Saturday, August 30, 2008

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

Tim Callahan: So, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1. Any chance that people who say Final Crisis doesn't make any sense will be able to figure this one out? Is it too much of a glimpse inside Morrison's head and not enough of a story? Is the 3-D too awesome?

Chad Nevett: Well, I've read the issue twice with a few skimmings and I think I get what's going on. It's all about technique since the story is very simple--so simple that Morrison tells it without any extra bits to explain it. I've talked about his compressed storytelling showing up in the past (two examples being the "Crisis Times Five" story from JLA and the first issue of Marvel Boy) and here it is again on full display. It's different from the way in which most writers tell a story in modern comics, so it does require a little bit of an adjustment. That said, it's more difficult than any issue of Final Crisis, so, yeah, people not understanding that series will have no hope here. Sorry.

I'm not convinced there's enough of a plot here, but that's because I can't really find a plot per se. Why has Zillo Valla gathered these heroes? To save... something? That part isn't entirely clear, but does it matter? There's an evil Monitor chasing them, they escape for a while, land in Limbo and then are found... and Zillo Valla may be evil herself? There's a very clear echoing of the quest Metron sends Green Lantern, Flash and Aquaman on in the "Rock of Ages" from Morrison's JLA run (Final Crisis is a retelling of it in many ways). There are references to his Animal Man run... and there's the story of the Ur-Monitor and the Ur-Superman that hints at the concept of Hypertime and the problem of continuity... the story is more commentary and allusion than plot, but it's still entertaining, I find. Granted, we can recognize the various allusions and what Morrison is commenting upon whereas the average reader may not, so I don't know how entertaining they would find this comic.

Then again, it's big and dramatic and full of wild concepts... isn't that what people want from Grant Morrison? I could do without the 3-D glasses, but Alan Moore did it, so Morrison has to follow suit...

TC: Yeah, let's discuss that last point. Morrison has a history of responding to Alan Moore through his comics -- the anxiety of influence is strong. His early Animal Man work -- issues 1-4 -- were direct pastiches of Alan Moore's style of comic book storytelling, which he will admit to. When I interviewed him about it, he mentioned that he knew that's what was expected of a British writer at the time. Basically, to be an Alan Moore duplicate. But he went his own way starting with "Coyote Gospel" in Animal Man #5. And by the end of that run, he's basically mocking Alan Moore with the line about using literary quotes to "dignify some old costumed claptrap" (I'm paraphrasing.) Now, in Superman Beyond, he's not only doing the 3-D bit in a fashion similar to the way Moore used it in the "Black Dossier" (although Morrison uses it more extensively), but he's got the Captain Adam character who is clearly a Dr. Manhattan analogue, and the character is ridiculous in relation to the other Supermen. Poor Captain Adam, with his observations about quantum mechanics, isn't very useful as a hero.

I'm sure I'm forgetting other instances of Morrison responding to Moore through comics, but I'm reminded of an anecdote a British journalist once told me: early in Morrison's career, he attended an Alan Moore reading and he heckled Moore from the front row, laughing at his self-importance. The journalist explained that Morrison sees himself as such a punk rock guy and Alan Moore as such an old fashioned hippie, and Morrison just laughs at everything Moore takes seriously. I don't know if that story's true at all, but there's no doubt that Morrison is well aware of his role in the comic book world compared to Alan Moore.

CN: I've yet to read Promethia, but, apparently, Seven Soldiers: Zatana is a pretty obvious response to Moore's magic-based work. There was also Owlwoman, the Earth-2 member of the Justice Legion A that Morrison introduced in the DC One Million 80-Page Giant special, as her costume was a take-off on Nite Owl's rather than the Owlman we know from the current DCU. There's also a strange relationship between Morrison's Hypertime and Moore's argument that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen contains every fictional story ever written, but Morrison beats out Moore there. So, maybe it's not all one-sided... although it really looks that way.

