Saturday, January 24, 2009

Superman Beyond #2 Hits THE SPLASH PAGE

This week's "Splash Page" discussion begins on Chad Nevett's blog. Read that part first, then come back here for PART TWO:

Chad Nevett: How do you think this little tangent story works in relation to All-Star Superman? It seems to have some relationship, but where that book fell flat for me, this one really worked. Is there any relationship beyond the same writer and character?

Tim Callahan: There's certainly a parallel between All-Star and Superman Beyond, most emphatically on the final page of each series. In All-Star we get the promise that Superman will continue via Quintum's technology -- "Superman 2," which we know will lead to a future strain of Supermen, as seen in the appearance of the Superman Squad in issue #6 -- while in Superman Beyond we get the ultimate Superman epitaph: "To Be Continued." It all ties in to Morrison's constant articulation of the existence of Superman above and beyond our own mortal existence. The whole "Superman is realer than us" idea.

Plus, both series feature that moment of transcendent awareness where Superman realizes how everything fits together, but, ironically, in All-Star, the moment is one in which he realizes that "we are all there is" and there is no higher power or meaning above the deeds of humanity/superhumanity. In Superman Beyond, he not only recognizes the existence of a higher realm in the Bleed, but he senses the reader as well, as he feels our breath as we "cradle" the comic book in our hands. I think the difference between those two moments speak to the differences between the two series. All-Star is a sealed-system look at the Superman mythos and our universe exists inside that one -- we are the pocket universe inside Superman's Fortress. Superman is the ultimate example of goodness upon which our sense of right and wrong is based, or something along those lines. Superman Beyond is the DCU as a creation of our universe, and like Buddy Baker, Superman can only look up at us from inside his comic book reality, but he is always trapped within it. Of course, if we take Morrison's cosmology to its logical extreme, the DCU is a layer nestled inside our reality, and our reality is a layer nestled inside the DCU -- it's a physically impossible situation to be in, or it seems to be, but maybe that's because we lack the fifth-dimensional vision to see it properly.

Why do you think Superman Beyond works so well for you, but All-Star didn't do a thing for you?

CN: I hate to go to my old stand-by, but Superman Beyond 3D just seemed to have more "energy." It's more a frantic, high-speed charge through an insane adventure, while All-Star Superman was more... purposeful, more planned, a bit too static for my tastes. Superman Beyond 3D is told in the same fashion as my favorite Morrison stories where everything happens too fast and you need to go through it a few times to really pick up on everything. It reads like a six-issue arc compressed into these two issues, which is a style that I love. And while it shows off Morrison's love of the character, this story seems to be more about demonstrating how great Superman is without spending an equal amount of time telling us that he's great, which All-Star did quite a bit through secondary characters. It was more show than tell, I guess. Plus, it's in 3D and who doesn't love 3D?

TC:
I'm pretty sure most people don't love 3D -- or at least 3D comics. Didn't you complain about the 3D last time? I know I did.

But the 3D is FAR more important in this issue. It's a great use of the effect to break the fourth wall, and while it's not an absolutely essential part of the story, it does provide a new spin on an old Morrisonian cliche as Superman reaches out toward us. I read this issue differently than the first one, too. I read the whole thing without those damned glasses, then I went back and re-read the 3D stuff with the glasses on. I just have a hard time reading the words.

CN: Yeah, the 3D wasn't that great in the first issue, but worked really well here. I do think the 3D ended a page too early since there's a non-3D page that takes place in that "higher Monitor reality" and I don't know why it's not in 3D. If you look at the story as a whole, I'm not sure the 3D works, particularly in the first issue where it's like you need 3D glasses to comprehend one level of reality, but that wears off and then you need 3D glasses to comprehend another level of reality. It's kind of odd and arbitrary in many ways. But, if you take this issue alone with the 3D, it works for the most part, I think.

TC: What a bold defense, my friend! I guess we should probably wrap this up, and get our brains ready for whatever is in store for us next week with Final Crisis #7. Do you think the Monitors will play a role in the finale at all? Will Mandrakk reappear in the end? Or will this 3D detour remain just a thematic parallel to the main event, and someone else (Judd Winick? Gail Simone?) will pick up on the space vampire Monitors and use them as villains in the future?

CN: Actually, Mandrakk's introduction here reminds me of the way Morrison brought Solaris into Superman's world in DC One Million. I could see either Morrison or someone else picking up on the character and his followers, especially vampire Ultraman. I think Morrison began something here that will have to be addressed at some point. As for the Monitors in the finale... I don't expect much beyond Nix Uotan, but maybe he'll have a nice reunion scene with his long lost love... or maybe he'll initiate some sort of "upgrade" with the other Monitors, making them the new gods... who knows?

[Next Week's Splash Page: Final Crisis #7! And don't forget to reflect on the past with "The Final Crisis Dialogues."]

1 comment:

raymondconlon said...

Yet again, Grant Morrison shows that he is the ONLY writer that manages time after time to really bring Superman (and Batman) across on the page 'properly'.

The second, final issue of Superman Beyond was the end to a truly epic story of location and character. Superman fulfils his role as the Ultimate Superhero as he safes the Universe(s) AND his dying wife. Fantastic stuff.

Oh and the line 'Sure. I've heard it all before, tough guy.' Batman says a similar line when faced with the hope-crushing talk of The Lump ('your mission will fail in the end etc). In both instances, it really shows their resilient and relentless will to do good in the face of evil.