Aug
28

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

Posted by on Thursday, August 28th, 2008 at 05:07:11 AM

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1Hh. Spoilers within. This is actually the first thirty pages of a sixty-page script; I imagine Morrison still did a bit of work to modify it, though, since it ends on a pretty satisfying cliffhanger (if that makes any sense). I assume the second issue won’t hit until at least December, either along with or in place of Final Crisis #7.

The 3-D “gimmick” isn’t really used for any particular narrative purpose just yet, it just looks cool (or distracting/annoying, depending on your outlook). Still, it does distinguish the extradimensional elements from the mundane ones.

After these annotations, I’ll include a few observations regarding FC: Rogues’ Revenge #2. In the absence of Granddaddy Wolk I don’t know if anyone will be covering this issue, but I really haven’t read Johns’s Flash run recently enough to do a full annotation. Last Will and Testament is out too, but it pretty much totally fails to match up in any way with Final Crisis and is really just a vehicle for Brad Meltzer to do his Meltzer Thing. Something else regarding that might be in the works, though…

Anyway.

Page 1: 3-D, in what looks to be the ruins of… a city? It’s unclear whether this is our Metropolis or one from a parallel universe. The red skies and clouds part to expose the machinery of the multiverse, which is similar to the patterns we saw on all the Monitor machinery back in FC #1. The pissed-off avenging Monitor dude, with power coursing through him and some kind of yellow power vision, is likely Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, introduced later. Superman’s Cosmic Armor is identical to the idol of him worshipped/built around by the Monitors later on – could that have been its purpose all along?

In the comments, Jeff O’Boyle just blew my goddamn mind. The pose is identical to the cover of Justice League of America #96, the first appearance of Starbreaker, the “cosmic vampire.” Mandracula->Mandrac->Mandrakk. This may just be a clue, and I’m gonna start breaking out the old JLA issues…

Pages 2-3: Superman is clearly still on his adventure when this is occurring, because his leaving New Earth is still only a heartbeat ago. What follows is the scene from FC #3 where Superman left New Earth, making this opening sequence a quick flash-forward.

Pages 4-5: Zillo Valla enters the room. Note the Monitormanchines she leaves in her wake, like some sort of even more advanced Kirby dots, spherical sigils.

Page 7: “Universe Designate Zero” confirms that the “main” DC Universe is not “Earth-1.” Time flows differently as it moves farther away from Earth-0, until the timelessness of Limbo, and the outside-time of the world of the Monitors, makes a degree of sense – the Monitors developed this big civilization in what has been, for the DCU, at most three or four years, mirroring the time differential between the DC Universe and, well, our universe.

Page 8: The name “Ultima Thule“, much like the myth of Jason & the Argonauts that inspires its voyage, is of classical origin:

Ultima Thule in medieval geographies may also denote any distant place located beyond the “borders of the known world.” Some people use Ultima Thule as the Latin name for Greenland when Thule is used for Iceland.

The “Ultramenstruum” seems to confirm the idea that the current DC Multiverse is a sort of cosmic egg (of viviparous origins this time, rather than the oviparous Krona egg from Trinity and JLA/Avengers) and the Bleed is menstrual fluid. Does this mean that a Crisis, with its red skies, marks when the Multiverse is having its period?

Apparently, the Bleed can only be touched by the “Monitors of Nil”, making them… cosmic gynecologists? And the Overvoid is the cosmic vagina? PAGING DAVE SIM!

Page 9: The idea of Superman being able to spontaneously develop powers is reminiscent of Morrison favorite Superman #150 and his own All Star Superman. The three alternate Supermen introduced here are first, the Overman of Earth-10 (his dialogue: “We will have to accept losses! This machine is about explode!”), the Captain Marvel of Earth-5 and the Captain Adam of Earth-4 (the Charlton/Watchmen mash-up world), apparently professing his atheism.

