An adventure so great it takes place between the heartbeats of Clark Kent’s true love. A group of Supermen travel through time and space to save existence. 52 universes, limbo, and only something impossible can save the day…
What do you do with a super hero that can do anything?
You let him!
Behind the cover…
“We‘ll be traveling through Bleed space between the universes, but you‘ll need to upgrade to 4-D vision to truly comprehend what you experience. Prepare yourself by wearing these Overvoid Viewers forged from Superman‘s own Cosmic Armor. Your ability to see 4-D perspective will develop spontaneously when you need it. It is crucial you cut your Overvoid Viewers out of the placard holder as indicated by the dotted lines, or they won‘t function properly. When properly formulated, your Overvoid Viewers should have the green part over your right eye and the red over the left with the rusted armor facing out toward the page.”
A pair of 3-D glasses await you (red and blue). Is this a gimmick is a proper response…and in anyone else’s hands…maybe. But not Morrison’s, these glasses are tied to the story, tied to the reader, tied to the creator. Morrison wants you to interact with the text. He’s offering you a way in, the images leap from the page to interact with you.
You’re about to break the fourth wall (a theme explored in his run on Animal man) and enter a new dimensional space. Page 12 in issue 2 is the perfect example—"From a direction that has no name comes a sound like breathing... as if cradled"—you’re holding the book, right—Superman can almost hear you! And I wish I had more time to talk about the meta-textual aspects of this story but what we are interested now in something else entirely—
We open with a classic set up, Good vs Evil, Superman and an unknown foe locked in combat, the villain asks, “what shall we engrave upon your tombstone?" and opening with two splashes right away tells you Doug Mahnke’s style fits right in with what Morrison is trying to do, he presents classic DC archetypes mixed with a slightly over-lined and horror-ish embellishment on facial features and backgrounds are perfect for a reality spanning 3-D epic. Bottom line he draws BIG.
Previously in Final Crisis (this being a “tie-in” and all) Lois Lane had been mortally injured, Superman because only his heat vision can keep her alive has been out of the fight.
This is until a female monitor, Zillo Valla, appears, declaring she knows Clark Kent’s secret identity. The multiverse is in danger, she tells him, and only Superman can save it!
In return she promises him the life of his true love and with time frozen between Lois’ last heartbeat Superman kisses her good bye and boards the Ultima Thule, a monitor ship that can travel through the bleed between the 52 universes, joining an army of Superman analogues from other worlds.
What’s great about Beyond, and really Final Crisis overall is that almost all of Morrison’s work at DC is showcased, we get Limbo from Animal man and the return of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. In many ways I see Final Crisis as the culmination of Morrisonian themes and concepts, many stemming even from the Invisibles, within the DC universe; and Beyond is a perfect example. This is Superman, the first idea, the idea that’s greater than them all as allegorical a story as you’ll find from a mainstream comic. Superman fights a war in fictional space to save fiction with an idea.
The monitors who feed on the bleed, in my mind, have to be representative of the writers at DC who are forced to leech every last drop from their creations in service of the faceless corporate entity that controls them. Sucking them dry until there isn’t anything left and they are abandoned to limbo (the place where all characters go when they fall out of use or more accurately aren't making money).
In limbo there is a library where no one goes, within the library there is one book, a book that holds everything every written. A book with no duality, it is both good and evil, destroyer and savior. At the close of the first book the evil anti-matter Superman, Ultraman, attempts to wield the books power and discovers the existence of Mandrakk the dark god and possibly(?) original monitor from COIE, he attacks the people of limbo as reality crumbles, imploring Superman to “kneel before Mandrakk and die!”
And in a comic filled with superhero responses that make you want to jump out of your seat in quick succession you get my favorite two. First when Superman says in response to Ultraman, “Sounds like a challenge to me,” and shortly after that as the people of limbo fight back, Merryman asks, Superman to “Promise you’ll remember us, even if no one else does?” to which he replies, “I will. And they will (could he mean us??). I guess you can be a hero anywhere, Merryman.” Morrison kills it with these lines, really if the meta-aspects of the story aren’t enough or you just don’t care for them, the simple superhero splendor is enough to leave any comic fan awestruck.
But the greatest piece of writing in this comic is at the end, as evil Superman and our Superman are combined by a very Watchmen-esque Captain Atom (he even says there are only symmetries) into one being beyond the 2D comic space.
Only Superman can save us now.There are no dualities. Superman’s mind inhabits a being of pure thought, of pure idea, represented as a golden machine built in Superman’s image (calling back to the Golden Age). He has become the very idea that birthed the Superhero, the essence, the pure goodness that is Superman.
Mandrakk offers him the challenge; he holds a bottle of bleed, the only thing that can save Lois Lane. “All you have to do Superman is take it from me!” Take life and the idea back from the corporate entities that brand and buy images and wear them down, with reinvention after reinvention until they’ve crushed the very soul of the thought in the end.
But come on Superman can do the impossible.
Nothing could hold the bleed, They said. They were wrong.
Superman can. And with a kiss…(well, you know…Happy Endings and all)
And oh, in case we've forgotten, as for the words Superman would have carved on his tombstone? Well, considering all comics begin with--
It would only be right that Superman would write