Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 Review

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2

The Revolution loved Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1. It is unfortunate that DC’s wretched shipping schedule with all things connected to Final Crisis really ruined the impact of this story. Asking readers to go six months between issues on a two issue mini-series is absolutely ridiculous.

Having said that, I am still excited to read Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2. I am looking forward to reading more about Morrison’s take on the history and composition of the Multiverse. I also expect that this issue will clear up a few of my questions with Final Crisis #6. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2.

Creative Team

Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci and Derek Fridolfs

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

Synopsis: We begin with Ultraman holding the Infinite Book. Ultraman rants that he has seen the final chapter of the book. Ultraman says that “There is a God. And he hates us all.” Ultraman says that the god’s name is Mandrakk.

We see Mandrakk’s Destroyer ships that are larger than cities appearing in Limbo. The Destroyers anchor themselves to the garbage heaps of Limbo. Merryman growls that “They forget us. They abandon us on a cosmic dump. And that is not enough? Now they even want to steal our trash!” Ferryman grabs a huge gun and yells that “Limbo says no!”

We cut to inside the Ultima Thule where Overman, Billy Batson and Zillo Valla are located. Zillo Valla states that Mandrakk is alive. That this means that the circle of the Monitors has fallen and that the 52 universes are unattended and unguarded. Billy Batson wakes up from when he passed out in the end of the last issue. Overman tells Billy to keep clear of Zillo Valla. Overman says that Zillo is a vampire. Overman says that they have to kill her.

Billy tells Overman to back down. Billy tells Zillo Valla that she is an artificial intelligence. That the ship took Overman’s blood to repair itself. That the Ultima Thule’s engines run on the Bleed. And that the Bleed is life.

Zillo Valla says that Billy is wise. Zillo says that the “germs” are worthy of the Monitor’s attention. Zillo Valla says that she chooses Billy to be her hero. Billy says that he wishes he could help, but that when he got knocked out by the Infinite Book that he lost his memory of his magic word. Zillo Valla then says that she can hear the word’s echo in Billy’s heart. Zillo Valla then tells Billy his magic word.

We cut back to the inhabitants of Limbo battling with Mandrakk’s Destroyers. Superman tells Captain Adam that the people of Limbo need their help. Captain Adam says that he is trying to help. Adam says that he is trying to contact the Mandrakk’s mind. Adam says that they are so small yet so significant. Adam asks how it can matter so much.

Ultraman then gets in Superman’s face. Ultraman says that he is taking the Ultima Thule and spreading the word of the new gospel from world to world, in flames. Superman says that Ultraman is going to have to go through him in order to get the Ultima Thule. Superman reminds Ultraman if they make contact with each other then they will mix their matter and anti-matter particles and then annihilate each other.

Captain Marvel then appears on the scene and pushes Ultraman and Superman apart. Captain Marvel tells Ultraman to back down. Superman tells Captain Marvel that the people of Limbo need their help pushing back Mandrakk’s forces.

Captain Marvel states that Zillo Valla brought them here for a reason. That the Monitors are space angels. That the Monitors made a weapon to be used against Mandrakk. Captain Marvel asks Superman if he remembers all of this from the Infinite Book. Superman says that he remembers.

Superman then tells Captain Adam that he needs Adam’s help. Adam states that all he had to do was let go. Suddenly, we see Adam creating many duplicates of himself. Adam says that he is demonstrating quantum super-position as used defensively.

Superman tells Captain Marvel to take the Ultima Thule and go warn the Multiverse and tell them that Mandrakk is coming. Superman says that he will stay behind and do whatever he can to plug the hole in Forever.

Adam then tells Superman that the weapon that the Monitors made to use against Mandrakk was a thought robot. That the robot is activated by energies unleashed during the collision of fundamental opposing qualities. That the robot is powered by a new fission process powered by duality. Adam then says no, there are no dualities. Only symmetries.

One of Adam’s bodies that is now giant size picks up Ultraman. Ultraman yells that no one is stronger than him and that he is here to conquer. Adam replies that Adam is the endgame of the idea that spawned Ultraman. That Adam is beyond conflict. Adam says that he must return to his world, but first that he must help Superman.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 1Superman lands in Adam’s other hand. Adam says that Limbo cannot be destroyed. That Limbo is a living memory. We cut to Captain Marvel in the Ultima Thule readying to depart. Captain Marvel reminds the Captain Adam duplicate aboard the Ultima Thule to remind Superman that that the Infinite Book states that “Ultimate evil is ultimate good. The most despised will save the most beloved.”

