You turned your back and I wrecked your world. Deprived your people of their powers, their hopes, their future, themselves. What will you do when your friends, your enemies, your lover, are all Darkseid? When there is one body. One mind. One will. One life that is Darkseid. Will you be the enemy of all existence, then? What irony that will be, Son of Krypton.
He then asked DC to declare a moratorium on creators using the New Gods series, so that their return in the pages of Final Crisis would have the proper emotional impact. Whether it was done intentionally or due to miscommunication, DC editorial ignored his request, and the New Gods ended up getting passed around like chlamydia at Burning Man, most prominently in the weekly Countdown to Final Crisis series. (DC also commissioned a Death of the New Gods miniseries to be published before Final Crisis. The Resulting Continuity Snarl led Morrison to Retcon away as much of these two series as he possibly could, while including a scenario that still allows for the events of these series to have happened.)
The story to Final Crisis begins with Darkseid having killed his son, Orion; he has also sent his minion Libra to Earth to gather Earth's villains under his control and arrange for the murder of the Martian Manhunter. In the meantime, Darkseid orders fellow god Granny Goodness to possess a Green Lantern, who is used to frame Hal Jordan for killing Orion and capture Batman. As Barry Allen returns from the void of death in a (failed) attempt to save Orion, Darkseid unleashes the Anti-Life Equation upon Earth, enslaving billions of humans. This event forces the few remaining non-corrupted heroes and villains into hiding as Earth struggles to defeat Darkseid and prevent the coming of a greater threat... one that looms within the multiverse and seeks to finish what Darkseid started in bringing about — the end of everything.The series featured several tie-in events:
The "Rogues Gallery", a group of The Flash's most dangerous enemies, sever their ties with Libra and the Secret Society following Martian Manhunter's murder, which causes Libra to demand revenge. The Rogues also seek out Inertia, the boy who manipulated the Rogues into killing his hated rival, Bart "Impulse/Kid Flash" Allen.
Final Crisis: Revelations:
Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya meet in their secret identities as The Spectre and The Question for the first time since Allen's death. As Spectre goes after the Secret Society, killing off those villains who were involved in the murder of Martian Manhunter, Libra seeks to use the Spear of Destiny to enslave Spectre and keep him from interfering with Darkseid's plans.
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond:
Superman travels across the multiverse and meets up with the various "Supermen of the Multiverse" (including an alternate Captain Marvel, an alternate Captain Atomwho bears a passing resemblance to Dr. Manhattan, a Nazi Superman, and the insane Ultraman) in order to obtain the vial of Applied Phlebotinum that will save Lois Lane's life after a Secret Society bomb mortally wounds her. This causes Superman to meet the Monitors — who are recast by Morrison as Vampire Gods who must fight Mandrakk, the "first Monitor" — in a Mind Screw of a tie-in that is probably the most required reading of the tie-ins, and was actually included in the Final Crisis trade paperback. To add to the screwiness, the issues were printed in 3-D.
The "Crisis of the 31st Century" occurs as the Time Trapper brings Superboy-Prime to the future to kill people and ruin Superman's name in the process — with the help of the combined might of just about every single Legion villain alive. This forces Superman to unite all three incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes, along with resurrecting both Bart Allen and Conner "Superboy" Kent, to stop both Superboy-Prime's murderous rampage and his benefactor, the Time Trapper. This miniseries has little to do with the main plot of Final Crisis, though Superman arrives in the final act of the main story just as he leaves the 31st century. Schedule Slip led to this book not getting an ending until midway through DC's nextCrisis Crossover.
Final Crisis: Requiem:
The first part of this one-shot expands Martian Manhunter's death scene to show that he put up more of a fight than previously indicated. The rest of the book focuses on the reaction from his friends as his death triggered a telepathic event in their heads that compelled them to write down the history of the now-extinct Martian race.
Final Crisis: Submit:
Essentially Final Crisis #3.5, this one-shot shows Black Lightning responding to a rescue call to save the new Tattooed Man and his family from Darkseid's forces. The climax features Black Lightning giving Tattooed Man the symbol that can protect someone from being infected by the Anti-Life Equation — right before Lightning gets turned into an Anti-Life Slave.
