Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2

Where were we again? Oh, right! Back in August!

Pg. 1:

Mammon isn't actually a god--what Luke 16:13 and Matthew 6:24 refer to is just a word for worldly riches or property. But an abstract concept that's become a living thing is just what Ultraman's talking about here. The "infinite book" might also be the collected works of the corporate entity DC Comics: work made for hire. And I'm amused by the inversion of the usual "found something greater than myself" formula.

This monologue is rather "the crime is life, the sentence is death," isn't it?

Pg. 4:

"52 universes": weren't there just 51 left after the death of moving part 51?

Übermensch seems to have recuperated from having his blood drained pretty quickly.

The boy appears to be Billy Batson, the normal-human counterpart of Captain Marvel. I think I neglected to mention last time that he was created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, and first appeared in 1940 in WHIZ COMICS #2. As established last issue, he's the Fawcett-world (Earth-5) Billy, not the one from universe 0.

"I don't like Nazis telling me what to do": not least because one of Captain Marvel's enemies in the WWII era was Captain Nazi.

Pg. 5:

"Whiz Media": a nod both to Billy's comic-of-origin and to his earlier incarnation's radio station, WHIZ.

"Savior or Majestic, Supremo, Guardsman, Hyperius, Icon or Principal": A loaded line of dialogue. All of those are blatant stand-ins for Superman, most with thinly disguised names (because the real ones aren't in the infinite book)--and thanks, as always, to Uzumeri for catching some of these I wouldn't have:

Savior is Samaritan from KURT BUSIEK'S ASTRO CITY.

Majestic is the Superman-analogue from the WildStorm universe, and has had his own title a few times.

Supremo is the Rob Liefeld-created Superman-type, Supreme.

Uzumeri argues that Guardsman is the Sentry, the latter-day back-in-the-day Marvel character with the power of ten thousand exploding suns. I'm not so sure, but that cover's a solid argument for it.

Hyperius is Hyperion, the Superman-type from the Squadron Supreme/Squadron Sinister, Marvel's stand-ins for the JLA

Icon... well, he's now officially part of the DCU, but he was conceived of as the Milestone universe's Superman type.

Principal is Prime, from Malibu Comics' Ultraverse, who's actually more of a Captain Marvel type than a Superman type.

Hey, where's Marvelman/Miracleman on this list? Or would that have been too much of a can of worms? Also notable by his absence from this list: Apollo, who was established in COUNTDOWN PRESENTS ARENA as actually being an alternate-universe Ray. (Cough.)

And is Billy's magic word really "Shazam," still, if the old gods have been replaced with new ones? (Although that hadn't happened yet as of the moment in FC #3 where Superman disappeared.)

Pg. 6:

The "monitor mind" may be one of the capital-M Monitors, but--you know, who's really watching? Who sees the characters in the story as no more than a few inches tall, but maybe finds them enormously significant?

Pg. 7:

The Shadow Demons from Wolfman and Pérez's original Crisis are a great all-purpose scary visual.

Pg. 8:

I'm curious about the way that weapons for specific purposes keep coming up in the course of FC. Also about what Vintage-Football-Helmet Guy is doing with that fish skeleton.

As Uzumeri notes, a lot of this story is making Morrison's perpetual slaying-the-father issues with Alan Moore even more explicit than usual. What else is there to say about a panel where Superman is telling a Dr. Manhattan (who's about to self-replicate) "come back to us, Allen"?

Pg. 9:

"Warn everyone, like Paul Revere!" Superman is so American.

"There are no dualities"--this is one of Morrison's favorite philosophical points, and another callback to the climax of THE INVISIBLES.

As for where the Anti-Monitor is: possibly lurking around in the consciousness of the scarred Guardian over in GREEN LANTERN?

Pg. 10:

And it's even funnier to see Dr. Manhattan saying "only symmetries" on a page opposite the ad for Watchmen, whose cover color scheme is the same as the Ultima Thule Yellow Submarine's.

Dr. Manhattan (I can't stop calling him that) as "the endgame of the idea that spawned the likes of you"--yes, there's the good/evil vs. beyond-good-and-evil duality (or symmetry!), but there's also the idea of Dr. Manhattan-as-Captain Atom-as-Superman--the multi-leveled meta-referential games Morrison is playing here--as the endgame of the idea that started with the likes of Ultraman appearing as an alternate-world version of Superman back in 1964.

