DC Comics next major event, Final Crisis, is set to start at the end of this month. Despite being written by the usually solid, Grant Morrison, I’m finding myself unexcited for this event to start. Do I lack confidence in Morrison ability to craft a universe-wide story? Maybe. After all it was 10 years ago that he gave us his last universe wide tale, DC One Million.
DC One Million was designed to be a four part weekly miniseries, which tied into all all DCU books cover dated November 1998. The story revolves around a group of heroes traveling from the year 85,271 (which would be the year that DC is scheduled to be publishing its one millionth issue of Action comics) to the present with the goal of sending their counterparts to the future as part of a massive celebration of the return of Superman-Prime (in this story the future Clark Kent goes by the name of Superman-Prime as in the far future there are multiple Supermen in the universe). With the aide of Hourman and his time travel abilities, the future heroes plan to send the JLA to the future, and bring them back a moment after they depart. Like most events in comics that involve time travel, things do not go as planned. Instead it is slowly revealed that Vandal Savage in the future has played a role in the sabotaging of Hourman, while concurrently in the present Vandal Savage is plotting massive world destruction with his army of Rocket Red’s. This is just a brief overview of the story, and leaves some major plot points out. DC One Million is not a story about how the present interacts with the future, but instead much more a story about how the future interacts with the present. If you want the latter, you are best to check out the books of the individual characters. For example, to see how Green Lantern reacts to the future he finds himself (unknowingly?) stranded in, you should read his tie-in issue for the month, Green Lantern 1,000,000.
That is not a typo. As part of the promotion for this event, all DCU books published their one millionth issue instead of their regularly scheduled issue. Also instead of being cover dated Nov. 1998, each book was cover dated November 85,271 and plotted by Morrison. Having Morrison plot each book helped make sure that the look of the DCU’s future was coherent amongst all the books. While some would argue this being an attempt to cash in, these books really did service the story, and helped define the future that the characters inhabit. In addition, some of these books had plot elements that were essential to help you fully appreciate the story.
The concept of this story is definitely interesting, and is filled with big fun ideas. One of which is the idea of concurrent stories involving two different Vandal Savages as the villain. This was a nice touch and acknowledgment of the fact some villainy never goes away, it just gets better with age. I was more impressed with the optimism and excitement the heroes have in the chance to see the far distant future. The feeling of excitement and joy by the heroes made me realize how human they are. Seeing heroes actually being excited is a facet that should be explored more by the creative minds at DC. It is not often that we see Superman with a look of wonderment on his face.
Reading the series ten years after its publication I couldn’t help but be surprised at some of the events referenced. For example, I had completely forgotten about the period where Wonder Woman was replaced by her mother. The other event that caught me off guard was that this series provided one of the earliest glimpses of Mark Waid and Grant Morrison’s multiverse replacing concept of Hyper-time. I also couldn’t help but smile at the scene where the Superman of the future starts to punch through time, and as a result of each punch, he slightly alters time. Was this the inspiration for the ‘Superboy-punch’ concept of Infinite Crisis? Probably not, but the similarities are there.
While the story is filled with wonderful ideas, it also fails because of them. There are to many ideas for the main series to hold, and as a result many of the plot points (and cliffhangers) being created the main series are answered in the tie-in books for month. Similarly many of the events that the characters are dealing with in the main story are the result from events that occurred in these auxiliary books. For example between issue 2 and 3 of the series, the future Justice League realize why they are trapped in time, what is happening to the world around them, and are already well into the process of creating the solution. In general as the miniseries progresses, this problem only amplifies. By the end of the series, I have little-to-no idea what is going on and can barely make sense of the last half of the book. I’m not sure if this could have been solved with more pages per issue, or entire different approach to the structuring of the event. Morrison, and in turn DC, tried to make a series where you didn’t have to read all of the tie-ins for the month to ‘get’ the story, but instead made you have to (unknowingly) read certain books. In general if you are going to do a ‘non-cross-over’ event series with tie-ins, then you should structure it much like Marvel’s Civil War did. The main series tells the story, and the other books flush out elements of the story, but do not contain major plot points. Otherwise, you need a way to distinguish the books that matter from the ones that don’t.
It is because of this seemingly large dependence on other books to tell its story, that I can’t fully recommend DC: One Million. The series had promise, and a lot of good ideas, but the need for the other books to truly ‘get’ the series stops me from making any reccomendations. I am hopeful that in the ten years since DC One Million, both Grant Morrison and DC have grown in their ability to tell event stories. Morrison has shown the ability to make tight, accessible stories that use layers of big ideas (see: All-Star Superman), while DC has made its last few event series stand perfectly find by themselves. As long as the story remains told in the confines of its miniseries, and the big ideas don’t over take the story, I fully believe Final Crisis will be an interesting tale.
Now if I can only get excited to read Final Crisis.