We cut back to the giant Adam telling Superman and Ultraman that the Monitors see humans as germs, “the most despised.” Adam then takes Superman and Ultraman and pushes them together and causes a huge explosion. Adam says “Hate crime meet selfless act.” Adam says that he has fused the symmetries. That Adam is broadcasting the energies to a receiver in a higher dimension. Adam says that only Superman can save them now.

We cut to the giant ancient robot that Dax Novu, the first Monitor, had built to fight Mandrakk. The robot comes to life as the energies of Superman and Ultraman enter the robot. Superman notes that the dimension of the Monitors is unlike another place in existence. Zillo Valla looks at the robot and states that Dax Novu’s final gift before they lost him is now activated. Zillo Valla states that it is a thought robot capable of adapting instantly to counter any future threat.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 3

Weeja Dell then greets Superman. Dell states that her lover, Nix Uotan, has been exiled to the germ worlds within the Orrery. Dell states that if the Superman robot has woken up then this must mean that the last day has come and that Mandrakk is near. Dell leads the Superman robot into the main hall of the Monitors.

Superman thinks how the Monitors were once faceless and numberless until exposure to the struggle of human life changed them. Then narratives started to form around them like crystals in solution. Superman is stunned that he is walking among primal forms in a fundamental world.

The assembled Monitors are stunned to see the Superman robot activated and in front of them. Dell states that Nix was sent to die unjustly in the germ worlds. That Nix was a scapegoat of a dark design. The leader of the Monitors mumbles how could their judgment be so wrong. That nothing makes sense anymore.

One of the Monitors cries out “Ours is the guilt. Ours the responsibility. Ours the darkest secret of existence.” Superman sees the Multiverse in the broken Orrery. Superman states that it is dying. That the Monitors are draining it dry. We see Zillo Valla say “We shunned him. We locked him in a pit. In the sepulcher of the abyss. Because he showed to us our true faces.”

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 4We then see Ogama inside of the broken Orrery. Superman suddenly realizes that the entire Multiverse is prey to celestial parasites. Vampire gods. Ogama states that the ultimate secret is being revealed and now comes the great conflict. The Final Crisis. Ogama states that Nix Uotan would have fought against them, but that Ogama got rid of Nix. Ogama then yells that Mandrakk awakes.

We then see Mandrakk appear on the scene. Mandrakk is holding a vial full of the Bleed. Mandrakk tells Superman that this is the elixir that cannot be held or bottled or consumed except by the Monitors. That all Superman has to do is take it from him.

Superman thinks how he is inside of a self-assembling hyper-story. And that it is trying its best to destroy Superman. Superman and Mandrakk begin battling each other. Mandrakk mocks Superman that he is going to fail and that all the lives in the Multiverse will perish. Mandrakk asks Superman if he can hear the sound of the space between now and Lois’ final heartbeat.

Mandrakk says that his Destroyers are targeting Superman’s universe for sterilization as they speak. Zillo Valla then cries out that Mandrakk is using the Monitors to believe him into existence. Zillo Valla continues “But, deep within the germ world, I have found a better story; one created to be unstoppable and indestructible. The story of a child rocketed to Earth from a doomed planet…”

Mandrakk then tells Zillo Valla to be still and Mandrakk zaps Zillo Valla and kills her. Mandrakk then looks horrified and says “No. No, what have I done? I know that face. That voice. Zillo Valla?” The Monitors cry out “Monster! Ignorant monster! She loved you! She gave you her all to save you and now look!”

Superman then takes this opportunity of weakness by Mandrakk to gain the upper hand in their fight. Mandrakk yells for Superman to get out of his way and let him feed and feed until there is nothing by Mandrakk left. Superman says that Mandrakk will never get past him.

Superman then says that somewhere inside of him he hears Ultraman say that Mandrakk is the opposite of life. Superman then yells out that Mandrakk was part of the Monitor that felt contaminated by the Multiverse. That Mandrakk was Dax Novu. That Mandrakk was the first and the best of the Monitors.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 5Superman then blasts Mandrakk over the edge of a cliff and Mandrakk falls down into the Overmind. The Overmind, the mind of the original Monitor, engulfs Mandrakk. Superman then helps the Monitors repair the Orrery. The Monitors state that Ogama will be exiled and cast down where he can do no harm.

