…Or, considered as a string of semi-precious stones? Perhaps as the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds?
Well, hell. Now I can’t decide again.
…And this general sort of thing’ll get more important later on, but for now I just thought I’d throw in my own two cents on Final Crisis — which I haven’t read. Isn’t that amazing? Well, such is the tempo of the times, it seems: and I refuse to be left behind, as you all merrily march along loving/hating Final Crisis so much!
And yet…I don’t know if I want to read it.
Every time I read something about it, I think “oh, well crap…I am so sick of the brand-name superpeople anyway, Marvel and DC have conspired to absolutely kill my old enthusiasm for them…why would I read this?” Oh, there are a few good books here and there, to be sure. But mostly it’s just a bunch of junk that makes me care less and less every time I look at it, and the less I care, the less I care about good books too. So, maybe it’s too late for me! Grant Morrison is weaving his magic spell to make the old icons come back to life again, like dehydrated eleven-dimensional brine shrimp! But for me it’s too late! I don’t think I care.
The whole point is to reclaim all the stuff that used to form my interest in these things, reclaim it and warm it and bring it coughing and sputtering back into the Big Spotlight!
But for me, it’s too late. Well, it had to be too late for somebody.
Then I read the Mindless Ones’ take on it all, and it seems like…am I really dead inside to the allure of the superheroes for real?
I mean, isn’t the whole point of the magic spell to bring even me back to a state of enlivened interest? Is there any reason for it to be magic, for heaven’s sake, if it isn’t supposed to accomplish the impossible?
I don’t know. Half of me is cynical, and doesn’t want to know: the hell with Superman comics. Half of me thinks it might be fun: hooray, Superman comics! Straddling the line between Being and Becoming, part of me is separate, and part of me has never been separate. And it is as though I cannot pass into the world of Superman Beyond and Final Crisis without uniting those two contradictory selves. And: heh.
Yes, I know: it’s ridiculous for me to review a book I haven’t read, perhaps especially to review it as a book I haven’t read. But you know, I’m not sure if that magic spell is going to work at all, if I can’t meet it halfway with my own! And is this the trick itself, the trick entire? The endgame of four-D chess, where you win by breaking the rules, where the other guy wins only if he helps you to win instead of him? Up above the dualistic roof of Time, all things lie neutral to one another in superposition: and it really does seem, sometimes, as though I’ve been reading Flex Mentallo for about a hundred years. Everywhere I look, there the bastard is. Everybody’s been writing him forever, these days.
I just want this all to be over. I just want this all to begin. Why in God’s name are these comics so boring? Why in God’s name would anyone ever think these comics were boring? I dunno, man…have you seen the crap comics Marvel and DC have been putting out since forever these days? Seriously, who could stand it? I am so far from my own old excitement it’s like I’m looking back on it from the surface of the moon…
But here is how magic works, for those not in the know: it brings something out of nothing. The nature of belief is that it creates itself true, the nature of thought is that (just like in Soviet Union) it thinks you. The nature of hope is that having once had it, one always has it: the hopeful moment exists unalterably in that most secure of protected spaces, the past. One had, it can’t be un-had! Once having existed as itself, it cannot be made to have been non-hopelike in order to suit the needs of a later time that wishes it had not come to be in the first place! But instead it is always accessible, even if one chooses not to access it.
Perhaps even: especially then.
It’s why Morpheus wins the game, you see.
Oh my God, is that a phone ringing? But ringing phones haven’t sounded like that for a thousand years…
But from another perspective, the whole thing is pretty obviously sort of like stone soup. Somewhere down in the centre of the great universal onion is an ex nihil of some kind, but we don’t know what it is because it makes itself by being made…and it’s a making we’re stuck on one side of, so we can’t see its other face, or even know for sure that it has one. This is your basic religion too, by the way: “let there be light”, intones the big guy with the beard, and then there the light is, but then he makes the darkness after, so what the hell was the “light” in the first place? For that matter, where was the beard? What was the state of the universe before time and space began, and how could you describe it without resorting to honks and squeaks and silences and all that is un-worded and un-mathed, digressive, disordered and mute? What is beneath the Wittgensteinian “riverbed” of our thoughts? What was your original face before you were born, and by the way does a dog have Buddha-nature?
Longtime readers of this blog will know to beware, here: because if you answer yes or no, you lose your own Buddha-nature.
And I say it all the time because it remains true: so don’t get on my case for it. It’s not my fault it’s true…
What is Final Crisis, really? Opinion is divided, among those who’ve read it; so maybe I should just let it stay in the box with the half-dead cat and the Buddha-natured dog? Marc Singer says the real essence of the thing is summation, scanning, abstract navigation replacing concrete travel…the bird’s-eye view of story, the quantum calculation of plot. The drawing of a Great Big Sigil replacing the telling of History? Exactly the sort of play the Mindless Ones delight in, a tale of attractors and voids, a hermetic foxtrot through the cosmic kaleidoscope: light, light, everywhere light, and no darkness anymore at all. Just particle tracks and cosmic fizz: light’s farts. WHOO! But to get back to magic, to get back to the stone soup: to observe the particle without observing it is a tricky business, because how can it know what it is, without us seeing it? But the problem really is, that we don’t even know exactly for sure if it exists the way we think it does. The definitions we rely on for our epistemological exercise are like a giant logjam in the mouth of the cave from which the stream issues: we can no more get to the source of things than Plato could, or Aristotle. Because Origin lies not in the centre of the onion that is, but in the centre of the onion that was…and then, just as suddenly, wasn’t. Eventuation is not discrete; there is no “origin”, not because we’re looking at it the wrong way but because there isn’t one to look at. What was the thing before it existed, in the moment between existence and non-existence? How finely can a continuum be divided? The world is a pool, and there are ripples on the pool, and we’re riding the ripples…
But what does that even mean?
