Comic Book Review: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

DC is really cranking up the Final Crisis frenzy this week. Part of that is Morrison’s Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1. Evidently, this title is going to consist of Morrison getting all metaphysical on us as his delves deeply into the inner workings of the Multiverse. Since I am a huge fan of the Multiverse and I dig Morrison’s style of writing, I am pretty confident that I will enjoy this issue. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1.

Creative Team
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Christian Alamy, Rodney Ramos, Tom Nguyen, Walden Wong and Doug Mahnke

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with a shadowy caped figure using his eye beams to blast Superman into the ground. The figures cackles that Superman’s armor is no match for his eternal power. The figure asks Superman if he can hear the sound of the space between now and Lois’ final heartbeat. The figure says that this is the sound of Superman letting down everyone he promised to save.

We zip back in time to the scene in Final Crisis #3 with Clark at Lois’ bed side. Clark thinks how he would do anything to save Lois. Suddenly, the mysterious woman from Final Crisis #3 enters the room. Her name is Zillo Valla. Zillo Valla freezes time and tells Superman that if he helps her than she will help him.

Zillo Valla says that in the final moments of a civilization’s catastrophic decline that she embarked on her desperate mission to recruit the greatest super-champions of the Multiverse. Zillo Valla says that if her world dies then all of existence dies with them.

Zillo Valla says that she will reward Superman with the Universal Medicine, the secret substance of life itself. Zillo Valla says that she has frozen time here on New Earth. That once time thaws then Lois’ heart will beat once and then stop without Clark’s aid. However, time is very different outside the walls of New Earth and Zillo Valla ensures Superman’s return before then.

Clark changes into his Superman uniform and follows Zillo Valla to her transport ship called the Ultima Thule. Superman asks Zillo Valla to explain this ultimate medicine to him. Zillo Valla says that there is a substance that her people call the ultramenstruum however in the germ worlds it is known as the Bleed. (Gross.)

Like crystals grow in solution, so have the 52 universes of the Orrery emerged within Bleed. Just a single drop of it is to control the ultimate power that is capable of healing or annihilation. Yet, Bleed can only be touched and handled by Zillo Valla’s people, the Monitors of Nil. Also known as the Masters of the Overvoid.

Zillo Valla says that they will be traveling through Bleedstorm space between the multiple universes. That Superman will have to upgrade to 4-D vision to truly comprehend what he will experience. (That is our cue to put on our handy dandy 3-D glasses.)

Superman and the Monitor board the Ultima Thule and they take off. Zillo Valla suddenly exclaims that something is wrong. We see a German Superman named Overman on the ship as well as Captain Marvel and a chrome Superman named Adam Allen. The multiple versions of Superman are all using their powers to fly the Ultima Thule.

The Adam Allen mumbles how the Multiverse needs no designer. That the Multiverse has a distinct emergent structure. That it is not like a machine. Instead, it is more like a plant or a symphony.

A massive ship then attacks the Ultima Thule and Superman covers Zillo Valla to shield her from an explosion. We then see the Ultima Thule traveling through the Bleedstorm space in between the Multiple Universes. We see the immense death ray eye shaped ship chasing out heroes. This type of ship is called a Destroyer.

We then see Ultraman appear on the scene and begin attacking the Destroyer. The Ultima Thule and the Destroyer pass through Earth-6. Captain Marvel shouts that they are plunging though universe after universe out of control. That the ship is completely out of tune. Either that or the whole universe is out of tune.

Ultraman’s attack has left the Destroyer out of control and it is now crashing. Superman flies out and pushes against the Destroyer to slow it down and keep it from crashing into Earth-6. Zillo Valla says that there is a graveyard universe located at designate 51. Zillo Valla says that the “madman” is going to crash the Destroyer into the Earth. That the Destroyer is 700 miles long and if it hits the planet at this speed then the core and mantle will split and 98% of terrestrial life will die.

We see the Ultima Thule and the Destroyer pass through Earth-20. Superman is still struggling to stop the Destroyer from crashing into the ground. Then they all pass through Earth-17. Finally, they arrive at Earth-51, the Earth with no life, and Superman lets go of the Destroyer and lets it crash to the ground.

