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Superman Beyond #1 Review

Superman Beyond #1, while being a Final Crisis tie-in (and an important one at that) is really more similar to Batman R.I.P. in style, in that with Final Crisis, Morrison appears to be trying to be a bit less opaque with the story, while in RIP and this issue, he does no such thing, and when you throw in some godawful 3-D scenes, the result may be a bit reasonably off-putting.

It is still pretty darn awesome, though.

Essentially, this book, while being a huge bombastic journey presented at breakneck speed with absolutely thrilling Doug Mahnke artwork (some of the best work he’s done, but to be honest, most of his work is excellent, so it’s kind of hard to differentiate – suffice to say, it’s really good), is more aptly noted as meta-fictive text.

Perhaps I am reading it wrong, but it really appears as though Morrison is commenting on the role of the continuity-driven fan (and the stories done in response to said fans) in the destruction of the original multiverse. Originally, there was just one organic multiverse where everything happened (sounds like Hypertime, no?), but then a flaw was entered into the system, and that flaw directly led to both the original Crisis and now the current situation – what would that flaw be? I think Morrison is saying that that flaw was the idea of continuity, the idea that a multiverse “couldn’t work” that it “needed to be more realistic and make sense,” hence Crisis on Infinite Earths (and later Zero Hour and still later, Infinite Crisis).

Meanwhile, Morrison also plays with the notion that basically, every superhero is a variation of Superman as Superman was THE original superhero, and everything springs out of him.

Then we get into the whole deal with the visit to Limbo (which Morrison also did in Animal Man) – I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of the Bloodlines heroes represented – I imagine that was Mahnke’s idea, I have a hard time believing Morrison remembers any of the Bloodlines heroes (save for that one Irish fellow who would not be in limbo). Merryman is handled brilliantly, especially when he says something that is a lot like Brian Azzarello’s Doctor 13 series, where the characters have to almost argue for their relevance. It’s poignant stuff, even while it is a joke.

There’s a bunch of intriguing discussions about the nature of stories the malleability and never-ending nature of them, as you can always retell a story, etc.

The biggest drawback of the story to me was the terrible 3-D stuff – I don’t think it really aided the narrative that much at all, and it sure did not help the artwork, as it did not even look cool. Not cool!!

This is a fascinating text that I think will greatly reward multiple re-reads, much like RIP does.

However, I do have to admit that while fascinating, it can be a bit off-putting, almost like a challenge from Morrison to his readers, and for the most part, I’d prefer a bit more clarity.

Still, as a whole – a very good comic book.

Recommended.

30 Comments

Thanks for the review Brian…

I was originally going to pass on this off-shoot of FC, but from your review, I’m probably going to pick it up now… (I do love Doug Mahnke’s artwork too! Frankenstein was beautiful – particularly the zombie bunnies!)

I’m just grateful that DC seem to be genuinely keeping the spin-offs of their Mega-Event down to core support of the main story… unlike the House of Tie-ins which seems to be Secretly Invading every book in their universe apart from Daredevil!

Seems like another noble failed experiment.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 28, 2008 at 5:21 am

Un-fortune-ately, due to budget constrictions, I’m forced to pass by ALL FC or SI tie-ins (be it limited series or one-shots).

This means that I can only settle for the core series which is FC and SI only.

I don’t know, it seems like the same metafiction tropes that DC has been reexamining endlessly since Animal Man. Come on, do we really need yet another commentary on where characters go when they enter “limbo?” It was a novel idea in “Animal Man,” it was overdone by the time of the Doctor 13 series, and I really can’t believe we’re giving Morrison credit for doing yet another story about comic books. Not a story about characters and people, a story about comic books. I’m so sick of comics that are more concerned with examining themselves and their genres than examining the human condition.

Did you say Morrison was trying to be LESS opaque with Final Crisis?

Uh, wha?

The thing is a churning mass of scenes taht barely have coherency. Now, I THINK it looks like it will tie all together when finished, but it is sure opaque now!

It seemed pretty straightforward to me…

The problem isn’t the multiverse -it never was- it’s the whole metafictional angle. That can work, in the right setting- a short story where the characters find out they are only part of a dream, or in something involving virtual reality, like in The Matrix. But this “Comics Limbo” idea takes away too much of the Suspension of Disbelief to me. It’s like trying to get into a movie while somebody next to you keeps telling you, YOU KNOW, THIS IS ONLY A MOVIE!! Spare me. The stuff with Merryman isn’t funny, it’s pathetic. Leave it as the peyote dream it originally was and nothing more.

