FC:SB(!)3D#2

January 27th, 2009

It’s just gibberish, eh? Or machine code, something something. That title. Or is it compressed, purposive – come see!

supeyonda supeyondb

(A short note about covers, because I had been rather smug about purchasing story covers – look, I’m not buying two covers, it’s ridic – but am now, after three consecutive Carlos Pacheco “this event does not occur in the comic” covers, and missing that ace Darkseid DC logo one on #4… I’m now sad and regretful about that choice. Laugh, if you will, damn you.)

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond(!) 3D #2 does not actually contain an exclamation in its listing, though I could swear there was one originally supposed to be there – like socialism, I’m sticking insistently with it in the face of all countervailing evidence. Hoo-hah!

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond(!) 3D #2 is a long comic title, the sort which DC seems to favour allowing its top-tier script-bots to plaster covers, your brains, etc. with. 52 Aftermath: Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood [52A:CB:5LoB] retains the pedestal, in recent memory.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond(!) 3D #2 shouldn’t really exist – not in the sense of “should one of Western comics’ bestsellers, an event comic supposedly for the masses, really resemble nothing so much as something so abstruse as the work of Italo Calvino“, enjoyably culturally perverse as that might seem – more tawdrily, #1 and #2 of this comic should, clearly, have been one issue. Whether this was a creative bump or commercial decision will likely remain a mystery, but I tend to think it was the latter – because a one-shot, whilst possibly accruing marginally better sales, would likely have been price-pointed at $5.99, as opposed to the combined $9 pricetag for these two beauties. More on Mammon, “the least erected Spirit that fell/From Heaven”, shortly:

PAGE 1

Keen fans of a longer standing may remember this Ultraman from Morrison and Quitely’s late 1990′s capstone to the former’s JLA run, a prestige format Original Graphic Novel (savour that flavour – the more I do these analyses the more keystone this particular OGN seems; is it because it was my first exposure to GM JLA? It often works that way, but the thing yields more every time) named Earth-2… I’m not precisely sure of the audience for these pieces, actually; follow the links for refreshers or to find out, none of it’s vital but most of it’s – hopefully – enriching. I’ve read everyone else worth reading’s pieces on this comic, they’ll be interspersed here, so am in some sense batting clean-up and also trying to provide a collatory, unified read.

Anyway, closely utilising Watchmen (more on that shortly, too) as a touchstone for ‘realism-in-the-superhero-paradigm’ – extramarital affairs, the kink of the spandex, the leather close to skin, the world as a toilet, materialism as ontology and ideal – it was also a decisive step toward the more self-reflective and complex, semi-autobiographical strain of franchise-work seen in, particularly, Seven Soldiers but begun in the late 1980′s on Animal Man; in Earth-2, Morrison utilises the good antimatter Alexander Luthor as a fiction suit for this purpose. The torque on old DC planetary taxonomies (Ultraman &c. originally came from Earth-3) is that Alex has coined the novel’s title to describe the world of the DC heroes – his Earth is the real, unsuffixed, one.

jlaearth2

It does seem more recognisable. But the balm is this: through their interaction, both the JLA and Ultraman’s team, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, the CSA are “changed” – an author’s consolation, perhaps, that in writing high-ideal Heroic Fiction, one might alter one’s own environment positively in ways beyond making paper. Realism and idealism shift closer – but, then, there are an infinite number of ways to bisect a circle, through every decimal point of pi. Or is it half infinity, with the correspondance across axes? Same diff.

PAGE 2-3

Superman displays his super-confidence powers. He really is the ultimate American superhero. His power? Self-determination. Grant Morrison, this comic’s author (you may be familiar with him? his work?), has quite often talked about – he has taken an awful lot of drugs, to the point of getting a septic head, you have to remember – using the character as some ultimate totem for, I suppose, mental survival when acting as a fictionaut. I can’t find any of that on Google immediately, but here’s a touching story I skimmed: “Superman, save me.”

‘swhat he does. Is for. He wants to.

Beside him is – I don’t actually think I mentioned him doing #1, but a lot of that post is awful mealy-mouthed – Captain Allen ‘Atom’ Adam. He looks pretty confident too, arms folded; look, if you just want anno’s go and read Douglas and David – they both do a consistently excellent job, and I always look forward to reading them. We’re more trying to describe… effect, I guess, here. Construction, theme. Terrible, sad music.

I’m tempted to suggest Merryman (of the Inferior Five) is Limbo’s Superman-analogue; as a circular plane to a sphere, he’s the absurdist equivalent. Try and play association football, basketball with a circle, you’ll soon see. I mean, the guy’s the leader of the team and his power is evidently weakness. Based on Woody Allen? Did nut no. I always somehow associated the Inferior Five with MAD magazine, thought they had been in it, but apparently it’s their author, E. Nelson Bridwell, came from there to do them for Showcase. MAD’s in a fair bit of financial bother, it seems. I don’t have any emotional attachment to it, at all; I know it’s this massive American cultural touchstone – I just remember feeling faintly queasy, as I did with the Garbage Pail Kids cards at school (maybe not quite as much,) looking at Alfred E. Neuman‘s girning puss on the cover.

Rather fantastically, counterpointing the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, I see Bridwell wrote and the I5 featured in something called The Oz-Wonderland War; I don’t care how good or otherwise that is, I’m just so phenomenally pleased to discover it exists. There’s a case possibly to be made that this side-series to a Crisis is attempting to marry that ethic with the grandiose scale of Alan Moore’s conclusion to his ‘American Gothic’ arc in Swamp Thing #50 - ”Crisis in Heaven”, like Jimmy Olsen taking a potion and shapeshifting into Doomsday, or “Tawny bites!” - it’s a neat trick, the marriage of innocent abstract and brute physicality, heaven and hell.

oz-wonderlandwar1 swampthing50

Anyway, this is Merryman’s moment, it’s a bit stirring – he’s inbred and useless, but nonetheless, strap a gat – you’ll feel like you can take on anyone, up to & including incomprehensible megacosmic forces. What’ve you got to lose?