Final Crisis: Resist:
This tie-in covers the fall of humanity; Mr. Terrific and Snapper Carr form an alliance with the villainess Cheetah to try and stay alive while Checkmate, the black ops spy organization, is corrupted by Darkseid.
The two-part "Last Rites" storyline involves more Mind Screw storytelling as henchmen of Darkseid attempt to find a way to suck Batman's mind out of his body and into clones of himself that they have created using him as a template. This tie-in is largely known for two things: setting up a major plot point as far as Batman carrying around the bullet used to kill Orion in his utility belt right before his capture by Granny Goodness, and for establishing that "Batman R.I.P." takes place immediately before Final Crisis, with Batman (upon crashing into Gotham River) swimming to shore, going straight to the Batcave, and promptly being summoned to help the JLA find Orion's killer.
The Dark Side Club:
This is the name given to several Final Crisis tie-ins throughout The DCU — Birds of Prey #118, The Flash vol. 2 #240, Infinity, Inc. vol. 2 #11-12, The Teen Titans vol. 3 #59-60, and Terror Titans #1-6. Shortly before Final Crisis, Darkseid (in the mortal guise of Boss Dark Side) captures several adolescent superhumans and forces them to fight to the death for his amusement. Mostly notable for introducing Static to the DC Universe.
This series contains examples of:
All There in the Manual: Final Crisis: Sketchbook gave more information on several characters than was actually provided in the series itself. Most of it wasn't terribly important (e.g. backgrounds for members of Super Young Team) but some of it, like the true identities of the New Gods in disguise, was a little more significant (let's just say, if you didn't read Sketchbook, it could get a little confusing reading reviews that referred to the New Gods in disguise with the names of characters they had yet to be revealed to be.)
Anachronic Order: Trying to follow the timeline of the build-up and actual events of the story can get a bit confusing. The order is about this: Seven Soldiers (where we see the first seeds being planted), Infinite Crisis (the Crisis which reestablished the Multiverse), 52 (confirmation of the Multiverse, Religion of Crime), Morrison's Batman, tertiary Countdown/Death of New Gods info (including Salvation Run), DC Universe #0 (not really needed, but shows Darkseid's resurrection), Requiem, Rogues' Revenge, Final Crisis #1-3, Submit, Resist, Revelations, Superman Beyond (taking place within seconds in reality to save Lois), Legion of 3 Worlds (taking place after Superman returns and is then whisked into the future, however this time around, time continues to pass in both time periods), Final Crisis #4-5, Batman #682-683 (included in the collected Batman R.I.P.), finally concluding with Final Crisis #6-7.
Back from the Dead: Barry Allen returns as The Flash for the first time in 23 years. Superboy and a de-aged Bart Allen are revived in Legion of 3 Worlds.
Belated Backstory: Final Crisis: Secret Files gives the origin of Libra, as a former student of Ted Knight who used Cosmic technology (with a bit of help from the evil New Gods) to become the original version of Libra from the original Justice League of America comics. It also shows how he officially started work for Darkseid.
Big Damn Heroes: This series is FULL of examples, such as Batman sacrificing himself to mortally wound Darkseid's host, Superman shattering Darkseid's essence with a multiversal musical note, actually killing Darkseid for good or the Green Lantern Corps staking Mandrakk, a technical 'vampire'.
Bittersweet Ending: The universe is saved, Darkseid and Mandrakk have been defeated for good, the world has been freed from the Anti-Life Equation, the Monitors all cease to exist, and Nix Uotan gets to live out his life happily as a human. All thanks to Superman using the Miracle Machine to wish for a happy ending. And yet despite this, the Miracle Machine didn't revive Martian Manhunter and all the other heroes, villains, and civilians killed by the Anti-Life Equation or Darkseid's followers, leaving the ending with a twinge of bitterness, as Superman could've stopped Darkseid sooner if he returned from the future faster. Meanwhile Batman is trapped in the distant past and will have to find his own way back due to everyone else thinking he's dead.