We cut to Ultraman yelling at Adam Allen and asking him what he was doing while he and Superman were risking their necks. The chrome Superman answers that he was bonding with the onboard A.I. in order to properly plot their course to Earth-51. Ultraman yells that Adam Allen’s problem is drugs. Ultraman snaps “Don’t think I can’t see the chemicals coursing through your veins.”

Superman interjects that they have all been recruited from different multiple Earths and that each of their worlds are experiences crises back home. Superman says that they have to work together.

Ultraman snaps that the female Monitor offered all of them the same ultimate treasure. And that means only one man gets the ultimate treasure. And that means they are all rivals.

We cut to the Overman with Zillo Valla in her chamber. Zillo Valla says that the glowing spark that powers the ship’s engines through the Overvoid is her heart. That they are drifting into the void and there is only one way to replenish the beating engine.

We shift back to Ultraman yelling that they are being manipulated by the female Monitor. Ultraman tells Superman, Adam Allen and Captain Marvel to watch their backs. Superman reminds Ultraman that if the two of them touch then the resulting explosion will annihilate both of them.

Superman then narrates that Ultraman is his counter-part from an anti-matter Earth. That Captain Marvel is from Earth-5 which is a much kinder and simpler universe than the Marvel Family from New Earth. (Ain’t that the truth.) Overman is the guilt ridden Superman from Earth-10 where the Nazis won World War II. And we have Captain Allen Adam, the “Quantum Superman” from Earth-4 which is a condensed universe where the laws of physics are different.

Allen Adam then states that the music on this ship that comes from the Multiverse has ended. That they have run out of Multiverse. That they are off the charts. That the place they have just arrived is nowhere.

We see the Ultima Thule crash landed in oblivion. Superman and his counter-parts all exit the ship and are surprised to be met by a welcoming committee of sorts. We see Merryman, King of Limbo, flanked by other forgotten comic book characters. Merryman greets the Supermen and tells them “Welcome to Limbo.” Merryman then informs them that they will never be able to leave Limbo.

Merryman says that he was a super hero once until the world forgot him and he wound up nowhere, along with these other characters. Superman wonders if this is what happens when they die. Merryman explains that nothing happens in Limbo. That there are no heroes here.

Our heroes begin examining the world around them. Captain Marvel notices a shard from the Rock of Eternity that was broken off in his climactic battle with one of his enemies. Captain Marvel stammers and realizes he cannot remember the villain’s name.

Superman tells Marvel that if they stay here too long then they will lose their memories. Merryman chimes in that it is much worse than that. If the heroes stay in Limbo too long then they will disappear from everyone else’s memories, too.

Superman says that there must be a way out. Superman spies a temple looking structure and asks Merryman what it is. Merryman answers that it is the Library of Limbo. Merryman says nobody goes in there. That the Library of Limbo only has one book and that no one can read it.

Our heroes enter the Library of Limbo. Superman realizes that the one book has an infinite number of pages that are all occupying the same space. That is why no one can read it. Superman states that the book contains every book possible.

Superman says that the Ultima Thule’s onboard computer has infinite memory capacity. Captain Marvel interjects that the onboard computer could read every page of the book at once and download instructions for its own repair.

Superman says that he and Captain Marvel might be able to combine their strengths to carry a book with an infinite number of pages. Superman and Captain Marvel both grab the book and attempt to carry it to the Ultima Thule.

When our heroes touch the book everything goes white and we hear a voice that says that previously there was Monitor only and then a flaw formed at the heart of Monitor perfection. The Monitor made a concept to contain the flaw. The Monitor’s examination reveals within the flaw terrifying, unforeseen complexities and contradictions. That magnification reveals a structure of infinitesimal rippling manifolds upon whose surface intricate germ-like process thrive and multiply.

Captain Marvel mumbles that the book is too immense. That the Monitor is too immense to imagine. Marvel asks how can something be bigger than universes. Superman adds that the Monitor is some kind of abstract infinite intelligence. A conscious living void with the entire Multiverse growing inside it.

Superman says that it is some kind of primal origin story of Zillo Valla’s people: the Monitors beginning with the first Monitor. The voice begins again and says that the Monitor extended a probe designed to blend with its surroundings, the probe secured contact with something the Monitor had never before encountered. That inside the flaw was a chaotic froth of events. Lives, deaths, heroes, villains, lovers. Stories.

