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Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Cover date: March 2009
"New Heaven, New Earth"
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Christian Alamy, Norm Rapmund, Rodney Ramos, Dough Mahnke, & Walden Wong
Cover Art: JG Jones/Marco Rudy & Alex Sinclair
Reviewed by: Barry Freiman
He meets up with Wonder Woman, whose real name on this Earth is Nubia. Both Superman and Wonder Woman happen to be African-American in appearance.
Wonder Woman uses the Wonder Horn, a weapon to be used only when all is lost. The Ultima Thume emerges into their Earth. They are solicited by the Question, Captain Marvel of Earth-5, and an infinite gallery of Super-type-men.
Floating in cosmic space is the last JLA watchtower made up of pieces of the others including what appears to be Superman's Fortress. Lois Lane picks up the narration. A shard of a parallel universe collided with the watchtower earlier and it brought the Metal Men of Earth-44. They had a reaction that caused them to destroy invaluable JLA mementoes. Meanwhile, Lois printed the last Daily Planet with the headline "Earth Endures". Lois, Jimmy, Kara, and Captain Marvel place the newspaper and the story of Batman's death and the other sacrifices made into a rocket ship, which they blast into the unknown.
In Bludhaven, Superman, still holding the Batman's charred corpse, faces Darkseid who goads the Man of Steel. Superman realizes Darkseid took over the physical form of Dan Turpin. Darkseid gloats that Superman can't kill an enemy made of people.
Darkseid fires a radion bullet at Superman. Suddenly, Wally West and Barry Allen storm through a temporal vortex with the Black Racer in pursuit. They vibrate through Darkseid. The Black Racer comes face-to-face with Darkseid.
Superman and Supergirl work on a plan to create the life equation to counter those still under the thrall of anti-life. They also plan to shrink everything on New Earth and move it to Earth-51.
Checkmate falls. The Atoms are preparing the Black Gambit to escape New Earth.
In space, Green Arrow and Black Canary float seemingly unprotected from the rigors of space. Presumably their bodies are wrapped in some kind of space condom since Canary is able to speak.
The tunnel to Earth-51 is collapsing as the heroes rush through.
Sometime in the future, Kara's telling the story to a group of kids.
The Japanese heroes, Mr. Terrific, and the Hawks are trying to stop Lord Eye from closing the escape tunnel. Everything begins to disintegrate, then a big boom, and then nothing.
On Earth-51, the Question is telling the story - Earth-Zero fell into the abyss just as Motherboxxx opened a boom tube to a nearby universe. Amongst the Supermen, the Question tells Overman that his cousin died.
Superman stands over a virtually defeated Darkseid when he's surrounded by Darkseid's new furies including Diana. Suddenly Lex and Sivana and an army of super-villains surround them. Lex is controlling the villains now. Sometime in the future, Supergirl is continuing to tell the story. Wonder Woman tells the kids it's almost time for bed but first she tells them about how she met Frankenstein. He attacked her in Bludhaven. The villains were all inoculated against the Morticoccus virus and Frankenstein, being dead, couldn't be affected by it.
Lex and Superman agree to team up. Some time later, Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman are working on shrinking and freezing the last of New Earth's survivors for transport. Supergirl asks what happened to Luthor and gets no answer.
Back during the Bludhaven battle, Frankenstein, Power Girl, Starfire, Star Girl, and Steel III attack. Wonder Woman looks at the mask she wore as a Fury and smashes it in her hands. Wonder Woman uses her lasso to bind Darkseid's body.
Superman prepares the Miracle Machine. Darkseid, unable to move and in the final stages of radion poisoning, goads Superman. Superman tells Darkseid the Multiverse vibrates together, making a kind of orchestral music. He says everything is vibrations and counter-vibrations to cancel them out. Superman sings the song of the Multiverse.
Superman finds Element X when he hears its faint heartbeat coming from Metron's chair. Superman, talking to himself and his recorder, says he needs to give his vocal chords a moment to heal to prepare for 'cosmic Midnight'.
Suddenly, Superman is faced by Mandrakk and the now vampire Ultraman. They've defeated Supergirl, the Monitors lie drained. Mandrakk tries to disillusion Superman and fails. Superman tells him he's a solar battery and can use his energy to power the Miracle Machine.
Meanwhile, the Green Lanterns struggle to reach Earth.
