Retro Review: The Final Night by Kesel, Immonen & Marzan Jr. For DC Comics!

The Final Night #1-4 (November 1996)

Written by Karl Kesel

Pencilled by Stuart Immonen 

Inked by José Marzan Jr.

Colour by Lee Loughridge (#1), Patricia Mulvihill (#2-4)

Spoilers (from twenty-four years ago)

If you’ve been reading my Retro Reviews, you know that I’ve been systematically reading my way through my Legion of Super-Heroes collection, starting in the late 1970s, since last summer.  I’ve reached the 90s rebooted Legion, which is not a favourite Legion run of mine, but I haven’t gotten to the bad issues yet.

Anyway, in a fight with the Emerald Eye of Ekron, who had taken over their teammate Shrinking Violet, a small group of Legionnaires, alongside SP Officer Shvaughn Erin, and Work Force member Inferno, got tossed back in time to 20th century Metropolis, where they met a Superman who remembered different versions of them.

Anyway, immediately upon arriving there, they got swept up in The Final Night, a four-issue weekly event, and I decided that, since the Legion played a prominent role in that story, I should incorporate it into my rereading.

I don’t remember a lot about this event, other than enjoying Stuart Immonen’s artwork, Ferro showing up in the Legion, and I think, Hal Jordan hosting the Spectre?  Or was that somewhere else?  See – this hasn’t really stuck in my memory much, but I’m curious to see how it reads now.

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

The Heroes

  • Superman (#1-4)
  • Gates (Legion of Super-Heroes; #1)
  • Saturn Girl (Legion of Super-Heroes; #1-2, 4)
  • Cosmic Boy (Legion of Super-Heroes; #1, 4)
  • Spark (Legion of Super-Heroes; #1, 3)
  • Brainiac 5 (Legion of Super-Heroes; #1-4)
  • Ultra Boy (Legion of Super-Heroes; #1)
  • Inferno (Work Force; #1, 3)
  • The Ray (Justice League Task Force; #1-4)
  • Superboy (Kon-El; #1)
  • Gypsy (Justice League Task Force; #1)
  • Wonder Woman (Justice League; #1-2, 4)
  • Mister Miracle (New Gods; #1)
  • Big Barda (New Gods; #1-2)
  • Captain Atom (Justice League; #1)
  • Alpha Centurion (#1)
  • Warrior (Guy Gardner, Justice League; #1, 3-4)
  • Batman (Justice League; #1-2, 4)
  • Dr. Polaris (#1)
  • Takion (New Gods; #1)
  • Maxima (Justice League; #1)
  • Fire (Justice League; #1, 3)
  • Phantom Strange (#1, 3)
  • The Spectre (#1, 3)
  • Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner, Justice League; #1-2, 4)
  • Sentinel (Alan Scott; #1, 3)
  • Firestorm (Ron Raymond; #1, 3)
  • Lex Luthor (#1-4)
  • Oracle (Barbara Gordon; #2-3)
  • Guardian (Jim Hammond; #2)
  • Captain Marvel, Jr. (#2)
  • Black Canary (Dinah Lance; #2-3)
  • The Flash (Jay Garrick; #2)
  • Liberty Belle (Libby Lawrence; #2)
  • Wildcat (Ted Grant; #2-3)
  • Nightwing (Dick Grayson; #2, 4)
  • The Flash (Wally West; #2, 4)
  • Robin (Tim Drake; #2)
  • Ferro (Andrew Nolan; #2-4)
  • Zatanna (#3)
  • Jade (#3)
  • Obsidian (#3)
  • Captain Marvel (Billy Batson; #4)
  • Parallax (Hal Jordan; #4)

Villains

  • The Sun-Eater (#1-2, 4)
  • Vandal Savage (#2)
  • The Demon (#3)

Guest Stars

  • Dusk (#1-4)
  • Ted Knight (#2-3)
  • Gaea (#3)