PAGE 4-5

“…Mandrakk wakes!”/”She’s a vampire!”

I think, if there were much doubt beforehand, this is fairly conclusive proof that Final Crisis, as a whole, is a superheorro/r/ event, the inclusion of old man Drac sealing it. Because, look: possession by dark spirits, implacable Justifier zombie hordes, weretigers and the best type, scaled the fuck up: cosmic vampires. Also, Frankenstein.

frankenstein

Aw, yeahhh.

It’s basically a given that everyone – including J.G. Jones – wishes Doug Mahnke had drawn this whole event by now, right? Looking at a listing of his last year’s work, I kind of discovered that mightn’t be as feasible as I’d originally thought, but still. He drew the abysmal Requiem (for a Manhunter from Mars) clipshow tie-in and an issue of Nightwing – Jesus – when he could at least have done ‘Last Rites’ in Batman; seems to like working with Peter Tomasi, though.

Some notes: Doug (Wolk) ’n’ Dave seem to think of the listed alternate sun/lightning-powered heroes, Savior is some dude from Astro City – my inclination is that, no, it’s probably one-time chum Mark Millar’s Trident comics creation, with the anglicised spelling of the same name… they’re probably entirely right about the rest, I was pretty much stuck on ‘Principal’ and am not 100% convinced it maps to Malibu’s Prime, but eh.

I’m not altogether sure whether Thor would fit in with that gang, but probably; he, Overman and Captain Marvel are orthogonally-related as (lowercase) thunderbolt beings.

Overman’s agency in the story is also a bit of a mystery; the nearest I can come to a conclusion is that it is his tragedy, his heart’s blood that fuels the narrative – every other member of the five/six/seven (oh, how Grant likes to make even such simple definitionals as numbers slippery) Supermen has an active or deductive part to play. I just can’t see him getting his heart’s desire, despite Checkmate’s inability to properly autopsy her. One version or other of Tristan and Isolde? Something Wagnerian – maybe Ring of the Nibelung, actually, given that’s the one with the incest that Silver-Age Superman only ever hinted at with his cuz. Disappointingly Overman’s a.e. appears to be Karl Kant, not Siegfried or anything so hot-tip obvious. Immanuel…? not to go there, too difficult & boring.

More notes, on scale: look, David Allison (clearly only people with names beginning ‘D’ will be linked today; it’s a bias – I just need one more to form a team to save reality!!) has phrased this authorial tendency to play with it wonderfully, somewhere – you’d think it’d be here, but I can’t find it skimming. I’m going to call it As-Above-So-Bel/l/owing, for now, because it occurred and seemed clever, but I’ll not want to hear it twice – in this case Zillo Valla has mailed (a part of) herself as an operative into… the story/DC multiverse/my comic, she could be a fictionaut, she could be a “sprite” in a mindmelting RPG, it’s all the same in the end.

Ah, Geoff Klock paraphrase by David A. actually:

an ever-egressing series of realities without ever placing them in a strict hierarchy

It’s like the i-Life in The Filth or All-Star Superman #10′s Kandorian antibodies, again, enacted here within the comic’s structure. Nanoman and Minimiss reconstituting everything, at another remove. Was it really such a surprise to discover fiction had levels?

Huh-pdate: David Uzumeri has posted a further piece on Mandrakk, which really serves to reemphasise this point and lacquer another layer of being atop.

PAGE 6

“We’re so small… yet so significant… How can it matter so much?”

It does to me!

Superman feels for Lois the same way Greg Feely does for Tony the Cat – oh God, I’m a terrible person, that’s some Dark Side perspective. I mean, fans – which I would, somewhat unwillingly, count myself among – you can’t say they don’t give a fuck about anything. They’re pathologically attached, if anything – there was a study a few years ago, something else Google fails me in finding, that showed Superman fans, specifically Superman fans, or readers of Superman comics if there’s a distinction, were markedly more selfish, less giving, etc. Having some familiarity with the culture, and my own head-in-arse proclivities, it’s hard to disbelieve. You can get lost, but still: I care. It’s love! What’s better than that?

Sometimes, when I walk to the park with my boy and his mum, it’s almost too much to bear.

No, this series is the quantum moment from ASS #3, streeetched into sixtysome pages; Lois lives/Lois is dead – it’s all that matters – it occurs over a second! I love all that elastic timeframe stuff, which was used to great effect on the yearlong run Morrison and Millar had on The Flash, the second trade of which was released – I think - this last week. Highest possible recommendation for that one, beautifully humane; say what you will of DC and I know I have, sometimes their trading of their backlist is remarkably timely – as it was with those beautifully presented Fourth World omnibi.

flashhumanrace1 4thworldomni

 

PAGE 7-8

The thing about this comic is – it’s so starkly numinous, so utterly meta, and you’ve things like, okay, that’s Shadow Demons attacking Limbo and denizens, but it’s an act of eradication… Limbo’s a faded memory already, shit. It’s such a malign act, why would you even… this is why, I suppose, I’m right behind American football-looking dude Hardhat, once of the Demolition Team when he’s lamping one with that fishbone. Him and Private Eyes, ex-Hero Hotline operative seem to be the most foregrounded of Team Limbo; they’re my faves, anyway. BRAAT-BRAAT. Dunno where the guns came from, really: plot necessity.

Ultraman and Superman about to commit the “ultimate crime”, commingling – I’m sure there’s a joke about buggery in that somewhere, but I shan’t look too hard for it; there’s a lot of ways to bisect a circle as I say. The choice of words: “We annihilate one another” seems pointed if you’ve ever had the revelation that opposition is definition, that Slavoj Zizek is hard, but this:

The ‘synthesis’ is exactly the same as the anti-thesis; the only difference lies in a certain change of perspective, in a certain turn through which what was a moment ago experienced as an obstacle, as an impediment, proves itself to be a positive condition.

