If there’s one thing people love, it’s ‘end of days’ scenarios. Everyone dies, the legend ends, the final story is told. But then everything gets fixed and that story is voided. Or it gets relegated to a future time, one we’ll never see.
Marvel would like you to think that Daredevil: End of Days is the final Daredevil story. Matt Murdock is brutally murdered by Bullseye and we’re supposed to sit through the next seven issues and witness the fallout. It’s really hard to think of this story as little more than an ‘alternate’ story. Alternate universe, alternate ending, alternate events. In the end it doesn’t matter because none of it is the real story. You can’t have the last Daredevil story while they’re still publishing ongoing Daredevil stories. If it was the end it should be the end.
Comics like these are very popular. We see the end of the hero, but why do we love this? Do we just love the carnage of seeing our heroes utterly destroyed? To see Captain America get shot, or Superman beaten to death. I for one was sickened by the brutal, unceremonious death of Daredevil. It was disgusting. Death isn’t sexy, but in fiction it can be dignified. Captain America was a martyr, Superman sacrificed everything to save the world. Daredevil is beaten down and has his cane jammed through his skull. That’s the end. After years of Matt Murdock dealing with loss and overcoming loss this is how it all ends. No nobility, no open casket.
Grant Morrison attempted to write the definitive story of Superman in All-Star Superman. It was the life and death of Superman. The final story. While it was developed as the end of Superman’s story, it can never really be the end. Superman’s stories go on somewhere else. That Superman might be dead, but another just as real Superman still exists and is still starring in his own adventures. All-Star Superman can’t be THE ending.
This is the idea behind Morrison’s Final Crisis. Taking an end of the world event story and making it the final story of the DC Universe. A villain who is determined to end all the stories ever told because it’s not enough to end all life, or destroy all of time. Stories still exist. The dead live on in the stories we pass down from generation to generation. To erase stories is to truly destroy. Even if DC Comics were to end we still have the memories of past stories and the books those adventures take place in. Morrison explores ideas like a book that holds every story ever told and the existence of Limbo, where old forgotten characters still exist. Ideas will only live on.
Rarely are stories ever sent to their natural, definitive ending. When Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty fall to their apparent deaths in “The Final Problem” it was the end of Sherlock Holmes. It wasn’t. He returned and his stories continued. When Arthur Conan Doyle died there would be no more Sherlock Holmes. Yet stories still continue. People write new books, make movies and tv shows and the characters live on. Even if Grant Morrison wrote the true end of the universe, the ideas would live on someway.
At the end of Final Crisis, Superman puts everything back to the way it was by using the Miracle Machine, an invention that can grant wishes. Superman wishes for a happy ending. That’s all there can be. Superman’s story can never end in tragedy because the character is the exact opposite. He escaped the worst kind of tragedy to rise up and it can never fall. He may die, but his legacy will always live on the way it was meant to. Fiction has more meaning than real life. People have a purpose and things happen for a reason. Everyone from the writer to the reader to the characters understand this. The brutal end of the hero rings false because even when he loses the hero can never be defeated.
In the final pages of Infinite Crisis, the Superman from Earth 2, the original Golden Age version of the character, the one that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created, is killed. With his dying breath he states “It’s not going to end. It’s never going to end for us,” and it never will, because we live on, even after the end.