The voice continues that with no precedent for the concept “story” and no understanding of the damage “story” might do to an immense awareness without limits or definiteness the Monitor had zero defenses. Blinded and split in two, the probe withdrew.

The flaw was sealed and scabbed over with diving metals and made safe. Until all that remained of that ill-fated first contact was a vast uncanny form. The mystery of the silent sentinel haunted the Monitor and infected the immaculate intelligence with questions, speculations, pestilential and crawling narratives. Legend took root and story like contagion spread unchecked.

We see an armored statue of Superman standing next to the Ornery. We see the Monitors assembled and staring at the Superman shaped suit of armor. The voice continues that this story became the history of a once mighty race of hyper-gods, direct descendents of the first immense unknowable Monitor. This epic elegy for a doomed civilization declining from splendor to squalor. This Final Crisis.

This last ditch attempt to save creation itself from a loathing and greed beyond measure. But, first eons pass of peace and plenty while the haunting relic of first contact rusts neglected. It has always been, it will always be yet its shadow grows ever longer, ever cooler in a deepening twilight.

The voice continues that after extensive study, the Circle of Monitors made its evaluation. That it can only be a weapon. A doomsday machine engineered by genius to defend us against some ultimate enemy.

The voice states that the dread of the thing grew and rumor spread. Only on the last day will it yield up its secrets it is said. Only then will the story of Novu’s final gift be understood. Drax Novu, the radiant one, the first son of Monitor and bravest of the science gods.

Novu whose brilliant rebel intellect first probed the flaw and mapped its horrors. Who wrestled the angel of contamination. Who brought knowledge and the riches of the Bleed. Who gave his life to chain the beast in darkness. Who knew the day of holocaust would come again. Deep within the sepulcher of Mandrakk there is a restless stirring. In the plague pit, the prime eater of life senses its freedom.

We cut to Superman and Captain Marvel being blasted by lightning from the book and dropping it. Merryman says that that should not have happened. That nothing happens in Limbo. We see that the lightning blast turned Captain Marvel back into Billy Batson and knocked him out. Superman grabs Billy and carries his toward the ship.

Billy wakes up and then realizes that he cannot remember his magic word to turn into Captain Marvel. Billy then says that he does not even know his own name. Superman arrives back at the ship with Billy. Allen Adam mumbles that the drugs that dampen his quantum senses to acceptable levels are wearing off. Allen Adam mumbles that his sense are expanding beyond infinite and are too fast and too hot to handle all at once.

Superman then enters Zillo Valla’s chamber and demands to know who sent the Destroyer after them. Superman demands to know who is Mandrakk. Superman is stunned to see that Zillo Valla has drained Overman of all his life blood in order recharge her power.

Zillo says that the Dark Monitor has risen. Mandrakk awakes. That Mandrakk sent the Destroyer. Suddenly, Allen Adam calls out for Superman and Zillo. Adam says that the sky just shattered. Zillo says that all is lost. That Mandrakk has found them.

They all go outside and see several Destroyer vessels bearing down on them. We also see Ultraman carrying the infinite book all by himself. Ultraman yells that he has proof here in the book that evil triumphs and that there is nothing that Superman can do about it. That evil wins in the end. End of issue.

The Good: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 was a fantastic issue. Morrison crafts such a delightfully intricate tale that gives the reader plenty to digest. Like always, Morrison makes the reader engage their mind and work in order to truly enjoy this issue to its fullest extent. And I always love trying to unravel what Morrison is trying to tell the reader.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 actually moved at a faster pace than I expected. Since we only are dealing with two issues for this story, Morrison steps on the gas and gets this story moving quickly out of the gate. Morrison tries to cram as much as he can in this one issue.

Surprisingly enough, we actually get a fair amount of action in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1. It was certainly more action than I was expecting from this issue. The action scenes are well timed and keep this issue lively.

I dig the cast that Morrison assembles for this tale. I always enjoy the psychotic Ultraman. He is a great villain who always is a monster to deal with. Overman is a strange twist on Superman. Allen Adam is a very intriguing version of Superman. Adam was probably my favorite of all the alternate Supermen.