Pages 10-11: We all live in a yellow submarine… Superman and his fellow psychonauts cross between Earth-0 and Earth-13, the “magical/pseudo-Vertigo” Earth, which is apparently a bunch of crows and airplanes. The arterial wall of the Bleed seems to be forming antibodies to fight the ‘invasion’ of the Ultima Thule, in the form of our old friends the Qwardian Shadow Demons from Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Page 12: Earth-6 hasn’t really been developed before. The huge, hulking ship, apparently traveling through the Bleed, resembles (likely intentionally, given some of Morrison’s interviews) the Carrier from The Authority (the Bleed itself originated in Warren Ellis’s Wildstorm work). This version of Ultraman was first introduced in Morrison and Frank Quitely’s JLA: Earth-2. He’s the antimatter universe equivalent of Superman, making him the world’s biggest selfish douchebag.

Page 13: Apparently, Earth-6 is having its own version of Marvel’s Civil War (armor dude versus knight with shield; family members fighting; stretchy guy versus dude with afro… Iron Fist and Hawkeye in the lower-left panel…) Captain Marvel refers to the ship and universe as being “out of tune”; the vibrational nature of the Multiverse leads to a musical interpretation of its structure, especially considering Morrison’s interest in string theory.

Page 14: The graveyard universe, Earth-51, is the result of the Morticoccus virus in Countdown, its only surviving lifeforms (at least according to that book, which Morrison has recently stated will be reconciled with Final Crisis).

Page 15: Earth-20 is the home to Doc Fate, a Dr. Fate/Doc Savage hybrid Morrison’s thought a lot about. The second Earth, at night, is unclear, while the third, Earth-17, is the postapocalyptic world of the Atomic Knights previously seen at the end of 52.

Page 16: “I don’t want to know what happened here.” No, Superman, you really, really don’t. The Morticoccus virus was loosed by the Monitor Solomon sending an infected Karate Kid to Earth-51, where he unknowingly spread the virus, which turned everyone into animals and turned the world into the world of Kamandi. So, you know, there should be lifeforms that this crash would kill, but let’s ignore that along with Monarch and Superboy-Prime blowing up Universe-51 the *first* time. It was also formerly Nix Uotan’s world, and its destruction was the reason he was exiled.

Page 17: Ultraman’s speech patterns (“God below”, “Hell above”) are due to the opposite nature of his universe, which was recently revealed to be reactive rather than proactive to the occurrences on Earth-0 in Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley and others’ Trinity. Captain Adam’s stoic disposition and apparent reliance on drugs is something we’ll get to in a second (our kind of second, not a Monitor second), although note his apparently moving hydrogen-atom design on his forehead and the obvious reference to the seminal Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons work Watchmen. Ultraman makes a good point about an ‘ultimate treasure’ – perhaps it signifies that only one instance of each hero class (computer science nerds rejoice – class Ultraman extends Superman { ... }) can survive after this Crisis. The final panel is Zillo Valla asking Overman to give up his life, tying in to a later revelation and the events of Final Crisis #3.

Page 18: The fact that Captain Marvel from Earth-5 can simultaneously touch Ultraman and Superman shows that the other worlds of the multiverse must be somehow between matter and antimatter, and, perhaps, somehow between good and evil as a result? Overman: “All the universes vibrate at different frequencies.” I assume his guilt-ridden description is due to the loss of Overgirl, shown as a damaging moment later in this issue and shown as dead on Earth-0 back in Final Crisis #3. “Captain Allen Adam,” I can only assume, is a playful? dig on Alan Moore, creator of Dr. Manhattan (the obvious inspiration for this character; see the hydrogen-atom design on the forehead). Manhattan’s monologues in Watchmen were renowned for their cut-up, nonlinear nature, much like Captain Adam’s statements in this book, which additionally (along with the repeated mentions of drug abuse to ‘dampen his quantum senses’ – is that a compliment or insult? I can’t even tell) resemble Alan Moore’s speech patterns – or, at least, Warren Ellis’s rendition thereof.

Page 19: The Yellow SubmarineUltima Thule is stranded in Limbo, the graveyard for forgotten comic book characters first introduced in Grant Morrison’s own Animal Man #25 as a dimension the titular character had to travel through to converse with his creator, Grant Morrison himself.