Superman is joined by Captain Marvel and an infinite army of Supermen. Ultraman is about to attack when Nix - now re-Monitored - joins the scene. He brings Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew of Earth-35 to join the army. Mandrakk faces Nix, recognizing him as his son. Nix says "Taaru" and brings the Forever People of the Fifth World into the fight. The GLs arrive, having somehow gotten through the barrier separating them from Earth. They put a green energy spike through the vampire Ultraman's heart.
Later, Lois has the narration again as she recalls how Earth endured Ragnarok and survived.
Nix and the Monitors stand over the Orrery of Worlds. They discuss procedural matters such as replacing the Monitors for Earths-43 and -31. The Monitors explain that the 'germ creatures themselves' reestablished the Multiverse's symmetry. Nix tells the Monitors the reason there's a black hole at the base of creation is because that's where Darkseid fell through existence to his doom. There, in Darkseid's absence, Apokolips is reborn as New Genesis.
Nix is invited to rejoin the Monitors and Nix tells them he has other plans and that the honor is meaningless. He decides the Multiverse deserves to exist without their interference and the Monitors simply cease to exist. Nix and Weeja Dell spend their last moments together. Weeja asks what Superman wished for. Nix replies that he wished for a happy ending. Nix wakes up again on Earth in human form.
In an epilogue, Anthro lives to be an old man with the circuit tattoo on his face. He sits around the fire. The rocket sent into the void earlier lies in the distance. Anthro memorializes his stories on the cave walls, then dies.
He is approached by a shadowy stranger who takes Batman's utility belt and places it on Anthro's dead body. The stranger turns to the cave walls and draws a bat emblem while the shadow of the Batman looms over.
Story - 2: Maybe I'm just not that smart. I thought I was. I did well on the SATs, attended a top tier undergraduate university, and, later, even graduated summa cum laude from graduate school. So why am I not seeing the so-called brilliance others are seeing in Morrison's writing?
He fills the issue with over-dramatic dialogue that's intended to showcase the immensity of the crisis. Instead it all comes off like a bunch of trash-talk. Morrison's heroes are drama queens who make broad generalizations that we, the reader, are asked to take at face value. When Nubia says the Wonder Horn is a gift to be used only once when all else has failed, and the Ultimate Thume suddenly appears, all I could think was 'what a waste of a musical instrument.' Nubia may think she brought gods to Earth, but the Ultima Thume was already on a multiversal road trip.
Also, when Monitor Nix says that "A team of solar-powered heroes so incredible it can be assembled only once, against the absolute enemy." What is it about solar-powered heroes that they can only be assembled together once - particularly now that the whole group knows about the Multiverse. Beside, the whole point of Grant's crisis thesis has been 'anything can happen in comics because anything can happen'. He then tries to prove that thesis again by having Nix bring Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew into the heroic super-force. After shoveling his message down my throat for seven issues, and then punctuating the moment with Captain Carrot, I don't believe that anything that happens in a comic can't one day happen again. It's the whole point of what you're writing, Grant, so don't feed us lines like this. You and I both know it's all just grand hyperbole.
I have a huge problem with the Superman who opens this issue. I don't care if Superman is black, white, red, blue, or purple. But no Superman on any of the infinite Earths would take the job of President of the United States. Superman isn't about that kind of power. Talk about absolute power corrupting absolutely. No physical or political force on Earth could ever stop him. Superman simply wouldn't put his humble self into that position. He's a friend and helper like a volunteer fire department but he has always distanced himself from directly getting involved in political matters among the world's nations. That is an essential aspect of Superman's character, no matter the Earth.
Imagine the reality of this nonsense. The President simply doesn't have the freedom to be able to slip away to do what Superman does - didn't Grant see the movie "The American President"? The President in that movie couldn't even buy flowers. President Superman would not have the freedom to be Superman. There's no such thing as time truly alone in the Oval Office particularly in the middle of a cosmic crisis. And with video cameras poised toward the White House 24/7, it wouldn't take much for Joe Tourist to record the President flying out of the Oval Office.
One of Morrison's stated purposes in writing Final Crisis was to amp up the threat level of the New Gods. He failed in that mission. The New Gods are more vulnerable than ever. Kalibak was killed by Tawky Tawny! Radion or not, the greatest evil in the universe was stopped by a gun. And the whole point of Mandrakk was to say the picture of evil was even bigger than Darkseid knew. I'm left feeling the same ambivalence about the gods of the Fifth World that I felt for the gods of the Fourth World.
It's clear to me Morrison lost control over the story at some point between issues one and seven. He really should've been given 12 issues - that's basically what he ended up using with all the crossovers. At least, having it all happen in one title, the reader wouldn't constantly be left with the feeling that they're missing something - which they are: namely, the action and the story itself.