And of course, it was wonderful to see the real Captain Marvel back and better than ever. It was nice to be reminded how cool the Marvel Family used to be before Judd Winick’s uninspired, boring and “trendy” re-imagining of the Marvel Family.

This was a strongly plotted issue as Morrison loads the reader down with plenty of dense story. This story is certainly not thin or transparent at all. This is a meaty story that keeps the reader satisfied.

Morrison’s primary task is to use Final Crisis: Superman Beyond as a vehicle to further flesh out the origin of the Multiverse and the Monitors so that he does not have to waste panel time over in Final Crisis on back-story. And this is a brilliant idea. This is exactly how a big event tie-in issue should be utilized.

The last thing I want is to Morrison to unload two issues of back-story over in Final Crisis when we are only getting seven issues on Final Crisis. Instead, the proper place to further expand upon the origin of the Multiverse and the Monitors is on a tie-in issue so that it does not interrupt the flow of the big event itself in the pages of Final Crisis.

As any regular follower of The Revolution knows, it is no secret that I absolutely adore the Multiverse. And I love how Morrison handles the concept of the Multiverse. For my money, Morrison is the perfect writer to handle the Multiverse’s full re-introduction into the mainstream DCU.

I liked how Morrison constructs the inner and outer structure of the Multiverse. The Bleed existing between the multiple universes that acts like a buffer is an interesting concept. I like that the structure of the Multiverse is not akin to a simple machine. Instead, Morrison goes the organic route and has the Multiverse’s structure more resemble that of a plant or a symphony. That the Multiverse is a living harmonic creation.

Morrison even investigates what is outside of the Multiverse. That there is the Overvoid and then the void which is the space that exists outside of the Multiverse. The void outside of the Multiverse is known as Limbo.

And that leads me to what was by far and away my favorite aspect of Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1: the appearance of Limbo and Merryman. Merryman is a goofy character from the Inferior Five who first appeared in 1966 in Showcase #62.

More importantly, is that the last time we saw Merryman was back during Morrison’s run on Animal Man. Morrison had Buddy undergo an out of body experience and visit comic book limbo where forgotten and unused characters go to reside. Buddy’s trip to Limbo leads him to the realization that everyone in the DCU, including himself, are just comic book characters in a story.

I adored the use of Limbo during Morrison’s run on Animal Man. And once the Multiverse returned, I always thought that Morrison’s Limbo was a great concept that would work perfectly with the Multiverse. I am thrilled to see Morrison reaching back into DC’s past and bringing Limbo back and weaving it into the tapestry of the Multiverse. I was hoping that Limbo would make an appearance during Final Crisis and I am pleased that Morrison made it happen.

I liked the book with infinite pages. This was a great convenient literary device for Morrison to use in order to unveil the history of the Monitors to the reader. And Morrison certainly crammed tons of background information about the origin of the Monitors into this issue.

Now, this is the point of the issue where Morrison just lets loose with both barrels on the reader with his trademark metaphysical style of writing. Morrison attempts to give context to the origin of the Monitors and the Multiverse itself. Evidently, the original Monitor is an abstract infinite intelligence. That it is a conscious living voice with the entire Multiverse growing inside of it.

Interestingly enough, Morrison relates the growing Multiverse as a flaw within the original Monitor. Morrison continues to play with the theme he started in Animal Man as he describes the fact that inside of the flaw were heroes, villains, lovers and other characters. And more importantly, there were stories.

This flaw prompts the Monitor to probe the Multiverse. There is a first probe and that probe is split in two before it eventually withdraws and the flaw is sealed. This version of the Multiverse is certainly radically different to the original explanation for the first Multiverse that it was born thirteen billion years ago due to the tampering with the creation of the universe by Krona.

Morrison also reveals to the reader that the Monitors are the descendents of the first Monitor. That the Final Crisis is to save them from a greed and loathing beyond measure. Morrison also tells us about the first Monitor named Dax Novu and a suit of armor that he made that looks just like Superman. We also learn that Novu brought the Monitors the knowledge of the riches of the Bleed.

Morrison reveals to the reader that Novu was the brilliant rebel intellect who first probed the flaw and mapped its horrors. That Novu wrestled with the angel of contamination. That Novu was who brought knowledge and the riches of the Bleed. Morrison also tells us that Novu gave his life to chain the beast in darkness. And that Novu knew the day of holocaust would come again.

