Jun 15, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 477: Final Crisis #6, January 2009

http://www.comics.org/issue/528860/

The coming season of the Arrowverse television shows fills me with the hope that we're going to see some really cool crossovers between the series. At the end of Legends of Tomorrow, I realized that the overall aesthetic for the series really was the line-wide crossover, but now with four shows to draw on (plus, with luck, Constantine if NBC are cool about it), we might actually see some shared narrative storytelling going on. I'm imagining a line-wide crisis of some sort that we see discretely through the lens of each show, but that is a larger picture when seen through the lens of all four. And if the writers could swing it so that, unlike many crossovers, we didn't need to watch each show, but would be richer for having done so, that would be amazing.

The reason I bring this up is that today's comic is that fourth act, the one where everything seems to completely fall apart. The world is spiraling down a singularity created around the incarnated Darkseid. The Green Lanterns are trapped in the event horizon, the Earth-bound superheroes fall to anti-life, one by one. Checkmate and S.H.A.D.E. are preparing to tunnel into a parallel universe to evacuate the world. And in the midst of it all, the man we've been following, that guy who dresses up like a bat, confronts the physical manifestation of universal totalitarian control in his own throne room.

When Superman finally returns to the pages of this series, it is as an exploding sun of grief and rage. He demonstrates exactly how powerful he is, bursting through the armies and shields of the New Gods as if they weren't even there. And he does this because his friend, the Batman, is dead. But it's not just friendship (that would be enough, but that's not all there is to it). Superman is invested in humanity becoming its better self. That's the tale we get hit over the head with in any other pop culture version of the character, the Jesus/Moses/Buddha/prophet of you choice metaphor. Hey, I'm not innocent of it either. As I never tire of saying, that idea was the seed from which my thesis grew. So then let's look back at yesterday's comic, where dark, animalistic gods find out that there is a human being, unpowered, driven by grief and rage, who turns the darkest of human emotions and experiences into weapons of light, tools to combat the manifestations of the worst of humanity (because, really, that's kind of what these dark gods are). For Superman, seeing this person die is seeing an aspect of humanity die that is all too rare: the strength to take what has damaged us almost beyond repair and turn it back against itself, to turn anguish and despair into strength and resilience. And love. Always love. I am reminded of this recent letter composed by the victim of the horrendous attack at Stanford. A warning - I could not get through this whole piece of writing. It is one of the most blatantly traumatic things I have ever read. But this young woman takes this event, this moment in her life that will colour everything for the rest of her life, and aims it back at the culture through which it is perpetuated. She speaks, turning her unbearable pain into a moment of love and support for everyone who has not been able to find this strength, standing as a paragon, as an example of how we can take in hate, take in the things that are meant to break us irreparably, and use those things to stop the very sources of our misery. She is a hero in every single sense of the term. And sometimes, just sometimes, all it takes to become that hero is to stand and use your voice. If only we all could find such courage.

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