Best Shots Extra: DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

DCU: Last Will & Testament #1 cover

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

From: DC Comics

Writer: Brad Meltzer

Art: Adam Kubert (with John Dell and Joe Kubert)

Color: Alex Sinclair

Letters: Rob Leigh

Spoiler Warning!

Preview: Here

I had a lot of problems with Final Crisis: Last Will and Testament, and I’m quite sure who to point to for that. The major problems storywise come from an almost complete failure for most of this narrative to reconcile with what’s going on in the main book. Whereas Superman Beyond flows flawlessly out of issue #3, LW&T starts unraveling almost immediately because characters are referencing events that didn’t happen and/or characters are doing things that are impossible for them to do due to the nature of what’s happening in the main book.

I don’t think that this is the fault of Brad Meltzer. I think that he was probably given a series of story beats, and tried to hew closely to those beats. Unfortunately, many things fail to match up. Then again, I’m not totally sure that it’s the fault of editorial. Who knows when they got the other scripts, and who knows how much time there was for adjustments or redrawing? As it is, several things kept kicking me out of the narrative.

Let’s start with the main story. Thematically, this is about the heroes getting to make their peace after a rallying speech from Superman and before a Final Battle that they’re supposed to fight. The skies have gone black, the heroes are gathering an army, and a few step back to take care of certain things. In the main line, Geo-Force decides that he’s going to fight and kill Deathstroke the Terminator, the man responsible, in his eyes, for the corruption and death of his sister Terra. (On a technical level, this is strange too; it was established in the Titans Secret Files Special from 1999 that the Terra from Team Titans was somehow actually the “real” Terra, and that Terra was killed during “World War III” in 52 by Black Adam. Yeah, Deathstroke’s machinations led to her first death, but plenty of characters indicated that she was nuts before hooking up with Slade. So, for a final mission in the midst of the crisis, it’s a strange turn.)

The sidebars provide some interesting character moments, but in a cumulative fashion, they tend to compound the “when the heck is this happening?” problem. Black Lightning talks about meeting up with the girls, Wonder Woman and Donna enact an Amazon ritual, the Bat fellas go for a swing, Starfire is looking for Dick, a surprising priest hears some confessions, and so on. The best bit, for my money, is the idea of Tim feeling a twinge of sibling rivalry with Nightwing. From Donna, there’s also an acknowledgement of the loss of her late son and husband, a bit that Meltzer definitely deserves to be commended for recognizing.

Sadly, many of these moments break the through-line. To my reading of the first three issues of Final Crisis, Superman never gave a “we’re going to fight and die” speech. The skies hadn’t gone black. Batman had already been captured by the time that Black Canary begins assembling the army. Even if the black skies and speech come between the moment of the email in issue #3, Wonder Woman was still taken out after her fight with Mary Marvel and couldn’t have been with Donna. The presence of Clark is also a question mark, specifically because of the events of Superman Beyond. Hal appears, but as of this moment, he was still in the custody of the Alpha Lanterns. These elements apparently not linking up with the actual Final Crisis book in any way are a real strain.

That leaves the main thrust of the issue: Geo-Force vs. Deathstroke. There are clever bits in the fight, though some of the moments are way, way over the top. Overall, though, I didn’t feel like this was a conflict that was weighty enough to serve as the keystone for the whole issue. I would have liked to have seen more of the character interaction (Black Lightning with his family, for example), or built-out scenes from those making one panel appearances (like the Wildcats or Hourman II/Liberty Belle II).

Some will say that I’m critiquing this too heavily based on continuity. I’m not filing complaints based on stories from fifty years ago; I’m talking about a book that’s a part of the company’s biggest event not matching up with the mainline book of that event that came out last month. That’s very problematic, and it makes the reading into a bit of a slog. To his credit, Meltzer’s trying really hard with the character bits, but there are a lot of practical factors working against him.

One segment of the book that is an easy success: the art. Adam Kubert (with his dad and Dell) does a superb job with the many characters contained herein. His action choreography is very strong. I also like that you can tell that Joe Kubert inked some of those aforementioned quiet moments with the icons; it gives a little more dramatic heft to some of those scenes.

In summation, I think that we have some talented people here who had to struggle with some obstacles that had less to do with their process and more to do with workflow. Meltzer gets in some good moments, and Kubert’s art is solid, but the nature of disconnect after disconnect quickly became tiring for this reviewer. In an event where, for me, the tie-ins have frequently out-pointed the main book, this is a case where the gap was too wide.

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