The Monitors state that Superman can take the elixir but add that he will never be able to take it back to his germ world. Superman answers that he will find a way. Superman continues that there is something about stories that the Monitors should know. Superman says that in the beginning of their fight that Mandrakk asked him what words he would like to have inscribed on his tombstone.

Superman crouches down next to a giant tombstone that was in the Monitor’s main hall. Superman says that these are the only words and for them to be a warning. Superman etches the words into the tombstone.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 6

The Superman robot then shuts down. Superman says that he feels himself falling. We then see Superman and Ultraman falling through the bleed between the multiple Earths. We cut back to Limbo where Captain Marvel has found his treasure. It is a piece of the Rock of Eternity. That this should make the time crisis that is rocking Captain Marvel’s world come to an end.

Superman arrives back in Limbo. Superman, Captain Marvel and Overman combine to take down Mandrakk’s Destroyer ship. We then cut to Ultraman plummeting to the ground. Ogama approaches Ultraman and tells him “Leave them to their squalid “Crisis.” Let them exhaust themselves in ultimate battle.”

Ogama continues that the Monitors cast him out. Ogama tells Ultraman to drink from the bitter cup of Mandrakk. To let Mandrakk’s blood flow through his veins. Ogama imbues Ultraman with energy. Ogama then says “Arise, my first knight of terror. My vampire Superman.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 7Ogama says that the whole of existence is in a single book. Ogama says that when he returns that Superman will be at his weakest. When all hope is lost then Ogama will return. And he will come with armies of millions. We see Ogama transform into the same shape as Mandrakk.

We cut to Clark Kent at Lois’s bedside at the hospital. Clark thinks how the Monitors were wrong that nothing can hold or contain the bleed. Clark says that Superman can. Clark kisses Lois. Lois then wakes up and is fully healed. Lois yammers on about how she had a crazy dream where she saw Clark’s adventure in the world of the Monitors.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 8We then cut back to the tombstone that Superman engraved. It says “To be continued.” End of issue.

Comments

The Good: I completely enjoyed Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2. However, I fully understand and recognize that I am going to be in the minority. This issue is vintage Grant Morrison and that is both a positive and a negative.

Morrison weaves an incredibly dense and detailed story in this issue. Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 fully engages the reader’s mind and requires some work on the reader’s part. This is certainly an issue that warrants a second and third reading in order to parse through the details and themes that Morrison is playing with in this story.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 was a wonderfully written issue. Once again, Morrison delivers a level of writing that transcends what typical comic book writing usually consists of. Morrison crafts plenty of impressive narration and dialogue. Morrison’s narration is practically lyrical. The way that Morrison plays with the language used is impressive. As a creative writing major I am envious and amazed with Morrison’s technical writing ability.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 9Morrison’s writing is exquisitely detailed. This story is engrossing and completely envelops the reader’s imagination and attention. Morrison creates such a lush and vivid setting for this story. Reading Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 is like having a lucid dream in which you can live out the wildest adventures and fantasies.

Morrison unshackles the reader from the trappings of convention and realism that weighs down so many comic books. The result is the reader feeling as if absolutely anything could happen at any moment. Once the reader embraces the fact that reality no longer exists then the reader can enjoy whatever fantastical creation Morrison presents to them.

Morrison is able to give this story such a grand and truly epic scope. This story feels larger than life. Superman Beyond is a tale that is more of mythical and legendary tale that it is a simple super hero story. And that is what makes this story so enjoyable. Comic books are nothing more than modern mythology. And Morrison understands that.

Ancient myths were not tales centered on realism. They were outlandish stories of unimaginable gods and monsters. Men with flying horses and golden fleeces. That is what Morrison gives the reader with this story.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 11The modern comic book has become so obsessed with realism. The curse of the Watchmen is that lesser talented writers than Alan Moore (And in my opinion that pretty much includes every single current writer working for Marvel and DC) have tried to emulate Moore in making their comics more “realistic.” And in the process, the comic books become darker, grittier and simply a reflection of the world that we currently live in. There is no escapism.