Exception: Given the relative obscurity of Seven Soldiers, Morrison did acknowledge Darkseid's death at the end of Countdown and Death of the New Godswith the later issues of ''Final Crisis'': Orion "killed" Darkseid's body at the end of Countdown, but Darkseid's spirit was tossed backwards through time, destabilizing the multiverse and allowing him to possess a human host, Boss Dark Side. This allowed him to resurrect his loyalists, build up a power base on Earth, kill Orion (who could not sense his father still being alive since Darkseid was now possessing a human body) and stabilize the current timeline.
Canon Welding: Morrison saw this series as his definitive statement about all of the themes that he has dealt with in his works, and ties up plot points left over from his runs on Seven Soldiers and Batman.
Also, some of Jack Kirby's personal creations (The New Gods, Kamandi, Dan Turpin) are brought together in order to give them all a Grand Finale.
Much later, in Final Crisis #7, the entire army of Superman is made up of expies of Superman knock-offs from other companies.
Captain Ethnic: The Great Ten (a Chinese team that includes "Socialist Red Guardsman," "Shaolin Robot," "Mother of Champions" and more) and Super Young Team (a teenage Japanese team, all of whom are basically over-the-top superhero otaku cosplayers with Gratuitous English codenames - and are contrasted against "traditional" Japanese heroes like, say, Rising Sun and Sonny Sumo).
DC announced that Final Crisis was the third part of two "trilogies". Final Crisis is the final part of the Multiverse Trilogy (which, natch, is about the life, death, and resurrection of The Multiverse starting with Crisis on Infinite Earths) and the final part of the Hero Exploration Trilogy (which takes an intimate look on the heroes and villains of the DCU, starting with Identity Crisis). In both cases, Infinite Crisis is the second part.
Continuity Porn: Hoo boy. Grant Morrison intended this story to be the final chapter in two trilogies of Crisis events, as well as to continue plot threads left hanging by Seven Soldiers, 52, Batman RIP, and even his JLA run, which had concluded eight years prior to Final Crisis's publication. Not to mention the story's references to Cosmic Odyssey, a Jim Starlin story that was twenty years old at the time. So, naturally, Final Crisis pretty much made entirely of this trope.
Deus Est Machina: Superman uses one at the end to erase Darkseid's lingering presence and restore space/time. However, rather than being a god from a machine, the machine is the god, who can perform any one task.
Eldritch Abomination: Morrison's revamp of Darkseid and his minions reposition them as spirit-beings that can possess and destroy their hosts from within, though most of them (Glorious Godfrey and the scientists) were literally reborn as humans.
Mandrakk the Dark Monitor and the rest of the vampiric Monitors.
Enemy Mine: All over the place. Luthor and Sivana hate each other but come together to take out Libra, Luthor's villain army backs up Superman, Cheetah joins up with Checkmate, and Captain Marvel enlists the aid of Black Adam.
Even Evil Has Standards: When being told that Darkseid was the power behind Libra, the Rogues in Rogues' Revenge essentially tell Libra (who they have refused to work for) to go tell his master to get the hell off of their planet.
Same with Lex Luthor versus Libra. Luthor may be a miserable sociopath, but he loves life more than he does having to live in a evil-driven world run by Darkseid. The fact that Libra promised him first place in a rape train on Supergirl probably helped Luthor decide exactly what was what he wanted.
Dr. Sivana turns against Darkseid when he sees what the Anti-Life Equation does to his daughter.
Generic Doomsday Villain: Mandrakk the Dark Monitor pretty much just wants to kill everything because he wanted to feed on the Bleed and the Multiverse that existed within it. It didn't help that he was also a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, unless the reader had already read a particular tie-in.
Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: What Mandrakk will be to be to those who didn't read Superman Beyond, which thankfully is included in the hardcover.
In the pages of the Green Lantern books, the Alpha Lanterns were specifically created to ensure they would be absolute, incorruptible Lanterns, specifically to ensure the Blackest Night would never happen. They weren't expecting Granny Goodness to possess one of them.
Madness Mantra: Those taken by the Anti-Life Equation tend to start ranting out things like "Anti-Life justifies my hate!"