I noticed the visual allusion to Dr. Manhattan, but missed the commentary about him being a pretty useless superhero. There's a deeper commentary there, too, though: the violent, physically active superheroes are more useful than those who don't fight. The two most effective heroes in this book are Superman and Ultraman, two characters with opposite goals, but similar means. Now, this goes against Morrison's general pattern where physical violence is rarely a solution, but that doesn't seem to be the message here. Or, am I getting it wrong?

TC: No, I think you're right. It's nu-Morrison. And given that the Superman in the comic is the most closely related to the "form" of the Superman, and Ultraman is his direct opposite/doppelganger, it makes sense that they would be the ones with the most power. The other Superman are more distant permutations, and therefore less potent.

It is a far cry from early Morrison, when every hero would be a total screw up or barely accidental success.

Getting back to the actual comic, you know what I couldn't help but think about as I read the first handful of pages? The "Superman 2000" pitch that we spent all those weeks dissecting on our blogs. Didn't it remind you of the way Morrison and company planned to end the Kent/Lane marriage, with Lois on her deathbed and Superman trying to save the world (or multiverse) and his wife at the same time. Here's the relevant excerpt: "Luthor trips triggers he’s had in place for years, all while pitting an ever-weakening Superman against a phalanx of his greatest foes while the Man of Steel wracks his brain trying to figure out not only how to save Earth but how to get his--and, more importantly, Lois’s--life back." Obviously Luthor's not involved, but it's similar, no? Do you think it's at all possible that Final Crisis will end with a reset of the Lois and Clark relationship? Would DC dare to do such a thing? Do either of us care?

CN: I know I don't care, but after "One More Day" at Marvel, I highly doubt DC would try getting rid of Lois and Clark's marriage. It didn't really occur to me, but that similarity is there. For all we know, that "ultimate medicine" Zillo Valla promises Superman could somehow affect Lois's memory... I doubt it, though. Why risk such a huge backlash at the end of this event similar to the one Marvel experienced?

I have a feeling Final Crisis is more about establishing the "trinity" as important, ur-heroes almost. Superman's place is established here and Morrison is working on Batman in that title, but promises that Final Crisis also concludes the current journey he has Batman on. As for Wonder Woman, I don't know what Morrison has planned, but I assume she will play a big role considering the sliver cover of issue one, which featured cave drawings of those three logos. Now, do you "buy" Superman as the ur-superhero Morrison presents here? Or even those three characters as some sort of special "trinity" in the DCU?

TC: I really don't buy that Wonder Woman is an equal part. I think that's a relatively recent invention on the part of DC to try to make the character seem more important than she has been, historically. She was continually published, along with Batman and Superman, true, and that does show the strength of the character, but look at how she was portrayed throughout those early eras, and even in the JLA comics. She was second-rate. I think it's smart of DC to try to make her an equal part of some kind of essential trinity, but I don't think they've ever successfully pulled it off. There's never been a great Wonder Woman story, really. Not even George Perez's first 20 issues post-"Crisis." I like those issues a lot, but they aren't to the level of the best Superman and Batman stories. And if you think in terms of characters who inspired other characters, there are a million Superman rip-offs and nearly as many Batman copies, but how many Wonder Woman-like characters have emerged since the Golden Age? A handful? Not nearly as many.

And, you know what, every comic book called "Trinity" has been pretty bad. The Matt Wagner series was some of his worst work ever, and this new one by Busiek and Bagley is mediocre at best and dreadful at worst.

As a concept, the trinity is a good idea. It hasn't been pulled off yet. And I'm not sure that Morrison's even headed in that direction with Final Crisis, seeing as how he was so quick to eliminate all three of the characters from the side of the heroes. Batman's incapacitated, Wonder Woman has been corrupted, and Superman is on his multiversal sailing trip.

