Japer’s Take: DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Artist: Adam Kubert

On the cover of this highly billed stand-alone story are headshots of a number of DC heroes, all of whom share a close relationship with one another. Whether it’s Batman and his original partner now known as Nightwing, Wonder Woman and her sister Donna Troy or both versions of the Flash in Barry Allan and Wally West, all of these characters are important aspects of the momentous tale at hand.

A Final Crisis is coming to the heroes of the DC Universe – a final battle between good and evil and this is the story of what each hero does on the eve of their certain deaths.

Of course, this is a comic book, which means that this has all happened before. Brad Meltzer doesn’t shirk this idea: that promises of a final battle have been made and broken before, that this final crisis will be no more final than the previous two published over the last twenty years. But early in the story he heightens the gravitas of this final crisis: this time, it’s Superman, the eternal optimist, the tent pole of DC Comics, who says that the world is going to end. Heavy stuff indeed.

Make no mistake. Even with the above mentioned heroes represented on the cover and many more heavy hitters making cameos within the double-sized issue, this is Geo-Force’s story.

What? You don’t know who Geo-Force is? Well, you’re not the only one. A “C-list” character at best, Geo-Force was one of the founding members of the Outsiders back in the mid ‘80’s. He’s the Prince of Markovia, an eastern European country with powers over the earth itself. Under Meltzer’s award winning run, he is now a current member of the Justice League of America, an attempt to elevate the characters status within the DC Universe. Meltzer loves the character. He took him and polished him up when all other writers left him in literary limbo. This story, then, is the next logical step: give the character a meaningful raison d’etre.

And what’s better than revenge masquerading as justice?

On his last night alive, while some characters have dinner with their families and others bond, confess, pine or make love to each other, Geo-Force plans on finally avenging his long dead sister Terra, murdered at the hands of Deathstroke.

Meltzer brings a sense of realism to these heroes. He plucks them from the lofty perch that we, as readers, place them and shows them for the humans they are beneath the masks. He did this in his Identity Crisis series a few years back and was both canonized and vilified by comic fandom for it.

Geo-Force is told that an encounter with Deathstroke, one of the more lethal villains in the DC Universe, is one that he will not survive. And yet, this is the only idea that drives the character through the story. Here, Meltzer questions the idea of what a hero is: are these actions motivated by revenge or righteousness? Is it fair that Deathstroke has, for so long, gone unpunished for his crimes? Now that the end of the world is upon them, what rules hold heroes back from an ultimate justice? There is no “tomorrow” at the end of days.

This finality affects the bad guys too. In a twist, Captain Cold, a long-standing Flash rogue, foils a robbery and, for a brief moment, becomes the hero. Is this a penance for years of wrongdoing? Here Meltzer shines a light on the difference between heroes and villains and why they do the things they do. When pressed on how he felt after such a good action as opposed to his general thieving ways, Cold states that “In the end it’s the same exact rush. But then ya leave with nothing…” which aptly leaves the character in the same philosophical realm he started but not without adding a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the character.

If there is one complaint to be made about Last Will and Testament it’s in the timing of the issue’s release. It is meant to be read after Final Crisis #4, which is still to ship. Some of the events depicted in this story have yet to occur in DC Universe continuity. Still, that’s easily put aside, so well written is this comic. If anything, it makes the reader wait for the next issue of Final Crisis with even greater anticipation.

It goes without saying that Adam Kubert’s renderings are fantastic. Assisted at times by his legendary father, Joe Kubert, the expressions of Starfire’s plaintive longing, Tim Drake’s sorrowful understanding or Deathstroke’s look of astonishment all elevate Meltzer’s script. This is a writer/artist tandem working as one.

On the last night of their lives, as they leave their homes to assemble for the final battle, the characters, one by one, lie to their loved ones, telling them that they will be o.k. Here then, Meltzer and Kubert, on Last Will and testament’s very final page, remind us what it means to be a hero in the DC Universe. Wally West, the Flash, asks Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the man with no fear, what he thinks of the end of the world. As he flies into the night, the reply is simple: “This is the life…I’ll see you tomorrow.”

For heroes, there is always a tomorrow.

Pick up this book. It’s wonderful.

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