Supporting Characters

  • Maggie Sawyer (Metropolis Special Crimes Unit; #1)
  • Ben Turpin (Metropolis Special Crimes Unit; #1)
  • Dr. Kate Faulkner (STAR Labs; #1-2, 4)
  • Jimmy Olsen (WGBS; #1-2)
  • Jonathan Kent (#3)
  • Martha Kent (#3)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Things start in Metropolis, where an alien spaceship comes crashing into a harbour.  Its lone occupant, a woman, emerges to find Superman, six members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Inferno, and the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit there to greet her.  She points to the sun and says something that the people from the 20th century can’t understand, but the Legion can, because they have universal translators in their flight rings, according to Saturn Girl (despite the fact that it’s long-established lore that they wear telepathic earplugs that allow them to receive translations).  They realize that the alien woman is talking about the Sun-Eater, a legend in their time that they assumed was false.  Superman notices that they can understand, and Saturn Girl offers to telepathically connect everyone.  Later, the woman, named Dusk, explains that she flies from system to system to warn of the Sun-Eater’s approach, hoping to give some people enough time to evacuate before their sun is drained of energy.  We see that she’s speaking to a massive assembly of heroes, including the Justice League in its various incarnations, Infinity Inc., some New Gods, the Marvel Family, the villain Dr. Polaris, the Legion, and some characters I don’t recognize (twin pink-skinned alien types?).  Superman and Dr. Faulkner continue to talk, and we learn that the Sun-Eater’s presence has been confirmed, and it looks like the entity will be there in six hours.  Wonder Woman wants to fight the thing off, and Big Barda suggests that Mister Miracle’s boom tube might be enough to teleport it away to the Source Wall.  Captain Atom volunteers to help Miracle, while Superman puts together another team of energy casters, to create a decoy.  He asks Alpha Centurion to use his spaceship.  In a bit of random-seeming foreshadowing, Wonder Woman suggests that the Spectre be brought in, while Superman suggests that Guy Gardner and Batman put together ground teams to help with the inevitable panic.  Jimmy Olsen reports from outside their meeting place.  Mister Miracle leads his team – Cosmic Boy, Takion, Captain Atom, Maxima, and Doctor Polaris (who has been placed there by Amanda Waller).  The Sun-Eater, which looks like a giant black cloud, begins to approach, and Mister Miracle starts forming his boom tube.  Superman and his team – Alpha Centurion, Sentinel, Fire, Firestorm, Inferno, Ultra Boy, Ray, and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) stand around on the Centurion’s ship.  The Phantom Stranger goes to recruit the Spectre, but he refuses, citing the fact that the Sun-Eater might be God’s will.  Miracle’s team ends up in a different place in space; the Sun-Eater was messing with the stability of the boom tube or something (apparently it’s not entirely in our dimension), so Takion moved everyone away.  Superman’s team decide to try drawing the Sun-Eater away from the sun, so they fire all of their energies at once, creating a smaller sun in the sky.  The Sun-Eater diverts towards it, and instantly absorbs all of its energy, leaving the heroes freezing cold.  Cosmic Boy worries that they’ve failed, and Dusk feels the same way.  We see Batman organizing his team, and as the Sun-Eater begins to eclipse the sky, Lex Luthor, on his honeymoon somewhere, orders his jet to take him back to Metropolis.
  • Issue two opens with a recap of issue one, as Jimmy Olsen broadcasts the news, and then takes us to Metropolis Airport, where Lex Luthor has returned (apparently he’s facing charges for something) to help in the effort to stop the Sun-Eater.  We can see that it’s snowing, as the sun has gone dark.  Superman arrives for the photo op, agreeing to work with Luthor.  Oracle, Barbara Gordon, is working to coordinate teams that are helping with issues around the world, and sends Wonder Woman to help fight a fire in Gateway City.  Wonder Woman responds with a team – Ray, Guardian, Big Barda, and Captain Marvel, Jr.  They help people, and a woman appeals to Ray for more help.  Vandal Savage has broken into the Louvre, where he plans to steal the Mona Lisa, which apparently he blackmailed Leonardo da Vinci into painting.  Batman arrives to stop him, but when Savage starts shooting at him, Batman needs Superman’s help.  We see that Superman is tiring, without being able to replenish the solar energy his body needs (although I can think of a few heroes who would be able to help with this).  Luthor arrives at STAR Labs, and discusses plans to send a probe into the Sun-Eater with Brainiac 5.  Three former members of the Justice Society – Flash, Liberty Belle, and Wildcat, go to see Ted Knight, the original Starman, to see if he’s interested in helping them, but Ted is using his telescope to keep an eye on things.  Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, outfitted with a probe he made with his ring based on designs by Brainy and Luthor, flies towards the Sun-Eater, passing through it towards the sun, so they can gather more information.  Kyle reaches the sun, but Brainy feels that the information is not very positive.  Brainy tells him to stop using the probe, which makes Luthor furious.  He wants Saturn Girl to communicate with him telepathically, but she can’t find any trace of him anymore (which, given the distance between them, makes sense, as she’s not usually that powerful).  Dusk and Black Canary are on Dusk’s ship, talking about the futility of Dusk’s past attempts to rescue civilizations from the Sun-Eater.  When they go to leave, they find that a mob has gathered, and they blame Dusk.  They want to destroy her ship, and things turn into a brawl.  One guy pulls a gun on Dinah, but he’s stopped by The Flash (Wally West), who arrives with Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake).  There is more fighting, and the mob carries Dusk away; we see her being watched by a helmeted figure in the shadows.  Ray has brought the woman from the fire to her home village, and this act of kindness inspires him to make sure that no one dies.  He tries to use his powers to replace the sun in the sky, but he drains himself quickly and falls.  At the same time, the mob continues to harass Dusk, who calls humans a spiteful race, undeserving of hope.  Just then, the helmeted figure steps in to help her; he calls himself Ferro.
