Superman: Beyond confusing.

Time to address what I feel is an almost obligatorily necessity: a review of Final Crisis: Superman Beyond issue # 2 (of 2).

Grant Morrison is beginning to fail to live up to my expectations for him, which is sad. I was genuinely looking forward to this book after the high-concept, widescreen-and-popcorn, summer-blockbuster-thrillride of the first issue, but this one seemed mired under the weight of its concepts.

Spoilers follow:

We leave the first issue with Superman, an several multiversal counterparts, trapped in limbo, with the multiversal ship, the Ultima Thule – which is Latin for the mythical capital of Hyperborea, where the equally mythical “Aryan Race” is supposed to have originated. Hmmmmm…. – crashed and chased by Madrakk, the Dark Monitor’s sentient vessel, Destroyer “Echo of Midnight.”

Again, awesome concepts and typically whimsical design – the Ultima Thule looks just like the Yellow Submarine, echoing Morrison’s love of the Beatles, and “Echo of Midnight” is equal parts Giger and the Sentinels from “The Matrix” series. I enjoy how Morrison can weave atypical science fiction and fantasy elements into the superhero form, which has grown very stale over the years, especially following the style-over-substance paradigm started with Image comics.

I also appreciate how Morrison uses the Monitors, who become in this story “Vampire Space Gods” who feed on the multiverse. I feel that what Morrison is telling us is that we are the Monitors, feeding of the stories in comic books, again allowing the reader to interact with the fiction is a typical element of his storytelling style.

The allusions to Dr. Manhattan in the form of Captain Adam, himself an allusion to Captain Atom, are also enjoyable. The fact that he is “beyond conflict” means that eternal-roid-rage dick Ultraman can’t hurt him, even with his much-vaunted heat vision. Again, an interesting, quasi-Zen concept.

Following a planned collision with his anti-matter counterpart, Ultraman, which provides a nigh-unlimited amount of energy, Superman’s consciousness is propelled into the over-world of the monitors, where he inhabits a living suit of armor crafted in his image.

There he meets the Monitors (“Great Krypton. Vampire Space Gods. They’re feeding on the multiverse in a jar!”) and battles Mandrakk, taking us back to the beginning of issue #1. I enjoyed the fulfillment here to Morrison’s non-linear story, but still felt that something was missing. And the 3-d glasses hurt my eyes.

In the end, of course, Superman gets the vial of “ultramenstruum” and saves Lois with a kiss. Very Superman 2. He winks at us – Superman has ALWAYS been able to break the fourth wall, and is the only superhero who could have gone to the over-world, methinks Morrison is telling us –and it is revealed what Kal-El would write on his tombstone.

All in all, there was a lot of fun to be had here. I love vampires, I love metafiction and I love Superman analogues. However, besides saving Lois and exploring the Monitors, this almost has nothing to do with Final Crisis. It does not explain why Superman was in the 31st century, or why he comes back super-pissed off and wrecking Bludhaven to save Batman’s corpse. I suppose it will get wrapped up, and I know there is way too much story here for a 7-issue series, but I am annoyed that I have to read “Legion of Three worlds” to understand what my favorite superhero was doing before he saves the corpse of my second favorite superhero from an underused, evil god.

Writers are supposed to fill in the gaps, that’s not the reader’s job.



3 Comments on “Superman: Beyond confusing.”

  1. Dean Trippe says:

    This was far and away my favorite book of the week (despite thoroughly enjoying Green Lantern as well). The problems of the extended Final Crisis epic are editorial, not creative. You’re right, you shouldn’t have to be reading fifteen titles to understand FC, but that’s Didio not Morrison. Morrison’s just writing awesome stories on whatever titles they’re giving him. I’ve got no complaints on his work.

  2. doctorbrown says:

    It was my favorite book this week, too. I am really stretching to be more critical of Morrison of late, and I agree that the main problems are editorial. I would, however, have enjoyed this story more as a stand-alone, 7 issues series about Superman’s adventures in the multiverse. I think he has always been a “beyond-the-fourth-wall” character, ever since he was played by George Reeves. (Maybe I will, Lois, maybe I will. Wink.)And Superman blends well with either science fiction or fantasy concepts. I think this was a great story, but I just would have liked it to have been timed better with the other releases, and maybe tied back into Final Crisis a little better, or just have seen it as a stand alone story set during the lead in or wrap of of Final Crisis.

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