- The Brave and the Bold #21, by David Hine, Doug Braithwaite & Bill Reinhold (DC)
- Green Lantern #37, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
- Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #2 of 2, by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci & Derek Fridolfs (DC)
- Tangent: Superman’s Reign #11 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Carlos Magno & Julio Ferreira, and Ron Marz, Andie Tong & Mark McKenna (DC)
- Astonishing X-Men #29, by Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi (Marvel)
- Guardians of the Galaxy #9, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, Carlos Magno, Victor Olazaba & Jack Purcell (Marvel)
- Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Edition vol 2 HC, by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming (Marvel/Icon)
Superman Beyond is one of those rare Final Crisis spin-offs which actually ties in to the main series, in that something that happens in it actually happens in the main series, too. Unfortunately, that “something” is Superman leaving Earth for his adventure in this series, and otherwise this story doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with Final Crisis as a whole – it’s just a quest for Superman to find something to save Lois Lane’s life. Indeed, the opening sequence of Final Crisis #6 seems to be Superman returning from his adventure in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds (which is also running ridiculously late, as it looks like the last couple of issues will be published after Final Crisis is over). So why bother?
As Chris Sims points out, Superman Beyond plays with the idea of breaking the fourth wall, something writer Grant Morrison has done in his career before. But it’s actually one of the least successful elements of Morrison’s writing: The climax of his early series, Animal Man, features multiple breaks of the fourth wall, but never to any good effect; indeed, the extent to which the climax works (and how well it “works” is debatable; certainly it’s not as strong as the first 5 issues, and it really feels like a cop-out) involves the hero rejecting the idea of the fourth wall and embracing the fundamental nature of the reality from which he came. When it comes to breaking the fourth wall, Morrison’s efforts seem clumsy next to those of (say) Alan Moore, and they don’t really contribute to the story here: The nature of limbo, the land of forgotten characters, could have been replaced with any place of exile beyond the bounds of the known universe and it would have served the story as well.
Superman Beyond does have some good bits to it, mainly involving Superman and his counterparts from alternate Earths. But it’s also full of things that make basically no sense: Why are the Monitors vampires? Why is the “evil Monitor” (who’s saddled with the ridiculous name of Mandrakk) so evil? Could we have some motivation here? And what does any of this have to do with Final Crisis?
Superman Beyond mostly underscores Morrison’s ongoing transformation into a writer who writes for effect rather than purpose, with style but no substance (and the style isn’t all that stylish, either). It’s more fun than Final Crisis, mainly because it has a little bit of characterization and the heroes are likeable, and – thank goodness – it’s a lot shorter and less ponderous. But I can’t really recommend it, since fundamentally it’s a story without a point; it’s for hard-core Morrison fans only.
I’ve written a summary of Bendis & Oeming’s series Powers previously, and I don’t have a lot to add to the general overview I provided there. But I wanted to write a little something about this second volume of the “definitive” hardcover collection that came out this week.
It’s the middle of (I presume) three volumes collecting the first series of Powers, and while it’s overall the weakest of the three, it’s still got some strong stuff in it. The three stories include: Investigating the death of a Superman-type hero who turns out to have been having a lot of affairs (with women who creepily all look alike – the attention to detail really pays off in this series at times); Investigating the deaths of a team of corporate superheroes, with all the cynicism that the term “corporate superheroes” implies; And a group of anarchists who are killing current and former heroes to make some sort of point. The strength of the stories come from the exploration of detective Christian Walker’s former life as a hero, and his partner Deena Pilgrim’s maturation as a character. The two didn’t really like each other very much early on, but their relationship becomes a lot more interesting as time goes on.
The stories aren’t the strongest in the series mainly because the supporting characters mostly aren’t very interesting; they’re there to create situations for Walker and Pilgrim to end up in, so the stories feel a little manipulative, getting them where they need to be without having it come about organically. I think Bendis does the best that he can, but the build-up to the excellent stuff in the next volume feels artificial.
Still, as a whole Powers is a very good series, even if it’s being published less and less frequently these days. The definitive hardcovers are a pretty good way to read the whole series, although the trades are a good option, too.