Final Crisis is DC’s mega-event for 2008. After the original maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths two decades ago that effectively wiped the slate clean from convoluted continuity, we were given the far more restrained, but hard hitting Identity Crisis by novelist Brad Meltzer in 2004. This time the Crisis is Final. Apparently, but no-one will be surprised if another series with the familiar title shows up somewhere down the line.
Just like with any big event, tie-in issues are strewn throughout the company’s books (see Marvel’s current Secret Invasion for example, which does a far better job of creating a unified story than FC does) Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D picks up on a story thread glimpsed for two pages in Final Crisis #3; after a bomb detonated at the Daily Planet, Lois Lane is in hospital, with her husband Clark sitting vigilantly by her side keeping her heart pumping with his continual heat vision. He can barely keep Lois alive, but it means he can’t leave her and help the world as Superman either. When Jimmy Olsen departs the hospital on a quest to find the Man of Steel, an alien woman appears revealing two things to Clark, namely she knows who he is and that she can save his wife.
This is the point at which Superman Beyond begins. It’s a two issue series, written by Grant Morrison, otherwise known as G-Mozz to his many fans, and drawn by Doug Mahnke. The cover is certainly eye grabbing, with it’s pulsating heat vision coming straight for the hapless nerd perusing the racks. Like films using 3-D technology, comics using the same method are few and far between these days. The master of such technology, Ray Zone does the honours here. The whole issue isn’t rendered in the effective imaging tech, only 13 from a total of 30 story pages, but it certainly works and has been creatively incorporated into the tale itself. What made me pick up this ish is primarily penciller Doug Mahnke. DC must give him more work. There is no-one else like him on the stands today. His rugged pencils (especially on the classic Action Comics #775 and the Justice League Elite series) render superheroics with a harsh realism. He doesn’t present a world of majesty and muscular posing, but raw power and emotion. He’s one of my favourite artists today, and the 3-D feature only helps make his work seem even more visceral.
The let down here is the writing. I know it’s a Grant Morrison book, so I should like it. I want to like it, but my love of the G-Mozz has waned somewhat in the last year or so (and Batman: R.I.P isn’t helping either) Don’t get me wrong – he’s certainly a visionary writer, and like his arch nemesis, Brian Michael Bendis, can craft a tale years in the making with ease. However, it’s that complexity which could also be his downfall. It seems forced here, with an abundance of characters, concepts and hard to pronounce alien names that aren’t really necessary. Only true DC die-hards are capable of navigating the murky waters. I would say Morrison need stricter editorial control. His far out ideas are getting further and further out. He can do tight adventure epics extremely well, and has, particularly with his JLA launch over a decade ago, but now he seems dangerously close to becoming a mad genius stewing in his own bubbling creative juices.
Back to the story at hand – the apparent saviour of Lois freezes time, and guides Superman through the multi-verse, complete with a 4-D vision upgrade which allows him to see between the 52 different universes. The evil Superman counterpart from the anti-matter universe, Ultraman, attacks the Ultima Thule, the woman’s ship, which is also carrying other heroes she’s gathered from different worlds, including Superman variants such as Overman (from Earth-10, world where Hitler won WWII) and Captain Adam (Earth-4’s Quantum Superman from a world where the laws of physics differ from ours) Supes saves it from drifting uncontrollably between universes by forcing a crash landing on Earth-51, a planet seemingly devoid of all life. Superman quickly learns that the offer presented to him has also been made to his counterparts. It’s a clever twist and her motivations for such manipulation will surely be revealed in the last issue.
After leaving the crashed ship, Supes and co. are surprised to find a group of forgotten heroes, in a limbo of sorts, where nothing happens and memories gradually fade. They investigate a mysterious library on the strange planet, and find a book with an infinite number of pages, from which Ultraman happily skips to the ending and announces that “Evil wins in the end!”
If you’re not a reader of the current slate of DC books, don’t expect this to make any sense at all. If you’re a fan of great looking art though, grab it, put on your cardboard 3-D glasses included and gawk with glee.