After listening to the audio version, I re-read Final Crisis, Rogues Revenge & Superman Beyond, plus read some of the tie-ins for the first time.
– Superman Beyond is essential.
– Submit (Black Lightning/Tattooed Man) adds a lot by showing the personal impact of the event, plus fills in plot.
– Resist (Checkmate) broadens the scope but can be skipped. (I do like using the captive villain AIs as a way to get around the ALE’s control of communication channels)
Rogues Revenge was in the works before Final Crisis, and it shows. It still works as Rogues: Rebirth, but now I think the FC connections hurt more than they help.
Revelations is a much tighter story that weaves in and out of issues 2 & 3 (if not seamlessly), picking up the Crime Bible & Vandal Savage and showing the early stages of Darkseid’s takeover. I didn’t read it originally, but I’m glad I finally got around to it.
I didn’t re-read Requiem. I still haven’t picked up Rage of the Red Lanterns. (I’d forgotten the Alpha Lanterns were involved in Final Crisis.)
I also didn’t re-read Legion of Three Worlds, which IIRC has nothing to do with Final Crisis except Superman passes through it between Superman: Beyond and his return to Final Crisis when Braniac 5 shows him the Miracle Machine. (3 versions of the LSH, none of which were the one that I actually followed).
I do want to re-read Multiversity now, though.
Things did get disjointed at the end, with Mandrakk appearing out of nowhere unless you read Superman Beyond, and the two parallel narratives in the last issue, but up to that point it was remarkably straight-forward.
People were already saying they were lost with the first issue, though, and my theory is this: They were lost because they were expecting to need to know more than they actually needed to know. In a lot of cases, knowing the background of an obscure character might enhance your appreciation of a scene, but isn’t actually required to understand it, but readers who are used to recognizing everyone might have been put off by the gaps in their knowledge.
I had a theory at the time that the more knowledge of the DCU you have, the more lost you would get with Final Crisis — and a casual fan would probably have an easier time following it!
See, this is why I don’t understand when people claim the premise of Final Crisis is hard to describe. You summed it up in three words.
It’s been stated that Flashpoint wasn’t originally going to be a reboot, and it’s been stated that Dan Didio has wanted to do a reboot as far back as Infinite Crisis. (I think that plan ended up morphing into “One Year Later” and 52.)
I have no idea whether Final Crisis was at some point planned to be a reboot or not, though.
Final Crisis,for all the flack it gets for being impenetrable, is really self-contained. Basically, get the trade or hardcover of Final Crisis, and you’re set. Revelations is a related story that takes place during FC, while Legion of Three Worlds and Rogues’ Revenge are mostly-unrelated stories that take place during FC.