Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 27, 2008

Cover date: October 2008

"Superman Beyond"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Christian Alamy, Rodney Ramos, Tom Nguyen, Walden Wong and Doug Mahnke
Cover Art: JH Williams/Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and David Baron

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

Picking up directly from the last appearance of Clark Kent/Superman in "Final Crisis #3", we see a vision of Superman being attacked and goaded about the final heartbeat of his wife Lois.

Clark is sitting over Lois's hospital bed when he's approached by the female Monitor of the vampire universe. She offers him the chance to save Lois and all reality but he must leave Earth with her now. Clark says he can't, that his infra-red massage is what's keeping her alive. The Monitor explains that, essentially, time is frozen and he'll be back before her next heartbeat with the ability to save her. Superman decides to join the Monitor.

Superman learns about the Bleed also known as "Ultramenstruum". It's the substance of life and can only be handled by the Monitors. The Monitor tells Superman he should use his 4-D vision for when they travel into the bleedstorm space between universes. She explains to Superman that it is a power in his visual spectrum and she expects the power to develop as he needs it. It does. He sees arteries pulsing bleedstorm between universes.

In the bleedstorm, the Monitor notices their Ultima Thule transport is under mystery attack. It's being pushed from the outside by super men from other universes like the Captain Marvel of Earth 5, Overman of Earth 10, and the Quantum Superman of Earth 4 - and the antimatter universe's Ultra Man.

Ultra Man is attacking the Destroyer "Echo of Midnight" that's after the Monitor's ship. Superman and the heroes are keeping the Ultima Thule from crashing into any of the inhabited Earths of the 52 universes. The Monitor has them aim for Earth-51, the universe that died in "Countdown to Final Crisis". The ship crashes there and ends up in a dimensional void.

The Monitor tells Overman that the engine that powers the Thule is her beating heart and she must replenish.

Meanwhile, Ultra Man threatens Superman who reminds him that they can't touch or the explosion would destroy them both.

The Monitor ship lands outside the known Multiverse in a place called Limbo. There, they are met by Merryman, Ace the Bat Hound, and other forgotten heroes. Merryman explains the rules of Limbo - nothing ever happens, Merryman is king but titles mean nothing in a place where nothing happens, those stuck in Limbo begin to lose their memories and ultimately are forgotten by everyone else.

Superman goes into the Library of Limbo. Superman locates a book with an infinite number of pages that all occupy the same space. They decide to take the book, download its contents into the Ultima Thule's infinite memory capacity computer, which could read the book and download instructions for its own repair.

As Superman and Captain Marvel attempt to lift the book they hear the story of the first Monitor. Monitor perfection has a flaw, it turns out, filled with complexities and contradictions. Magnification reveals "rippling manifolds upon whose surface intricate germ-like processes thrive and multiply". Monitor extends a probe into the flaw and finds "stories" of life, death, heroism, villainy, and love. It's the "Crisis on Infinite Earths".

Because the "Crisis" story was itself without precedent, it had unknown effects. Divine metals sealed over to fix the flaw - that's apparently the Orrery of worlds and the divine protector, that first unknowable Monitor. The Monitor society develops around the first Monitor and the Orrery. Fear develops over the Orrery's true purpose. Eventually, deep within a tomb, the prime Eater of Life, Mandrakk, senses freedom.

Suddenly, Captain Marvel and Superman are thrown back from the book with an electric rush. Merryman is upset that they caused something to happen in the place where nothing happens. Captain Marvel has reverted to Billy Batson. Billy can no longer recall the magic word as their memories begin to fade the more time spent in limbo.

Superman confronts Monitor Zillo Valla for information and comes on her draining the last of Overman's blood. She's a vampire Monitor and Overman said he would give her anything to find his cousin (who landed on New Earth/Earth-0) in "Final Crisis #1".

The vampire Monitor senses that the Dark Monitor, Mandrakk, has awoken and he is vast in scale compared to humanity. The sky shatters and the Destroyer appears. Ultra Man reads from the infinity book and announces triumphantly that the proof's in the book that, ultimately, evil triumphs over good.

To be continued...

4Story - 4: For anyone wondering what kind of cosmic "Crisis" would Grant Morrison have written in the style of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" had he not built slowly with "Final Crisis", the answer is the Multiverse-spanning "Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D". And it's a mixed blessing.

This is definitely a story only Morrison could tell. I recommend it to all readers of "Final Crisis" as a companion book that actually starts to shed some light on where things are heading for the bloody inner-workings of the DCU.

This isn't an easy read. Every word really matters to understand the mounds of exposition shared so elegantly within. I had to read the issue twice before I had even the slightest understanding of what was going on. And I've read it many times since and still am sure I don't understand it all.