I am curious to learn if Novu is the original Monitor that starred in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. When Morrison talks about the first probe from the original Monitor we do see A panel with our DCU characters fighting the shadow creatures that we saw in the original Crisis. And Morrison tells us that the first probe split into two which is consistent with the original Monitor and the Anti-Monitor from the original Crisis.

This is also consistent with the fact that the original Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths does indeed map the Multiverse and he also is the one who fights the Anti-Monitor and also gave his life in order to stop the Anti-Monitor. And it works well with the end of the original Crisis since the two probes are then withdrawn as the flaw is then sealed.

Also in this scene, Morrison reveals in his usual cryptic manner the very crux of the Final Crisis event. That this epic elegy for a doomed civilization declining from splendor to squalor is the Final Crisis. That it is a last ditch attempt to save creation itself from a loathing and greed beyond measure. I am sure that Morrison will continue to answer these cryptic comments over on Final Crisis.

Morrison certainly whets my appetite for more information concerning the armor that Novu created. And Morrison got me more interested in the Monitors in a single issue than Dini managed to do over the entire course of Countdown.

Morrison ends Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 with an awesome hook ending. We have this cosmic villain in Mandrakk who is wielding seemingly infinite power breaking has risen. We then see Mandrakk’s destroyer ships appearing over top of our heroes. And if that was not enough, we also have an insane Ultraman now in possession of the infinite book. There is no doubt that the next issue should be one wild and furious ride.

After reading the ending to Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1, the dramatic beginning scene in this issue makes more sense. It appears that Superman is wearing the cosmic armor that Novu created. And it also appears that Mandrakk is individual who is righteously kicking Superman’s ass.

Doug Mahnke is awesome. And that is despite the fact that there are five different inkers on this issue. Usually, inks by committee can ruin the look of an issue. Not with Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1. Mahnke’s artwork shines through no matter who inks his pencils. I have been so incredibly impressed with Mahnke’s work as of late.

I have to wonder why in the world DC has not given Mahnke a monthly title yet. Seriously, Didio is an absolute moron if he does not get Mahnke working on a monthly title ASAP.

I loved the addition of the 3-D glasses for the scene when we are travelling throught the Bleedstorm. The addition of 3-D was a cool blast from the past that gave this issue an enjoyable old school feel. And I appreciate that the 3-D art was only for a portion of this issue rather than the entire issue. It was just enough to add a fun factor to the issue without it being a gimmick that overstayed its welcome.

The Bad: As it is with most Morrison penned stories, the strengths are usually also the weaknesses. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 is a challenging read. Morrison requires the reader to work and engage their mind in order to decipher the story. And some readers simply want a comic book that will provide them with fifteen minutes of mindless entertainment. Some readers do not want to have to think and to do any work in order to enjoy the story. And there is nothing wrong with that. There are times when an easy to read and entertaining piece of mind candy is exactly the type of comic book that I am in the mood to read.

Readers who prefer linear and straight forward comic books will probably not enjoy Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1. There is no doubt that this issue can get a little difficult to follow at certain points. Morrison unleashes his patented abstract style of writing on the reader with this issue as we get an extremely metaphysical story.

Overall: I enjoyed Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 immensely. Of course, it must be noted that I like Morrison’s style of writing, I am enjoying the Final Crisis event and I love the Multiverse. Having said that, setting aside my personal biases, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 was still a well paced read, had a nice blend of action and drama and was impressively constructed. This was an enjoyable and well written issue.

Still, I would not recommend Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 to readers who are not that interested in the history of the Multiverse or who are not that interested in the Final Crisis event. I do not think that those readers will enjoy this issue. And it goes without saying that if Morrison’s style of writing is not your cup of tea then you will certainly not enjoy this issue.

However, I would recommend that everyone give Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 a try. Surprisingly enough, despite the dense story and the fact that Morrison deals heavily with DC continuity, this issue is actually rather new reader friendly. Morrison does an excellent job integrating enough back-story about the Monitors, Limbo and the other characters who appear in this story so that a newer reader will never feel lost or confused.

1 thought on “Comic Book Review: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

  1. I agreed. Excellent issue (it is one of those comic books that you finish reading with a smile on your face, and right after you realize you wanna read again) and review also.
    Morrison Rules.

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