Speaking of Superman's trip, what do you think about the use of Limbo here? I was actually excited to see it. Gleeful even, because the Morrisonian Limbo, with Merryman and all, has always been one of my favorite DC concepts, and Superman is a VERY different character than Animal Man. Seeing Superman try to deal with the concept of obscurity was a lot of fun. AND when Merryman says, "I have a real talent for gritty drama" it made me laugh out loud because when I was about 18, I actually wrote a pitch for a grim n' gritty revamp of the Inferior Five. It posited that the characters were actually actors playing the roles of these incompetent heroes in the DCU and now they've been brought out of retirement to complete one last mission (this was probably around 1990), only the new "management" of the team--the ones hiring them to play the roles, wanted to update them for the new era and all I can remember about the details is that Dumb Bunny was updated into a dominatrix. I have no idea why a team of actors had to complete a mission, but it was obviously a brilliant pitch from my teenage brain. I can't imagine why DC never responded.

CN: I definitely agree regarding Wonder Woman. I've always seen the "trinity" of superheroes being Superman (the god), Batman (the man) and Spider-Man (the man who becomes god), which could be where DC is going wrong. A hero like Flash or Green Lantern might be a better fit by that schema...

Superman's reaction to Limbo is... I want to say very typical, in a way. He reacts the way he always reacts to a new place: with a strange combination of understanding and curiosity. He doesn't get hung up on the details, he just skims the surface, sees the lay of the ground and proceeds as such. He quickly realizes that this is where certain heroes go, that they lose memories of their past and that he should act quickly to avoid becoming like them. I much prefer the reaction of Animal Man... Superman's confidence almost makes his reaction boring.
Your pitch sounds similar to the sort of ideas I had when I was younger. Morrison's portrayal of Limbo is always one of hope, I think: that these may be forgotten characters, but they have potential, they could be stars or supporting players again... while, at the same time, gently mocking the characters. Unlike the trip to Limbo in Animal Man, we don't get much interaction with the residents here. I wonder, did Morrison feel a certain fondness for the characters forgotten in the late '80s that he doesn't feel for the mostly-'90s creations here? A lot of "Bloodlines" and "Zero Hour" creations in the mix here, which I can't see Morrison wishing would return any time soon.

TC: I'm curious about how Morrison even knows about some of these "Bloodlines" characters. Did he actually read those comics? I can't imagine that. I can't imagine anyone reading those comics without throwing them across the room. Those were the days when superhero comics were at their absolute worst, at least in my lifetime. But those 90s characters are certainly not portrayed with any affection here, not in the way that the forgotten Silver Age characters were portrayed in Animal Man.

I'm exceedingly curious about the Earth-20 that we get a glimpse of in this issue. Morrison apparently has an extensive backstory worked out, and this is the first time this alternate Earth has appeared, and all we get is a Doc Savage-ish Dr. Fate and his sidekick, Lady Blackhawk. But that one images evokes so many possibilities. Then again, I like these quick, imaginative glimpses far more than the extended looks we saw in the Countdown crossovers. Man, stuff like Countdown: Arena really sucked the joy out of the new multiverse really quickly.

How do you interpret the stuff with Mandrakk? He's clearly the ur-Anti-Monitor, but is he also tied into Darkseid? Is Darkseid a manifestation of Mandrakk? And why do you suppose Morrison named him Mandrakk? What do the "mandrake" connotations mean to you?

CN: I love alternate realities, but find they work best in limited exposures, mostly because of the unseen possibilities evoked. There's a mystery to alternate realities that is very intriguing--as long as some mystery is maintained by the writer.

I'm not quite sure how to interpret Mandrakk, but he could be a representation of Darkseid in the way that the Monitors are gods much like the New Gods of Kirby's Fourth World. Morrison has stated that the relationship between the DC heroes and the "gods" is one of the major ideas of Final Crisis. It's no coincidence that the evil Monitor is returning and will seemingly be victorious at the same time as Darkseid is taking over Earth. Whereas Darkseid takes over one Earth (and Morrison suggests crises on every alternate Earth, so a variant of Darkseid could be active on every Earth), the evil Monitor looks to take over the multiverse. The macro reflects the micro, I suppose? "Mandrake" has a few connotations, the primary one being the plant, which is a healer, an aphrodisiac, and a killer at various points. I can't see a clear link, but Morrison could be going for the vague allusion--or is referencing something else entirely.

