Dec 15, 2009

[Comics] Finals

FinalsIn the comic book world, the easiest way to may the high school / college setting interesting is to introduce people who aren't quite ordinary. This normally means super powers or aliens or something along those lines and we've seen many stories of that nature time and time again. I'm not complaining or anything - just trying to make an observation here.

It's not exactly easy to get out of this mold - college is college and young adults don't have much to bring to the table other than drama, angst and perhaps varsity sports when it comes to stories. Thus it becomes absolutely necessary to introduce supernatural elements in order to give things a little twist.

So I have to give credit to Vertigo comics for what they tried to accomplish with this particular comic book mini-series. It's still set in the school world, but this time they wanted to avoid the whole super powers angle and just embrace the extremes of human potential. The results were rather...interesting, to say the least.

Finals is a Vertigo comic book mini-series written by Will Pfeifer back in 1999-2000. The series is set at Knox State University (KAOS U) whose primary motto is "Strength Through Study" in a most extreme way. Here, there are very little limits to the educational process and students are encourage to take things to the extreme limits of potential, something inspired by the actions of a former student who first blew up the school with a nuclear bomb he created as a lab project. The course majors sound the same as normal but their actual lessons and projects are highly different.

The story follows a group of seniors who are trying to accomplish their senior projects - the culminating activity of their educational stay at the university. Wally is a film major trying to pull off what he calls "extreme cinema verite" while his comparative religions major girlfriend Nancy has started a cult worshiping herself. Their roommate Dave is a criminal justice major who has been robbing convenience stores as part of his project. Other house mates include Tim, who is a theoretical engineering major, is trying to create a time machine and Gary, an anthropology major, is trying to revert back to a more primal state in sort of de-evolution bid. Thus we have these five different projects to follow and we're led along to see how they all attempt to get through their education, or die trying.

In the span of four issues, so much happens and at times it's a tad tricky to keep up. However if you devote enough time to reading this comic, you'll be rewarded with quite the alternative reading experience. The school administrators seem almost insane given how much leeway they give their students and quite frankly, every student faces the very real prospect of death in their attempts to complete their final projects. However for some reason society has embraced this brand of extreme education in order to reap the potential benefits of some new discovery or advancement to the world's knowledge. Whether it's technology or some new form of social thinking, these kids just might be on to something in some of their investigations.

Plus the interweaving of plots between these five friends is pretty well thought out and all the diverse elements come together in the end in one masterful coup de grâce. I love it when diverse plot threads come together in the end in a way that interconnects so many different characters and still manages to make sense - something that not many writers manage to execute, especially in the comic book world.

I doubt this comic could ever become a TV series or movie given the content, but it's a somewhat interesting notion to ponder on.

Finals gets 4 Sisterhood of Light cultists out of a possible 5.

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