Martian Manhunter's death has ticked off more than just the fans complaining on internet. Killing the last green Martian on Earth is a genocide, and God's not too happy about it.
In Final Crisis: Revelations, the five-issue mini-series from writer Greg Rucka and penciler Philip Tan, God enacts his revenge upon those responsible for the death of Martian Manhunter through his spirit of vengeance in the DC Universe, The Spectre. With deceased Gotham police officer Crispus Allen now serving as human host, the Spectre serves as God's arm of justice in the DCU, with almost unlimited powers of vengeance.
And while villains need to watch out for the Spectre's wrath, what makes things a little more interesting is that Crispus Allen's former partner and friend, Renee Montoya as the Question, needs to watch out too.
Kicking off on August 13th in a 30-page issue his 52 co-writer Geoff Johns recently called the "best thing Greg Rucka's ever written," Revelations promises to not only explore The Spectre's cosmic-level powers, but will also tell the story of Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya since they both evolved from two hard-working cops into powerful costumed characters. And with the world falling apart around them in Final Crisis, what starts out as an act of vengeance between two former friends becomes an epic story introducing the broader spiritual concepts of crime and punishment in the DCU.
Newsarama talked to Rucka about Revelations, following up on our announcement of the series back when the secrets of Final Crisis couldn't yet be discussed. Now that Renee's role has been introduced in Final Crisis #1, and the precursor for the Spectre's story was revealed with the death of Martian Manhunter, Rucka talked about what Revelations will explore, what role the Religion of Crime plays in the story, and what's up with this "list" of costumed villains he's allowed to kill.
Newsarama: Greg, we've talked to you before about Revelations, but not since Final Crisis began. And it's been revealed that Renee Montoya is investigating the Dark Side Club. Is that what drives her role in your story?
Greg Rucka: Yes, but there's a gap there, and that's what we'll reveal in Revelations. Renee has found herself, despite her every effort, the head of this very vile heart of the Religion of Crime. When we last saw her in The Question: Five Books of Blood, she had become the head of the Order of the Stone, which are a monk-ish order devoted to the Religion of Crime. And the Order of the Stone are very purpose-driven. For lack of a better term, they're warrior monks. And they do awful, awful things, but they have access to all this knowledge.
So we have an empty bit between the end of Five Books of Blood and the beginning of Final Crisis. And somewhere in there, the Question has gone from saying "How did I get here?" to saying, "Oh, so this is what's going on." And that's what activates her when we see her in Final Crisis and what Grant's doing. Her investigation.
At the same time, she's discovered something very direct. And that discovery is what's motivating her actions in Revelations.
NRAMA: So while investigating the Dark Side Club, she's found something...
GR: Yeah. It's even prior to that. She goes to Turpin pursuing that investigation as a result of what she's learned off-screen. That dovetails into what she's trying to accomplish in Revelations.
NRAMA: You had told us before that this series was originally conceived as a Question story that would look at Final Crisis from a "street" level, but you didn't feel that would fill a whole mini-series. What was so attractive to you as a writer about adding The Spectre to the story and making it larger in scope through working with those two characters together?
GR: I was immediately in love with juxtaposing the two characters. You take the Question, who is arguably one of the most street-level characters, and you put her opposite the Spectre, who is arguably the most powerful in the DCU and whose perspective is theoretically the most cosmic -- the character who can see everything, because he's the character who's working from the point of view of infinity. And suddenly that's a much more interesting story.
The Question's story in Revelations is there. She has a story. But this story is primarily about the Spectre. It's about taking Cris and showing who this guy is now that he's the Spectre, and what his conflicts are. And once we opened up that idea, and looked at the rest of Final Crisis, it was obvious this is what the story had to be about.
NRAMA: You say you want to show "who this guy is." Who is Crispus Allen right now, as this story begins?
GR: He starts the series in a really bad place, because he may have divine power, but he hates his boss. And he hates his job. More than anything, Revelations is Cris' story and his evolution further into the role of the Spectre. Emotionally, he starts from a place where he just hates God. The first thing he did when he got the job was God told him to kill his son. That gets you off on a bad foot.
