This post is on Final Crisis, which is not a Batman comic per se — Batman’s in it, certainly, but so is Superman and Black Lightning and a lot of Green Lanterns and a bunch of Fourth World characters and, well, just about everybody, at least once. Hell, Zatanna appears in a single panel as one of the psychics trying to find an alternate universe. But in our sprawling Batman epic it’s important, even though it doesn’t focus on him entirely. So here we are, on the first day of the new year, dealing with this Final Crisis!
If you read Final Crisis you’re going to be mad for a second, but hang with me: the story of Final Crisis isn’t all that complicated. No, don’t go! I’m serious! It’s not all that complicated, it is just presented without all the in-between plot cues most comic writers use. It presents merely what happens, and never people talking about what happens. It takes getting used to, even for me, the self-avowed Morrison fanboy over here. So, basically, Final Crisis hinges on the old idea of “As above, so below” common in magical and religious thought. It’s an update of the Fourth World story, exploring the implications of a superhero world with a pantheon above it. So Darkseid is “falling” back into the regular world after the conflict of the Fourth World story (and Morrison’s previous story, Seven Soldiers of Victory). At the same time, in a meta-narrative, the “vampire” from the beginning of things is waking up as well. This creature is from the world outside all the multiverses of DC, outside the world of narrative itself — which means, even though it isn’t, it’s sort of our world. Our world, the zero world, is actually in DC continuity I think, as one of the numbered worlds, maybe Earth Zero. But this is outside that, with people who did not have narratives, did not have stories, and they are slowly getting infected by our stories, Superman’s stories. Back on Earth One, though, Darkseid infects everyone on Earth with the Anti-Life Equation, which he appears to have finally gotten hold of (he hadn’t by the end of the Fourth World story Kirby wrote). So on two fronts life is being shuttered, closed down by Anti-Life — and in the meta-world it is, unsurprisingly, through the death of narrative. The vampire views life in the lower (fictional) worlds as germs — actually, everyone in that world does, but only he speaks of them as an infection, even though his people are actively being infected by narrative.
So the hero of the story is actually Superman, though Batman gets his own moments as well — so does everyone, for a moment at least. Superman becomes the savior of all existence, as he has so many times in the past, because he understands the story. He is told he can have some “Bleed,” a kind of protoplasmic building block of the world, which will heal Lois, injured in a bombing at the Daily Planet. However, nothing can hold Bleed — except, as he says in a kind of meta-statement, “Superman can.” His words, graven on a grave (ha ha, see what I did there?) are “To Be Continued,” which Lois sees in her coma-dream and assures Clark that that’s when she knew it would be OK, when she knew Superman was there. The story always goes on. The ending of Final Crisis is that Superman uses a souped-up Green Lantern sort of thingie, that acts upon will, and his wish is simple: a happy ending.
Superman is the hero who knows he is in a story, not in the way Deadpool does, but in the way we are all in stories. It isn’t Superman who matters, it is the narrative of Superman. He makes us better because we know he will do what is right, and in the comics people around him do actively try to do better because he is there. He creates his own ideal and lets others borrow it, and so he has to be the savior against Anti-Life. Anti-Life for fictional characters is, after all, boredom.
What about Batman? We’re technically doing a series on Batman here. Well, he’s absent for much of the story, having been imprisoned by two of Darkseid’s agents on Earth (as detailed in RIP last week). He figures out that Orion (one of the New Gods) has been killed by a bullet fired backwards in time, and uses the same bullet to kill Darkseid, sending him back into the etheric waiting place he was stuck in before, I guess. But Darkseid manages to strike Batman with the Omega Sanction, sending him back in time as he did Sonny Sumo back in the 70s (which is brought up in Final Crisis as one point, as Sonny mysteriously returns to the present, having been sent back to feudal Japan and happily living his life out. That obviously preps the story for Dick and Damian to do their thing for three volumes of the best shit ever (Batman & Robin), but it also shows off the idea Alfred expresses at the end of RIP: Batman will always fight against the problems he’s taken on, whether the odds are in his favor or not. He will try to make them in his favor, sure, but he will keep going, even if the enemy is literally a god. That is Batman’s narrative, and Final Crisis is a place to show that off, as well.