Sijo – EXACTLY. I agree with every word.

Interesting interpretation, Brian. I read it pretty quickly last night and intend to spend some time with it over the weekend.

But I hate 3D and understand that it’s supposed to be the way to deal with the “4D” conceit, though I still think it’s stoopid.

I believe you’re on to something with the continuity thing. Hypertime. The bleed. Yup.

Clearly, the notion of continuity “ruined” things and if FC “fixes” the notion that everything has to “make sense” (yeah, right), it will have served its purpose… at least on that level.

This brings up the classic “Dimension” problem…

We live in a four dimensional world already… Anything beyind that is the fifth dimension or higher…
Three dimensions of space, plus the fourth dimension of time.

It seemed pretty straightforward to me…

I dunno, the way Morrison designed the comic seemed geared toward it being difficult to follow, due to the extremely fast speed the comic was delivered.

Did I have trouble following it?

No, but when I see complaints about Final Crisis being hard to follow, which seems exceedingly clear to me, I figure that a book that seems less clear than Final Crisis has got to be unclear to average readers, and I at least TRY to take a “general” reader into account when I write these things.

Did you like the comic, Alex?

Wow, SOME people’s comments got deleted, huh?

Did you like the comic, Alex?

I did. I thought it was fun, and I actually really liked the “4D” bits.

If I have a complaint, it’s that you have to be into this “MONITORS AND MULTIVERSES” mythology that DC has turned into a Worm Ourobourous… but instead of a serpent eating it’s tail, it’s narrative winding up it’s own ass.

Ultimately, you have to be down with all the inane groundwork laid by COIE, and I could care less about all this DC Book of Genesis stuff.

That being said, I thought the thing was incredibly well-executed, pretty clear, as far as dimension hopping mind-benders go, and smart as a whip.

I’m a big Doug Mahnke fan, too, and he didn’t disappoint.

Wow, SOME people’s comments got deleted, huh?

One fellow got past the spam blockers that had been doing well catching him in the past (the comments that I get to delete that you all never see have been delightful), so I got rid of him.

The idea that continuity is what “ruined” things doesn’t seem hold up on closer reading. The “flaw” that’s talked about predates the awareness of stories altogether (at least, superhero stories). And you can’t have continuity before the stories themselves.

In fact, Morrison says “The flaw is sealed, scabbed over. With divine metals! Made safe. Until all that remains of that ill-fated first contact is a vast, uncanny form!” The form in the story is Superman, or at least, Superman-as-archetype-for-all-superheroes.

I’m not sure what’s going on in this mini yet (multiple readings required), but it’s not as simple as continuity = bad.

I’m not sure what’s going on in this mini yet (multiple readings required), but it’s not as simple as continuity = bad.

‘Course not, there’s plenty going on.

Thanks for forcing me to read this again. I feel guilty now for tossing it in the pile after my initial read-through. There are a LOT of moving parts in that “origin” sequence. The Monitor seems to represent the reader, the multiverse, and Superman all at different times. Sucks for writers like Morrison, reaching for literary depth in a genre where readers are largely oblivious to any meaning besides the literal one. I am definitely guilty of this.

If I have a complaint, it’s that you have to be into this “MONITORS AND MULTIVERSES” mythology that DC has turned into a Worm Ourobourous

I think the monitor stuff was part of why I found it to be less clear than his other work, as to get this comic, you pretty much DID have to know about the Monitor stuff.

But yeah, otherwise, I’m right there with you, especially about Mahnke. He’s a star.

I really enjoyed it. Even the 3D stuff.

The book of all stories and infinite pages existing in the same space was a pretty cool idea too.

Is that something opposite the crime bible perhaps?

I wonder how the 3-D gimmick will be addressed when this is collected? Will they stick a pair of 3-D glasses in the trade? Also, has issue 2 been solicited? I haven’t found it on the DC website.

When I first read the issue, I put on the 3-D glasses whenever I needed them and after I finished the issue I realized I didn’t understand a single word. I immediately tossed the 3-D glasses, re-read the issue just straight through without the glasses, and thought it was great.

Lesson? 3-D comics never work. I wish they had a sans 3-D issue like that one issue of Action Comics.

At least it comes with 3D glasses…

I once had to make my own using coloured plastic and cardboard… All to enjoy the Star Wars 3D comic by Blackthorne Publishing and the 3D issue of DNAgents…

Kept hold of them for years, just in case…

I thought it was stellar. I’ve loved Mahnke since JLA, and morrison is probably my all time favorite writer. If i want talented writing with coherence i jump ship to a Jones book. Morrison is pure crazyness and the funny thing is how well you can follow it if you’re into that kind of thing.