TC: Maybe this connotation, via Wiki: "It is alleged that magicians would form this root into a crude resemblance to the human figure, by pinching a constriction a little below the top, so as to make a kind of head and neck, and twisting off the upper branches except two, which they leave as arms, and the lower, except two, which they leave as legs." As in, the Mandrakk becomes molded into humanoid figures -- the Anti-Monitor, Darkseid? I dunno. Something like that, maybe. Because Mandrakk seems like a name that's too specific for Morrison not to have any meaningful connotations. He could have named it something more vague and mysterious like he often does. But he didn't.

The more I think about this comic, the more I like it, but I do so hate the 3-D look, and I do think that the complaints about Final Crisis (which, in general, make little sense to me) would actually apply to Superman Beyond. It does jump around, it is full of Morrison bits that make little sense out of context, it is a bunch of ideas at the expense of story. But I don't find Final Crisis like that at all.

CN: I think it will work better when we get the second issue, particularly since it was originally written as one 60-page story instead of two 30-page issues. Since it takes place outside of Final Crisis proper, I also think that Morrison didn't necessarily feel the need to work as hard to be easily understood. This was his chance to just let go and do his thing with Superman--a nice contrast to the more focused and "tame" All-Star Superman, in my opinion. But, yeah, the more I think about and discuss this comic, the more I like it.

TC: All-Star Superman is tame? Well, it is compared to this comic, you're right. But I'll take All-Star Superman over Superman Beyond any day.

I may reverse that opinion once I see issue #2. No I won't. I freakin' hate 3-D!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Final Crisis #3

Chad Nevett: A week late, but Final Crisis #3 has arrived--along with the "director's cut" of the first issue. Quite the week for us Morrison lovers, eh, Tim? Lots happened and I'm not sure where to start, so I'll begin with the cover. I remember reading an interview with Chip Kidd, who designed the trade dress for the series and him discussing how the logo will change over the course of the series. Well, it's becoming very apparent (at least on the sliver covers, which are the ones I've been getting). The red is growing darker, the white font becoming rougher and falling apart. I don't really have a comment beyond "That's kind of cool." I can't remember the last time I saw a book with an evolving logo/trade dress. It's just that kind of "crossover event," I guess.

Tim Callahan: Is that what's happening? I much prefer the "iconic pose" covers, and I've been buying those instead. I prefer a higher ration of image to words on my covers, I guess. I do love Chip Kidd, though. But I'm not feeling the red sliver covers at all.

I'm sure we have some things to say about the content of Final Crisis #3, but let's talk about the "director's cut" of issue #1 first. It's the first of these so-called "director's cut" things I've ever bought--or even bothered to flip through. Have you ever picked one up before? Are they all like this, with the black and white art and the script and some commentary?

Anyway, I thought I'd be buying it just for the script and commentary, being a Morrison completest and all. (In San Diego, I even came close to buying Morrison's "MBX Sketchbook" for $25, until I flipped through it and saw very few sketches and very little commentary from Morrison. It was not worth even a fraction of that price--even for me, and when they marked it down to $10 on the last day of the convention I still passed it by. But trust me, my obsession almost got the better of me.) But, getting back to the Final Crisis director's cut: I was surprised how much I liked seeing J. G. Jones's black and white art. It really looked clean and seemed to make the story easier to follow. Less muddied by color, I suppose, even though I tend to prefer color in my superhero comics. (I cannot read the Essentials or Showcases when I have the option of the far more expensive Masterworks or Archives--the stories are so much more readable in color, usually.)

But I did find the script interesting, as Morrison lays out exactly what's going on in issue #1 in such a way that it makes it pretty clear that people who had trouble following certain parts (like the identity of the character who wakes up at the end) were having trouble with Jones's art, really. As a writer, when you say, in the script, that the character is clearly supposed to be a Monitor with the same "distinctive hairstyle," and the artist doesn't make it totally clear--well, I guess in the old days they'd solve it with a caption: "Nix Uotan, former Monitor, wakes up in the body of a BLACK YOUTH!" I'm glad he decided not to go that route, even when the art was a bit unclear.