As for the welcoming party. At the front is the established King of Limbo (a worthless title, as explained on the next page), surrounded by:

Left to Right, kind of:

  • Longhaired guy with a circle on his chest = Nightblade, from the Bloodlines/Blood Pack crossover (1993)
  • Guy in the cap, horizontal striped top and odd jacket = ???
  • Guys with the shoulder pads on one shoulder = Members of The Alliance from Haven: Broken City (2001)
  • Dog in a mask = Ace the Bathound!
  • Man in armor = ???
  • Man (doll?) with the popped collar = ??? (looks kind of like disco Raggedy Andy)
  • Man peeking out from behind Merryman = Gunfire, also from Bloodlines
  • Smiling man with no eyes and triangle-pattern sleeves = Voiceover, from Hero Hotline (1988)
  • Masked guy behind Voiceover = Ballistic(?) from Bloodlines
  • Giant guy = Golem, the version from Primal Force (1994)
  • Blonde guy in full mask + scarf = Geist from Bloodlines
  • Big Yellow and Blue Guy = Hardhat of the Demolition Team, from Len Wein and Dave Gibbons’s Green Lantern Corps (1984)
  • Guy in black jumpsuit with geometric pattern = Chronos II (Walker Gabriel), from John Francis Moore and Paul Guinan’s Chronos (1994)
  • Guy with the suit and the weird glasses = Private Eyes from Hero Hotline

Corrections welcome! These guys are obscure as hell, obviously on purpose. Special thanks to Chris Eckert for compiling this list; most of these guys are way before my time.

Page 20: Captain Adam of Earth-4 increases his size, like Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam. Overman: “What is this? I cannot remember why I came; this technology is for the dogs.” (I could be wrong on this; I’m using Babelfish.)

Page 21: “It was written by a monkey!” The whole infinite-monkeys-on-infinite-typewriters concept is from Morrison’s Animal Man (well, within the concept of the DC Universe); the idea of a library that contains all possible texts is clearly inspired by the inimitable (depending on whether or not you like Mark Z. Danielewski) Jorge Luis Borges and his Library of Babel. Somewhere out there, stoners from the ’60s with glow-in-the-dark Ditko Dr. Strange posters are envying us this comic. As Superman and Captain Marvel try to retrieve the infinite codex, though, apparently God/the Monitor/the Overvoid gets in a huge, black word balloon.

Page 22: Oh hey, now it’s a Grant Morrison comic! Note the similarity between the close-up on the cosmic ovum and the “universes-exploding” picture in Infinite Crisis #6 and Crisis on Infinite Earths itself, with each parallel Earth like a flagellum off of the main organism. The “Monitor”/Overvoid in this case is likely the extradimensional entity represented perhaps by the yellow aliens in Animal Man and the Outer Church/Invisible College in The Invisibles.

Page 23: “A conscious, living VOID!” Damn those women! Truly, the thematic importance of Identity Crisis is now clear. Kidding aside, Merryman has apparently been possessed by Joseph Campbell and is preaching the significance of the hero’s journey while the Overvoid shows how its cornrowed followers came to be. It seems the Overvoid decided to send a probe in, and dressed it up like the native inhabitants – with badass ’80s shoulderpads and a cape, like a superhero. It was the Monitor. It must have pretty enthralled with what it saw, solidly establishing the Monitors as stand-ins for superhero fandom. The final panel is a scene from Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Page 24: This goes back to the sequence in FC #1 about how time has infected the Monitors’ world, giving them individuality and stories. It appears that, outside of the Multiverse, the memory of the encounter with superheroes left a monument to heroism outside of the “flaw”; a monument that greatly resembled Superman’s “cosmic armor” in the beginning flash-forward. The probe is “blinded and split in two”, seemingly leading to the creation of the Monitor and Anti-Monitor at the outset of the original Crisis. The “divine metals” that “scab over” the flaw appear to be the Orrery, and likely appear to the inhabitants of the universes to be the all-shielding Source Walls. Not that the scab works.

