Saturday, December 13, 2008

Final Crisis: Requiem by Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke

Review by Chris Clow

One of the most sobering moments of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis #1 was the sudden and shocking death of a founding Justice League of member. Within a page and a half, a DC mainstay was murdered in cold blood by a punk supervillain with the Secret Society crowded around him. Libra, a one off character that had one previous appearance before bursting onto the scene in Final Crisis was the one that finally put the one JLA mainstay through all it’s incarnations on ice.

J’onn J’onzz, the emerald shape-shifting Martian Manhunter, is dead.

Final Crisis: Requiem is the exploratory story of the immediately preceding and following events of J’onn’s death, as well as the impact it has on many heroes of the DCU. It’s also an excellent recounting of the character’s (seemingly) little known history: how his civilization rose to power on the red planet, who his parents were, how a civil war killed his race and his family, and how he ended up on our little blue ball in space. Before J’onn’s life is completely taken away from him, he sends a telepathic message to his closest friends, who wake up from their nightly slumbers and verbally recount J’onn’s entire history of not only himself, but his Martian civilization. As his final act, he entrusted the last memories of the Martian people and society to five former teammates.

Writer Peter Tomasi shows us that he is not only well aware of the character and his history, but Tomasi’s sheer reverence for the Martian Manhunter pours from this story. He treats it as if a dear friend of his own has passed away, and shows us the solace that we can take in our memories of loved ones. Artist Doug Mahnke, normally known for gritty artwork from a run on Justice League Elite, the main Batman title, and the popular one-shot Batman: The Man Who Laughs, maintains the grit for J’onn’s death but also brings a much gentler approach to the grieving process J’onn’s dear friends go through.

Unlike other comic book deaths, there are no hints or hopes of a resurrection that are laid through this story. There are no tongue-in-cheek winks at the reader that say “gone today, here tomorrow!” This story and the characters in it are genuinely crushed at the loss of their friend, and bear the full weight of responsibility for carrying on not only the memory of J’onn himself, but of his entire race. After reading it, letting the full scope of this death settle in a way that Final Crisis #1 didn’t provide, it feels like a punch in the gut.

One of the most beloved and fun aspects of the character was his love of Oreo cookies, or as they’re called in the DCU, “Choco’s.” I found the ending of this issue highly appropriate. Batman, left alone with J’onn’s transparent casket, laid one of his favorite cookies on the lid, and simply said, “Goodbye, my friend.”

Goodbye J’onn. I hope to read some new stories about you one day, but until then, thank you for the memories.

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