  • Warrior and Ferro bring an injured Wildcat into Warrior’s, Warrior’s bar which is now serving as a headquarters for the heroes.  We learn that Ted was hurt when an overpass collapsed on him, because the snow keeps accumulating.  The power goes out, and when Spark suggests she can fix it, Guy has a bit of a tantrum, blowing a hole in the wall.  Spark grabs a wire and starts pumping her lightning into it, providing the place with lights again.  Ayla talks to Ferro, and gives him her flight ring, since she won’t be needing it for as long as she stands in one place holding the wires.  This brings up two questions – why does she not think she’ll need the communications aspect of the ring, and how do you take a ring off with only one hand?  Etrigan, the Demon, broadcasts across all televisions on the planet, offering to fix the Sun-Eater problem, so long as every person on Earth gives up their soul.  We see the Pope watching this on a small portable TV.  Lex Luthor addresses a press conference, explaining how his company is developing biodomes and geothermal heat; he explains that the Earth’s core is cooling slower than expected.  We see that, at the centre of the Earth, Gaea is being helped by the Spectre.  Ted Knight notices something through his telescope, and calls STAR Labs to confirm.  Brainiac 5 addresses some heroes and Luthor, explaining that the sun is shrinking, and will, at some point, implode, before going hyper-nova and wiping out the entire solar system (and thereby propel the Sun-Eater to its next meal).  Brainy figures there are less than 24 hours remaining.  Luthor points out to Superman that his powers are almost completely gone, and leaves with heroes with a specific power type.  Superman calls Oracle to have her share the new information with the heroes in the field.  Dusk is preparing her vessel to leave when she is visited by the Phantom Stranger.  He wants her to get a better understanding of humanity, and pulls a Christmas Carol act on her, taking her to see Oracle in her watchtower.  Barbara calls her dad to say she loves him, and then starts to contact the different heroes in the field.  In South America, Ray continues to be unwell.  Suddenly Zatanna and Fire appear.  Zatanna treats everything like she’s on stage, and gets Fire to kiss Ray to transfer energy to him.  The woman who got Ray to come to her village in the first place next asks Zatanna and Fire to help them.  Zatanna teleports Firestorm away from Metropolis, and gets him to set up little suns all over the place, to keep this one village warm.  Firestorm gets drained.  Sentinel (Alan Scott, during a strange period) continues to rescue people in Kyoto when he’s joined by Jade and Obsidian, his children.  The Phantom Stranger and Dusk watch them depart together, and then he shows her visions of other heroes doing various things to help people (although Batman and Robin are fighting Mr. Freeze) in a montage scene.  The Stranger drops Dusk off somewhere, and she’s afraid to be found by a bunch of people walking around with torches again.  This time, the rush to offer her help, and to take her to Guy’s bar.  Superman, driving Guardian’s flying car, pops up in Smallville to visit his parents; Martha figures out that things are very bad.  Spark sits at the bar at Warrior’s, clearly drained.  Guy tries to get her drunk, but she refuses.  He wanders his place, looking at the various trophies while complaining that his Vuldarian physiology won’t let him get drunk.  He is surprised by a diffuse green light that shows up in the room.
  • Green Lantern Kyle Rayner flies across many countries, thinking about how he couldn’t get Hal Jordan to help him (in the Parallax: Emerald Night one-off – this is the era where Jordan was evil, remember).  He arrives at the Lexcorp building, or maybe STAR Labs, and finds that people are preparing supplies to help manage the disaster.  Wonder Woman realizes that he doesn’t know what’s happening.  In case any readers also don’t know what’s been happening, Brainiac 5 and Lex Luthor have another meeting for some gathered heroes.  Brainy figures there’s less than two hours remaining before the sun goes nova.  Luthor has had the Flash make a half million force field devices based on Brainy’s, and the plan is to spread them around the sun, so that when it does go nova, they will contain the blast, and be powered by the blast at the same time.  The plan is to use Dusk’s spaceship to deliver the devices, now that she’s seen the redemptive quality of humanity (and I guess because it’s fast enough to fly to the sun in less than two hours).  Luthor thinks Kyle should be the pilot, given his powers, but as they talk, Kyle disappears.  Batman suggests that Luthor fly the ship, given that he won’t survive, which Luthor doesn’t appreciate.  Superman steps up and says he’ll do it, figuring the nova will “jumpstart” his abilities again.  He excuses himself to write a letter to Lois, while Ferro and Cosmic Boy marvel at how great he is.  A little later, the ship launches, and Luthor’s thankful that Superman didn’t insist on saying goodbye.  Saturn Girl reaches out to the ship, since the com-link is turned off, and discovers, just as Superman comes into the room, that Ferro has taken the vessel (because apparently kids who grew up basically as a lab rat can of course fly alien spaceships).  As the heroes try to figure out what to do, Kyle returns, with Hal Jordan.  Superman is friendly to Hal, but Batman isn’t.  Hal offers to go, and to rekindle the sun with his power, and fix any other problems that result in the flooding that is sure to follow.  Batman reminds him that he isn’t god, but Hal promises to stop short of making any other changes.  Superman accepts this offer, and Hal disappears again.  Brainy tells them that Dusk’s ship is in orbit around the sun, and it starts to release the devices.  Brainy figures out that the sun is going to blow ahead of schedule, so he tells Ferro to come back.  We see the sun go nova, and a solar wave hits Dusk’s ship.  Ferro tries to apologize for letting everyone down, and then finds himself sitting in Hal’s giant hand.  Hal explains that he’s stopped time, and sends Ferro home.  Next, he recites his oath, and fixes everything.  Ferro finds himself back home, and Luthor sees that the sun’s energy returns to normal.  The snow around Nightwing melts, while The Ray recognizes that the whole world is being fixed.  Outside Warrior’s, Guy cheers.  Kyle talks to Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Saturn Girl, who confirms that Hal is gone now.  Batman and Superman also talk, and Batman does not want Hal made into a martyr, and swings off as we get a lovely view of Metropolis in the dawn light.