Pg. 11:

"A higher dimension": the third, by our standards, or fourth, by theirs.

Pg. 12:

This is as explicit a visual callback as you can get to two of Morrison's favorite visual motifs in the work leading up to this: the character reaching out through the fourth wall to touch the reader (Zatanna in SEVEN SOLDIERS: ZATANNA, Animal Man's "I can see you!"), and the motion from a lower dimension to a higher one represented by seeing a comic book panel from an angle (used most notably in SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE, which also revolves around a climactic shot of a tombstone). "From a direction that has no name comes a sound like breathing... as if cradled": you, the reader, are holding the comic book, and you're just beyond Superman's available directions--but now he's got 4-D vision!

It also occurs to me that this is the ultimate Superman-Red/Superman-Blue story. And that the robot/armor is a fiction suit, in the sense of an outfit for navigating one's way through the blood vessels of fiction.

Pp. 14-15:

"Yivaroth" is an invented word, but it resonates with "sephiroth." "5555 different words for nothing": a great riff on the old "words for snow" canard. "Long ago": not very much time has passed in our world since FC #1, but it looks like plenty of time has passed in theirs. It's not clear from the perspective here, but the Monitors are actually much tinier than the Superman-bot.

ETA: Weeja Dell is the Monitor of Earth-6... which, as we saw last issue, is (a stand-in for) the Marvel Universe (616)!

Pg. 16:

"A doomsday countdown reaches zero": more Watchmen-isms!

Pg. 17:

"A shattered jar": looks like the Orrery has been smashed, and all the moving parts are rolling around. We haven't really seen Ogama since he was doing his stage-villain thing back in FC #1, have we?

There is certainly the open question of whether the Monitors-as-vampires are a metaphorical representation of comics' readers, and we'll see that play out on the next few pages.

Pg. 18:

"The elixir"--that which grants eternal life and youth--is controlled by the Monitors. And if the Monitors are the readers, we have the ability to keep Superman and Lois and all the others forever young and healthy...

Pg. 19:

The "self-assembling hyper story" is, perhaps, the same thing as the infinite book. As Uzumeri notes, Mandrakk is very close to Starbreaker.

Pg. 20:

And now we circle back around to the splash page from #1.

Pg. 21:

Thoughts-into-existence--which is what the Miracle Machine and power rings and other machines do--isn't the same thing as belief into existence. And Superman isn't just unstoppable and indestructible, so is his story; it's always to be continued.

Pg. 24:

It appears that the final burst of whatever is coming out of the Superman-robot's eyes takes the eyes with them.

Pg. 26:

ETA: Here's a question: as Ultraman pointed out last issue, only one Superman gets the prize, and that's our Kal-El. Does that mean that the other champions have failed to get what they want? Certainly, Overman doesn't get to rescue his cousin--but she was already dead (fallen out of the Bleed) by the time Zillo Valla took Superman away in FC #3. And Captain Marvel, we see here, has found his treasure--the Rock's fragment.

Pg. 27:

ETA: "I daren't speak": why not? Because, as commenters over at Funnybook Babylon pointed out, he's got the Bleed in his mouth. As opposed to the vampires, who have blood in their mouths but consume it instead of kissing it away.

Pg. 29:

We've seen a vampire Superman before--WORLD'S FINEST #249 comes to mind.

Pg. 30:

Apparently Zillo Valla was as good as her word. If Batman thinks of everything, Superman can do anything. Note that Clark was even kind enough to keep the orderly's cups from falling before going in to kiss Lois awake.

Pg. 31:

That ending wink would have to be a... wink toward "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," all right. But let me see if I've got this straight: Zillo Valla zaps Superman away in FC #3, but his adventure and return happen in the space between heartbeats; then he cures Lois and leaves the hospital, the rain stops falling and the sun comes out, and straightaway he gets the Legion's summons to the 31st century in Lo3W, which is where he returns from in FC #6. That seems off somehow, story-structure-wise.

Pg. 32:

You can pray for a resurrection, and if the subject of your prayers is a superhero, you'll always get what you ask for. ETA: As Steven notes in the comments, all superhero stories begin "Previously," and they all end this way.

See you next week for the Big One.

