Classic Comics Cavalcade: Keep Hope Burning In ‘The Final Night’

by Tony Thornley

Comic book crossovers are a dime a dozen the last few years, with the largest among them being rebranded as events. However, back in a time before events were a constant concern, we got a company-wide crossover that’s way outside the norm- DC Comics’ The Final Night.

In late spring/early summer 1996, Karl Kesel, Student Immonen, Jose Marzan Jr., Lee Loughridge, Patricia Mulvihill, and Gaspar launched an event that would change the DCU forever. Now, by today’s standards, that would just be a bunch of hyperbolic hype. However, events were much less common and more impactful, and this one would shape several major portions of the DCU for years afterwards. In other words, it did exactly what it was meant to do.

When a monstrous cosmic force- a Sun-Eater- heads for Earth, the Justice League, Legion of Super-Heroes, Titans and all of Earth’s heroes make a desperate attempt to save the world and prevent it from consuming Sol. However when all their efforts fail, the heroes of Earth (and Lex Luthor) are faced with dwindling hope, and an impossible choice. Do they continue to fight or do they spend what could be Earth’s last moments with their friends and family?

This story is fascinating, because it is about a cosmic event that could be the most bleak and hopeless superhero event story ever. But Kesel and Immonen, taking a break here from an extended and VERY good Adventures of Superman run, infuse the story with hope. This isn’t a story about the Justice League losing. This is the story about these very human heroes- particularly Superman, the Ray, Guy Gardner, and Brainiac 5- trying to find hope amidst the hopelessness. 

Even the tie-ins (for the most part) keep those themes. It makes for a great underrated gem of a story. How do superheroes solve a crisis when there’s nothing there to punch? (Although I’m amazed that no one took a swing at Luthor at any point.)

It helps that the story is absolutely gorgeous. Fans of Immonen’s most recent work on titles like New Avengers, All-New X-Men, and Amazing Spider-Man will probably be surprised by how different his style is here. However, it’s extremely detailed, and he has a great sense of scope. Marzan’s inks are soft and put a great emphasis on his pencils, and Loughridge and Mulvihill’s colors use color theory to emphasize the story being told.

This is such an underrated gem of a story. If you haven’t read it before, give it a try. It’s frankly a model for a superhero event that no one looks at. It provides a hopeful story despite a horrifying situation. It also led to years worth of consequences, particularly for Superman and Hal Jordan, which I can’t think of any event from the past decade that led to a decade worth of stories afterwards.

The Final Night is available in print and digital formats, including a 25th year anniversary edition printed earlier this year.

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