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Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 21, 2009

Cover date: March 2009

"To Be Continued"

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Christian Alamy with Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci & Derek Fridolfs
Cover Art: JH Williams/Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and David Baron

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

Ultraman reads the final chapter of the Infinite Book and learns about Mandrakk, an ultimate evil who is building a bridge from the void into the Multiverse so he can feed on the light. Superman and the other inhabitants of Limbo fight against the ensuing chaos.

Meanwhile, Billy Batson and Overman find Zillo Valla and Billy reawakens her romantic spirit. Billy notices that the ship took the Monitrix's blood to repair itself. He concludes that the ship's engine runs on bleed, the essence of life. Valla reminds Billy of his magic word.

Captain Adam is overwhelmed. The heroes of Limbo fight on. Superman wants to act. Ultraman confronts him for the Ultima Thume. Despite the risk of catastrophic explosion, Ultraman is about to attack Superman directly when Captain Marvel intervenes.

Cap explains that the heroes were selected for a reason, even Billy. Cap reminds Superman that, in the story they read, the Monitor beings had a weapon to use against Mandrakk. Superman and Adam suddenly understand. Captain Marvel is dispatched to alert the heroes of the Multiverse of the threat. Captain Adam calculates that he is the "endgame" of the idea that spawned the likes of Ultraman. Superman just wants the refined bleed to save Lois. Adam and Marvel remind Superman that the book said "the most despised will save the most beloved." Ultraman attacks Superman and Superman lets him. There's a huge explosion and Captain Adam takes the symmetries of Superman and Ultraman and broadcasts Superman into a 'higher dimension'.

(Put 3D glasses on now).

Superman's essence is contained in cosmic armor in the higher dimension. Limbo looks small and unreachable to Superman now. In the Monitor's dimension is 'the blank', 'the nil', 'the gone' - in other words the nothing that exists before an idea comes into being. There Supeman meets up with Weeja Dell who explains about her lost love Nix Uotan (on Earth in a human body in "Final Crisis"). She brings Superman to the Orrery where Supes and the Monitors find the Orrery and the Multiverse in the hands of a tribe of vampire monitors. They are literally bleeding the Multiverse dry.

Superman faces Mandrakk who stands before the Man of Steel holding the potion he needs to save Lois. Supes and Mandrakk fight. Weeja Dell explains that Mandrakk is using the Monitors to believe him into existence. But they have presented him with a more powerful story in opposition, the story of the Last Son of Krypton. Mandrakk strikes and kills the Monitor before realizing it is his love he's extinguished.

Supes realizes Mandrakk is the part of the Monitor that felt contaminated by the Multiverse, that he really is Monitor Dax Novu.

Superman faces the empty tombstone and carves into it what he says is a warning. Something the Monitors never realized about stories.

Supes takes the life potion and falls out of their existence and back into his own, splitting into Superman and Ultraman again. Ultraman falls back to limbo. Vampire Monitor Ogama, cast into limbo as well, gives Ultraman the vampire treatment making him into Ogama's "first knight of terror. My vampire Superman." Ultraman is now a super vampire. Ogama makes a last boast about returning to talk to Superman when all hope is lost.

Supes finds himself back in Metropolis at the hospital. He administers the life elixir to Lois by kissing her. Supes contained the bleed in his own body. Lois is fine. She tells him about a dream she had where she saw his tombstone and, when she saw what it said, she knew he'd be fine. Clark says he wants to hear all about it as he excuses himself to rejoin the "Final Crisis" already in progress, or is that to join "Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds" already in progress?

The gravestone is unveiled. Superman engraved it: "TO BE CONTINUED".

2Story - 2: There's a crisis in time at DC that has nothing to do with temporal vortexes, disruptions in the space-time continuum, or Ultramenstruum. It's the crisis in getting books out on time. The first issue of this two-issue mini hit comic book shops way back on August 27, 2008. That's just shy of five months in between issues. Unless readers spent half a year in suspended animation, it's difficult to call this serialized fiction as opposed to two separate stories connected by "Final Crisis".

There's nothing new here. Twenty some odd years ago, Morrison told the same essential story in "Animal Man". Except, back then, Morrison wasn't the superstar he is today. He was in the process of doing what made him a superstar in the first place - connecting the creator to the creation in a way that made the creator just as real in the comic book as the creation is to those of us who read the creation.

When Morrison was just one of the pack, the "Animal Man" concept felt mostly like a celebration of imagination and originality. Today, with Morrison the superstar he is, the same concept feels arrogant and egotistical. It's bad enough that DC editor Dan Didio has all but come out and said DC doesn't really edit their superstars like Morrison and Geoff Johns. For Morrison to add to that, and basically say he is the god of the DCU because he's its current parasitic scribe, leaves the reader feeling helpless at the wheel of the Ultima Thume.