CN: I love the sliver covers. I'm a sucker for design stuff like this, though.

I've gotten... three of these "director's cut" issues before, all from Marvel. The first was Avengers vol. 3 #1, which was the Kurt Busiek/George Perez "Heroes Return" relaunch. It had the complete issue with just Perez's pencils and then Busiek plot (since it was done Marvel style). I found it worth it for Perez's uninked, uncoloured pencils, plus it was cool to see a plot for a comic issue. By that point, I'd seen plenty of full scripts, but never really a plot. As a writer, it was interesting to see how Busiek described the story, how Perez interpreted that description, and then how Busiek dialogued it. The second was for Nextwave #1, which was the full issue as previously released with Warren Ellis's script and initial pitch. I got that because I'm a sucker for scripts. The third was for Captain America #25 and that was because I couldn't find any other version of the issue, so I went with the "director's cut." It was like the Nextwave one in that it was the same comic, but with the script added (plus maybe a sketch or two and some commentary?). So, I guess the only common thread is the inclusion of the script or plot.
As for this one, I haven't read the script through fully, but I did find the commentary lacking somewhat--something that almost always happens, though. There were a few interesting tidbits thrown in, but mostly just a lot of "Oh, I really liked this!" and "Wasn't that cool?" I don't regret buying it since, as you said, JG Jones's art with just inks is fantastic to look at, scripts are always fun to read through, and the commentary did provide some insights... I guess I always expect more from commentaries, whether on comics or DVDs, when they usually wind up just having people go "Yeah, I really enjoy this part" and stuff like that. So, I blame my heightened expectations for any feeling of disappointment I may have suffered. Although, I do think the commentary suffers from being about the first part of a seven-part storyline that's still in progress. Morrison obviously tip-toes around some plot stuff that, if the entire story were out, he could discuss more freely--which, of course, makes the commentary seem rather silly.

TC: Yeah, it's definitely not a spoiler-filled commentary, that's for sure. But there were some interesting tidbits there and in the script, indeed. Like the way Morrison describes Turpin in the script as "getting on now but he's hard as nails, like a Frank Miller hero." Or Morrison's repeated use of incredible: [from page 15, frame 1]: "Cut to the Guardians of the Universe -- and incredible shot of three of them standing together in a green-lit chamber with an incredible view of the center of the galaxy where there are thousands of suns, radiating an incredible brightness."

That's just daring your artist to screw up, right? It's like, "draw this, and make it all incredible, all the time."

Or the entire description for the most controversial panel in issue one, a terse three words: "The kill shot."

In general, the script is rather short on complex descriptions, and if you compare the style of this script to the one from Arkham Asylum, it seems like two completely different writers. Do you think that's just maturity and confidence on Morrison's part now? Or do you think he's just less invested in Final Crisis and doesn't worry too much about fancy panel descriptions because of that? Obviously, we'd just be speculating, but it is quite a difference, no?

CN: Well, the styles are different because Arkham Asylum wasn't exactly full script in that it was description and dialogue with no panel or page distinctions. I think that allowed Morrison to meander a bit more whereas the full script format for Final Crisis is more rigid. It's very much geared to "Here's what happens in this panel and then here's what happens in the next panel and here's what happens in the next panel" without any real allowance for tangents and meandering. Also, he's worked with JG Jones before and knows he can trust him--in fact, I'd say that's part of maturing as a writer: Morrison knows to trust the artist a bit more and not be a dictator every step of the way.

One thing I noticed was the omission of the first panel of page 10 in the script here, which showed up in Morrison's script when Entertainment Weekly previewed some pages: "Panoramic Manhattan city shot -- including all the architectural projects which were imagined but never put into practise in the real New York. Wind blows, birds rise up. Debris is torn from rooftops." If you compare the script included in the "director's cut," it appears that Jones added an additional panel to page ten where really instead of following this description, he drew a lovely shot of Detroit's skyline, which makes more sense considering after the above panel, the action moves to Detroit immediately. I'm rather amused/mystified as to why this panel description was left out of the script here, though. Part of including the script is to highlight what Morrison wrote and what choices Jones made as the artist, and here, he clearly thought including one lone panel of New York wouldn't make much sense. Seems like a cheat to me. If the point here is to illuminate the process, I really can't understand why the script included would be altered to reflect the art more closely.