Now, I love a “realistic” and “dark” comic book as much as the next person. That is obvious is many of my reviews. But, too much reality in a comic book robs the comic book of its essence. Comic books are supposed to be modern myths that provide the reader with a brief amount of escapism. And that is what Morrison has created with Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. This is a modern myth as outlandish and impossible as you could imagine. And that is what makes it such a fun and enjoyable read.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 is actually very much a Silver Age story. Morrison takes the heart and soul of what makes a Silver Age story so endearing and enjoyable and wraps it up in a modern sensibility. This is much like what Morrison did on All Star Superman. So, instead of getting a story that feels “retro” or “recycled” the reader gets treated to a completely modern comic book with the essence of a Silver Age story. The added 3-D gimmick on this issue also furthers that Silver Age fun feeling the reader gets when reading this story.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 is crammed full of incredibly creative ideas. Morrison clearly had fun with this story. And, unlike Final Crisis, it is obvious that DiDio did not mettle with Morrison’s work on this title. It should be noted that Morrison is listed as the “writer” for Final Crisis: Superman Beyond while on Final Crisis Morrison is credited with “the script.” The reader gets a pure unadulterated dose of Grant Morrison. And if you dig Morrison’s writing then you will like what you get in this issue.

Morrison also pulls off some fantastic character work. I dig Captain Adam. This is such a wonderful Dr. Manhattan styled character. Adam is an intriguing character that is the perfect type of character for Morrison’s style of writing. I would like to see more of Adam in the future.

I absolutely love how Morrison writes Billy Batson and Captain Marvel. Both characters are perfectly done. Seriously, DC needs to put Morrison on a Marvel family title ASAP! Morrison understands that part of what makes Billy Batson and Captain Marvel so cool is their decidedly old school Golden and Silver Age roots and personalities. And Morrison knows that it is nothing to be ashamed of. That it is not necessary to act like Judd Winick and try to make the Marvel family all edgy, dark, angsty, trendy and “kewl.”

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 12

Captain Marvel can still be a relevant and entertaining character and also be kept true to his roots. And after Morrison’s handling of Captain Marvel in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond and the other Marvel family members in Final Crisis, I am convinced Morrison can deliver a Marvel Family comic like he did with All Star Superman.

I still cannot get over the fact that Morrison brought back Comic Book Limbo from his Animal Man run in the late 1980’s. This is pure genius. I loved Comic Book Limbo when I read Animal Man and it is great to see Limbo once again.

I particularly enjoyed the scene where Merryman simply cannot take it anymore and picks up a huge gun and proceeds to defend Limbo. These characters in Limbo have taken enough abuse and Morrison does a good job conveying the feelings of rage that surface over being discarded and abandoned.

I continue to be completely enthralled with how Morrison is fleshing out the foundation, history and composition of the Multiverse and reality in the DCU. Now, I will admit that I am a huge fan of the Multiverse. So, obviously, this story is tailor made for a reader like me. Morrison has given DC’s Multiverse such a rich and detailed texture. The mythology that Morrison has created for the Multiverse and the Monitors only serves to make me that much more fascinated with the DCU.

I loved the Superman styled thought robot that Morrison utilizes in this issue. What a cool and creative concept. You knew that when Morrison showed us this robot that Dax Novu created for the day when the end of days arrived that we would see it in action in this issue. I liked how Morrison focused in on symmetries and how it took the combination of two opposites in Ultraman and Superman to form the necessary energy to bring the thought robot to life.

Morrison did a nice job mixing the drama with Nix Uotan into the story. The reader finally learns that Nix was indeed framed. We learn that Ogama has been working for Mandrakk. And we learned that Ogama banished Nix to the germ worlds because Nix was a threat to Ogama and Mandrakk.

Morrison then drops a real stunner on the reader that the Monitors are celestial parasites. That the Monitors are vampire gods that live off the bleed. At first blush, this idea seems a bit goofy and outrageous. But, upon a second review, it actually makes sense.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 12The Monitors are the only ones who can handle the Bleed. And the Monitors are the cosmic creatures who oversee the Multiverse. It makes sense that the Bleed which holds the Multiverse together also serves as the life source for the Monitors. And it gels with the history that the first Monitor, Dax Novu, brought to the other Monitors the knowledge and riches of the Bleed. This must have been the moment when the Monitors learned to live off the Bleed in order to gain its powers. And when Dax Novu lost himself to evil and became Mandrakk, that Mandrakk showed the Monitors their true form of vampire gods.

The biggest surprise reveal was that Mandrakk is none other than Dax Novu, the first and brightest of the Monitors. Dax plays the role of Lucifer as he falls from grace and becomes the great evil knows as Mandrakk.