“Where does the light come from?”
That’s where it comes from. Day and night come and go, in the neverending re-enactment of Creation…but it’s Creation playing both parts, the part of itself as well as the part of its opposite. And real Uncreation is nowhere to be seen, O Monks…because it just plain doesn’t exist. It never has been real to begin with. It never will be real to begin with.
So is Final Crisis any good? Will I like it? Oh, hell, probably. But will I read it, that’s the question. At the moment it seems deliciously impossible to say with certainty. All that’s known is that at some given point X in the future I either will have read it, or I will not have. And then what will this moment be created as, if I do?
And what will it be created as if I don’t?
And where is Point X located, itself, on this great big annoying supersphere of ours?
Morrison stews up his stone soup; invites me to add my carrots or my cabbage. And stone soup is delicious, but I can’t help wanting to defer eating it, for just a little while yet: I want to see what it may be, if the carrots and cabbages stay out of it…maybe-ness is so fragile, you see, and after all we have only Morrison’s word for it that our fictions desire sentience. Or perhaps more accurately, that they will have desired it, once they’ve got it. Ex nihil is really the name of the game, in these metafictive superstructures — just as in the 4D chess, it requires the execution of a definitionally-impossible move to turn the chequerboard inside-out, for the game to be able to swallow its players. Something must be lost, to do it. Address forgotten, maps misplaced; the essential implied negative, the background space, the dropped stitch…the mystery of origin must be misplaced, decentred, made circumferential and all-containing instead of radiative and directional. And one must find one’s way to the other side of “made-by-making”.
It’s all just a trick, of course! You have to want to be fooled by it, to enjoy being fooled — you have to believe you believe it, before you can acquire the belief which is to be (one day, eventually, God willing) your belief’s object. Hey, Lord, who shall I tell ’em sent me? Tell them that which may be sent you, Moses ol’ buddy…tell them a rocket landed at your feet, sent across the gulfs of trans-eschatological space from the dying planet called Futurity…
Which needs your help to have ever existed in the first place. But once it finally does exist, then it always will have.
And that’s the good news.
Final Crisis. Final Crisis. In a sense, it may be Final at that, somehow or other. They tell me it isn’t a proper story. They tell me it isn’t a proper event.
How very remarkable, if it should have managed not to be either!
The truth is, Infinite Crisis wasn’t a goddamn story either. An event? Maybe…but that depends how you read it. If you read it as “event”, then I guess that’s what it is. Of course no one is reading Final Crisis as “event”, are they? It’s “eventy-ness” is roundly rejected by one and all, it seems…and yet as far as I can tell, out of my own experience of not having read it, where it does descend into Time it arrives with a mighty KA-POW! Batman shoots Darkseid with a magic God-killing bullet whose trajectory goes both backwards and forwards in time and space! What a powerful idea that is! It almost leaps off the page! Almost leaps out of the pane, the frame, the 2D story-carrying surface! Very nearly hits you right in the eye!
Superman is hauled up out of the house of Time and into the infinite air above it, out of order! Then falls back down to a set of coordinates some months ago from which he is yanked off laterally into a trans-universal collision in the future, which he remembers from the past, which never happened, which we can’t even see! Yet! And then is returned in pieces to the point of climax in the middle of the story, self-assembling to Create its beginning and its end. How can any of this possibly fit together? What, even, are the rules anymore? Hell forget the rules, what even are the axioms? Good heavens, it’s like someone set off a bomb under his feet and blew him to bits, blew him to Kingdom Come, it’s like he’s just making insane jumpy Knight moves all over the board, all over the publishing schedule! One almost considers that the concluding issue of Legion Of Three Worlds could somehow have been released in 1963! But then at this point in DC’s history that would almost be refreshingly straightforward, wouldn’t it? Nothing in this fucking universe of theirs makes sense anymore, it’s all just been so screwed up, there are no longer any reasonable expectations that are possible to be held. And maybe that’s why I will have liked not reading this way more than I’ve ever liked not reading anything of its type before, when I finally get around to it. Sadly, reading it will have only ruined its perfect potentiality…but seriously, those are the breaks you have to make manifest in the eggs in order to have eaten an omelette at some unknown Point X yet to be determined, retroactively for all time. Are they not?