I understand being put off by his work, for instance this issue used a LOT of alchemic concepts, both in the physical and spiritual sense, and was completely off the rails with all the ideas it presented.

But people saying this is a bad comic are just people who aren’t into that insanity, or need it to be less far reaching. Some of us want different things, but Morrison definitely has an audience here.

Just because i was so blown away, i handed my buddy Will the book after i read it. He’s into anime and the like and hadn’t read a single comic book in seven years.

He loved it, and wanted more.

Some of us like this absurdity and the metafictional stories, and for me seeing Limbo revisited was great as Animal Man is easily one of my all time favorite titles ever, even beyond the Morrison penned issues.

Bravo to DC for letting him do this, boo to them for not just plugging it into the main title. I honestly would’ve preferred a Final Crisis #4 or even 3.5 as opposed to putting some of the most important story beats thus far in a title that disguises itself as a tie in.

This book was not a tie in at all, but in fact more relevant and captivating than the previous 3 issues all together.

superman from action comics #1 is the same superman played by Chris reeve, who is the same superman as the animated series who is the same superman as mahnke’s.

I. cannot. stand. people giving more consideration to fictional dimensions than to ours.

What I find funny is that this is what we’re getting for DC’s big summer/fall event while over at Marvel we have Hawkeye pledging to kill every last stinkin’ Skrull…

Your review helped me understand this better, although, in my defense, I did read it late last night and planned to go over it again in the coming days.

I’m wondering how all of this ongoing stuff with this ultimate evil Monitor is going to tie in to the New Gods/Darkseid storyline in the main, Final Crisis book.

To be honest, I’ve been pretty frustrated with all the complaints that Final Crisis is confusing. But at the same time Superman Beyond really does add a new, quite … challenging … wrinkle to the whole event. I can’t imagine this book is going to help sell the series to non-converts and current skeptics.
And it is also funny how much of a mish-mosh Final Crisis is in terms of writing styles – In one week we have Meltzer doing his thing, Morrison presenting us with Superman Beyond, and Geoff Johns doing the second issue of Rogues Revenge. I’m not complaining, but it is a pretty ballsy thing editorial wise because those three books have such distinct “voices” and are all parts of a greater whole.

I give DC credit for allowing Morrison to do all of this as the main event of the year – seriously. It’s far, far, far, far more challenging than the original Crisis and Infinite Crisis.

I’m just gonna have to read the thing again. I got precisely dick out of it the first time.

When is the second issue coming out? I haven’t seen anything about it through December.

[...] were so late that it passed the point of no return, and Doug Mahnke (having a nice resurgence with Superman: Beyond!) is put in the unenviable position of taking over for the star quarterback when the coach pulls him [...]

randypan the goatboy

August 16, 2011 at 11:42 am

My review is very simple… Final Crisis 1-6 very good story. Final Crisis legion of 3 worlds…excellent story. The Superman beyond whatever the hell this was supposed to be and issue 7 of final crisis ruines the series for me. yes grant we get that you like to be trippy and pink floydish with your crazy ass yoko ono surreal comicbook metafiction. but maybe …just maybe you should have gotten out of your own way and made Final crisis worthy of the name and pedigree of the crisis trilogy. i know im very late to the party. i just recieved the trade from Amazon last night and I avoided reading it because a close friend told me that Grant had left a puddle of brain cum in the last issue. I avoided the book for this long and finaly just said ” HOW BAD COULD IT POSSIBLY BE?”..Punching a hole in forever…look at me im complicated kind of bad. grant morrison became the little kid who ran into the house with a pile of dog shit in his hand and bragged to his father about how he almost stepped in it… sometimes you just have to get out of your own way and let the story flow. Picture in the movie jaws. Hooper is hiding out on the ocean floor scared to death for when the shark returns to finish him…Quint is being devoured by the shark and cheif brody is about to go into the water with the two remaining mcguffins[ shot gun and hoopers air tank] and just when brody is about to say “SMILE YOU SON OF A BITCH”…everyone gets out of the water and does a rockin rendition of highway to hell and the shark is then eaten by bigfoot. As you leave the theatre in 1975 you think to yourself..” wow a great movie up to the last 5 minutes and .then the damn bigfoot ate the shark. No matter how good the opening and middle act was….BIGFOOT ATE THE SHARK..Im sure my opinion is in the minority, but i take comfort in the fact that the popular opinion is sometimes so wrong that it is scary..Take Obama for example

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