21 comments:

Joe Iglesias said...

Your read on page 12 just blew my mind. Yow.

Steven said...

Note, on Page 7, the Shadow Demons are LITERALLY stealing the trash from Limbo, like the Sheeda stole photographs and newspapers in Seven Soldiers 1.

And I'm pretty sure the Monitors are the writers, artists and editors at DC Comics, who keep their characters alive in order to live off them, who create both ultimate evil and ultimate good.

It makes Nix Uoton an interesting Morrison stand-in, the writer who would have fought against this parasitic stasis, but who gets (routinely) trapped in someone else's universe, only to save it by remaking it in his own image (Morrison on X-Men, Morrison on Batman...)

Superman's inscription as a warning feels like one last Watchmen, a call back to Dr. Manhattan's warning that "Nothing ever ends."

The wink is a call back primarily to every episode of the Adventures of Superman (as well as DC 1,000,000 and an infinite number of Superman stories).

And then there's that last page, which I loved, despite/because it's the same last page as Seven Soldiers AND All-Star Superman AND Morrison's run on JLA AND...

Just as all superhero stories begin "Previously," they all end "To Be Continued"

David Uzumeri said...

That's a really good point about belief versus will, but DAMN, your reading of page twelve *slayed* me. I was trying to figure out what that meant and just sort of ended up glossing over it, but yeah, you're dead on and it's sort of chilling now almost to read it and... cradle Superman.

Caleb said...

Hmmm...I don't know if I'd say that Superman winking at the reader is necessarrily a "Whatever Happened..." reference so much as a reference to your average Superman story. It seems to me that about a third of the Silver Age Superman stories I read ended with him winking at the reader.

Interesting read as always though.

Timothy Callahan said...

The temporal displacement of Superman probably seems off -- and it seems off to me too -- because Superman doesn't act like he's in the middle of a ginormous crisis and kind of in a hurry to get back home in "Lo3W."

Garrie Burr said...

Slightly-ordered rambling after re-reading both issues and then your comments:

I had the same thought as you on page 12 but the idea of "we the reader" as the almost touchable presence is even stronger, more obvious to me, because of Superman Beyond's physical format.

Glasses enhance the vision of the wearer and here we have a story designed in a way which -forces- us to see it in a different enhanced way. It's very hard to be a passive reader with these things stuck over your eyeballs.

Or is that part of what you meant by the ultimate Superman Red and Blue story, what with the colors on our special super-vision devices?

Must read again...there's more to say about Morrison's choice of the 3 or 4-D here, but I'm thinking more thinking might first be in order.

p.e. said...

Are you guys still holding that butchery from Countdown and Death of the NG to be canon (extinction of that universe)? Ithought if people had any breach to just forget that blitzkrieg of badness, they would jump in. I know I did.

Douglas Wolk said...

P.E.: the "loss of moving part 51" is mentioned in FC #1--you can still write off Countdown if you like...

Retro315 said...

I'm still thinking Dax Novu was the COIE Monitor and that "we the bloodthirsty modern readers" are what made him into a vampire. I'm not sure how it plays ... but people die and come back as vampires all the time.

Shadow Demons are back, phenomenal. The Anti-Monitor's Shadow Demons had the same shape as him, and these ones are twisted and starved like Mandrakk. Although it occured to me that Anti-Monitor's Demons, which are "tainted by black magic" might look something like this ...

"Come back to us, Allen" also seems really indicative of the real Captain Atom ... Monarch sucks and Morrison knows it.

Symmetries. And where is the symmetry between 52 positive matter universes, and only ONE negative anti-matter universe? Between 52 Monitors and one Anti-Monitor?

The Superman statue is practically a gift from the older days of comics (no wonder it's golden). Feels to me like Morrison telling writers "go read old comics for inspiration so we can get out of this grim and gritty bullcrap".

Weeja is a "Monitrix". Cool.

The Monitors themselves locked the COIE Monitor in the void after he warned them of the impending changes?

Who is Ogama? I've heard his name, and saw him snickering in FC#1 ... but is he the same guy as Solomon? It's not totally clear to me ...

At any rate, one of Mandrakk's cultist Monitors "hugging" the Source Wall of New Earth seems to be hinting at involvement.