Morrison does a nice job with the titanic battle between Mandrakk and the Superman robot. I was surprised that Morrison had Mandrakk decisively defeated by Superman. Mandrakk falls into the Overmind and is sucked back into the mind of the original Monitor. It certainly seems that Mandrakk will not be the big baddie that we see in Final Crisis #7.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 13And that leads me to the good hook ending that Morrison gives us in this issue. We see that the banished Ogama has now tapped into the dark power and like Dax Novu before him, Ogama has now become Mandrakk. I dig that Ogama chooses Ultraman as his first knight.

Ogama then swears that he will lead his armies of millions against Superman when all hope has been lost and that Superman is at his weakest. I am unsure if Ogama is going to be the big villain that our heroes go up against in Final Crisis #7 or if this inevitable conflict that Ogama is referring to is going to happen at some later date. Perhaps in “Really Really Final Crisis: Ogama’s Revenge: This Time It Is Personal?”

The final scene in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 was a touching and well crafted scene. Despite all the violence and the darkness of Final Crisis, Morrison chooses to end Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 with a positive. Morrison emphasizes that love and hope can conquer all by having Superman do the impossible and carrying the Bleed back to Lois in order to save her. It was nice to see such a bright moment in what has otherwise been an incredibly dark event.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 14The final page with the shot of the tombstone and the words “To be continued” was a nice and fitting end to this story. This was typical Morrison. This continues the theme of the DCU being just stories and narratives that Morrison began playing with over in Animal Man and has continued to do so with Final Crisis: Superman Beyond.

Doug Mahnke is a comic book god. There. I said it. Seriously, Mahnke can draw the hell out of a comic book. Mahnke has officially become one of my all-time favorite artists. Mahnke also does a fine job keeping pace with Morrison and being able to properly convey Morrison’s stream of conscious story. Morrison’s bizarre stories make it tough on an artist to clearly convey what is occurring in each scene.

Mahnke delivers a comic book that is simply gorgeous. The reader gets spoiled by gobs of breathtakingly beautiful panels. Mahnke pours so much detail into every single panel. Mahnke is also able to wonderfully capture the emotions of the various characters. The reader can practically feel the seething heat from Ultraman’s anger. And the reader can feel the calmness of Captain Adam’s detached and logical personality.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 15

I could stare at Mahnke’s sumptuous panels for hours. There were moments in the story that I would finish reading the page and would then find myself just gazing and admiring the wonderful artwork.

And even though we got inks by committee with Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci and Derek Fridolfs, I have to commend the inkers for a quality effort. Despite the large number of different inkers, they all managed to blend their styles and give Mahnke’s pencils a nice uniform look. The reader never felt that we were swapping inkers throughout this issue. And the inks by committee never gave this issue a schizophrenic or uneven look.

The Bad: Personally, I have no complaints with this issue. However, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 is absolutely not for everyone. This issue is not designed for mass consumption. I would imagine that the majority of the comic book reading populace will not enjoy this issue.

Readers who do not like Grant Morrison’s distinct style of writing will most certainly dislike this issue. Readers who prefer linear stories that are easy to digest will not like this issue. And readers who enjoy traditional and conventional super hero stories will probably not get into this story.

Morrison certainly goes off on various metaphysical tangents that are sure to annoy some readers. Many readers will simply find this issue to be nothing more than a bunch of rambling gibberish.

Readers who do not particularly care about DC continuity and the Multiverse may not be that interested in Morrison’s mission of fleshing out the mythology of the Monitors and the Multiverse. And even fans of DC continuity may not enjoy Morrison’s bizarre take on the Monitors of having them be “vampire gods”

Overall: The Revolution completely enjoyed Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2. This was a wild, bizarre and fun ride. Still, the fact remains that Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 is definitely an acquired taste and is not for everyone. If you love Morrison’s style of writing or if you love everything connected to the Multiverse then I would recommend picking up this issue. For everyone else, I would probably recommend that you pass on picking up this issue.

1 Comments

  1. Rokk,

    When you say “Readers who prefer linear stories that are easy to digest will not like this issue,” that’s a bit of a straw man, isn’t it?

    Other than the opening page of the first issue — which was more foreshadowing than time-jumping — there was nothing at all non-linear about this story. It quite clearly and unambiguously traveled from beginning to middle to end.

Comments are closed.