However you may feel about the last two issues, you can’t say they don’t have extraordinary beginnings and endings: the first opens with Metron visiting Anthro, and ends with Anthro having a vision of Kamandi’s future. The second opens with the Super Young Team, and closes with the miraculous, and awesome, return of Barry Allen. This issue? It opens with Frankenstein, who Morrison first reintroduced in Seven Soldiers and has been appearing on and off since. Morrison clearly has an affinity for the character, but he’s always seemed kind of flat to me. Every time I see him, I’m at first a little surprised – “Hey! A Frankenstein!” – and then afterwards I can’t wait until the comic moves on to something else. This appearance is no exception. And the ending? I think it’s meant to be exciting and shocking, like the reappearance of Barry Allen. Instead, it just pissed me off. But we’ll get to that later.
Frankenstein isn’t the only character I was confused and then disappointed to see. Father Time? Taleb? I’m not sure who they are supposed to be; members of Checkmate, I presume. But at least in my opinion, they never prove to be interesting or important. The same is true of the new Question. At the very end of the series, they all have a small part to play, but I would happily trade it all for a less chaotic or compressed story. Talking about it now, I think this issue is the weakest one so far – in fact, I think, the weakest one of the series. There are a few things I genuinely liked, though.
One of my favorite panels in the series, and maybe one of my favorite Jay Garrick moments.
So this is what was going on: Death can’t run faster than the speed of light – but Wally and Barry can! Barry Allen has quite literally been outrunning death, and this is how it works and makes sense. Jay doesn’t call it a Flash Fact, though. We know he wants to, but I guess he’s leaving that kind of thing for Barry.
The other thing I particularly like is the application of Article X , the superhero draft, which is Alan Scott’s solution to how they will assemble enough superheroes to deal with this New God problem, as well as the ongoing disorder in Bludhaven. As draft letters are sent and received, we get to see some mysterious Aquaman (who is referenced once again towards the end of the series, and then, as far as I know, completely forgotten). But we also get Freddy Freeman and Talking Tawny!
And Superwoman and Streaky! It’s a shame that Streaky can’t come along the way Tawny accompanies Freddy. . .
Aside from a brief, and wonderful, appearance by the Super Young Team, the last thing I was delighted to see was the appearance of the Atomic Knights – and their dog ponies!
The dog ponies aren’t a Morrison invention, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to find they were.
But, let’s return to the ending and the last few pages of the book. As I’ve mentioned in discussing both Animal Man and Final Crisis, Morrison must be ardently opposed to corrupting and debasing characters for the sake of shocking or titillating the reader. But this is exactly what he does with Mary Marvel, the only hero to be inhabited by a New God:
Now she’s crazy, hyper-sexualized, and laughable, and she becomes a murderer when she casually kills one of the Atomic Knights escorting Wonder Woman. Her corruption is augmented by the short scene leading up to the murder, in which that Atomic Knight describes how Wonder Woman has been such an inspiration to her. Actually, of the Atomic Knights in the vicinity, Morrison only has Mary Marvel kill this one – a strong woman who, inspired by Wonder Woman, the premier female superhero, has become a superhero herself.
The worst part, though, is that Mary Marvel infects Wonder Woman with the Morticoccus virus, apparently a major plot point of Countdown. I’m not sure what the nature and significance of it are; it doesn’t seem necessary to Darkseid’s plot, given that the anti-life equation alone seems to be the ultimate weapon. But here, the Morticoccus virus serves to debase and corrupt Wonder Woman too. Here’s the last page of this issue:
It also corrupts some pony dogs.
I don’t think Grant Morrison is a misogynist; that’s certainly not something that I’ve picked up from elsewhere in his work. But it is upsetting that from an author whose corpus says so much about how we can tell good stories about our superheroes without debasing them and in a series that, for the most part does just this, Wonder Woman is treated so shoddily. This series celebrates Batman and Superman in particular, and we get some of the characters’ best moments here. But Wonder Woman, the third member of the trinity, gets a pig’s mask. She does have an important moment in issue 7, but it is just one important moment among many in that issue and it takes a single panel. One clever theory uses allusions to earlier issues of Wonder Woman and Superfriends and takes a rather allegorical reading of all of this: that Wonder Woman functions as a kind of Persephone figure, and her journey from corruption to purification is a catharsis for both her character and for Morrison.
But Morrison himself has said, when asked about why Wonder Woman gets this treatment in Final Crisis, “I wondered about that myself.” He goes on to say, “I relegated Wonder Woman to a role that best summed up my original negative feelings about the character. My apologies to her fans and I promise to be a little more constructive next time around.” He may have had a more complicated idea in mind, but seems to be too buried in metaphor to access easily. Really, it doesn’t seem like he has a clear idea about how he wants to treat the character, even if he has mentioned in other interviews that he had a Wonder Woman pitch.
Now, I can imagine Morrison’s negative feelings or sense of confusion about the character. I would be hard pressed to think of an interesting story to tell with the character, and certainly most authors who have tried their hand at it have failed. But I was hoping for more Morrison, especially in a book like this – a book about how superheroes and Story are the antidote to anti-life, how they are the best in us and the best of our imagination.