That said, the initiating action for the Spectre is the action in Final Crisis, which is the death of the Martian Manhunter. This is a genocide. This is the death of the last Martian of his kind. It's the murder of a hero. It's a vile, vile crime in the context of the DC Universe. And The Spectre goes to exact vengeance for it. And that starts his ball rolling.
NRAMA: And after Martian Manhunter's murder, The Spectre seeks out Renee, right?
GR: Yeah. He comes to kill her. When the Spectre seeks you out, it's never a good thing. If it was Cris just showing up to say, "Hey, by the way, I'm dead, but not really," that would be a very different meeting. And a very different book. And that's not quite this reunion. This reunion is, "You are responsible for the acts of this cult. And God wants you punished."
You can guess the reunion isn't exactly a joyous one. And it sort of goes from there.
NRAMA: You've said before that you were given a list of villains that could be killed in this mini-series. Is this destruction of villains also part of the vengeance for Martian Manhunter's death?
GR: Yeah. That was a large part of it. One of the things we talked about with the Spectre was that we never see him killing anybody in costume. [laughs] You know? And there are some good reasons for that, obviously, just because there are certain ideas that are going to conflict with the way the DC Universe has to work. You can't have the Spectre going through the DC Universe and going, "Well, you know, Joker, I've had enough of you" and killing the Joker. You can't do it for obvious reasons.
But you have to justify that with a story. And to justify that with a story is to show that it's outside of his purview. The Spectre takes vengeance on those people God allows him to take vengeance on. And that's the important governor there. On one level, the Spectre is the most powerful being in the DCU. On another level, he's an errand boy because he's got to be very tightly controlled. And we've seen what happens when the Spectre isn't controlled.
NRAMA: But Greg, if the people responsible for Martian Manhunter's death are being held accountable here, aren't the people who were in that room when he was killed going to be the most at risk? And doesn't this tie pretty directly into that scene in Final Crisis?
GR: Well, yeah. Our first issue is really very tightly bound to the events of Final Crisis #1. But doing five issues of the Spectre hunting down everybody who was in that room is not, to me, a good mini-series. That's going to be a long, drawn-out process, and I would get bored with that real fast.
NRAMA: So this is a whole lot more complex than just hunting down villains?
GR: Yeah. That's where we start, but that's not where we end. That's issue #1, but that's not at all what's going on by issue #2. By the time we hit issue #3, things have gone from bad to absolutely as bad as they can get. And a lot of the action in Revelations ties to the actions in Final Crisis. So there are things that happen in Final Crisis #3 and #4 that are directly impacting the world. And one of the things you get in Revelations is the street-level view of that attack. Grant's writing this huge thing, and he's got a limited number of pages, and he's got to jump around the world and juggle all these characters. I can work with a handful of people in a single location, so we can really go in and say, "This is what it looks like in Gotham when this stuff happens. This is what it looked like the day the lights went out. This is what it looked like when it started raining blood. This is what it looked like when everybody set down their tools and went on a rampage."
Grant throws out these big ideas, then he goes off to write his space story that is The Odyssey, and I get to look closer at these ideas. And my satisfaction as a writer comes from really exploring things emotionally in terms of drama and the action that comes out of them. It's the same as if you take a character and you get in there and really write from their point of view; all of the sudden the world opens up. And I love doing that. And it's a lot of fun with these characters.
NRAMA: Are The Question and The Spectre the main two players in the comic?
GR: Yes, but there's a third. The third player doesn't enter until the second issue. It's a new character who is both new and very old. The trick with introducing the Crime Bible in 52 was that the concept of the Religion of Crime is pretty clearly one that should have been etched in the DCU for a long time. So we were trying to introduce a concept that was actually an extrapolation of an established idea. This character represents something that Dan DiDio and [series editor] Eddie Berganza and I felt should have been there all along, but for some reason or another, was overlooked. It's a character that goes hand-in-hand with The Spectre. And I don't want to say a whole lot more about it until we meet this character in issue #2.
NRAMA: For Final Crisis readers, will this mini-series supplement the use in that series of the Religion of Crime? Does it explain the concept behind the religion?