Throughout the issue, Morrison takes us away from the action whenever there's about to be action. In movie terms Superman fans can understand, imagine if in Superman Returns they skipped right over Superman catching the airplane and just talked about it later at the Planet. That's Final Crisis. Lots of off-panel action and talking heads; it's ultimately quite boring.
In the beginning, the storyline unfolded slowly with the DC Universe itself being established as a character - or rather having a character all its own. Morrison started things in Japan - even on our world, Tokyo is the center of the pop culture celebration. Sonny Sumo and the Japanese heroes were over-the-top; however, Morrison wrote them so well in the early issues, they were characters of depth. In the end, even with seven extra pages, Morrison lost track of them in anything but a superficial way.
In fact, all there's time for this issue is superficiality. Look at the long-awaited return of Aquaman. It's a cool retro-moment with Aquaman riding a sea horse named Storm, but that's all it is. It's illogical and comes out of nowhere with no connection to the overall story. Again, this says to me that Morrison ran out of time and pages to tell his story. He made Barry Allen's return a series focal point in earlier issues, and it stood in juxtaposition to the deaths of J'onn and Bruce (which deaths, in the aggregate, rob the Justice League of its only heroes with detective skills). Here, Aquaman isn't even a coda.
Then there's the death of Overman's cousin. It's a parallel to Supergirl's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. But neither Overman nor his cousin have been established enough here - or in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond -- for me to care. The death of Kara Zor-El in the first Crisis was heroic. Her loyalty to her cousin and implicit acknowledgement that he was more important to the DCU than she, made her murder hurt readers at an emotional level that's totally missing here.
What does Morrison have against the world of Shazam? While he treats the Earth-5 Billy and Cap with reverence, he (further) decimates the New Earth Marvel Family. I'll never see Tawny the same way again. Freddie came off as having something less than the Wisdom of Solomon given the easy solution of saying the magic word that it took him two issues to come up with. Mary is a murderess tainted by the Seven Deadly Enemies of humankind forever. Billy is missing. The Marvel Family's greatest evil, Black Adam, is heroically loyal to his people making their greatest enemy the only Marvel with depth. And Sivana is portrayed as a mere second banana to Luthor.
With Superman's brand-new miracle of miracles fix-it machine, New new Earth designate 51 should be a pretty boring place. Wishing for a happy ending for the Monitors is only the start. With the blueprints to such a device in Superman's super-memory, how about curing cancer and AIDs, or undoing 9/11, or ridding the world of nuclear weapons sans a giant "Superman IV"-style space-net? Or even bringing back J'onn and Bruce? There shouldn't be any misery on a world where miracles can be manufactured like widgets.
My last words on the Final Crisis story? Over-hyped and under-executed.
Art - 3: Mahnke brings a grittier feel to the artwork, which fits the issue well. Shadows are used very effectively. But one penciller, three colorists, and seven inkers for one issue? Even with only one penciller, the book feels split up into separate artistic watchtowers. Former big "C" DCU Crises have always had not only a unified feel to the art but a unique hyper-realism as well provided by the likes of George Perez and Phil Jimenez. Here, it's just basically generic, albeit good, artwork; nothing extraordinary is happening here.
Cover Art - 4: Jones drew another extraordinary cover with no connection to the story inside. Except, this time, it's Superman.
Cover Art (Sliver Cover) - 4: It's beginning to look a lot like Crisis, at least on the cover. This is what I've meant for seven issues when I said I wanted more cosmic covers. Earths slamming into one another - even Htrae, home of Bizarro. It's not gorgeously detailed like the George Perez covers to the first Crisis on Infinite Earths, but we are given the one thing expected of a big "C" DCU Crisis: the Multiverse. Too bad it took us seven issues to get here.
A final note on the Final Crisis covers now that I've seen the morphing of the cover logo in its seven issue entirety. Thumbs down, as Darkseid might say. The 'bleeding' effect should have evolved more naturally and should have been limited to the main Final Crisis title. The culmination of the bleeding effect on this issue's cover quite frankly should have been the cover logo since the first issue. Or the seventh issue title logo should have been drawn first, then gradually un-drawn by the artist for the previous six issues. It isn't as if readers weren't aware that the series title meant bad things would happen to good heroes. Nor is it a surprise that things get seemingly worse as each issue goes on. Like the overall story, the bleeding effect ends up being just another unnecessary gimmick.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2009.