First off, I swear I remember this series as ending with Hal Jordan becoming the Spectre, but apparently he spent a few years being dead first.  It’s weird how that was combined in my head.

Anyway, I haven’t done a whole lot of these retro review columns focusing on event books.  This was a strange one.  It was four weekly issues, and while it started off as being very much focused on Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, by the end, this was all about the redemption of Hal Jordan, even though he wasn’t mentioned prior to the last issue.  

I think that Kesel did a good enough job of trying to find something for many heroes to do in the early issues, but strangely, most of the time characters shown on the covers were not really in the books, and much of the individual work was (presumably) left to happen in the tie-in books, which weren’t even advertised in any of these issues.  

I like the way Kesel took the old Sun-Eater story, which originally happened in the 30th century, and culminated in the death of Ferro Lad, and tries to modernize it, having it happen in the 1990s, but at a point where some of the Legion were around.  Ferro (no longer Ferro Lad) was introduced in a tie-in issue, but ended up taking up way too much screen time in the last two issues, and during the Legion tie-in issue.  Ultimately, I don’t think Ferro added anything to this story, aside from a sense of nostalgia in readers much older than I am.  

The Sun-Eater doesn’t make that much sense.  By the 1990s, the DC Universe is pretty well-populated, and the people of Earth have met beings from all over, yet this Sun-Eater thing enters the solar system with almost no warning?  There are no legends that precede it, only Dusk, who somehow always knows where it’s going next, despite the fact that it is propelled by the previous sun going supernova, which I would assume would make its path hard to predict.  

We learn that the Sun-Eater exists in more than one dimension, and that’s just accepted as fact and left alone.  Likewise, when Luthor and Brainy make their plan to use force shields to contain the sun going nova, they never think about what they’ll do afterwards.  Like, great, you won’t get blown away, but you would still not have a sun.

I will give a lot of credit to Stuart Immonen, who pulls off the large cast of this book beautifully.  His art has grown a lot by this point, and looks very polished.  I think he’s the only artist I’ve seen make Superman look good with long hair!  

I do wish there had been space to include more personal stories in this series (aside from the very forceful woman who insists on wearing out both Ray and Firestorm).  Dusk is never as interesting as Harbinger was in Crisis, and by the end of all this, I kind of hate Ferro.

I suppose it’s good that Hal Jordan redeemed himself a little.  I was never a big Green Lantern reader, and always placed Hal near the bottom of my favourite GL list, but I do remember finding his sudden transformation into being Parallax felt forced and kind of stupid, and used as a way to bring Kyle Rayner in.  I guess this served as 90s fan service, as it closed off Hal’s story (until he became the Spectre, and then later came back to life in the Johns era).

I don’t really have much more to say on this.  It was not very memorable, and were it not for my interest in the Legion right now, I never would have circled back to it.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you’d like to read this event for yourself, go here:

Final Night

 

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