Not much preamble to make here – it’s the last issue, I enjoyed it a lot, a lot of people probably think it’s confusing drivel. Maybe I can help you out.
Page 1: This Earth is never numbered, but the overall theme seems to be “black versions” although the only sample size we have to draw from is Superman and Wonder Woman. We start off with yet another Watchmen callout (the Alan Moore/father issues become really, really, really apparent in this issue) as we meet Black President Superman, who is apparently from Vathlo (apparently a sort of Kryptonian Wakanda) and has reconditioned Brainiac into his White House security system.
Pages 2-3: Nubia (or Nu’Bia) is a dark-skinned sister also made of clay who was captured by Mars, so her being the Wonder Woman proper in this reality fits with Vathlo Superman. The landscape seems to be the Themyscira of their world, and the Wonder Horn is used to call/summon/guide the Ultima Thule (last seen in Superman Beyond #2) into their world, which Nubia and Vathlo Superman get all mournful and philosophical and epic about until…
Page 4: Montoya kills the mood, as is her way. She’s now some kind of fully-formed Ditko/Kirby hybrid character, with roots in both Randian moral absolutism and free-spirited science fiction. Some of the Supermen seem identifiable – the guy in the back is Hyperion, for instance, and (counter-clockwise) you’ve got maybe Prime (Apollo seems separate and shown later), Supreme, Samaritan, Sentry, a guy with a Majestic-style head-piece that’s the wrong color, and whoever the dude with the big O on his chest is. (Another Overman?)
Page 5: The Watchtower seems to be composed part of the JLA satellite, Titans Tower, the Fortress of Solitude and what I can only guess is a section of Checkmate Castle. (I’m not even sure why Titans Tower is there; it hasn’t been in the series at all thus far and wasn’t one of the six Watchtowers.) This point, Lois narrating from the Watchtower, I’ll designate as the future timeline for now, as things jump around quite a bit. This is occurring concurrently with the previous sequence of Montoya and the 52 Supermen, which is quite a while ahead of the end of Final Crisis #6, but that will be filled in soon. The middle panel is Iman (the Spanish-speaking robot-suit guy from earlier), Power Girl, Mahnkenstein (Frankenstein drawn by Mahnke!) and Starman holding off the… Darkseid flame sky… as best they can, I guess. “Doc” Tornado and his Metal Men appear to be a new creation, a world where Red Tornado is a human and the rest of the JLA are robots. Too bad we’ll never see these guys ever again.
Pages 6-7: Continuity flub!: That beastmask should be broken since Diana smashes it earlier in their timeline/later in the story. The rocket is an obvious allusion to Superman’s origin (“rocketed from a dying world”), and apparently it’s basically a sort of information bomb out into the Bleed. Inside is the paper they just printed, what looks like a miniature Bat-signal and whatever’s in the caped-covered package Supergirl is holding (it looks a bit small to be Batman’s body). The panel of Supergirl, Blue Devil, Starman and Atom Smasher fighting the Robot JLA is, I assume, before the rocket was launched, since Lois mentions they scrapped the debris from that fight to make the rocket.
Page 8: This is now Lois’s story, and we flash back right to the end of #6, with Superman holding Batman’s body and staring down Darkseid, who’s still alive (for now) although he’s slowly dying of radion poisoning from Batman’s bullet.
Page 11: So now we see Darkseid take what looks like a different gun than the one used to shoot him and use it to shoot Orion at this point of singularity, which gets sent back in time by, I guess, the wake of the Flashes, where it kills Orion and is picked up by Batman and later used to shoot Darkseid. The ‘Seid, by the way, is using all of the people around him to shoot Omega Beams at the Flashes.
Page 12: The Flashes outrace Death, who comes for Darkseid (along with the Omega Beams he shot at the Flashes through the people!), as we get our one panel of payoff for all the “mysterious Aquaman” hinting (I guess he ended up being from a parallel Earth? Who knows?) The last panels are Turpin finally understanding what Orion meant when he said Darkseid was “in you all,” and being fairly horrified by it. (At least he seems to end up OK.)
