The mortgage on the cow: Douglas looks at some things from last week and earlier

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF 3 WORLDS #5: I get the feeling that this OKAY conclusion changed direction somewhere between its conception and its execution--there are a bunch of subplots set up in the earlier installments that either go nowhere at all or get resolved very quickly and for no particular reason (hey, Sun Boy feels good again! There we go). Various new statuses quo are hammered into place (the White Witch has turned into Morpheus or something, the one remaining Triplicate Girl has turned into Madrox or something), Blok gets to say "But at what cost?" twice (there's also a "But for how long?"), Kid Flash and Superboy strike some heroic poses, and you'd think given half a year of lead time Geoff Johns and George Pérez would've bothered to make their ending dovetail with Final Crisis proper. I sometimes wish Pérez would let his interiors breathe as much as his covers, but complaining that there's no blank space in a team-up of three gigantic teams would be missing the point. We do, however, get an absolutely spot-on coda--the punch line to the years Johns has spent setting up Superboy-Prime as the ultimate bitter, entitled fanboy who wants everything to be like it was in the comics he grew up with. Having already punched the universe, Prime does get to break whatever walls he wants, including the fourth one. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600: Dan Slott's lead story here actually reads a lot like some of Stan Lee's Marvel annuals from the '60s, for good and ill: it never stops moving, but a lot of that motion seems like wasted effort. There are a lot of Lee-like touches: gratuitous cameos by the Avengers and Fantastic Four and Daredevil, heaps of expository dialogue, Spider-Man running his mouth to add some text to sequences where John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson's artwork is already providing all the necessary information (that's also a credit to the sturdiness of Romita's storytelling), and a big wedding at the end. It doesn't have any particular resonance beyond "Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus have a big fight," but it's a perfectly GOOD piece of very light entertainment. As for the backups, Lee's own contribution is pretty negligible: at this point, honestly, he scores whatever points he's going to score just by showing up. The rest of the rotating Spider-Man writers toss in short pieces that are awfully filler-y. (Joe Kelly's portentously foreshadows the big "Gauntlet" storyline that's already been advertised; Mark Guggenheim's sort of duplicates and sort of contradicts a plot point in Slott's story.) But 100+ pages of new material for five dollars? I can get behind that.

WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES VOL. 26: The final volume of DC's Spirit reprints collects most of the Eisner-drawn (or at least Eisner-overseen) Spirit material from after the end of the Spirit section in 1952. It includes a handful of stuff I'd never seen, particularly a short, silly piece drawn for the New York Herald-Tribune and a set of splendid portfolio plates from the early '70s, as well as some pieces from the same era where Eisner is trying way too hard to be underground-y. There's a lot of ephemera, too, like the incomplete Spirit stories that were in process when the weekly Spirit section was cancelled, and some cute but negligible crossovers with The Escapist and Cerebus. Most of what's here, in fact, is Spirit art (covers, pin-ups, incidental pieces) rather than Spirit stories--although the 50-page "last Spirit story" that Denis Kitchen rejected for publication isn't included, which is fine. (Another omission: there's a page of a Spirit story Eisner drew for the never-released Someday Funnies anthology that appears as part of Bob Levin's fascinating article in The Comics Journal #299.) All the covers from Kitchen Sink's Spirit magazines are here (including some fantastic wraparound paintings), mostly reproduced from the magazines themselves (with fold marks and a few visible staples), but the Warren magazine covers Eisner drew are excluded; we get the three Eisner pages of the 30-page Spirit Jam, but not the rest. It's a GOOD collection, but not quite satisfying as either a reading experience or a comprehensive wrap-up.