I would recommend that you read this issue near Wikepedia which proved to be very helpful to me in discovering the history and meaning of words like "Ultima Thule" and figuring out which words Morrison appears to have made up from his weird and wacky wigged out brain - like the 'I can't believe they let him call it' "Ultramenstruum". I think I saw a commercial for something to treat that in between ads for baldness and restless leg syndrome.

I do think this book looks like required reading to understand how the new Multiverse functions. To this reader, it looks like Morrison is revisiting concepts from his run on "Animal Man" where Animal Man ultimately figured out he was a comic book character and Grant Morrison was compelling his actions.

Does the Multiverse exist within the human mind and imagination? The Bleed can be harnessed by the Monitors but it has flaws that have even impacted the Monitors. The 52 universes of the Orrery have emerged within the Bleed. The Bleed has arteries flowing lifeblood between universes. So what is the Bleed? It's Grant Morrison. It's Geoff Johns. Heck it's even Kurt Busiek. And it's you and me too. Without getting too 'circle-of-life' on you, I'm guessing it's life and humanity at its most basic. It's the storyteller. It's the reader. Earth designate Zero - New Earth -- may be the Earth from which all concepts of the Big Three emerge (per "Trinity"), but it's looking like what was once Earth-Prime (the universe where we readers were deemed to have lived and heroes only existed in fictional comics until Superboy-Prime) may control all within the DCU.

I think it comes down to the lines from the Monitor origin story handed down to Superman and Captain Marvel explaining what the first Monitor found: "Inside the flaw - a chaotic froth of events. Lives. Deaths. Heroes. Villains. Lovers. Stories! With no precedent for the concept "story"! No understanding of the damage "story" might do to an immense awareness without limits or definitions." What this says to me is the first "Crisis on Infinite Earths" was the concept story without precedent. It's an acknowledgement that "Crisis" sought to limit imagination. It's the very fact that a Multiverse can be conceived by human imagination that prevents it from ever being truly eliminated.

Then again, it's Morrison so I recognize that I could be completely off the mark.

Morrison gets points for following his own continuity. He picks up this story directly from where we last see Clark Kent in "Final Crisis #3". He even validates a part of "Countdown to Final Crisis" by making the existence of dead Earth-51 an important part of the story. Perhaps that explains why Kamandi seems to have been teleported somewhere - away from Earth 51 maybe - in "Final Crisis #1".

And I have to at least mention the brilliant creation of Limbo, Morrison's take on the "Island of Misfit Toys" from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Merryman from the Inferior Five lays out Limbo's rules as a perfect metaphor for how characters are exiled to limbo in our world when they lose favor with the public or just don't appear for a while. It also reinforces to me the idea that somehow real people - like Morrison, you, and me - will ultimately factor into the story itself just as he did with "Animal Man".

Independent of the look of the 3D, there is a story question about the 3D to be answered - does the 3D serve the story? While the 3D is cool to look at, it actually detracts from the story for me. It screams 'gimmick' when what's here is actually a good story that doesn't need gimmickry to attract consumers. And in a dialogue intensive book where every word has much more importance than every image, it's a distraction.

Finally, as I said over in my review of "Trinity", I hate having to review two comics featuring the same somewhat rarely showcased villain Ultra Man. I love the concept of Ultra Man and Earth-3 (come on DC I know it's an antimatter Earth, but can't you just give it the Earth-3 tag already) but it takes away from the appearance here to have him elsewhere the very same week. Especially since, in "Trinity", Superman punches Ultra Man plenty (and defeats him rather easily), adding confusion to the statement here that, should they touch, the explosion would destroy them both.

3Art - 3: I like the art. I like the 3D. But I'd like the art better without the 3D. And, as I explained above, I feel the story is disserved by the use of the 3D art. The only image that - to me - resonates in 3D is that of the Ultima Thume traveling through the arteries connecting universes. It's too bad there isn't a wise-acre Superman among the team who can call the Ultima Thume what it really appears to be - a yellow submarine. A yellow submarine. A yellow submarine.

3Cover Art (Superman Flying) - 3: I will never understand why DC decided on this ridiculous trade dress for their "Final Crisis" books that leaves virtually no space for art.

3Cover Art (4D Vision) - 3: It's a great looking cover for a gimmicky 3D book. But it doesn't fit this book any more than the 3D concept itself. I think the image of Superman himself is spot-on - he's got that look evocative of Chris Reeve that "Action" artist Gary Frank is turning into the new iconic look for the character. I just wish the cover was used to effectively sell the really well-told story inside and not to promote the shtick.

If you want to see 3D images of both covers, grab your 3D glasses and head on over to the DC Comics website.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2008

February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2008.