Metafiction: All over the place in Superman Beyond and anything having to do with the Monitors. Interestingly, Legion of 3 Worlds dabbles with this in the end as well. Superboy-Prime is whisked back to the restored Earth-Prime and sees the comics with him in them. The last couple pages of the final issue is Prime literally reading the very issue the actual reader is reading.
The final issue becomes makes much more sense once you realize that it's really a battle between Comics Should Be Fun and Grim 'n Gritty for control of the DC Universe. (Morrison, optimist that he is, had Comics Should Be Fun win. Reality had other ideas, sadly.)
Precision F-Strike: Nix Uotan delivers one to Mandrakk just after the Green Lanterns impale him at the same time (though he's holding Ultraman's corpse at the moment):
"No one *** with the judge of all evil."
Psychic Nosebleed: Up to Eleven with Checkmate employing a whole room of telepaths who attempt to purge the planet of Anti-Life. Every one of them is either bleeding out of cranial orifices or unconscious.
Putting the Band Back Together: Rogues Revenge has this on multiple levels. It brought Geoff Johns back to the Flash-corner of the DCU after having left back in 2005. It also brought back Scott Kolins, who had been Johns' main artist from 2001-2003.
Retirony: In Rogues' Revenge, Captain Cold and the other Flash villains intend to hang up the costumes once they've gotten revenge on Inertia for tricking them into killing Kid Flash. Once they succeed, however, Libra informs them that Barry Allen's back from the dead. They quickly realize they're not going to have any choice but to stay in the game.
Basically, he screws all the rules of time, space and money by employing a suit of armor powered by the energy of infinite money. Or something.
Shout-Out: In Final Crisis Aftermath: DANCE, the Super Young Team disbands halfway through the series and everyone goes their separate ways. True to his stated desire for "constant forward motion", Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash decided to take a walk and simply kept going, eventually amassing followers who walk behind him. You know, like Forrest's cross-country run in Forrest Gump.
Subcultures In Japan: Super Young Team's amalgamate cosplay of American superheros come from what Morrison saw of Japan's youth taking Western fashion trends and making them their own often in new, hybrid ways.
Time Skip: The series skips about a month (or more due to time distortion messing up the passage of time) forward in time at the end of the third issue, between the release of the Anti-Life Equation and the Flashes Wally West and Barry Allen's failed attempt to intercept the bullet that killed Orion. This was reflected with the Final Crisis mini-series skipping a month between #3 and #4, a move that was done mainly to give the book's artist a chance to catch up with deadlines. Which he couldn't do, leading to issues #4-6 being delayed and delayed again and again, forcing DC into the position to having to bring in fill-in artists to draw large portions of Final Crisis #5-6 and ultimately Final Crisis #7, due to the company refusing to delay 70-80% of their line of comics while the book was finished.
Interestingly, this was mostly done on just the planet Earth, the rest of the universe went on as normal with only a few days passing everywhere else while Earth was skipping time.
Your enemies fight and win again and again because they truly believe their actions are in accordance with a higher moral order. But what happens in a world where good has lost its perpetual struggle against evil?
The Night That Never Ends: Darkseid's fall from the Fourth World has enough metaphysical momentum to drag Earth itself towards the pitch-black hole at the bottom of creation.
The Virus: The Anti-Life Equation turned was promoted to this.
There was also a God-Disease released that shut down many superhero's powers, including Dr. Mid-Nite's, but wasn't elaborated on any more than Frankenstein being immune to it (due to him not actually being alive).
This appears to be one of the things Countdown was supposed to explain. That did not go well.
Writing for the Trade: Reading it in its original form was confusing at best, incomprehensible at worst. In the trade, where most of the important tie-ins were included, it becomes a tour-de-force, especially if you have the R.I.P. trade handy as well (as that has the Batman tie-ins by Morrison).
Reading Morrison's own Seven Soldiers is important, too. Whilst the various series got lost in the build-up to Infinite Crisis and was branded as 'on the eve of Infinite Crisis, this is what Character X was doing before that!', it actually proves to be very important in the setup for Final Crisis. It explains a variety of questions - Which DC Editorial then went and trampled over by having Countdown try to explain everything and try to line up the dots - Only to fail miserably.