(found here, leads to pish, but top of page is useful)… if this makes a lot of sense to you, as a description of actual being, shorn of the sort of Aristotelian binaries practiced by Mister A (and we’re back at Watchmen; it really is an ur-text.) Annihilation of opposites is synthesis is the point – I don’t want to turn this piece into Tim Callahan’s chapter on Doom Patrol in his book on Morrison and simply enumerate these dualities as they crop up, because that’s incredibly aggravating, much as other parts of the study are pretty decent. There’s a very good, thorough, contiguous reading of Arkham Asylum, for example; it generally would’ve worked much better as a hypertext I think. Do ask if you want my copy.

This is important:

spacetimecomixx

It’s one of those things that’s, again been supercompressed, into this dense – like a neutron star – narrative. I’ve sort of been finnicking about with the notion of time and the serially published superhero, mentally, for a wee while – we discussed the sentient DC Universe in #1, for example, and the difficulties in quantifying its nature of being. It’s – it seems a bit mad mental to take these things seriously, but if it’s your job to write them, I figure it should be a minimum fucking requirement, on reflection. The one problem, with continuity or the illusion of such, is always 3D time leaking in to the 2D world; characters accrue ludicrous backstory, encrustation on their hubcaps, there are signifiers that denote “this comic is from the past, and yet the character is the same age, roughly”, cultural parallelisms that are discomfitting (like, look, Captain Marvel may come from a “more simple, innocent” world, but he also fought horrible stereotypes like Nippo from Nagasaki) and so on. So I figure, taking a hint from Sonny Sumo* in the prior issue of Final Crisis, your 2D entity lives in lateral time. If it’s wrote, if it’s printed, if someone else reads it – whatever qualifiers you want to put on it, my personal take on the eternally vexed issue of continuity has always been all-encompassing, even, especiallly, the shit bits – then it happens/has happened/will be happening. So Captain Atom can simultaneously quantum superposition himself everywhere because he says so, because it’s right there on the page – he lives lateral time, judiciously. Look, electrons don’t really exist anyway.

*Sonny is a Grantsuit, btw. If there’s a baldy in a comic and he walked into another life from a “lateral universe”… yeah.

PAGE 9-11

The combination of opposites is ‘fusion’ not “fission” surely, though?

Oh aye, O. I. – “I’ve fused symmetries”.

(It’s, as others have pointed out, a lovely bit of serendipity that there’s a big ad for the Watchmen collections in the intervening ‘continuity breakers’ here; suck on that, trade-waiters! Part-timers)

“There are no dualities/only symmetries.”

Told you; Andrew Hickey’s review makes several splendid points about this – that i. that’s kind of a Ditko creation talking, so he’s detourned the fuck out, but also ii. that this, absolutely, is your Nietzschean Übermensch.

Some commentators have made much of the issue as an attempt at a rapprochement with Alan Moore’s devastating legacy – e.g. “Come back to us, Allen!” – it is appropriate given the context, here, and probably not past time for Grant to stop playing Oedipus and Alan, if he’s even listening at this point – God knows, Chronos. Captain Adam is the neutron here; the others float in his orbit, with various repellent charges – I doubt Billy Batson could have touched Overman either.

PAGE 12

He moves in a direction you cannot point to.

Folk are making a noise about the 3D effect, like “oh, it’s not that good” but I don’t agree at all, really – I’m like: what are you talking about, it’s brilliant and purposive? There are little bits that are wonked, like Superman’s outreaching index finger here – is that a thumbnail, no it’s just a misrender – but really. Great. I’m wearing my glasses now, I just wear them about the house, they act to balance left and right hemispheres of the brain (possibly). The whole thing… there are moments of probably-too-cuteness in the comic, but it’s a Superman comic, it should be bluff and earnest and daft; like, read the instructions for the 4D vision glasses, it’s some next level Silver Age shhh…

flash163

Playful, like, but demanding the reader’s attention, nay, participation: Come on an adventure!

I like to think, though it looks a little out of proportion, that the flat plain that is Limbo, first circle of Hell is a thumbprint because they’re useful shorthand for memory. Superman – sorry, the composite Superman-Ultraman thought robot that I really want to make a case, in some insipid way, for being Optimus Prime – has his hand in the letterbox of the past.

PAGE 13

The extemporaneously manifesting pathsteps taken here are Monitor-patterned, squares and circles; primordial fact of existence – there are only two types of line, straight and curved. There’s probably something in these designs that diegetically connects Metron and his crop (squaring the) circles to the Monitor-race/projections.

PAGE 14-15

Every other existence is a mausoleum – “the graveyard/death of the real”, cf: yr Invisibles/Matrix – things hang suspended in a moment… there was a game came out for, I’m sure it was the Sega Saturn, around the time of the console’s release, a helicopter game where terrain would sort-of spontaneously manifest, so you’d see – say – a bluff before you saw the rest of the mountainside. The rest was horizon. Then, most likely, you would crash into the mountainside. I want to say it’s Operation Desert Strike, but that seems to have been Megadrive/Genesis. Anyway, this brings that to mind.

It’s sort of interesting that Weeja Dell is Monitrix of the Marvel analogue universe? And her boyf is marooned in the wellspring of all superverses? Codependents, see. Final Crisis is all about lost loves. Catching that butterfly, she resembles no-one so much as Oubliette… hold on, that’s no butterfly!

mister_mind

While not necessarily Mister Mind, it definitely looks like a time fly. Which, of course it is – apparently harmless and sweet, in this supercontext, Destiny’s garden.

PAGE 16-17

I’m just going to turn to one of our most astute commenters, and onetime Doubtful Guest, the man they call “The Satrap”, at this point, and sit back and relax momentarily. From yr FC#6 thread:

In Beyond #1, the orrery of worlds looked a lot like a viral construct. You know, your run-of-the-mill bacteriophage, that injects its “infectious” code into its host through… the so-called base plate, the “lowest level”. Universe Designate Zero, mayhap?