Page 13: So now we’re back to the present timeline. Superman’s drafting out the blueprints for the Miracle Machine in the upper-left panel, while everyone left hangs out in the remaining Watchtower. Supergirl’s outfit firmly places this story a while ago in DC continuity for some books, like Teen Titans and especially the Batman titles. As far as I can figure, what Iman’s saying is “He’s going to start time, is all I’ve heard. To live in the world with a man like this.” The final panel is all the greatest minds of the DC Universe that are still around; other than Sivana and Luthor, Niles Caulder of the Doom Patrol and Will Magnus of the Metal Men are also visible.
Page 14: And back to the past. The OMACs (activated in Final Crisis: Resist, which I *guess* maybe fits into the story as how Checkmate re-took the Castle?) face off against the last of the Justifiers. A “nano-beacon” is sent into the Bleed, but Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi can’t make it, and the Black Gambit is, apparently, starting to fail. We see on the next page that they’re actively sending people through the dimensional gate, though.
Page 15: Ollie and Dinah were still up on the satellite at the end of #6, and apparently they’re still floating there while running out of oxygen. I know Ray was supposed to take the Metron face tattoo down to Earth, but I’m not sure how he got it to show up on the entire planet; maybe just with his light powers? Most Excellent Super-Bat grabs the line of the issue again as the cross-universe tunnel continues to collapse. (I’m guessing the very small figure herding human traffic with the hat on is Montoya.) It seems whatever’s screwing up the tunnel is somehow affecting the satellite, judging by the glowing energy around it – almost like the top part’s getting cut off by a Boom Tube, which would explain why it’s later on that big Watchtower.
Page 16: The first panel is in the ‘present’, as it’s revealed this story is being told to the remaining kids on the Watchtower by Supergirl. Lord Eye’s freaking out and closing down the tunnel, which is causing a huge explosion; the Super Young Team’s soap opera antics come to a sad head for Keigo/Atomic Lantern Boy as, just when Hawkman’s about to blow up Lord Eye, everyone gets Boom Tubed out (except, it looks like, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who have a death that’s only referenced later by a picture of two feathers along with J’onn’s pyramid tomb and Batman’s cowl.)
Page 17: As explained here by Renee Montoya, who’s also telling this story to Captain Marvel and the assembled 52 Supermen. The Boom Tube at the end of the last page took everyone there to Earth-51, which is also revealed to be the world Sonny Sumo is from. (Due to time dilation, the entire Great Disaster occurred during his absence.) The guy hanging out behind Black President Superman is Apollo from the Wildstorm Universe. I’m guessing at some point the Ultima Thule dropped in on Earth-51, which was abandoned, and met Montoya there, who followed along as a guide. The final panel must take place much later, after the Crisis is over, and provides a good (if sad) coda to Overman’s story as well as an excuse to do a pseudo-shoutout to Supergirl’s death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Checkmate should probably be pretty happy they couldn’t operate on her body at this point, since Overman would probably have been pretty pissed if the body they showed him was experimented on.
Page 18: Superman basically comments on how Darkseid’s committed suicide, while the New Female Furies roll up being controlled by Luthor and Sivana.
Page 19: And now we see that Wonder Woman made it out okay, and that she’s telling the story to the kids with Supergirl. (The ‘storytelling’ motif used for much of this issue is pretty thematically important, going back to Superman Beyond and forward to what Superman’s wish ends up being.) Frankenstein rolls in on a Hellhound, and Luthor rolls with the punches.
Page 20: The middle panel is a flashback to the battle; the four panels around it are in the present, as the remaining survivors are being miniaturized and frozen (presumably with the Kandorian shrinking ray). The bottom two panels are Superman putting Lois in a fridge, which I can only assume to be an ironic shout-out to the “Women in Refrigerators” meme – Lois is coming back from the fridge! We can move past this, comics industry! (“We can move past this, comics industry!” is really basically the theme of this entire comic.)
