The Final Night (1996)
Written by Karl Kesel
Art by Stuart Immonen
An alien woman named Dusk arrives on Earth with a warning: The Sun-Eater is coming. The Sun-Eater is a biological weapon that has gone rogue, consuming the core of a solar system and destroying the orbiting planets as a result. It has arrived in our system, and it will take the combined efforts of the DC superheroes plus Lex Luthor to do something about it. Helping out is a group of time-displaced Legionnaires who can recall bits and pieces of historical data about the Sun-Eater. The planet begins to freeze over as the heroes’ efforts appear to be for naught, with some of them believing these are their last days together. However, help comes in the form of a very unexpected figure and will begin a journey to redemption.
Of all the DC Comics events I’ve read this summer I was most surprised that The Final Night is my favorite. I didn’t expect this one to impress me so much but its straightforward focus kept me engaged. There is no multi-dimensional reality warping despot behind the scenes. This is a man versus nature story where the characters are highlighted because we don’t have to have elaborate plans explained to us. This is not an attempt to reboot any piece of continuity or revive a character from the dead. Instead, around the halfway mark we have Hal Jordan/Parallax is brought into the story and ends up becoming the central figure.
In the wake of Jordan’s turn from heroic Green Lantern into a cosmic villain, there were a lot of fans who soured at the concept. At the time it didn’t bother me too much, but in re-reading Zero Hour for this series, I found his characterization felt off. There was nothing of Jordan in how Parallax was written, and he felt like any generic uber-powered villain of the month. From his first appearance in The Final Night, it is a much more muted portrayal; he is living in exile feeling guilt over what he did to all of reality. Since Zero Hour, Green Arrow had died, and so this did a lot to bring Jordan back down to earth. By the end of The Final Night, Jordan has permanently redeemed himself and salvaged most of his tarnished legacy.
While The Final Night is a very enjoyable crossover, it does suffer in the early half from a bit of tie-in strain. The character Ferro had been introduced in the pages of Superman’s titles, and this iteration was a reboot of a figure that had served in the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1960s. In that Silver Age version, Ferro had been a citizen of 31st Century Earth and ended up sacrificing himself to kill the Sun-Eater in the original tale. In the post-Zero Hour DC Universe, the Legion was the one title to get the most drastic reboot and so The Final Night was partially used to reintroduce Ferro as a fakeout for old fans who thought they knew how the series would be resolved. It is a relatively clunky part of the story, but it doesn’t detract badly.
The decision to have Lex Luthor working alongside the heroes was a pretty significant move and makes sense within the fiction. Luthor is an influential businessman and sees no profit in allowing the planet to be destroyed. It also gives him the chance to flex his brainpower and show off to the public. Working beside Luthor is the Legionnaire Brainiac 5, the descendant of the Superman villain Brainiac. They play off of each other, but I would have liked to have had more of that conflict. Because this is a line-wide event and the expectation is that its pages be flooded with characters we only get small moments with each one. It’s not until Hal Jordan shows up that we suddenly have a genuine focus to the events.
The Final Night stands out from the majority of DC’s crossovers as having the best combination of character writing and art. As the Earth freezes over, Stuart Immonen’s shadowy pencils get the sense of gray bleakness across. If you’ve passed this one over, I would recommend revisiting it. The Final Night has a strong heart at its core and delivers an emotional finale.