With self-styled epic Final Crisis threatening to put big name characters like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman through hell this summer while spending more time on obscure characters like Libra and the Human Flame or bringing fallen heroes back from the dead, you might worry that you'll need a crash course in DC Comics history to tell your Barry Allens from your Wally Wests. Luckily, Douglas Wolk plans to make your heroic dystopias much more comfortable with his Final Crisis Annotations.

This won't be the first time that Wolk - whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Salon.com, as well as writing last year's Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean - has gone out of his way to explain the deeper meanings of a particular comic; in 2006, his 52 Pickup blog made sense of all of the throwaway references and unexpected reappearances from DC's first weekly mini-series, 52. So what made him return to this particular fan service industry - a Grant Morrison fanboy obsession, a celebration of the metatextual school of comic crossover events, or simply having too much free time on his hands? Douglas explained that it was all of the above, and more:

I really enjoyed doing 52 Pickup—especially the community that formed around it—and I missed having the opportunity to use my Ph.D. in DC continuity. I also like helping people enjoy the details of Grant Morrison's more deeply layered comics as much as I do. As for the free time issue... I'll just say that after you read enough back issues of Adventure Comics, you realize that while most people believe there are only 24 hours in a day, that's what the bad guys want you to think.


Wait, Adventure Comics...? That's where the Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared... and they're in the Final Crisis spin-off Legion of Three Worlds... Is that a clue as to what to expect in Final Crisis?

Even before the series officially starts next week, Douglas already has a few posts up, taking apart DC Universe Zero and the preview Final Crisis Sketchbook with wit and insight, as in this reference to Legion badguy Tyr having his weapon arm ripped off by Superman:

Panel 5: It wouldn't be a Geoff Johns comic without dismemberment, but at least this character's meant to be one-handed—and "hands" are going to be a running theme in this comic, so take note.


Go and check out the site; you'll be amazed at how much is packed into 22 pages each issue, as well as what you'd entirely missed when you read it.

Final Crisis Annotations.