Back in the late 1980s, the joke was always that Morrison had access to hallucinogenics the rest of us clearly didn't. That's how he saw what the rest of us didn't in between the panels and captions. Whether assisted or not, Morrison clearly lived someplace in his mind the rest of us rarely saw. Comparatively, this issue's one bad trip; the story says to this reader that Morrison discovered his own imagination's limits 20 years ago.

Morrison isn't the god of the DCU because there isn't one. There are infinite deities because every one of us is part of the DCU's imagination too. Whereas Morrison's original concept celebrated the unending power of imagination, the return to a similar concept today seems to say that the power of imagination is indeed limited by the writer's limited prowess in sharing their dreams on paper.

Does Morrison intend to say that we readers are the Monitors or the scribes are the Monitors, or both? In the end, it really doesn't matter. Morrison here reminds me of the insecure pre-teen I was in the 1970s; trying too hard to rationalize into existence that comics are for grownups. At the end of the day, comics just are. Why ask why? When you tug on that string, you end up with the DCU we've had since the first "Crisis", a defensive DCU created as a response to a creative limitation.

Instead of making "Final Crisis" a perfect-for-trade seven issues, Morrison should've been given 12 issues to incorporate "Superman Beyond" into the "Final Crisis" book. While I'm happy to have been given an answer to the question of why Lois Lane was perfectly fine in Final Crisis #6, I'm dissatisfied with the answer.

When the eventual "Final Crisis" trade is released, the story doesn't stand independently of "Superman Beyond". Read it without reading "Superman Beyond" and you're left to believe Lois Lane had a sudden off-panel recovery.

Except if you read "Final Crisis" with "Superman Beyond", you're left with an extremely illogical chain of events. As it reads, it appears that "Legion of Three Worlds" takes place in between Clark leaving Lois's hospital room and Superman emerging with the deceased Dark Knight in Final Crisis #6. My imagination tells me Clark leaves Lois's hospital room and he's immediately met by Brainiac 5 telling him that, once again, he's needed and can be returned to the exact moment he left. Instead of leaving reality, he leaves the present. Superman's had months of adventures in the moment it takes Clark Kent to enter and exit Lois's hospital room. The irony is that the opposite is true in our real world where scheduling delays on the "Superman" titles have moved the Man of Tomorrow forward at a snail's pace.

Even with Lois on her feet at issue's end, wouldn't the anti-life equation have taken control of the entire hospital? Lois was hooked into networked hospital machines that would presumably broadcast the anti-life equation. Next time we see her, she's with Jimmy in Metropolis encouraging him to beep the super-signal watch. Even if the watch couldn't carry the anti-life equation because it is Kryptonian tech (the same way the Fortress of Solitude was a safe haven Watchtower), Jimmy's digital camera would surely have computer parts. One or both of them should be Darkseid's drones - or there should be a cogent explanation as to why not. I guess my imagination is limited because I cannot imagine what happened with Lois and Jimmy let alone everyone else in the Daily Planet building when it blew up. Did Superman kiss all the infirmed? How fortunate for Mr. White.

To be continued in the art review.

3Art - 3: Is the 3D effect necessary to the story? No. It isn't. It's a distraction. A gimmick. If Superman and company ended up on Earth-Prime amongst the real storytellers of DC Comics, then the 3D effect would have simulated the three dimensions of the storytellers and readers. Twenty some years ago, when Morrison negotiated his way through similar waters in "Animal Man", the 3D would have been much more appropriate. It would have established the differences between a comic book and the things taking place outside the panels on Earth-Prime. Plus, 20 years ago, 3D technology would have been only four or five years outside of "Jaws 3-D" and I'd have a lot more empathy for the fact that 3D tech hasn't really changed much in decades. As a consequence of the tech limitations, the 3D feels way too retro for this story.

More important, putting Superman in his special 3D cosmic armor makes the Man of Steel feel less human just as he is at his most human and vulnerable. Depriving Superman of his human look deprives Superman of his human feel. The robotic suit puts a figurative and literal wall between Superman and the readers. It cuts against the story's inconclusive conclusion.

Independent of the 3D, there is a bit to like in the art. Billy Batson looks like the kid out of time that he is on his Earth. Captain Adam is reminiscent of the Watchmen character Dr. Manhattan. The one panel page of the vampire Monitor is a truly terrifying image in two or three dimensions. Ultraman's face radiates an evil missing from Superman's face, making the super-twins' immediately distinguishable from one another.

To be continued in the sliver cover review.

2Cover Art (Sliver Cover) - 2: The cover's design is simple and still too focused on showcasing the 3D effect than marketing the story and art inside.

To be continued in the alternate cover review.

2Cover Art (Alternate Cover) - 2: Super-cosmic-cyborg-suited-man. I think the "Superman Returns" Superman with the "S" logo soles stepped on this guy's hand and left an imprint. If I'd liked the concept of cosmic armor in the story, perhaps the cover would mean more to me. But I don't and it doesn't.

To be continued in the "Final Crisis" reviews.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2009

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