Since I’m fairly sure that Morrison is itching with desire to make the multiverse explode with diversity, and since he must have read a fuckload of “New Scientist” issues going on about viruses being not only vectors of disease but facilitators of evolution, blah, blah, again with the science as trendy window dressing, my money is on FC ending with the orrery of 52 worlds (its hull, made of bullshit super-alloys, being akin to the capsid of a virus) breaking (at the bottom) and infecting the Monitor mega-mind with, well, infinite earths.

A multiverse where the kids can gather around the fireplace,and partake freely of the wondrous gifts of the storyteller…a Neil-Gaiman-friendly place, basically, which is a mildly horrific thought on close inspection.

Thanks, ‘trappers. These ideas are better than mine, so theft it is. I think it gets a bit mixed-metaphor-y when you’ve the whole “cosmic garden” bit at the end of 52, Mister-Mind-as-fruit-fly, see above, but basically the point is… what? DC Universe(s) are a particularly virulent strain of story; story is a disease/a succour? Welcome to the origin story of Jacques Derrida, Linguistic Theorist of the Postmodern Age: Pharmakon in ancient Greek means remedy. Pharmakon in ancient Greek means poison. How do you continue a career as a translator, therefore, Jacques?

Sorry you died.

I’m not altogether personally averse to the DCU being a Neil Gaiman-friendly place; Sandman probably kept me reading comics as a demanding teen, and was my introduction to in-story discussions of story qua story – these sort of unitary manifolds that fascinate, ah-heh, endlessly. (Sorry.) He also wrote the Secret Origin of the Guardians of the Universe, Neil, so fair play. These are the things people remember. I’m not averse to the DCU being basically anything – Morrison aside – other than what it is at the moment (the Rainbow Lanterns have a modest charm.)

After all this, something good has got to happen.

Chavez – Lions

PAGE 18-19

He’s a bad lad, Mandrakk.

“I’m inside a self-assembling hyperstory!“/”And it’s trying it’s best to destroy me.

As a summation – it’s all inexorable here, all fait accompli

This is my reason to be.“/”My purpose is simply to stop him.”

See?

PAGE 20-21

optimusprime

It’s just those exposed bits of grill, there on p.21 – brings back childlike memories! Optimus Prime was my first real American hero: a truck that believes in sentient beings right to freedom? I don’t care if he originated in Japan or not. These nascent stirrings – it’s all one story in Hypertime! – imprintations of notions like “nobility” and “indefatigability”. Only learned through narrative, for most of us, the middle-class. And actually – this battle between form and void, I first encountered as a yout’ in the pages of Transformers UK #150, Primus v. Unicron; look, I’ve got those issues of Spider-Man & Zoids, every one, somewhere, hopefully still – but sometimes it’s just not enough. Simon Furman (holy shit, he’s got a wordpress blog – I really should stream of consciousness google more often) did end up kind of ghettoised; I suppose, maybe, we should all be grateful in a way.

And now, a short treatise on love - of which Mandrakk has destroyed his own: beatific concepts like ‘love’ and ‘good’, I think in this context or really otherwise don’t really have neat symmetries with their proposed opposites; Wonder Woman posits this very thing of ‘good’ in the Earth-2 graphic novel. Ultraman is in the thought robot, but it isn’t really him, is it? As I say, love is the tether for Superman here, for lost Nix Uotan in the main Crisis book – it’s one of those things… I have a scientist friend or two, engineers, and they’re quite insistent on their materialist worldview and that, but maybe a bit sappy too and I’ve debated against this with my entirely more fluffy bollocks worldview. Love won the day, I have to say, because: no-one wants to imagine that it’s a chemical imbalance or “a word to prettify savage genetic imperatives” [Namor the Sub-Mariner, Fantastic Four: 1234]. (I learn everything from comics.) No-one, and the worst thing you can say or imagine of someone – in the end, I think – and that’s why Ultraman is ultimately irredeemable, because his “treasure” is only gold: the worst thing is that ‘they love nothing’.

PAGE 22-24

Stirring stuff, eh? Oh, good, a fight – I know Grant’s a pacifist and all this, but really it’s a bit much sometimes. I buy superhero comics in part because I want brightly coloured chappies, mostly chappies, punching, lasereyeing other ones – more likely in a more subdued, even sombre, sinister form of dress – square in the puss, through the chest. This is a pretty awesome fight, better than Primus/Unicron because [SPOILERS for the Transformers mythos] Primus shat out and did a sneaky, weaksauce trap. Stakes is high.

Dax Novu (in Sicilian, anyway) means ‘new leader’, so far as I can figure – I was going to write a bit about the Superman robot and say how he’s the first superhero but actually he isn’t at all, everyone just thinks he is – funnily enough, a character called Mandrake the Magician (erm, hello, isn’t that Dr. Strange’s entire supporting cast?) seems to be largely credited with that honour. Superman isn’t even the first DC or Siegel/Schuster character – Doctor Occult, evidently influenced by Mandrake, has both these honours and you’ve other characters they created like p.i. Slam Bradley, who could quite easily have filled the Dan Turpin role in FC proper (reducing the Kirbyness a bit, true,) also pre-empt Soupy.

So, while you can say Superman’s not the first superhero – magicians are kind of a different kettle of fish, to me at least – he’s certainly the defining one.

Oh, I remember Mandrake now – he was in Defenders of the Earth (“Defenders!” – you have to say that bit afterward, whispered, it’s in the theme); hypnosis powers, “subject or subjects of this hypnosis would suddenly see the illusions he desired” which rather covers Zillo’s proclamation “…you’re using us to believe you into existence!” as well as yr standard Morrison-meta.

Ultraman proves not entirely useless: of course he’d be of more practical mind.

