't, which is mostly due to the exhausting art. The guy that the art is taking the biggest toll on is J.G. Jones. You've probably heard about how Jones has been joined by Carlos Pacheco to help get the issues out on time. I was pretty okay with that, it's reasonable. However, now we've found out that J.G. Jones will not have any interior artwork in the series finale issue #7.
I'm bummed, to say the least. I was blown away by Jones' work on the first three issues, but the man is such a perfectionist that he just can't get the work done fast enough. He's already issued a public apology about his inability to finish the series, and he seems genuinely disappointed. So I'm not going to lambaste the guy because there's no point, and he's done a hell of a job with the parts he's had.
Anyways, I was going to write the review to issues 3 and 4 together when I realized that three by itself seemed a little disjointed, and would probably read better in the context of the next issue's events. Unfortunately, four was delayed until this past week (10/22). If I'd have known that, I would've done this sooner. I'm also going to be reviewing the one-shot tie-in Submit, since it leads in really well to the events off issue #4.
In a nutshell, evil has won. If you'll recall, after #2 we saw the return of Barry Allen (which made me yell happily) outrunning the Black Racer in an attempt to save Orion from being assassinated. He failed, and felt miserable. Wally is with him, completely dumbstruck that his uncle has returned to the land of the living. In issues #3 and 4, as well as Submit, the Dark Knight is out of the picture. he was one of the Dark Side Club's first targets, and has not been seen since he was overtaken by the crazed club/cult.
Superman is also out of the picture. After seeing his wife nearly die in an attack on the Daily Planet, he stood by her side until a being said he could save her by retreating into "limbo" and finding his answers throughout the multiverse.
In the meantime, the big event that happens is the mass distribution of the Anti-Life Equation. The Dark Side Club with Libra as it's figurehead captured Metropolis Police Officer Dan Turpin and began undressing him, strapped him down on a table, and began reciting a strange incantation.
As the Equation spreads like wildfire, people realize the hopelessness of existence and surrender themselves completely to the "will of the dark side."
In Final Crisis: Submit, after the equation was let loose, we're given an interlude story involving JLA member Black Lightning and the new Tattooed Man. Tattooed Man is a Green Lantern villain, the most recent incarnation of which was introduced in my favorite issue of the current Green Lantern series, #9, where Hal Jordan and Batman put their differences aside to defeat and apprehend him. TM has many preconceived notions about superheroes being messianic and self righteous, but begins to change his tune when he sees the sleflessness Black Lightning has while trying to save TM's family.
In the end, Black Lightning holds off the hordes of people overtaken by the Anti-Life Equation and allows TM and his family to escape to safety, while Lightning himself is absorbed and possessed by the Equation.
In issue #4, we see the army of heroes united by Green Lantern Alan Scott as well as Shilo Norman, the new Mister Miracle, attempting to keep the heroes in the know by giving them information taht doesn't come from the posseessed outside world. At various Watchtowers around the planet, Mr. Terrific, Green Arrow, and Alan Scott attempt to help survivors of the Equation. At the Hall of Justice, the possessed wage an attack and invasion of the hall. Green Arrow stays behind and allows Black Canary and others to teleport up to the JLA's orbiting satellite, and is promptly taken over by his turned comrad Black Lightning.
After stopping their run, Wally West and Barry Allen and up a month in the future, surrounded by the possessed. Barry tells Wally that they ahve to save everyone, but "family comes first." They run to Iris Allen's, and see that Barry's wife has been possessed. Wally is mortified, but Barry simply walks up to her and kisses her, lightning flaring all around them, as Iris is restored.
In the meantime, Dan Turpin's body is graying. He tries to fight with his mind, but he cannot. The Dark Siders clothe him in Apokoliptian armor, and beckon Darkseid himself to enter his "new host." The crazed "reverend" proclaims, "Give us a sign, great Darkseid! Thumbs up for the triumph of the human spirit! Thumbs down to summon a day of holocaust that will never end!" Turpin's eyes redden as his skin becomes darker. Turpin's mind is lost...
...and Darkseid puts his thumb down.
I love this story, I can't say that enough. The artwork is solid (even with it's changes) and Morrison's storytelling is just as unpredicatble and crazy as it is over in Batman, if not moreso. I continue to wait to see how the DCU can bounce back from this, because it's been a pretty wild ride. For new readers, it isn't very accessible. But 45 minutes on Wikipedia or the DC Database Project, or buying the new edition of the DC Comics Encyclopedia (and supporting BOF in the process!) can fix that. We've seen the day evil wins, and since it's DC Comics, and they've suffered a crushing defeat, just imagine how grand their victory will be.