TC: I suspect that the script has been edited more than that for publication here. It's probably not the "shooting script." It's the "sanitized for your protection script." When I've written comic book scripts, I find myself putting in descriptions of certain things and emphasizing something and then giving the artist a heads up on why it's important--giving some info about an upcoming plot twist. I don't know that Morrison did that in the real script for this issue, but he might have, and DC wouldn't want that information leaked through this director's cut, right? So, yeah, I doubt that this is the word-for-word script Morrison gave Jones, especially since you've already shown some changes that must have occurred.

What about the commentary? It has some interesting bits too, like when Morrison says that page 4 has "the big clue to the end of Final Crisis." It's the page where Metron gives fire to Anthro. What could that possibly mean? That Anthro will burst through from the past and kick Darkseid in the head? That everything will burn? Any guesses?

Also, there's the overt mention of Bludhaven as a New Orleans, post-Katrina, analogue. And the references to David Lynch. A summer crossover event that reads like a David Lynch superhero story? No wonder the internet didn't know what to make of it!

CN: Well, the "big clue" is even referenced later in the issue when Kamandi shows up and wants the weapon Metron gave Anthro. It seems to me that it will probably be the key for humanity (or superhumanity) to take that next step and become the gods of the Fifth World or something similar. The essence of the Fourth World gods, perhaps? I mean, what can beat a Fourth World god like Darkseid? A Fifth World god! I could be wrong, but that seems as likely as anything else I've read/heard.

But, let's not put the cart before the horse... Darkseid has just won. And, wow, evil won rather easily, didn't it? It wasn't much of a fight at all. Morrison always writes his villains as more intelligent than the heroes in that they always seem to win before the heroes even knew they were there. It's an effective trick as even though we know the heroes will win, things seem so dire and screwed up, it's hard to imagine how they'd win. I mean, at the end of Final Crisis #3, Earth is Darkseid's and our only hope are two guys who can run really fast? Somehow, I don't see them even taking out the now-evil Wonder Woman let alone saving the world completely... But, we also don't know who else is still free and willing to fight. We can probably assume Mister Miracle, Sonny Sumo and the Super Young Team are still around, but who else? Does that seem like a group capable of taking on Darkseid? Then again, Green Arrow and the Atom didn't seem like a likely duo to kill him in "Rock of the Ages" either, so... I have no idea where I'm going with any of this. You talk now.

TC: My impression of the Flash's role here, and I think Dan DiDio said something along these lines in an interview, is that Barry Allen isn't going to come in and save the day. He's just more of a messenger. A Mercury figure, who will point the way to victory or maybe guide the heroes toward something that will help them.

I do love the team-up of Sonny Sumo, Shilo Norman, and the Super Young Team. They're like the Legion of Substitute-Heroes, not quite the laughingstock of the superhero world, but a group that's not taken seriously by their peers or by the audience. But when the chips are down, they will kick some ass. It will be interesting to see how. That's where the fun comes in.

It's typical Morrison, too. He tends to show the "powerful" heroes as ineffective in a lot of his work. Think the Justice League standing outside the Painting that Ate Paris, completely useless. Or the X-Men needing help from the ugly and misshapen new recruits. Or Connor Hawke rescuing the JLA. Early in his career, Morrison didn't seem capable of writing effective heroes at all, and now he still seems to prefer the outsider types. The losers. Who doesn't though? Who wants to see Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman saving the day all the time? There's a reason Trinity is one of the dullest reads this summer.

