So as you've probably noticed, I've been thinking about crossovers a lot. What they mean and why they happen. And how crossovers tend to get larger and larger, always trying to "out crisis" the last one. Which brings me to my absolute favorite crossover: Final Crisis (2008).
This selection may seem strange. After all, I just wrote a whole series about Marvel crossovers and my favorite is one from DC? One that almost everyone agrees is incredibly convoluted and hard to decipher? Well yeah. Because 1) it's awesome and 2) once you do decipher it, it's all about getting rid of the darkness of comics. It's a Meta Crossover, a crossover about comics themselves, about what would happen to the heroes if Evil Won, and it has such an incredibly hopeful ending. This is all due to the fact that it is written by Grant Morrison, author of such meta masterpieces as Animal Man, The Invisibles, and the current Multiversity.
So what is Final Crisis about? Well, that's hard to say, because it's about so many things. We'll start with the easy part:
"There was a war in Heaven. The wrong side won. The Dark Side won."
Orion is dead. The last of the New Gods has died in the gutters and Detective Dan Turpin found him. The Gods of Apokolips are dead, but still alive: they possess the people they want now.
And Darkseid has become Boss Dark Side. He fell through time, wounded and dying.
The Monitors are still watching, but there's something wrong. Nix Uotan, the youngest Monitor, has been banished. The Justice League has been set on condition amber. The skies are turning red. Darkseid transfers his essence into Dan Turpin. "Give in."
And then he unleashes the Anti-Life Equation:
loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding × guilt × shame × failure × judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side self=dark side SELF=DARK SIDE
Batman is captured, Superman is missing, a virus turns superheroines into Darkseid's new Female Furies, and half the world's population is enslaved in one day.
Darkseid has won.
I. Am. The. New. God. All is one in Darkseid. This mighty body is my church. When I command your surrender, I speak with three billion voices. When I make a fist to crush your resistance. It is with three billion hands. When I stare into your eyes and shatter your dreams. And break your heart. It is with six billion eyes! Nothing like Darkseid has ever come among you: Nothing will again. I will take you to a hell without exit or end. And there I will murder your souls! And make you crawl and beg! And die! Die! Die for Darkseid!
Meanwhile, Superman has been pulled outside of New Earth to join a group of alternate Supermen in a quest in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D (yes, they had a 3D comic, just go with it). They end up in Limbo, the place where comic book characters go who are never used.
And then Superman goes to the Monitor's world in a thought-robot with armor made of plot and fights against Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, the literal embodiment of the darkness of comics:
"Let me feed and feed until nothing remains but Mandrakk! Bloated and alone beneath a skyful of murdered stars!"
Superman defeats Mandrakk before getting going home and then getting sucked into the future by the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Meanwhile, Darkseid has enslaved nearly all life. His minions have put Batman in a machine, but Batman had more tricks up his sleeve. He escapes with the bullet that killed Orion, the bullet made out of Radion, fatal to New Gods.
(Oh, I should also mention that it was a time traveling bullet.)
In the future, Braniac-5 shows Superman something called the Miracle Machine, a device that can grant one wish. In the present, Batman confronts Darkseid and this happens:
Batman shoots the God of Evil and then gets hit with the Omega Sanction. (Image from the DC Wikia.)
And the Superman returns and finds his charred body. And Darkseid declares victory:
You turned your back and I wrecked your world. I robbed your people of their powers, their hopes, their future, themselves. What will you do when your friends, your enemies, your lover, are all Darkseid? When there is one body. One mind. One will. One life that is Darkseid. Will you be the enemy of all existence, then? What irony that will be, Son of Krypton.
And then the Flashes (Barry Allen and Wally West) lead his Omega Beams right back to him and the Black Racer comes for his body. Darkseid is dead. The world is still doomed.
The sun has set forever. There is a black hole where my heart should be.
The last issue of Final Crisis condenses a number of epic sequences into very short spaces. Only a few pages are dedicated to Wonder Woman being brought back and then wrapping Darkseid's body with her Lasso of Truth, undoing the Anti-Life Equation. And the world is still being dragged into the black hole that is Darkseid's heart. So everyone goes to the JLA Satellite, the last outpost of humanity.
And Superman builds the Miracle Machine. And powers it with the last solar cells in his body. And before the spirit of Darkseid can use it, he banishes him with a single note of the multiverse.
And then Mandrakk the Dark Monitor comes back:
(Image from this article about the meaning of Final Crisis.)
And he is defeated by Nix Uotan, the new Multiversal Monitor, the Judge of All Evil, along with an army of Superman from alternate Earths, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, and the Green Lantern Corps who proceed to stake Mandrakke in the heart with a giant green stake.
And Superman brings the universe back with one single wish: to have a happy ending.
And that's Final Crisis. Well, that's the main story. There's Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds about Superman's adventure in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes and Final Crisis: Revelations about the Spectre and the Question and Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge which about the Rogues getting revenge, but you can basically skip those.
Some say that Final Crisis is too complicated, but that's sort of the point: it's complicated to the point of incomprehensibility in places. It's steeped in years of DC lore. It's about Superman and Batman and what they mean: the Sun God who can do anything and the Dark Knight who can escape any death trap. It's about years of darkness infecting comics being expelled by hope.
And that's why it's my favorite crossover.