Trade Post: Finals

VERTIGO RESURRECTED FINALS 100-PAGE SPECTACULAR (Vertigo)
Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Jill Thompson
Collects Finals #1-4
I first read Finals while at Wizard. Will Pfeifer had recently made a name for himself on high quality but under the radar books like HERO and Aquaman. Some of the guys there were pretty high on this four issue miniseries from 1999 that he wrote and suggested I check it out. I dug it then and liked it even more upon this second reading. I’m really glad that Vertigo collected the four issue mini so simply. I’d love to see more of these mini-trades/square bound reprints in the future, especially at $8 a pop.

Finals is about a group of college students at Knox University, a school that encourages every student to complete a very aggressive senior project in order to graduate. Gary allowed himself to devolve over the semester. Dave’s a criminal justice major who’s been committing robberies all over town. Nancy started a cult. Tim invented a time machine that actually works. And Wally, well, Wally needs to come up with something that fits into his “Extreme Cinema Verite” idea that he completely bullshitted his way through. All of this takes place in a hyper version of reality where lives are next to meaningless and knowledge equals strength, which makes Wally’s slacker bumbling and struggle for a project all the more interesting.

I’m very impressed with how Pfeifer put this story together. It doesn’t just zero in on Wally and his relationship with Nancy. They’re definitely the focus, but Wally’s roomies Gary, Dave and Tim all get not only their fair share of scenes, but more importantly solid arcs that pick them up at the beginning of the semester or school year and sees where they wind up by the end. It’s a lot to pack into a four issue comic and he handles it with ease. Pfeifer also captured the intensity and ridiculousness of college that rings true even with murder and time travel in the mix.

From an art standpoint, Jill Thompson does a fun job of it, but the interiors don’t really remind me of her usual style. It actually reminds me of a looser version of Sean Phillips on Sleeper. Her visual storytelling chops are spot on and her art keeps the sometimes serious or over the top moments from getting TOO serious (there’s a lot of death in the book). All in all it’s a great package.

Reading Finals again actually bummed me out a little bit because I miss Pfeifer as a writer and the Vertigo of years past. Like I said, I really like HERO and Aquaman and his Catwoman run had it’s moments but never really grabbed me. It is interesting that Wally here was a film buff and Pfeifer pitted Catwoman against Film Freak. Anyway, it seems like something happened around the time of Amazon’s Attack and either the writer felt burned out or lost favor. It’s too bad because I think he had a lot of talent and would like to see what else he has in him. Meanwhile, Vertigo seems to have lost a lot of it’s variety over the years. They’ve got magic-based books and violent books and what else? I’m honestly not sure anymore. I’d like to see them get back to a place where they give new writers like Pfeifer a chance to shine with concise stories. Seems like a lot of this kind of talent is heading over to Image or the smaller companies, but also that they’re looking for more long term books than things like Finals anymore. Maybe if this 100-Page Spectacular sells well enough it could lead to not only a return of Pfeifer but also a little more variety from Vertigo.

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