What did you think about how everything was explained in Final Crisis #3? I understand the need for it. I understand why he had to show the bullet going back though time to kill Orion. Or an explanation of the Atomic Knights. But to me, this was actually the least interesting issue. I still liked it a lot, and I know that this issue fits into the overall scheme and I'm really enjoying the way the story works as a whole, but this one seemed more conventional than the previous two.

CN: When I reread Morrison's JLA last summer, I was surprised to find that nearly every story was resolved by characters without superpowers. One of his major themes is the idea that humanity is capable of saving itself and transcending beyond its limitations. I'm partly expecting something similar to the end of Flex Mentallo and the JLA "World War III" story at the end of Final Crisis. A bit obvious and repetitive, but it would certainly fit with Morrison.
I thought this was a decent issue. It dragged in some parts, but still had enough bits of madness. The first few pages are absolutely wonderful with Frankenstein, the Question and Nazi-Supergirl. The superhero draft is nothing new, but it's also expected in this sort of story--and its use here is wonderful as we see this build-up of heroes, but never see them in action and, then, the bad guys have won without much of a struggle. He really undercuts the convention by showing how predictable the heroes are. Mary Marvel acts as his mouthpiece, in a way: the heroes lose because they're so easy to predict. They always do the same things the exact same way, so they lose quite easily here. The book reads as a critique of this sort of story and Morrison's attempt to try something new with the "Crisis."

TC: Have you been reading any of the spin-offs so far--like the "Requiem" one-shot or the "Rogue's Revenge"? The "Requiem" book was obviously directly related, since it expanded upon the death of J'onn J'onzz. I don't think it was necessary, but it was a nice little story that has a heavy emotional core. "Rogue's Revenger" seems quite unrelated, at least so far, and Scott Kolins is churning out some really atrocious art these days, so you aren't missing much if you skipped that.

But I'm looking forward to a lot of the skip month spin-offs, definitely. Especially Morrison's 3-D Superman thing, and, of course, "Legion of Three Worlds." That's got me jazzed. I'm guessing you won't get them all. How do you decide what to buy and what to skip with something like Final Crisis?

CN: I'm only buying the Morrison-penned tie-in books. I figure those will be worth reading since he's writing the main series. The Geoff Johns stuff doesn't interest me at all, mostly because I don't like his writing. As for the others... what else is there? Some Greg Rucka stuff involving the Spectre, right? I really don't care about that, either. There's that Brad Meltzer one-shot and I'm strangely tempted to get it. I can't explain why--maybe rereading Identity Crisis a few weeks back has me wanting to give him another chance after his god-awful Justice League stuff. I may get that "Resist" one-shot since it's the other side of Morrison's "Submit" one, but we'll have to see. When it comes to crossover events like this, I usually stick as close to the core book as possible, only buying tie-ins if they're by the writer of the core book or have other interesting allures. Like with Secret Invasion, I'm buying the main book, Bendis's two Avengers titles, Captain Britain and MI:13 because it looked interesting and has turned out to be absolutely wonderful, and I may pick up Secret Invasion: Thor because Matt Fraction is writing that. Besides that, I don't think I've gotten anything else... Oh, I got that "Who Can You Trust?" one-shot for the Noh-Varr bit. And, if any of the books I'm already reading have tie-in issues, I'll get those. But, yeah, since I'm usually buying the main book because of the writer, tie-ins not written by that writer have to look very good for me to touch them. Although, I admit I'm that special sort of sucker who says, "HA! You won't get my money with your stupid little tie-in books!" and then buys a five-buck "director's cut" of the first issue... after already having gotten the sketchbook, too...

TC: Well, if you miss anything good in the Final Crisis tie-in books, I'll let you know, trust me.

(By the way, the Jason Aaron-penned Black Panther tie-in with Secret Invasion is definitely worth getting.)

I'll be buying all the Final Crisis books, no matter who's involved. Not because I need them, but because I buy so much anyway, what's a couple more books? I am a sucker who will one day pay the price for his suckerness. (Like when my house collapses under the weight of crappy back issues.)

One more thing I'd like to add before we conclude: Final Crisis is really, really good. (And maybe the tie-ins will be good as well?)