Friday, August 29, 2008

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 1, and an editorial on Event Comics

I talked about this comic here, in which I discussed the August solicitations for DC. Also supposed to be in this month?
All Star Superman 12. Nope I didn't buy that. Damn you DC for delaying it. Anyway, Superman Beyond is supposed to be the amazing 3-D adventure written by Morrison, another piece in his last hurrah at DC. So let's take a look.

Superman waits at Lois' hospital bed, when a mysterious female Monitor asks him to save all of existence by coming with her, and in return she will heal Lois. She stops time, and Superman acquiesces to the deal. Off they go into 4 dimensional viewing (ie, put on your 3-D glasses that come with the comic) and we're off on a grande opaque adventure with Ultraman, a Nazi Superman, a Captain Marvel, and a guy that's modeled on Doctor Manhattan - there's an example of hyperreality for you: the copy (Dr. Manhattan) is now more real than the original (Charlton Comics' Captain Atom).

Just like any other Grant Morrison comic, this is densely packed with information and a lot happens between panels. There's rarely any fluidity between panels as Morrison hurls ideas and plot at you faster than Bendis can type (poorly).

It's also a sort of "goodbye" story for Morrison, as he engages the metafictional gun and aims it as the multiverse. It turns out that the origin of the multiverse can be attributed to simple stories, or something like that. I find I have to read a Morrison comic about three times before I comprehend it entirely.

It's all very action-packed and exciting and Mahnke's pencils are detailed and enjoyable. It's very entertaining and an excellent example of Morrison's style.

Okay, so that's the review of the comic itself. What of the 3D stuff?

It's okay, I guess. It gave me a headache and the actual 3D effects are only sometimes efficient. Most of the time, it's simply the word balloons appear to float, or debris. Very rarely did it wow me, but then again, I saw
Beowulf on IMax 3D, so there. It was okay....

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond got me thinking about the style of event comics in our current modern age. It's almost like hyperlink cinema, in that the main title of the event, in this case, Final Crisis, gives us a breakdown, or the broad strokes of the events, while the individual spin-off mini-series give us the meat and potatoes of those specific events. So, for example, in Final Crisis 3, Superman is given that opportunity to save existence, and on the next page, we jump to another event. In hyperlink terms, that's a link that we choose to follow to another website, for example, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond.

It's sort of the same story going on with the other event running at Marvel. The main title,
Secret Invasion, gives us the broad strokes, while the spin-off titles, New Avengers and Mighty Avengers and the billion Secret Invasion: Character X fill in the copious blanks.

I'm not sure if this is a bad thing or a good thing. First of all, hyperlink fiction is a still a new form of fiction and has yet to be really popularized or made awesome (like Moore did with deconstruction in comics). Secondly, this mode of storytelling is one primarily inspired by capital gains, as the more issues one person buys, the more money the company makes. Again, this isn't a bad thing or a good thing. It simply is a thing.

Once you have the whole story published, say with the case of Infinite Crisis, you can read the main title, and at your leisure, follow the "hyperlinks" to stories such as Rann/Thanagar War or Day of Vengeance. You can appreciate the larger scale tapestry of different stories, different writers, different artists. This hyperlink form of storytelling might actually complement the collaborative nature of the medium of comic books. Considering that each link on Wikipedia follows to another article written by a different person, if you want to accept that analogy.

What does hinder this hyperlink storytelling is scheduling issues, or massive continuity problems, ie bad editorial. Superman is flying around all 52 Earths while last week I read about him in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes. What gives?

Also, bad planning can make this frustrating. For example, the end of
Countdown (as I'm told) does not jive with the beginning of Final Crisis, a story that (I'm told) was planned out year ago by Morrison.

So there's some pros and some cons to the hyperlink paradigm that the Big Two have opted to use to tell their stories and sell their comics. I'm not sure why this review turned into an editorial, but there you go. It's my blog - I'll do what I want.

Anyway, pick up this issue of
Final Crisis: Superman Beyond because it's entertaining and it's Grant Morrison and it's awesome.

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