Friday, July 10, 2009

Know Evil (DC)
Final Crisis #3 When: September 2008
Why: Grant Morrison How: JG Jones

The Story So Far...
Darkseid's death at the hands of his son Orion appeared to fullfil the prophecy of his destruction, but the Death of the New Gods would not end with their darkest ruler. Orion was murdered with a magic bullet, signifying the beginning of a new tale as Darkseid and the evil New Gods were reborn to walk the Earth as gods as men. With the Anti-Life Equation unlocked, Darkseid sets about to realise his goal to create the Fifth World in the ruins of the Earth.

Possessing carefully selected agents; the evil New Gods wear key figures in a bid to eliminate and undermine any potential opposition posed by the world's greatest superheroes. Among the corrupted is the once wholesome Mary Marvel, whose path of darkness had already begun before the spirit of Desaad brought her into the service of evil itself. Though Wonder Woman and the active heroes of Earth suspect the involvement of evil gods, they have little evidence to act upon, and no assistance from the already deceased heroic New Gods.

With Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern incapacitated by a series of unlikely events; Wonder Woman visits the outskirts of the radioactive ruined city of Blüdhaven to aid in Checkmate/S.H.A.D.E. priorities and partake in goodwill toward displaced refugees. Venturing into the contaminated zone, Wonder Woman is unaware that the destroyed city and it's underground genetics laboratory, "Command-D," has already been taken over by the evil New Gods.

Accompanied by S.H.A.D.E. agents of the Atomic Knights, she walks toward the rampaging Mary Marvel, who will threaten to remove yet another of Earth's most powerful players from the board!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Wonder Woman 6 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Wonder Woman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Mary Marvel 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Wonder Woman 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Mary Marvel 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Wonder Woman 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Mary Marvel 3 (Explosives)

- Seperated from her sibling after their parents died; Mary Bromfield discovers a second life when she is discovered by her lost brother, Billy Batson. Secretly the magically powered superhero, Captain Marvel; Batson is forced to rescue his sister upon rediscovering her, but when their roles are reversed, Mary discovers she too can call upon the magic lightning of Shazam to become Mary Marvel.

Mary derives her powers from her older brother, possessing the same SHAZAM pattern of: The wisdom of Solomon; the strength of Hercules; the stamina of Atlas; the power of Zeus; the courage of Achilles; and the speed of Mercury. These skills inspired by gods and legends grant her superhuman strength, speed, endurance, flight, and the ability to call upon the magic lightning bolt of Shazam to switch between identities -- a skill used offensively by her elder sibling.

Mary's pantheon of gods changed recently when she adopted the dark powers of Black Adam, derived from Egyptian myth. Mentored by Eclipso; Mary's corrupted strength continued to grow and despite her efforts to exorcise the evil, she was eventually possessed by the dead New God, Desaad, and transformed into a thoroughly evil servant of Darkseid during his conquest of Earth.

- Commanded by the Greek gods to carve a child from clay; the Amazonian Queen, Hippolyta, bore witness to the animation of this child as her daughter, Diana. The child was enchanted with abilities comaprable to those of the gods themselves; fantastic speed, strength, agility, and endurance. With the teachings of Gaea and the peaceful Amazon warriors to guide her, Princess Diana grew to be their greatest champion, as powerful as she was gentle -- Wonder Woman!

When the Princess was of age she was the natural choice of the warrior women of Themyscira to carry their message of of peace and harmony to the world of man. There, she served not only as a diplomat, but as a founding member of the Justice League whose legend grew to be one of the greatest heroes on Earth.

Math: Draw Ranking: Wonder Woman (#13)

What Went Down...
Accompanied by three "Pony Dog" dalmation riding Atomic Knights; Wonder Woman is confronted with shocking scenes within the radioactively contaminated city limits of Blüdhaven. Brutalized bodies belonging to the duplicating S.H.A.D.E. operative, Replika, foreshadow the arrival of Mary Marvel, whose sensibilities have been radically altered by the taint of the evil New God, Desaad.

Initially disarmed by Mary Marvel's arrival; Wonder Woman fails to mount an adequate defense when the "troubles" she's heard of are credited to the once timid Justice Leaguer.

The young heroine launches herself into an attack with giddy delight. She rakes at Wonder Woman's exposed arm, drawing blood that will take on a far more sinister significance as the fight goes on.

In a single fluid motion the Marvel continues on her flight path, literally flying through one of the Atomic Knights, Marene Herald, whose body bifurcates at the waist, despite her armor. Her over-sized dalmation pony also suffers the same fate, sliced at the neck by the torpedo-like invulnerable body of Mary Marvel.

The corrupted Marvel finishes the arc of her flight with Wonder Woman once more, who finds her warrior's footing. A right hand punishes Mary Marvel for her unjust killing spree and sends her reeling. The Amazonian warrior follows with a rench of her opponent's arm and an offensive strike to the elbow with her own.

Mary swings and delivers a stiff blow with her uneffected arm, crackling with corrupted lightning energy. Wonder Woman blocks the shot inches from her face, using superhuman strength to overcome her opponent with the counter pressure of her own grip. She brings Mary Marvel to her knees, and despite her murderous indescretions, warns the surviving Atomic Knights not to kill her.

Mary confirms Wonder Woman's suspicions of a New God conspiracy, revealing that the evil gods have walked the Earth hidden within the bodies of humans. She gloats in the face of apparent defeat, revealing the imminent release of the Anti-Life Equation across the world, and with a yank of her fist, another cunning gambit to infect Wonder Woman with the Morticoccus virus.