GR: It does. I mean, a character doesn't turn around and say, "This is what the Religion of Crime is," with a page of dialogue explaining it. But in the course of the story, it becomes very clear what the Religion of Crime has always been driving for. And frankly, it's a no-brainer, because you can see the nuance and the goal they're pursuing. It's a major part of the Revelations mini-series. Establishing this religion and its purpose on Earth and what it does has been in preparation of the battlefield that is Final Crisis. It makes what the bad guys are doing in Final Crisis that much easier to accomplish. These two things have always been part of the same whole. This is a destined moment.
NRAMA: Since we last talked to you, fans have also seen your portrayal of Crispus Allen as a cop in Batman: Gotham Knight, the animated DVD released earlier this month that takes place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Was writing the character within the movie universe, then writing him now as a cosmic entity in Revelations a challenge?
GR: Well, that script was written two years ago. But yeah, it was far stranger writing him for Gotham Knight and seeing him for the first time as an animated character. When I first saw him, I was like, "Wow." Talk about seeing a character who is right on model. And he's saying stuff that I wrote! Hearing that voice aloud versus hearing the voice in my head? Very strange. Writing him in the comic, I've never lost touch with the character. When he died then became the Spectre, that was just the next evolution in that character's journey, in much the same way Renee becoming The Question was the next evolution in that character's journey.
So Cris' journey and evolution as the Spectre is a very large part of Revelations, and also explaining whether this man was a good choice or a bad choice to be the Spectre. And if he's a bad choice, what's to be done?
NRAMA: And as you've already said, he's not exactly an enthusiastically functioning Spectre right now.
GR: Yeah. It's FINAL Crisis. It's not exactly a good time for the Spectre to say, "I hate my job." [laughs] Can you step up a little bit?? Please?? Creation's kind of in trouble here and you're navel-gazing!! Get to work! You know? And there's that element to this story too.
NRAMA: We haven't talked about Philip Tan's art. There's a lot of buzz about his work on this series. Is it that good?
GR: Oh my God! Really. I mean, this stuff is amazing. I suppose I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I cannot say enough good things about what Philip is doing. He was presented to me by Eddie Berganza, who said to look at what he'd been doing. And I did, and my jaw dropped. And then the pages started coming in for Revelations, and it was incredible. I run the risk of hyperbole and overstating it. You know, I'm a fan too. I get leery when I hear creators say, "Oh! Exclamation point! Exclamation point!" It's like, let's dial down the hype and let me see it before I mortgage my house and buy 5,000 of these things. But Philip is doing truly outstanding work. I've never done a project with an artist who has such a grand sense of scale. As a professional, he's amazing. As a collaborator, he's amazing. His work ethic is such that I feel lazy. He sinks his teeth into everything he does. And Jonathan Glapion's inks over him are just making it even sweeter. I mean, it really looks gorgeous. It's such a pretty book.
NRAMA: And for your fans, Greg, can we get two quick updates -- one on the book and one on the movie. What's the latest on your next novel?
GR: The new novel is going to be coming out in '09. The working title is The Walking Dead. With apologies to Mr. Kirkman. [laughs] But you know, it's funny because when I was writing it, you know, with the subject matter, that struck me as the right title. Somebody actually pointed it out on my blog that it's the same title. But luckily you can't copyright a title. So that's the working title. It may change. We'll see. For right now, it's The Walking Dead. And it's the new Kodiak novel that follows Patriot Acts. And I'm pretty happy with it.
With the Whiteout movie, I wish I could tell you about more. But I can say, wait for San Diego. There's a Dark Castle panel on Thursday, and they're going to be talking about the upcoming slate of films and new material. And I've been told we can expect a release date and possibly the unveiling of the poster. But I could be wrong. I don't work down there. But my understanding is they have a release date now and there will be an official announcement shortly.
NRAMA: Is there anything else you want to tell people about Revelations?
GR: Just that I'm very, very proud of the work we've done on this. I think it's exciting. And I think it's really cool. And I think that it's one of those rare instances where we have a large event book in the DCU going on, which is Final Crisis, and then we've got supplemental material like this and Legion of 3 Worlds that really tell their own stories. Yet it is value added content. I think it really elevates what you get in the other comics. But it's a great stand-alone as well.