It’s good to have friends in high places.
See, there’s a really great friend of mine, who you may have heard of, turning 50 this week. He’s a bit older than that, but this is the 50th year he’s decided to grace us with his presence and show us, on our tiny little television screens, just what he gets up to when he gets bored of knitting, eating crumpets and drinking more tea than the ocean in 1700s Boston.
Suffice it to say, since we’re such good friends, he allowed me the use of his special time-traveling ride – which is, I assure you, quite big on the inside – as a special treat for his 50th year of TV appearances. The good man allowed me one trip to wherever I’d like, to see any one thing in the whole of time and space.
Naturally, being as hardcore a Batman fan as I am, I traveled to the day the very last DC Comics story was printed.
Now, don’t quote me on the actual year since my friend’s estimations of when we are can be flimsy sometimes, but it’s definitely a long, long way ahead in our futures. He put me in a darkened room with the last story so as not to spoil everything else going on in the world (though he did mention something about a squid taking over the Australian Lower House), and allowed me all the time I wanted to read it cover to cover.
Wow, you guys. Just wow. What an ending.
I’ve given DC a ton of stick, this year alone, for being overwrought, shonkily-written and incredibly messy behind the scenes, and I’ve quietly wondered if they’ve made me lose faith in them altogether as both a company and as a collection of storytellers. I’m delighted to say, though, that their final opus has put all my concerns to rest – along with the company itself, all of its superheroes and the few good writers still there who, I’ve been told, were executed upon the company’s closure so as to ensure any last traces DC has of good storytelling died with them.
It’s a pretty simple setup, all things concerned. Of course it’s a Justice League comic, although the cover was quite dusty and had bite marks in it so I couldn’t tell you the issue number of year and month of publication. It concerns the League tackling their greatest threat yet, a force so overwhelming, powerful and metatextual that even Grant Morrison would have a hard time conceptualising it.
The Justice League face off against their audience. Their readers. The people who watched their films. And, most importantly, the writers who gave them continued life.
After growing bored with saving the world, dying and returning to life for the he-doesn’t-know-how-many-eth time, Superman leads a crusade of the world’s heroes to breach the fourth wall and put an end to their existences by killing their writers. The problem is, given the ways and means in which their popularity has soared, both the writers and their adoring audience don’t want the superheroes to die off just yet; indeed, they’d prefer the heroes stuck around for another century or two. Once the world loses Batman and Green Lantern for good, who the hell are they going to put on all those mugs, eco-wallets and lower-back tattoos?
Thus begins the most EPIC story DC have ever concocted. All tropes related to comic book death are gone here – it’s winner take all. Characters do die, writers are fired for writing incomprehensible scenes, and by the end of the story there is absolutely nothing left of the DC universe we know and love.
That’s not to say the story ends with all our favourite heroes’ deaths – far from it. Some characters are actually able to shake off the chains and shackles of literary enslavement and leap out into other roles. My personal favourites were Booster Gold – who manages to basically become Biff Tanner by escaping to the real world, traveling back in time and investing supremely well, much to my other time-traveling friend’s consternation – and Zatanna – who finally gets rid of the stripperiffic fortune-teller act and uses her insanely high heels and sharp corset edges to geld every man on the DC writing team. My friend tells me that a descendant of Dan DiDio – the DC co-publisher of our present day, whose actions largely drive the stupidity with which DC’s actions are documented on websites like this one – was present on the day Zatanna broke free, and that in particular the removal of his genitals caused a backwards-reciprocity across time and wiped out decades worth of pollutant threats to the gene pool. Good work there, Zatanna!
But as I said, some heroes do die. Wonder Woman is devoured by a horde of rampaging, sexually-frustrated and highly misogynist teenagers (literally – there’s a scene where her breastplate is hanging from a dude’s mouth like he’s a freakin’ velociraptor), and the Flash ends up taking the adjustment to the real world hard by cracking a hole in the Earth and running down it into the core. Apparently some earthquakes were caused after that one, but y’know, that’s only a few hundred million people dead. Most of them were from Westboro Baptist anyway.
As well as all that, the book has some spectacular fight scenes between characters. Batman taking on the whole of humanity was my favourite, allowing him to once again prove to be an infallible character and a decent boxer, and following this he became so memetic and awesome that he transcended humanity and became God. No, not a God, but the God. Apparently his awesomeness just got so crazy and volatile that it couldn’t be contained in one tiny, frail human body.
These scenes are all fleshed out and illustrated spectacularly by a literal army of inkers, pencillers and colourists – I mean it, there’s literally sixty credit pages at the end of the book with twelve hundred names apiece, so everyone who’s everyone (and a few people who are no-one) got in on this action. It’s funny, then, that only one writer’s listed in the credits; their name was blacked out by a Sharpie, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s the filter person DC has to make sure all the stories written by complete nobodies have some kind of name attached to them. This is the guy (or girl) who takes those stories and sticks their name to them, like it or not. So congratulations, [REDACTED]! You gave us one hell of a finale!
On that subject, the scriptwork is by far the best of any artistic work in the whole of the known universe (and trust me, my friend’s been back and forth all along that s**t). Characters remain true to how they’ve been for the past however-many-centuries – that is, tired, old and in dire need of some reinvention – and even the good ol’ villains turn up for our heroes’ swan song to give them a proper send-off. The best scene of dialogue in the book was between Superman and Lex Luthor, where…well, I don’t want to spoil everything, but let’s just say there are gonna be some shippers out there who are really happy. Also, some who’ll probably start a war with them in response.
I’ll be honest, the overblown fight scenes, trashy dialogue and levels of fan-wank that’ll drown even the most devout DC fan are all the things I love on display here. As the culmination of centuries (possibly even millennia) of storytelling, with a rotating door of writers and artists who contribute either marvellous excellence or punitive garbage, the Last DC Story does the job as a final farewell for all the Justice League characters we know and love. I’ll miss all my favourites like Batman, the Flash and Swamp Thing, but at least they’re in better places now. Plus, that final battle will remain forever unrivalled as the best comic book panels of anything ever.
I asked my time-traveling friend if he could deposit me earlier in the timestream, before DC lost their way, so I could either take over the company with awesome (read: plagiarised) ideas or just get all those responsible for its downfall incarcerated. Apparently that was crossing too much into another timeline, so no luck. Maybe when his 100th birthday rolls around I can ask that as a special favour instead.
He did say that once I return to the present my memory would retroactively remove anything I haven’t gotten down on paper about the Last DC Story, so any questions about it should be asked before-
Oh. Sorry. Not sure where all those words above came from. Huh.
THERE IS NO COVER IMAGE THAT
CAN DO JUSTICE TO THE FANTASTIC
FANTASTICNESS THAT IS THE LAST DC STORY.
ALSO I FORGOT TO BRING ONE WITH ME.
BEST QUOTE: “[SPOILER SPOILER, SPOILER].” – [SPOILER]
[Sorry for the weirdness, folks. This seemed like a funny idea at the time, but not so much. Regular reviews again this weekend.]