Page 21: With Anti-Life’s hold loosing due to the Ray earlier, Wonder Woman breaks free from the spell, crushing the mask (which is why I’m confused as to how it showed up in the trophy room on the Watchtower, I guess maybe she had more?) and binding Darkseid’s body in the flashback. The bottom panel is in the present as Superman finishes the Miracle Machine.
Page 22: The remainder of Darkseid’s essence is still around to torment Superman as he finishes up the Miracle Machine. Cargo cults essentially involve the deification of technology from a more advanced civilization, so what Darkseid’s basically saying here is that the Miracle Machine is just a really shitty, primitive, sad shadow of a Mother Box. (But it’s enough to work.) I have to wonder what the song that the multiverse makes is; I halfway expect it to be John Williams’s Superman theme (“so sad, so hopeful, so BRAVE…”). Either way, Superman sings that song which counteracts Darkseid and seemingly nullifies him completely.
Page 23: After beating Darkseid with a song, Superman finally hears the Element X (“fire of the Gods” – this entire series has been a macrocosm of that first prehistoric scene, and this is Superman finally understanding the fire Metron’s given him and using it to combat the evil that occurred during his absence). But then, like a last boss in a Final Fantasy game…
Page 24: Comes Mandrakk, from Superman Beyond! All-consuming parasite of the multiverse, waiting until now to show up with Ultraman (who’s apparently kidnapped Supergirl, and possibly fed on her). He drops the Spectre and Radiant from Greg Rucka’s Final Crisis: Revelations miniseries – the Wrath and Mercy of God, respectively – at Superman’s feet, and then taunts Superman.
Page 25: Superman expends the last of his solar energy into the Miracle Machine, to make one important wish. We finally catch up with the Green Lanterns again, who still can’t get into Earth; the wormy things around them are Mandrakk’s missiles and destroyers, which are apparently ridden on by the Green Lantern Corps into the atmosphere.
Pages 26-27: There are easily over 52 Supermen here, so I have no idea what the hell is up with that. Notably present are Supreme, Prime (I *think* that’s the guy above Supreme), Savior/Samaritan, Sunshine Superman from Animal Man, Mr. Majestic and Apollo (both from Earth-50 – maybe they got multiple Supermen from some universes?) The old-dude Superman at the right is, as far as I can tell, Perry White in a Superman outfit. The Supermen attack Vampire Ultraman with heat vision – of COURSE the ultimate enemy of 52 Supermen, of 52 super-strong Apollonian sun gods, would be a vampire, weak to sunlight. The narration caption is Nix Uotan’s.
Page 28: Uotan shows up and starts putting an end to the proceedings. The entire Grant Morrison/Alan Moore son/father “fuck you, dad” rivalry comes to unapologetic blatancy here, as dreary, restrictive, grim and grittiness end times stories are told off by unrestrained imagination. Uotan/Morrison enters the fray to bring back, of all the damn things, the transformed Zoo Crew from the end of 2007′s Countdown tie-in miniseries Captain Carrot and the Final Ark by Bill Morrison and Scott Shaw!, restoring them to their normal forms. (Note: They were on Earth-26, not Earth-35, in that story.) Then Uotan calls down the army of God (where the Hell did they come from? Did Zauriel just call on them or something? Why did Uotan bring down angels?), the Supermen, the Green Lanterns – and basically tells grim and gritty to get the hell out of comics. Grim and gritty is pretty sad, feeling betrayed and hurt by his creations (Nix Uotan, his “son”) turning against him.
Page 29: Now the Forever People of the Fifth World stand revealed as the Super Young Team, summoned with the word “Taaru”, which was their special word in the original Forever People series that they used to trade places with the ultra-powerful Infinity-Man. (I assume they were brought to the Watchtower from Earth-51). The two vampires get taken down traditionally – with sunlight and stakes, as the Green Lanterns contribute their part to the effort. Morrison gets one last dig in on grim and gritty before, as far as he’s concerned, closing the book.