Darkseid's Purifiers arrive as Wonder Woman drops to the ground, feeling the effects of the infection. She is to be the carrier of this plague that will enslave yet more of the great heroes who might oppose Darkseid's rule.

The Hammer...
While Wonder Woman was able to physically best her for the most part, it is ultimately Mary Marvel who is victorious in their battle by fighting a little bit dirty! She picked up a pair of kill stats while she was at it and the assist for Desaad, too, just in case you missed that oh so vital statistical detail.

I was incredibly enthusiastic about Final Crisis as it crossed the threshold of 2008 into the beginnings of 2009. With so much of it's legacy playing out in the events of 2009, I've been disappointed to have not yet elaborated further on the series here on the Infinite Wars, so with a very quiet week in comics, I thought it opportune to revisit the series with the next issue in it's chronological order. [Check out #1 and #2!]

The cultural elephant in the room of this issue, at the time, was the subjucation of Wonder Woman by the forces of evil. For many; the circumstances of the defeat overwhelmed any thematic demands the story placed on a systematic elimination of the greatest and most powerful heroes in the DC Universe.

To this point; Orion and Martian Manhunter were already dead [#1/Requiem]; Batman had been swiftly beaten-up and teleported away by Kraken [#2]; Green Lantern had been fingered for attacking John Stewart in the frame-up that Batman uncovered (perpetrated by Kraken) and arrested by the Alpha Lanterns [#2]; and earlier in this issue [#3], Superman had been extracted by Zillo Valla for the purposes of defending the multiverse from Mandrakk [in Superman Beyond, and Final Crisis #7]. My point? The big guns were all getting taken out pretty early. If anything, at least Wonder Woman got to put up a fight!

The more significant objection probably came from later issues that failed to fully pay-off Wonder Woman's predicament with an equal and opposite success. It's there, but it might not have been the moment some of the other marginalized heroes got. Is that really such a bother, though?

It would be nice to be able to discuss Wonder Woman without the subject turning to how the character can be fixed, but it's obviously something that weighs heavily on the character in all her modern incarnations. Where the Linda Carter television series might've once secured the character's status, we quite reasonably find ourselves routinely reviewing the validity of Wonder Woman's status as one of DC's holy trinity. There's the fact that she's still an instantly recognised pop culture icon, and also the in-fiction qualities that have defined her as a well respected powerhouse of the Justice League, but with Flash and Green Lantern under going hugely successful creative revamps, it gets all the more difficult to justify WW's place among the golden three.

While we've observed quiet promise in some of the recent work of Gail Simone and co., it's safe to say a magical solution hasn't been arrived at in the likes of Genocide or Achilles. The benefits of these stories might not be felt for some years to come, giving the characters and ideas a chance to gain a cache of longevity, and the chance to be reborn through new context. They are, by their very nature, contrived to a point of maintaining the distraction with shake-ups and reinvention that so many Wonder Woman readers are bound to have.

Final Crisis might not have been a defining moment in the Wonder Woman mythos, but it presented the character as a functional part of the DC Universe that manifests not for the design of a new arch-nemesis or key plotline, but as a natural phenomenon that we should, to some extent, arguably take for granted.

[Grant] Morrison later responded to some of the controversy of with an admission of failure to the Wonder Woman character and the intent to possibly explore ideas he'd had for his own take on the character at a later date. While that's a promising result to come from the outcry, I would also argue that it's a legacy that was entirely unnecessary. It'd be fantastic to see the same writer who made Superman populary endearing through All-Star Superman take a stab at her.

Mary Marvel also came off worse for wear from this encounter, but I'd similarly dismiss some of the disdain for the sheer fact that this was another plot-driven circumstance where situations were dictated by events. In this case; Mary Marvel gets a punkish makeover as a result of her possession by an evil god.
Personally, I thought it was a lot of fun, and a great punkish redesign and expression of a saccharine teen queen rebelling. It's probably not something I'd expect on an on-going basis, but for what it was, it was a lot of fun. A vivid concept executed on quite well, which is something that could be said of many of Final Crisis's working mechanical parts viewed individually, or as a whole.

The 'channel changing's tyle that skips around the important bits (and some fun bits, too) services the story well in this third issue to continue the first act set-up of this world succumbing to evil. There's a lot more action in the issue that will have to be reviewed on the Infinite Wars on another quiet week of comics.

I haven't seen or heard many folks revisiting Crisis since confused and distracted opinions settled earlier in the year. I hope hindsight has given some clarity to those who sought to overcomplicate or confuse matters in their own minds. While I can't claim to necessarily appreciate every single subtlty Mr. Morrison enfuses his scripts with, I can certainly be described as reading through them, and enjoying every quirky moment for what it is, and on levels that speak to me.

Having been so distracted by weekly releases in 2009, I've lost my grasp on the energy that Final Crisis put-out when I first read it. Flicking through the pages of the series in the company of loved ones made my 2008 Christmas a special day, and sparked in me an enthusiasm and imagined I sometimes don't have when reading corporate crossover comics. I'd love to elaborate more on it, but that will have to wait for another review. We really must be moving on!

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 5.5

Final Crisis is available in collected softcover and hardcover formats along with companion works collecting peripheral stories relevant to the Final Crisis storyline. You can find many of these reviewed in the Secret Archives and on sale in the Infinite Wars Online Shop. By using purchase links provided, you not only benefit from Amazon's prices and service, but also help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars!

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