M is for Muddly (Morrison)

What I read: The graphic novel Final Crisis by Grant Morrison, illustrated by J.G. Jones and Doug Mahnke.

I should say first that I liked the artwork, and that goes a long way for me. There's a line between overly artistic and overly comic, and Jones and Mahnke find the balance. The bound book is very appealing appearance-wise (I was tempted to buy it).

The overall plot is not difficult to figure out: really, really bad guys are beating the good guys. Some gods die. Parallel universes are falling to pieces. End of the world on its way. Yeah, I saw it all on Star Trek.

Unfortunately, all the stuff that probably makes the plot more fascinating (the nuances and internal references) are way over my head. I don't really hold this sort of thing against superhero/graphic novel writers. After all, they aren't writing for me (a person who watches Batman, Spiderman, and Superman movies, collects Frank Miller, and did, once, collect The Next Nexus, and who reads the occasional graphic novel, but has no more investment than that).

On the other hand, I was able to read and enjoy the graphic novel Identity Crisis (Meltzer, Morales, and Bair) despite my lack of inside knowledge. In fact, I picked up on a lot of storylines and was able to put some scenes from Frank Miller's graphic novels into context. In other words, Identity Crisis furthered my interest in the DC characters. Final Crisis, however, just left me feeling, "That must be the character who died twice and . . . oh, who cares."

Having said that, the story itself (if you ignore the participants) is engaging. It is rather like reading the Book of Revelations: you don't understand it, but boy, there's lots of great images and interesting ideas floating around.

Here's the downside: I'm not one of those people who has reread the Book of Revelations, not because I'm avoiding the depressing end-of-the-world colloquy; I just already know the end game: blood and guts and glory. Fun while it lasts, but not something to get excited about twice.

The fascinating thing about Identity Crisis, and the reason I've reread it 3-4 times, is that although I knew, sort of, where it would end up (not the WHO, just the WHAT), the story itself engaged me: it was touching and problematic, all about personal relationships and getting on with life. Final Crisis is, well, just that: final crisis.

This must be the same reason I can't get excited about comet-hitting-the-earth movies. I mean, the end of the world, WOW!

So . . . what's for dinner?

Final thoughts: Final Crisis is interesting, but I'm glad I didn't buy it (libraries are wonderful places!).


mike said...

Yeah, alot of folk really loved it... I despise it, because fankly, it makes my head hurt. I suppose that one common claim is that is was the whole back history that made it for people, but knowing that history myself, I still didn't get much out of it. You sound as though you had a better experience than me... I just kept getting mad at how convoluted the whole thing was. Ah well.

mike said...

But thank you helping me feel like I'm not crazy... cause most comic fans I know LOVED it... so I'm kinda in the minority. Nice to know not everyone is blown away by that piece of crap... lol.

Kate Woodbury said...

Yeah--trust your instincts! While a complex work can be read and reread to pick up on new ideas, etc., an unclear work is just that--unclear. Besides, I've sat through way too many pseudo-profound discussions to be taken in by "Wow, that's a hard-to-understand idea, ergo, it must be important!" (To me the fascination of writing, and teaching, is trying to make ideas clear which often means continually attacking an idea from several angles until I get it right.)

I think Final Crisis contains some interesting ideas, but those ideas aren't communicated clearly; as I say to my students, "You can be poetic, but if you don't communicate your ideas clearly, the writing just isn't doing its job!"