I can’t believe I’m even attempting this. This is crazy shit, right here; no one should ever try this. I’m trying to review my way into having already read the book, for heaven’s sake! Talk about your forbidden transactions. This is a place no one should ever go, this is a place where people cannot be…this doesn’t work! I’m half expecting a Boom Tube to open right next to me!
Hawkman goes out in a blaze of glory, finally to a future as-yet-unfated! Green Lantern kicks righteous ass because he Is Who He Is! The Barry Allen of the pre-Crisis DCU finally touches down in the sub-universe that’s been sustained by the energies of his death-run for all this time…and the system just tilts!
It flips inside-out!
Well, but maybe?
Oh hell, I still can’t decide. I mean why should I give up all this lovely speculation? You all don’t know, just how energizing it is to read this only through other people’s readings of it. Reading through hearsay, wow. As long as I keep it this way, I really have no need of a connecting/rationalizing throughline, nor any desire for one. I have no need for any disappointments. Batman shoots Darkseid with a time-surpassing bullet, a literal dropped stitch! Superman vanquishes all evil by singing the theme from Foul Play! Christ, in a way this is simply the greatest crossover ever, it’s really too bad you can’t see it from this perspective. Honestly, this crossover event thing: it’s so goddamned boring now, isn’t it? But Final Crisis is different; Final Crisis is uncontrollably messy and divisive and spectacular and mind-roastingly corny and stupid and cool. You are all fighting with one another, all contending with each other’s readings…I pray God no one starts backpedalling or being reasonable, I really do. The people who loved this should be screaming FUCKING MOST BRILLIANT THING EVER YOU MORONS and the people who despised it should be saying something like FUCK YOU I WILL BURN YOU, I WILL BURN THIS WHOLE INTERNET DOWN YOU OBTUSE PIECE OF SHIT…!
It is what I want.
I want it to be Final.
And who knows? It might be, at that.
From my lofty perch atop the universe’s antinomial spinal column, I look down and wonder if all the flaws in Final Crisis haven’t amounted to a bit of a felix culpa. What would it have signified, if it had been absolutely stunningly perfect, like All-Star Superman? What transactions would have resulted? What could have happened?
It’s a chilling thought, in some ways. Ah, but it’s always the last refuge of the undergraduate English writer, the almighty felix culpa! What problematic reading can’t it solve, by Heaven? I wouldn’t particularly like to be accused of that respectful backing-out of interpretation it so often signals! And yet here comes some Theory for you, best beloved: the felix culpa is the very essence of overdetermination, ordinarily the backbone of every time-travel and alternate-universe story…the distillation of authorial preference, within the story. A common moral: “there’s always a way out!”
And possibly this is the real Knight Move, right here: the real impossible, forbidden transaction — the Superman move. Because the felix culpa is the very emblem, the badge, of Destiny: a winner’s game! And yet Final Crisis’ felix culpa is exactly the thing that causes it to fail in a way completely bitter and inexcusable as far as most of its readers (even the ones who liked it) are concerned. The fast-rotating artist’s stable. The truncation of issue-pages. The lateness of books. All things we’re used to by now, of course, but have they ever been so disappointing? To you lot, of course: I haven’t read the damned thing. Hey, what in the hell were the Spectre and the Radiant up to? Who the bleeding Christ is the goofily-named Mandraak, and why does his name have an extra “a”? Did Green Arrow and Black Canary die? What the fuck happened?
HOW DOES THIS CHANGE ANYTHING?
Oh, ah-ha-ha-ha. You see it is not that hard to fake, but I trust my points are real, and not hand-waveable. So hey, forget the distillation of authorial preference, how in the hell could Morrison have wanted this? Could he have wanted “Death Of The New Gods”? No…but it wouldn’t have helped him much not to get it, because this is a nasty sort of a felix culpa — one that really works only for me, the non-reader. Everything went wrong! He could not have wanted it! But I am liking it. Because here you must choose the parts that work for you and accord value to them…and here you must choose the parts that didn’t, and decide what you’re gonna do about them. Nobody writes a story that way, but oh man…this is great. This is like going to an infinite ice cream parlour and sampling every type of ice cream, even anchovy-and-mustard-banana-ripple. Good Christ, you get the good with the bad here, don’t you? It’s a really and truly fucked-up mess, isn’t it?
I admire it. I admire it because it’s a mess.
And that is so often used as an excuse, I know. But I can say it.
Not because I’m some kind of Superman…!
But because I haven’t read the fucking book, and so I don’t know what I’m talking about!
And yeah, I know I fucked it all up, here. NO KIDDING. This was an idea that was doomed to be an embarrassment from the beginning. BUT IF I CAN JUST GET A BIT META WITH YOU, DEAR READER…!
I’ll tell you what, I don’t know how this review could be construed as a defence of Grant Morrison et. al.‘s “Final Crisis”…why, I’m just a simple hyperchicken from the astro-pens of Venus (umm…screwed that up)…
But I fucking well wish it was. A defence, that is.
It isn’t, of course.
But there’s none of us that won’t go out in a great sprawling failure, you know. And that’s a career…in any league.
In any league.
“Oh my God, the fans have rushed the field…it’s like bees versus bears out there…!”
Bring on Seaguy 2.