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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 310: Superman Beyond #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Superman Beyond #2, which was published by DC and is cover dated March 2009. This scan is from the Final Crisis trade paperback, which was published in 2009. Enjoy!

Dude should lay off the 'roids, man!

Whatever you may think of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, it had some neat moments, and the second issue of his Superman detour begins with one of those. Ultraman does some ‘splainin’, as he tells us what kind of world he’s from and how he came to believe in “universal evil as a living thing.” He helpfully explains what this evil is doing, what his name is, and what we’re all going to do when he gets here. See? It’s all very simple and believable!

Doug Mahnke, who drew this, gives us a fairly common layout, with the three similarly-sized panels at the top leading to a larger panel at the bottom as a big “reveal.” He also begins with a close-up and slowly pulls out to show the entire scene, another common design. One reason it’s so common is because it works, as we’re able to understand the mindset of Ultraman in the first panel just from his angry face, and then we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop because we know an angry dude like that probably did something bad, which we see in Panel 4. In order to help us move through the page, Mahnke makes sure that Ultraman is always on the bisector of the page, leading us downward instead of left to right. There’s no real reason to move left to right, anyway – Ultraman is the only figure on the page, and Morrison’s word balloons are on either side of him, so we don’t need the art to move our eyes. Mahnke has always been good with facial expressions, so Ultraman’s crazed rage is perfectly captured in Panel 1, with the spit curl linking him to Superman and possibly (depending on your reaction to it) disconcerting us – is this really Superman, and why is he so angry? Notice that Mahnke changes his expression from Panel 1 to Panel 2 – in the first panel, he looks a bit more determined, and then in Panel 2, his eyes widen, his lips grimace a bit more, and he looks more crazed when he speaks of finding something greater than himself. He raises his head in supplication in Panel 3, and through the glowing ball, we can see the logo on his chest, assuring us that this is NOT Superman. Mahnke draws his cape slowly rising, implying a wind from the depths, which is linked to the fact that Mandrakk is “crawling up from darkness.” Finally, in Panel 4, we see the destruction around him, and he’s crouching on a pile of junk (something Merryman takes very personally on the next page). He is kneeling as he speaks of kneeling, and the wind is rising, because his cape is flapping even higher over his head. He raises the glowing orb above his head as an offering. Mahnke handles the movement of Ultraman very well – we get a sense of slow-motion supplication, almost as if it’s difficult for him to acknowledge Mandrakk’s superiority. David Baron colors the page very nicely, with the red and blue of Ultraman’s costume a slightly less bright variation on Superman’s costume (naturally, since Ultraman is eeeeeevil) and the yellows and oranges of the destruction around him helping him stand out a bit. The orb helps illuminate his insane face in Panel 2, which I would imagine is the point.

This is a pretty good first page – Morrison gets across some crucial information, and Mahnke does a nice job showing how Ultraman feels about it all. Final Crisis is less confusing than you might have thought at first glance, and this page is a good example of its straight-forwardness!

Next: A Marvel Knights book! Nothing bad ever came out of Marvel Knights, right? Don’t forget the archives – they’re waiting there just for you!


Great analysis as always, Greg.

I loved Final Crisis, and this Superman Beyond tie-in was my favorite part of the whole thing. At the time, the reviews were terrible for the most part, but after all the Big Events that came since, I think Final Crisis has aged very well.

Final Crisis was great, it was the handling of it both in the lead-up, during and after that was poor.

– A Year Long lead-in cluster of series that in the end had nothing to do with the main event in either tone or content (and was blatantly contradictory at times).
– The failure to include Superman Beyond in the series proper or at least promote it as essential, as the majority of the last issue is based on what happens here.
– The horrific delays and scheduling disasters in the main series and most spin-offs.
– The absolute failure of DC to even acknowledge the “Event” after it happened in its main titles, or build off anything that Morrison set-up.

Thanks, Pedro. I liked Final Crisis a lot better when I got the trade and could read it all at once, because it holds together very well. Plus, the fact that the trade has three issues that aren’t part of the main mini-series but were written by Morrison as if they were helps, too. I don’t understand why DC didn’t release at least these two issues as “Final Crisis” issues rather than as “Superman Beyond” issues, but I guess it’s my fault for not buying them in the first place!

Dave: Good points all around. I was making one of them as you were writing your comment!

Morrison asked to make Final Crisis twelve issues.

DC said no, it had to be seven issues.

Morrison asked if he could then have five extra issues in “unrelated” titles to continue the story.

DC said okay.

Morrison then used the five “unrelated” issues as if they were issues of Final Crisis.

DC tried to collect just the seven “proper” issues of Final Crisis in the trade but ultimately had to bend to criticism and add Superman Beyond and the one-shot issue (I forget the name of it – the one with Black Lightning).

It was definitely a dumb situation.

To get the FULL experience of Final Crisis, though, you really “need” the two issues of Batman that shows what happens to Batman after he is captured. I mean, obviously, you don’t NEED to know anything more than “Batman was captured and then he freed himself,” but I think those two Batman issues are still important parts of the overall story (and they also happen to be super awesome issues).

Brian: Yeah, I forgot about those two issues of Batman. Man, DC really screwed up the collection and the story on that, didn’t they? I mean, they’ve collected 12 issues in one trade before, so why not for this?

I’m pretty sure the two Batman issues are in my copy of the FC hardcover. Or maybe they’re in the RIP hardcover…

They’re in the RIP hardcover, Mike. And yeah, Greg, I don’t get it either. I guess we should just be happy that they changed their initial decision and at least included the three extra books!

So, as a professional comic writer, isn’t one if the skills you’re supposed to develop the ability to tell a story in the space you have, be it 12 issues or 12 pages? Maybe DC dropped the ball by not branding essential parts of the story as part of FC, but it seems to me if DC told him he had 7 issues, he should have wrote a 7 issue story.

If DC told him he could only have seven issues to tell the story, yes. But they specifically approved him telling the story in 12 issues, just so long as the official Final Crisis series had only seven. That’s the problem. If they were willing to approve THAT, why not just approve Final Crisis becoming a 12-issue series?


do you have any links to interviews where Grant said he wanted it to be 12 issues?

As much as I liked J.G. Jones’s covers and interior artwork for the first couple of issues of Final Crisis, he was right — Doug Mahnke probably should have drawn the whole thing. His work on Superman Beyond was just awesome.

I think the Black Lightning one was Final Crisis:Resist. Or else :Submit, I get that and the Checkmate one confused.

These 2 issues WERE released as “Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3-D”. It’s not obvious that they’re essential to the storyline, but they are branded with the “sliver” covers.

Is your copy in the trade in 3D?

Anyone know what all is in the new Final Crisis Absolute edition that came out last week, or this week (I forget which)? I know I’ve heard there’s like 10 new pages, some featuring Captain Carrot, but as I have most of the FC issues, I wanna know how worth it it would be to get the whole shebang.

Travis: No, the trade isn’t in 3D. So sad!

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