PAGE 25

Perhaps I’m overly cynical about the production problems, as opposed to commercial concerns (Mahnke still found the time to do an issue of fucking Nightwing in the interim, though, probably*), with this comic – there are, after all, four inkers, and this page doesn’t have the 4D holography for whatever reason – anyway the Superman thought-robot is blind so no special glasses req’d, you insensitive bastards.

*Unless it was a… word? one of these ones they hold in reserve to fill a gap.

PAGE 26-28

The elixir cannot be held, contained, bottled – I imagine it’s the Philosopher’s Stone/Holy Grail/only love… Captain Marvel’s treasure is indeed a piece of Rock, Overman’s, hmm, well we’ll maybe see this week, I’m not optimistic for him, but we know who. Allen Adam’s is… supercontext? Ultraman gets higher purpose, I suppose – I think this is set-up for this week’s(!) final Final Crisis. The etymology of ‘Rox Ogama’ has me stymied, sad to say.

I like the missiles, they’re proper fucking horrible like a hammerhead shark or Nemesis the Warlock – just a proper action panel, page there, you can hear them screaming before they explode.

Missiles and kissiles.

PAGE 29-30

A wink and a ‘To be continued’; I think that’s a fundamental rule of classic Superman stories, that they end like so? “Never the end!”/Neverending – I liked All-Star Superman a lot, not as much as some people, it felt a bit like a highlight reel more than a narrative sometimes, people will say this comic’s more like a thesis – I think I like it better, this one. But I have spent about 8-10 hours and 4.5k words on this (“Who was J-Lo”, anyway? Bothers me) and got a reprise of that comic’s last page – but also: a warning!

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So I want to go back to ASS, and read this as a capstone, see how it works as a reagent – but why is it a warning to Monitor? I think because, as Andrew also helpfully reminds, entropy is a fundamental law (except with an extremal black hole) of the universe and blah, blah, everything tends toward decay. Everything changes. Time leaks in, no matter how much you want to preserve fiction/germs at arms-length, you’ll not succeed. All is fluctuating, this is the observer effect. There are no spectators, only participants.

34 Responses to “FC:SB(!)3D#2”

  1. Matthieu G. Says:

    First comment by me because 1-I usualy feel too stupid to add something to what you write and 2- I still don’t feel that confident writing in english, but I just wanted to say that Grant wasn’t kidding when he said that Final Crisis was METAL! (\m/,). This issue starts by name-checking a Slayers album (“God hates us all”) and ends with a giant metal Superman kicking the shit out of what looks like Eddie from Iron Maiden.

    Also : Great fucking post, as always ! You’r my favorite place on the web ever !

  2. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    Please, everyone feel free to comment, don’t be shy – thanks, Matthieu!

  3. Papers Says:

    It didn’t click, as a whole, as much as other things that Grant has done vis-a-vis Superman (Okay, fine: I liked All-Star Superman better and obvs this probably wasn’t going to live up), but it was still decent and reasonably fun and Mahnke owns the bloody world. Part of the reason it worked for me came straight down to the personalities of all those involved — superhero decadence (Overman! Ultraman! Merryman!) primarily works for me when it mashes up against it’s opposite, which is not Silver Age naivete so much as humanity — Billy Marvel! Superman! They don’t come off weak-willed or lily-livered to me, they come off as charming as flat-out pleasant. Honest. Hard-working. Fair-handed and optimistic. Superman can make a team-up with Ultraman *work*, man, he can do it. Ultraman topples economies before coffee break and tries to fry Owlman all day but Superman can twist all his bile to good even if he won’t admit it.

    The vampire stuff, I’ll bet, feeds into THE BLACKEST NIGHT, which sounds like Zombie Green Lantern stuff, to be honest. The dead being resurrected as emotionless drones? Fuck you, Mordru already threw that at the Legion like two or three times now. He failed hard at that *when he was running the entire universe*.

    Ahem.

    Look, in between all of that, BEYOND gets the point across like FINAL CRISIS itself. Fuck your Apokolips and New Genesis bull. There’s always a green tile as well, and here we’ve got Captain Adam, following up on the Metron & Brainiac Five requirements. Nominally good but allied and aligned with something (brains!) higher, baby, higher.

    I can not get over it. Billy Marvel and Tawky Tawny. The Marvel Family *owns* this super-event.

    I’ve never read any Inferior Five story. Honestly, all I’ve been exposed to is summaries and pictures of them, cameos — Alan Davis drawing them in ANOTHER NAIL. I imagine writing stories about them that have nothing to do with anyone else’s stuff but they seem so iconically weird. If Grant wanted to do a thematic sequel to DOOM PATROL (one dreams, one screams, one creams at the very notion!), it would probably be INFERIOR FIVE.

    I’m just sayin’.

    Overman is important, he’s there, his function, is to balance Billy Marvel. The familial incest implications and its relationship with the Marvel Family (particularly as Clark’s “Family” has been downplayed into more recently, and it’s lost the Silver sheen), fightin’ Nazis and all of that.

    Dear Mahnke and associated: CLARK NEEDS SOME FASHION SENSE. That plaid number is just, just, just, just plain awful!

    The Millar/Morrison FLASH is fantastic, but I think it’s only the first (a first?) trade of it. Prismatic Age! It’s got the prismed multi-Flashes!

    (runs out of breath, passes out, points at the sky!)

  4. DIOS die autentisen Says:

    ” CLARK NEEDS SOME FASHION SENSE”

    well…

    http://www.myextralife.com/archive.php?date=2008-11-19

  5. Zom Says:

    Can’t comment as I’ve yet to read it!

  6. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    The Millar/Morrison FLASH is fantastic, but I think it’s only the first (a first?) trade of it.

    Good stuff, Papers – I’m pretty sure though there’s a Flash trade, available at least in NorAm, just came out/about to collects ‘The Human Race’ and ‘Black Flash’ stories (#136-141, iirc) – I have the Morrison issues, and have read the Black Flash arc.

