The Final Night #2 (November, 1996)
“Darker Grows the Night”
Writer – Karl Kesel
Penciller – Stuart Immonen
Inker – Jose Marzan, Jr.
Colorist – Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer – Gaspar
Assistant Editor – Ali Morales
Editor – Dan Thorsland
Cover Price: $1.95
Being a bit of an anxious sort… I often second (and third) guess how I’m going to present things. When a comic has one title on the cover… and one inside the book… hoo boy, my internal needle pings straight to Woody Allen levels of neuroticism. All four issues of The Final Night have two titles… I’m just going to use the one inside. Whew.
Speaking of the cover… it’s a great one! Makes me think of 52 Week One.
We pick up with Jimmy Olsen delivering the expositional evening (well, it might be the evening… if you recall, there’s no Sun!) news. He’s alerted by the WGBS Producers that there’s another interesting story development in progress. And so, he throws it to a news conference in Metropolis… where newlywed Lex Luthor returns to offer his company’s resources toward defeating the Sun-Eater. Superman arrives… and amid a blaze of popping flashbulbs, they shake hands.
We shift over to Oracle’s Clock Tower in Gotham City, where information is positively pouring in. I really dig the way this is depicted… it’s not often we see Babs overwhelmed, but this is definitely getting to her.
Wonder Woman calls in to report a fire at the corner of Marston and Byrne (ha!). She, along with Big Barda, The Ray, Captain Marvel Jr., and the Guardian find an odd array of folks. There are people partying… while singing a particular REM song. They’re not responsible for the blaze though… that was the doing of a young boy named Billy… whose mother was cold, and so he attempted to build a fire. Off to the side, The Ray is approached by a woman he’d saved… believing this to be the end of the world, she asks to be taken home to see her family one more time.
We shift over to the Louvre, where Vandal Savage is talking to the Mona Lisa. He claims to have been responsible for the painting… he’d blackmailed both da Vinci and the model to get the job done, and being immortal… he might be telling the truth! Off to the side, Batman is watching this whole monologue.
He approaches Savage about his pending art theft… and there’s a brief tussle. Well, not really… Savage just unloads a gun in his direction. Batman counters with a well-aimed ‘rang… and it’s revealed that a sleepy Superman swept in and caught all of the bullets. Without a Sun to draw from… his powers are waning!
Back in Metropolis, we see a fun 90’s take on a Brainiac… 5/Lex Luthor team. They (sorta) put their heads together and deduce that they need to launch a probe into the Sun-Eater. This is a really great take on Lex. He’s smug as hell… and pretty much egging Brainy on. Brainiac mutters about how primitive the tech is… and Lex is all “What was that? Speak up, boy…” before dropping a whole lot of knowledge. So good.
Now… to Opal City, where we join the original Starman Ted Knight listening to Rush Limbaugh. He is surprised by the arrival of some of his old teammates, Flash, Liberty Belle, and Wildcat. They ask if he’s down to don the duds one more time. He declines… preferring to continue monitoring the situation with his telescope.
We return to Metropolis where Luthor and Brainiac have launched their probe… in the form of Kyle Rayner. As he approaches, Brainiac remarks that the Sun-Eater is a nearly perfect energy-siphon. Luthor asks Lantern to continue his descent… they need to know both how deep it goes… and how much of the Sun (if any) is left. He gets pretty deep, but has to retreat when the probe begins to overheat. Saturn Girl scans… and reports that she lost Green Lantern. Uh-oh.
We meet up with Dusk and Black Canary… and we learn that the former is a sorta self-imposed Pariah from Crisis on Infinite Earths. She travels from world to world warning of the Sun-Eater’s arrival. Maybe she’s auditioning to be the next herald of Galactus or something.
As they exit their craft… they find themselves surrounded by an angry mob! Ya see, these scared Metropolitans blame Dusk for this present crisis… and decide they’re going to take out their frustrations on her skull. Riot control arrives, in the form of Flash, Nightwing, and Robin. The mob ain’t fighting fair… go figure… and it turns into quite the brouhaha. In the foreground, we see a strange masked individual watching the mess unfold. I thought for a moment it might be Wild Dog…
We rejoin Ray as he delivers that woman he helped save to her homeland. Seeing them… he’s overcome with empathy, and decides to bathe them in his light. After all, they’ve done nothing wrong… as opposed to the rest of the Earth? Oh well, at least his heart was in the right place. He, of course, can’t keep it up.
Back at the riot… we wrap up with that strange masked fella making their presence known… it’s (um…) Ferro!
Really dug this. Outside of the Luthor/Brainiac bits, the Sun-Eater wasn’t even really mentioned. This was a story of acceptance of a terrible situation, resilience, and outrage. While this is a cosmic-level threat, this chapter was very much grounded.
Let’s unpack some of the emotions we witnessed here… and start with perhaps the most extreme, the riot. We have a mob of scared people… probably just one of many such mobs… who cannot focus their frustration on some amorphous thingamablob in the sky… and so, they direct their anger at the person who delivered the message. (Attempting to) kill the messenger is a very human reaction… I guess that’s why “Don’t kill the messenger” became something we say. While rioting in the face of a cosmic-level threat seems futile… we have to recognize that Anger is the second stage of grief according to Kubler-Ross. We’re going to see some more of those stages in play here.
Let’s hop over to the Ray… and (sort of) Denial. He delivers the Spanish-speaking woman back to her home, so she can be with her family for what might just be the end of the world. The Ray decides he cannot let them die… and proceeds to burn himself out trying to keep them warm. Refusing to accept the (at this point) inevitable.
Speaking of Acceptance… we’ve got Metropolitan civilians partying like it’s the end of the world. Whether they are truly accepting of their (at this point) fate… or just, I dunno… drunk as skunks, is up for discussion… but, I feel like if something like this were to happen in the real world, there would definitely be a contingent of folks who would immediately accept it… and just revel in as much decadence and hedonism as possible until it’s all over.
Now… let’s address that threat.
We get a really fun Lex Luthor here. I love the disparity between the Lex that we know, and his public image. I mean, here he’s providing all of his resources to aid in saving the world. How can a citizen of the DC Universe hate him? Hell, he’s even getting photo-ops shaking hands with Superman! Such a great take on the character… it’s actually understandable how he would be elected President of the United States four years later.
His team-up with Brainiac is also a great bit of fun. There’s contention… but there’s also the realization that they need each other. Luthor had the idea of the probe.. and Brainiac was able to tweak it to survive a visit to the Sun-Eater. Really well done.
I should mention… the art looks a ton better here. The pages (even this glossy stock that I hate) didn’t seem nearly as muddy… perhaps that’s a result of Patricia Mulvihill taking over as colorist, as that’s the only creative difference here.
Overall… a great issue, focusing on real human emotion in a time of cosmic-level crisis. Well worth checking out.
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