Best Shots Extra: Superman Beyond #2
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2 cover
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
Superman Beyond #2 reaches for a pretty high pinnacle, but it breaks down on a level of just . . . story. That’s fairly ironic, considering that one of the philosophical tenets of this two-part branch from Final Crisis is the notion of “story” itself, particularly in terms of the ongoing narrative of a shared universe. Or in this case, multiverse.
Picking up from last time, Madarrk the Mad Monitor is breaking through, reality is falling apart, and readers were wondering about the tangible connection between this and Final Crisis proper. Honestly, those connections are tenuous, and not readily established. Superman departed that mini-series for this one, and we saw that last issue; as for how he ultimately gets from here to Legion of 3 Worlds and back for the end of Final Crisis #6, that’s kind of left for the reader to fill in. It’s not a huge point in the story, but it’s something that’s sure to occur to people who came here through that connection.
Much of the tale is rooted in multiverse concepts, and it’s amusing in this light to see that Morrison uses a number of characters that were acquired from other companies over the years. We see variants of Captain Marvel, Captain Atom, and the idea of The Bleed, none of which originated at DC proper. All of those things (plus Ultraman, Superman’s opposite) have been integrated into the DCU over time, and are used as support to Morrison’s idea that fiction itself is a “living” thing, constantly growing and evolving.
On a level of art, Mahnke and Alamy do a great job, but the 3D passage this time is ultimately distracting. It’s fun to see on occasion, but it somewhat blunts the impact of the universal graveyard sequence. It is a tribute to the artists that they take care to make the faces of several lookalike characters subtly different.
There are an enormous amount of great ideas here, but the problem is that they end up being basically shouted at the reader in exposition. Individual lines in that regard are cool, but it feels more like a collection on thought-pieces and hanging concepts rather than a coherent narrative with real drive and momentum. Morrison is a very, very smart man, but he somewhat outsmarts himself by putting too much of the issue in the “tell” rather than “show” category of writing.
I enjoyed the meta-take and whimsy that it his final statement (essentially answering the question of what Superman would want on his tombstone), and there are things to be admired here, but it lacks the crazy fun of the first issue. Honestly, reading it was kind of a chore.