  7. Neon Snake Says:

    Ah, so much to say in this issue, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

    Monitor World, a higher level, but as prone to infection as ours/by ours. To descend, one must split into one’s opposites, and become Monitor/Anti-Monitor; to ascend, one must consume one’s opposite. Hunt it down and eat it, become it, be one with it! Before we can reach the next level, the supercontext, we must join with that which is our opposite. 2012, 2012!!!111!!

    It’s the same story, over and over again, on different levels – from Batman through to the JLA, through the world, through to the multiverse, through to the Omni-Mind of Monitor – the idea of evil is always the subversion or corruption of free will, of giving up what you essentially are, of being fed on like a host is fed on by a parasite, draining you of your essence, your blood, your free will. Submit! Resist! Hh! To be continued!

    Mandrakk, the parasite, the disease, the idea – not gone, not forgotten, he always lurks, he takes over Ogama as easily – easier – than he took over Dax Novu.

    And of course it won’t be the “Final” Crisis, of course it will always be “to be continued”.

    Overman/Billy Marvel – there’s a great picture of them, showing the thunderbolts on each of their chests, the top panel on the page as Superman leads them against the missiles.

    They belong to two different memories of that fabled “simpler time”, one where things were “better”, built on heroism and noble sacrifice, good was good, bad was bad and you always knew where you stood; the other, might made right, built on the suffering of others, women knew when to hold their tongue, and the uppity minorities knew their place. The same time, refracted through a prism into Captain Marvel’s universe and Overman’s universe. One pure and self-assured, one guilt-stricken and anxious.

  8. amypoodle Says:

    I presume the ‘To Be Continued’ capstone is simply a warning that in the sequel Superman will return and duff you up.

  9. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    Like – “To be continued, shitheads”? It’s also, more imminently, a signifier that, yes, there is another ish of FC to go, this week. I’m not sure about what I’ve written up there, at all, on reflection.

  10. Neon Snake Says:

    I don’t know, Bots, I got much the same I think, that a fundamental rule of superhero stories, of the DCU, and Superman as representative of the DCU, is that they never end, they’ll always continue. They’ll always be another Crisis, a bigger Crisis, a better story.

    As Mister Miracle was to Seven Soldiers, hinting at the bigger picture, so this is to Final Crisis, hinting at the bigger picture. Now, I think, it hints that there is something bigger than the big picture; potentially “us”, who are cradling the big picture in our hands.

  11. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    “A manifold! I am gone and it grows within me, a seed!”; yeah, I sort of deliberately left out all that quantum psychology, “we’re all in the comic”, what are the ramifications for you, the reader(??!!) stuff

  12. MikeCr Says:

    With regard to the superheorror idea:

    I’ve never actually, ya know, read Lovecraft but if the main miniseries’ central plot of an ultimate Evil God from outside of this level of reality awakening and taking on physical presence in reality and thus warping (and maybe even destroying) reality isn’t a Lovecraft analogue I’m not sure my have formed ideas about what IS Lovecraft are correct.

    Thanks for pointing that out though and I’m interested in seeing if Morrison is prepared (allowed?) to go all the way to the logical Lovecraftian conclusion or will the presence of the superheroic (anti-horror ideal?) and DC editorial/marketing necessities preclude that.

  13. Neon Snake Says:

    I don’t think there’s any direct correlation between the various “orders of people” in the comic, and people in the real world – y’know, Monitors representing the old guard, and Mandrakk representing Dan DiDio, or anything like that.

    If there IS, then I’m not seeing who represents who, I have to say. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t just missed it, obvs.

  14. Papers Says:

    I think there’s more than one reading of it, though, Neon, so don’t worry. Just focus your 4D vision elsewhere!

    I can not, can not, CAN NOT get over the narration, which is lovely in much the same way the FRANKENSTEIN! narration was lovely — very purple, melodramatic, and bullet-happy.

  15. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    If there IS, then I’m not seeing who represents who, I have to say. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that I haven’t just missed it, obvs.

    Well, if you read the link to FBB talking about Mandrakk, perhaps I didn’t stress it enough but David points out that overvoid or nil, whatever – the setting for the 3D portions here is a/k/a Mind of MONITOR. I think that that is, or parallels, the collective headspace of ‘the audience’ (not crap Sophie Ellis-Bextor indie vehicle).

    I generally agree otherwise, there’s nothing seems so specific or petty as it would be.

  16. The Satrap Says:

    Excellent review (for lack of a better word), as usual, except for the bit where you quote me. You’re too nice, Bots. Here, this is the reward for your kindness, some massive thread-hijacking spam.

    #1 and #2 of this comic should, clearly, have been one issue

    That’s interesting. Should GM have been more extreme about the compression? To be honest, in terms of pure storytelling technique Beyond #1 was a mess. Big fuck-off destroyers appearing out of nowhere, threatening to collide with strangely weightless Earths…Look! We’ve serendipitously crash-landed in Limbo, and then there’s this Borgesian book…It’s almost as if the point-of-view character were the spaced-out Manhattan analogue. I still found it extremely enjoyable, because what GM did was basically to take a longer story and cherry-pick the high points thereof, eliding the connective stuff. There’s an implicit trust in the reader’s ability to fill in gaps which she has seen filled in a thousand similar stories, and also a willingness to evoke the vertigo which one must surely feel in higher dimensions.

    It’s still possible to argue that so much trust in the reader is not “persuasive”. It’s a criticism that cannot be dismissed out of hand, filler is there for a reason. Geoff Klock uses a sexual simile and apologises for it, but since I suppose I needn’t worry about being taken seriously, I’ll take said simile to its logical conclusion: isn’t conventional storytelling discipline like a good, solid vanilla shag? Are Morrison fans the storytelling equivalents of… uhh… kinks? Does this help explain the curious vehemence of the debates related to Baldy’s writerly output?

    Oh, yes, yes, hit me with the hypercompressed superwhip…where it hurts!!