Superman kisses Lois and everything is okay ... I'm not sure if that's an homage to the Superman films, and how a kiss could take away memories (and how he fly so fast he went back in time) but it feels like one.

It looks like a couple of my questions won't be answered until FC#7, the big one ... luckily it sounds like it's going to have 44 pages to answer within.

Chris said...

I guess the "graveyard universe" of Earth 51 counts as a universe just the same. Nix Uotan recreated it before it was destroyed for the second time at the end of Countdown, so perhaps he'll have to do something similar next week?

rap said...

Grant loves cooking up his own inter-company crossovers and has been doing 'em as far back as Zenith, in fact.

Will Staples said...

Like Retro315, it seems to me that Dax Novu/Mandrakk is the Monitor from the first Crisis; the first issue mentions that the "ur-Monitor's" "probe" (Novu/Mandrakk) was split in two, which corresponds to the COIE-Monitor's origin. And, of course, there's that panel showing Novu witnessing COIE.

I'm guessing that the Anti-Monitor was an unforseen byproduct of the "probe's" creation and not part of the other Monitors' social structure.

chan said...

I was wondering if the robot/armor functioned as a kind of golem-animated by story or something. Then my head exploded.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't Guardsman be a nod to Super-guardian Gladiator of the Shi'Ar's Imperial Guard?

I don't need a Name said...

I agree with the comment above. Think about it. Kallarak (Gladiator...lol)is preator of the ImperialGUARD.......

David Uzumeri said...

Will, I think you're right - I interpreted "First son of Monitor" to be referring to the original Monitor who entered the multiverse, not the vast MONITOR intelligence - which it must be, since he doesn't use a definite or indefinite article, it's just "MONITOR." I kind of wish we could see capitalization in lettering at times like this. So yeah, I'm pretty sure that our cornrowed buddy from Crisis on Infinite Earths is Dax Novu.

I have *no* idea how the Anti-Monitor re-manifested in Sinestro Corps War, and I'm surprised if Johns actually contradicted Morrison there.

Tobias said...

This might've been covered already, but -- am I crazy for thinking that Overman's characterization owes something to Kim Newman's short story "Ubermensch!"?

Retro315 said...

I believe Anti-Monitor could have been reborn at the same time as the 52 Monitors, during Infinite Crisis. If that's the case, then the ur-Monitor willed him back into being, as the "symmetry", only this time to keep him in check had him outnumbered 52 to 1 (to prevent any more attempts at Anti-Matter takeovers and COIE). Kind of like how Superman and Ultraman had their parts to play this issue.

Although it's possible that the Anti-Matter Universe was the only place untouched in any of the Crises.

But his power has dwindled back down from his "99.99% of the Multiverse status" to actually being nothing more than a dark reflection of a Monitor, with a grudge against New Earth.

And since Sinestro and the Guardians have always been linked to the Anti-Monitor and Monitor, Sinestro was the first person to discover that Anti-Monitor was back on Qward, and the two hatched some anti-Guardian, anti-Earth plans.

At any rate ... somebody somewhere is thrilled to death that they have the biggest Anti-Matter conduit in the known Multiverse as their new Central Power Battery ... because nothing raises dead corpses from the grave quite like Anti-Matter.

Not Dickless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Secundus said...

I may be screwing up the timeline (that's quite a loaded word in this context, come to think of it), but as for the COIE Monitor: perhaps this was "before" Monitorspace was infected by stories? If that's the case, the COIE Monitor would have no story/backstory, and hence no name. The idea of any Monitor (not all caps) having a name might be retroactively applied, though, once there were multiple and distinct Monitors -- so the naming of the COIE Monitor could be considered retconned in.

Nobody said...

Superman's reach towards the reader on page 12 is not only the three-dimensional culmination of Morrison's previous 4th-wall-breaking moments in Animal Man and Zatanna, it is also comparable to Alexander Luthor's sight of and grasp towards the reader (since we are all in Earth-Prime) in Infinite Crisis #6.

Is it just me, or is Superman: Beyond the only part of Final Crisis that makes me feel the event has much in common with COIE and Infinite Crisis? Although Morrison is my favorite writer and Beyond alone would cover an infinity of FC sins, I still prefer IC to FC qua FC.

So here's hoping Mankhe's issue 7 finally blows the roof off. (Not that I didn't absolutely love Batman's once-in-a-lifetime exception!)