Page 30: Panel one is the cleanup effort, as Earth’s exited the abyss and everything’s back to normal now that Mandrakk and Darkseid have been disposed of. I’m not sure regarding the significance of the feathers and the pyramid – the pyramid could be J’onn’s tomb on Mars, but what are the feathers? Did one of the Hawks die and this book happened so fast I didn’t even notice? (UPDATE: Yeah, definitely seems like one or both of the Hawks bit the dust so everybody could escape Lord Eye going crazy, at least as far as overall opinion is concerned. It explains their conversation last issue, as well.)The final shot, obviously, is supposed to mirror the shot of the Monitors and Orrery at the end of #1.
Page 31: The shot of the Supermen and Green Lanterns dragging Earth out of what’s presumably the abyss is evocative of Superman saving the Earth from another cosmic parasite, Starbreaker, in Justice League of America (I think) #98, which was recently retold in last week’s Justice League of America #29. The third panel is Central and Keystone Cities celebrating the return of the Flashes.
Page 32: Here we get a flower in the ruins of … where, exactly? The text implies that this takes place on what used to be Apokolips, and that it’s been turned into a world for the New New Gods (who we glimpse very briefly here, unfortunately – I wonder if they were originally supposed to play a larger part in the story? We just barely see the new designs, like Big Bear, from behind, and that’s it.) The “plan” Uotan used to “reconstruct” Earth-51 is, in a move that certainly made me happy, the previously-posted-on-this-site best map ever from Kamandi #1. Morrison intimates in today’s exit interview that Earth-51 actually contains both the New Gods and the Kamandi characters; I don’t get that from the narrative, but I’ll take his word for it. Kamandi holding the remains of Superman’s cape is a reference to Kamandi #29, the issue that featured, well, Superman’s cape. Uotan says he created Earth-51 out of pieces from other Earths, so that’s probably where all the remnants of Darkseid’s experimentation went, like the Tiger Tribes and Morticoccus. I presume Uotan retroactively built a past for that world, since he said he built it according to a plan.
Page 33: Wrapping up business with the Monitors…
Page 34: The Overvoid overtakes the stories the Monitors had made, leaving only the Multiverse to grow without restriction. Morrison claims in the aforelinked interview that the Overvoid is the blank page and the Multiverse is the ink; this sort of Monitor suicide is, therefore, essentially the page surrendering completely to the possibilities of the ink, the symbolic elimination of artistic restriction within the DC Universe. (It’s a nice gesture, but one I somewhat understandably don’t totally trust them to follow up on.) We discover Superman’s wish was for a “happy ending” – he, more than anyone else involved, would understand that principles of story and symbolism would beat a literal wish at this point, especially after his experiences in Superman Beyond.
Page 35: Mirroring the end of #1 again, Nix Uotan wakes up on Earth-0 in Metropolis, presumably with all the rest of the Monitors so that he can find Weeja Dell again, this time on Earth. The radio seems to indicate that the existence of the multiverse and what it could mean is common knowledge in the DC Universe now, so if that’s actually followed up on we could see interdimensional politics and economics and trade, which is just yet another patch of fertile story ground Morrison’s leaving for future writers to probably fuck up.
Page 36: The epilogue in the distant past, which may or may not be the scene Morrison mentions DC asked him to add in the interview. Notice in the background of the first panel the rocket from the Watchtower has just crashed, so it’s very possible Batman’s body traveled in it and was cured by contact with Bleed. Old Man Anthro reflects on his encounter with Metron at the beginning; he gained inspiration from the fire to build all sorts of tools, and presumably traveled around the country and world painting the Metron sigil everywhere he could, and he dies peacefully in the cave, only to be draped in a utility belt placed there by…
Page 37: Batman, who was transported back in time, much like Sonny Sumo was in the original Forever People series, by the Omega Sanction. BATMANTHRO: Coming December 2009.
I’m sure after the world’s had more time to digest and discuss it I’ll have further thoughts on Final Crisis as a whole, but I’d just like to thank everybody for an excellent ride – commentators, Doug Wolk, Mindless Ones, Tim Callahan & Chad Nevett, any other compatriots in commentating I forgot (I apologize if so), and especially Grant Morrison for what’s probably been the most fun I’ve ever had reading superhero comics.
Now I just need a new blogging gimmick. :(