  17. The Satrap Says:

    Ahem. Re: Morrison’s fiction suits. Rather than Sonny, I was thinking of Nix Uotan. He’s the archetypal struggling writer, weird, with a precarious day job, trawling dictionaries for the right word. His doodles are Morrison’s. He’s the “judge of all evil”, because it’s the genre-mandated task of every superhero writer to bring down the hammer on the baddies at the end of every storyline. In a prismatic –God, it’s a catchy term– twist with respect to Seven Soldiers (where the Time Tailors lent an all-powerful helping hand to Zatanna et al), here the writer gets guidance from the fiction instead: GM has read somewhere about divine ways to handle Rubik cubes, figures that Metron is the right character to do the trick, and Bam! The New God appears, wise and “all-empowering”.

    Which leads me to the following bit of specious reasoning, related to the “discussion about the sentient DC Universe”. This uni/multiverse is now supposed to be able to teach us trick or two because it’s sentient. At the end of 7S:Mister Miracle, Shiloh reaches a deal with the Life Trap thingamajig, and the two of them “escape together”. Said trap, being a succession of alternative storylines, is basically indistinguishable from a multiverse. It’s also, after the umpteenth iteration of Shiloh’s torture, ostensibly quite alive. It’s alluring to thing that this is, after a fashion, the uni/multiverse that Zatanna awakens in 7S #1, and that Final Crisis is the tale of its further adventures, that it feels frisky after its release and it’s using the minds of three billion humans as a springboard to go on to greater conquests, probably in the overvoid/Monitor mega-mind/collective headspace of everything ever/the great white w00t.

    If that were the case, 7S would have been a sort of elaborate sorcerous ritual enacted by Darkseid, and the rest of the cast of that show his unwitting assistants. In FC, Darkseid would stand revealed as the cruder, crueller, readers’-digest version of good old Fritz’s will-to-power, this time acting as the drive of a self-aware multiverse to expand and breed. By all means necessary, of course, who cares about a few civil liberties here and there.

    Like good judokas, I imagine that the heroes will use Evil’s strength to steer things into more acceptable outcomes. What better way to usher in the age of men as gods than to use the intimate acquaintance of half of humanity with the mind of great Darkseid?

    In the above paragraphs, I’m basically making no distinction between Anti-life, the Life Trap and the Omega Sanction whatchamacallit. So sue.

  18. The Satrap Says:

    One more thing before I shut my trap, to add some annoying white noise to the “There are no dualities/only symmetries” bit. While the notion of a similarity between the miracle machine and Metron’s sigil is very suggestive, I also like the idea of a symmetry between the MM and the enthroned Darkseid. The one is surrounded by “inertron”, the other sits at the centre of a singularity, unassailable. The machine makes every stray thought real, Darkseid explains how every thinkable prismatic variation of himself does exist. Superman gets to see the machine, Batman confronts Darkseid.

    It’s wank, but Anti-life justifies my wank.

  19. Duncan Says:

    Geoff Klock uses a sexual simile and apologises for it – yeah, I saw that and thought what.

    It’s a terrible analogy because, aside from the fact George is possibly the most attrative man of whom you could say “he’d be good as the Vulture in a prospective Spidey film”, Geoff therefore seems to think sex with a bag of tatties/realdoll/corpse is the ideal form; a somewhat troubling notion, I find. Doktor Klockhammer does make me feel terribly tired, often.

    Should’ve been more clear (again), re: “a Grantsuit” because there’s clearly a case for there being more than one, though I do tend to think of Nix equally as an ideal reader vessel. He is pretty much bald; the monitors are pretty much 52/51/40-some Unknown Women and Men.

  20. Neon Snake Says:

    Well, if you read the link to FBB talking about Mandrakk, perhaps I didn’t stress it enough but David points out that overvoid or nil, whatever – the setting for the 3D portions here is a/k/a Mind of MONITOR. I think that that is, or parallels, the collective headspace of ‘the audience’ (not crap Sophie Ellis-Bextor indie vehicle).

    Cheers, Bots. I missed that.

    I’ve struggled much more with Beyond than with Crisis; maybe because Crisis is just simpler, maybe because Beyond seems to be trying so hard to be meaningful, that I feel that if I’m not wringing it dry of all of it’s meaning, then I’m not doing it justice. Whereas probably, I should just be gurgling contentedly and pointing at the pretty (3D) pictures.

    And the pictures are pointing at me, too!

  21. Gunderic Mollusk Says:

    Rax Ogama, from my perspective, seems to fit in with some of the Monitors having names of mythological figures associated with linguistics, especially of the pictographic sort. Certain pagan scholars (whose information usually requires a hefty amount of salt to digest) associated the Celtic figure of Ogma with the creation of the tree-alphabet Ogham, much as Wodan had been credited with bringing the Runes into the Context. The “Rax” may simply be cognate with “Rex.”

    Then again, it could just be some made-up language only Grant knows, meaning in some crazy acronym “Eater of His Grandmother’s Smegged-up Vajayjay” in translation.

  22. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    Sorry, ‘trap, meant to say also – I meant it should’ve been one issue in the sense of a 64-page Giant, with a nice spine telling you it’s name, like JLA/WildCATS or something; I don’t think there’s much in the 60(?) pages could reasonably be cut, maybe 3-4 pages.

    Also left out the various parallelisms with Batman: Last Rites – Bats mapping interiority, Supes the higher world, both moved by encounters with anti-self to break their vows never to take life (or surgically remove parasitic organisms?), using the enemy’s weapon against them (baldy Mokkari’s soul-killing gun/Dax Novu’s staff).

  23. pillock Says:

    Mollusk, I’m certain you’re on the money with “Ogama”…just reading it, though, that “Rax” is definitely doing something…it doesn’t read like Ditko-names, at all. At first glance — and I quite like this little thought — it practically screams “anagram” at you. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a name that seems to holler out that it’s an anagram more than this one.

    But what it could be, I have no idea.