Page 25: Evidently, the Overvoid has built a civilization out of the children of Monitor (how did that happen if the ‘probe’ was stuck in the germinating multiverse?). I love the bizarre reversal of the whole The Gods Must Be Crazy thing here, where the higher life forms receive this message of heroism and legend from the lower ones and are utterly confused by it, trying desperately to discover its meaning. The belief that it must be a weapon is prescient, tying into mankind’s discovery of fire back in FC #1; perhaps the higher life forms are making the same mistake as man did.

Page 26: Dax Novu, like all of the new Monitors, is a new character, as is the apparently-locked-up Mandrakk. Mandrakk, I assume, does not simply seek an end to the age of superheroes or the age of good; he seeks an end to the age of stories and the legacy of the heroic tale itself. Morrison’s shooting for the belt here.

Page 27: Our psychedelic trip through the history of, uh, us comes to an end due to mysterious feedback. Merryman refers to the world outside as “the void, the blank, the zip, the zilch,” equating it with the Overvoid (which Zillo Valla alluded was called Nil to the Monitors). The memory loss incurred by staying in Limbo seems to have caused Billy Batson to forget the word Shazam, although not the wisdom of Solomon (is the fact that the evil monitor of Countdown was named Solomon a coincidence or a clue?), which warns that “the ultimate good is the ultimate evil,” echoing the anti-Gnostic sentiments put forth by the finale of The Invisibles. (A lot of this ties into my article about a year ago that predicted the broad strokes of the story being told here.) The idea of a human forgetting the word to make him superhuman also previously appeared not only in Morrison’s Flex Mentallo, but is the current predicament of Monitor 51, Nix Uotan, in the main book.

Page 28: Superman appears to be bailing out the entire residency of Limbo, through a “door” that resembles those used by, again, the Authority. Captain Adam’s drugs wearing off starts him on a time-compressing rant echoing Dr. Manhattan’s famous omniscient issue of Watchmen.

Page 29: Zillo Valla has used some sort of Monitor Vampire Powers to kill Overman and regenerate both herself and the Ultima Thule, while warning that she “tried to make a good end” (presumably to his story) but she failed, for Mandrakk is coming. The cousin that Overman was looking for was Overgirl, who we saw die in Manhattan in Final Crisis #3. She refers to “Carriers, destroyers, tankers and explorers,” again suggesting that the Authority’s Carrier is linked to Mandrakk’s place and army in the Bleed.

Page 30: Ultraman apparently has the page of the infinite codex proclaiming the ultimate victory of evil, which suits him just fine – remember, due to the basic metaphysical properties of their worlds, good always wins on Earth-0 and evil always wins on the antimatter Earth, so this is a major victory for his entire philosophy and homeuniverse. It’s unclear what Earth this actually occurs on, or if it’s the same one from the beginning.

Whew. That was a lot to take in and discuss. At this point, I’m fairly glad it wasn’t a sixty page double-sized one-shot, because I’d be up all night annotating this. This one-shot seems to set up Final Crisis as a fairly explicit commentary on the station of superhero fandom and humanity’s relationship with the archetypal heroic story in modern times, with Mandrakk representing the forces of cynicism and apathy come to undermine and discredit the very concept of the heroic ideal and the inspirational entertainment value brought from it. It’s a lofty concept, and I’m incredibly excited to see where it goes.

On a quicker note, Rogues’ Revenge gives us a few interesting clues about the overall picture of Final Crisis. (The rest of the book is typical Johns work: well-thought-out, straightforward, highly entertaining DC Universe trivia that’s suitably explained or set up.) First of all, it continues the trend of Libra’s shifting eye colors; he seems to go from red to blue within the scene’s final issue, and has orange eyes on the cover. Similarly, his eyes changed from blue to green (his skin went green too) when he received the Rogues’ message in the first issue. This is likely a clue rather than an ongoing mistake by veteran colorist Dave McCaig, so does anyone know DC villains or heroes with rapidly shifting eye colors? Could he be Rainbow Raider, feeding off the emotional spectrum? A number of characters shifting under the suit at once? I have no idea, but I’m more than open to suggestions.

See you in October for Final Crisis #4 and Submit. Stay frosty.

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