    Fascinating post, BBeast! I think you get it in one with the Zizek — very Morrisonian indeed, always about impossible reconciliations. Principle of opposition becomes the principle of harmony, that one goes all the way back to the Invisibles.

  24. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    A GM ox oar“? – it’s Rox Ogama, but I think ‘Rex Ogham’ sounds about right, they’re all God/King Language/Comms names, the monitors.

  25. pillock Says:

    That’s funny…with “Rox” it doesn’t sound nearly as much like an anagram…

    “Oa Go Marx”?

    Bah. Still, with the Language King stuff it would’ve been nice if there was some anagrammatized “magic word” stuff in there. Oh for Christ’s sake, listen to me, I’ve just set a new standard for NITPICKING ON THE INTERNET…!

  26. Andy G Says:

    I am so excited I can barely speak.

  27. Junit1 Says:

    I’ve been wandering here due to the high esteem Andrew has expressed for you on his corner of the web. Absolutely stirring/fantastic reviews here. I’m currently doing office hours waiting for a student to come so I can’t say much more, but I wanted to say thanks for the great insight.

    Best,
    J-Unit 1

  28. The Satrap Says:

    Ah, I misunderstood you about the compression thing, Bots.

    Having finally read this thing, some further spurious thoughts come to mind and, lo, trolling ensues:

    The Manhattan analogue is very relaxed, even when Ultraman heat-visions him in the face. Is GM acknowledging that his easy-going ASS-Supes owes some debt to Manhattan’s phlegmatic attitude?

    I love the characterisations of Ultraman and Mandrakk in this issue. Admit it, Baldy, the baddies always end up stealing the show. On the first page Ultrie experiences a spiritual awakening (mirroring those of everybody and their dog in GM’s comics recently), based on the discovery of a heretofore hidden death-wish, and the means to see it accomplished. It’s both a statement on the self-defeating nature of our negative impulses, and an indication that spirituality can also be a downward path. This death wish reaches a higher pitch with Mandrakk, who says “no” when SuperUltra offs him and reminds him of who he was, presumably because he wants to rejoin the overvoid, an apeiron of sorts, in a pure form, in order not to corrupt it with the memories of Dax Novu. Too late, Mandrakk, you’ll always be at least a dot on the white page, and you’ll be back.

    It’s also an inversion of the strictly hierarchic Gnostic paradigm, i.e. Oneness can and must indeed communicate with the Many, but if anybody thinks that’s “edgy” I’ll have to namedrop Plotinus, yet again. Let’s not go there, for everybody’s sakes.

    The aforementioned “downward spirituality” of Ultraman can be understood as a concession, in highly abstract form, to the worries of those who read the newspaper headlines during the Bush era. Similarly, Mandrakk’s initial swagger smacks a bit of neocon hubris, the infamous bit (attributed to Karl Rove) “we’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”. In Monitor Country there’s no matter, no pesky, non-compliant Iraqis. But it’s not a lawless realm (for the world of matter and the world of story/information/soul according to GM are not irreconcilably different) and you can’t escape the laws of narrative, Mandrakk, you dunce, here comes Life, the Super-fist!

    In that vein, Dax Novu’s lance, like the spear of Aurakles, can be easily read as a visual metaphor for inexorable progress catching up with everybody, even those who think they’re above it all (e.g. the baddies). A lineal structure underlies all life, all storytelling, irrespective of how messy our lives or how sophisticated the storyteller’s antics are. “To be continued”, indeed.

    Superman carries the bleed in his mouth, the nutrient stuff which allows stories to crystallise, passes it on to Lois who starts writing like mad. In FC #7, he goes on to ask for a happy ending. It’s only fitting that the DCU’s “self-awareness”* as a set of stories qua stories is beginning to dawn on its paragon.

    Just how fucking great is Mahnke? This is a man who understands that the clash of the shapely (hard bodies et cetera) and the shapeless is the iconographic foundation of the superhero genre, and riffs on it with a deftness that would make the creator of Captain America and inventor of the Krackle and the Dots proud.

    *: a somewhat pretentious term, admittedly, but it does the job.

  29. The Satrap Says:

    Also, the fearless annotators at the usual venues (funnybook et al) have spoiled FC #7 and I’m worried about the answer to the only question that matters: Will I Get Another Ticket To The Arctic Fastness? On the one hand, I was entirely on the money and perfectly right concerning GM’s desire to free the multiverse from creative constraints. I was even eerily accurate with regard to the “gathering the kids around the fireplace to tell stories” bit. But. There appear to be no “infinite earths” at the end of this. More problematic still is that Darkseid et al appear to get thoroughly shafted at the end of FC, that GM is doing the usual last-issue ball-dropping move of abandoning the convoluted attempts to accommodate evil in the grand scheme of things, going instead for boooring statements of the supremacy of the good vs. the bad. So Darkseid’s singularity is mostly a stinking arsehole of grim & gritty, with no surprising upshot the heroes can latch onto? Are we getting less theodicy and more tedious comics meta-commentary, in short? Both are inseparable in GM’s work, of course, given his understanding of reality but, you know, booooring.

    I will have to scan the issue with my all-seeing Masturboxxxx** when I actually get it, but I’m terribly worried right now. What am I going to do with all the Gore-tex gear I’ve been hoarding?

    BTW, in #7, is it Mandrakk who appears or Ogama?

    **: the dimension-hopping Fifth-World geek’s analytic tool of choice. Gotta love it, when it goes Ping-Ping-Ping. Or is it Ping-Pong Ping-Pong?

  30. Andy G Says:

    Brilliant end to a brilliant series. Lot less New Gods than I was expecting. Is the new Earth 51 simply an invitation to dig out old Kirby issues or the start of something new? Grant Morrison writes The Forever People starring Sonny Sumo, Shilo Norman and the Super Young Team? And it was a f**king love story after all. I cried as Nix and Weeja ascended to the void. Beautiful.

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