There are so many things going on in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D 2 that I don’t know where to start talking about it. Even more than the main Final Crisis this is a thematic sequel to Seven Soldiers, and may be the ultimate ‘prismatic age’ comic, as well as being essentially an extra issue of All Star Superman.
Every line in here is packed with meaning upon meaning. Captain Atom, a character created by Steve Ditko, a follower of the crackpot ‘philosopher’ Ayn Rand, is here an embodiment of the thoughts of the German philosophers that Rand dismissed as ‘irrational’ (something she would know a lot about). He’s Nietzsche’s Superman – beyond the duality of good and evil, but he’s also talking like a pulp sci-fi Hegel – “A thought robot activated by the tremendous energies unleashed by collisions of fundamental opposing qualities. A new fission process powered by… dualities?”
We’ll leave aside the fact that he doesn’t understand what fission actually means (matter-antimatter collision is something rather different from nuclear fission, which is caused by small bits of matter colliding with slightly bigger bits) and notice that this is also a rather apt description of the vast majority of superhero comics – the ‘tights and fights’ base of the genre. New ideas being generated almost as an accidental byproduct of opposites clashing with tremendous energy…
His next line “Dualities? No, there are no dualities, only symmetries.” Again, this is a Ditko creation talking!
Except it isn’t, really, because this ‘Captain Allen Adam’ is of course ‘really’ Doctor Manhattan, from a world where the Charlton characters more closely parallel their Watchmen analogues. “I am the endgame of the idea that spawned the likes of you, Ultraman. I am above conflict.”
Here Morrison is taking Moore’s own interpretation of Watchmen – that it was meant to be the capstone of a particular approach to superhero comics, rather than a new way of doing them that everyone should follow. And while Captain Atom destroys both Ultraman and Superman, he uses that energy to move Superman (and not Ultraman) up to a higher plane. Superman takes on a ‘fiction suit’ to move to a ‘higher’ rather than a lower level of reality.
(Doesn’t a lot of the Bleed look like the astral plane in The Invisibles where Jim Crow goes? Been too long since I reread that…)
Superman Beyond 3D is in many ways the anti-Batman RIP. While Batman RIP was the ground-level story taking the place of American Gothic to Final Crisis‘ Crisis On Infinite Earths (except of course that here both stories were written by the same person – and the American Gothic/Crisis relationship is one that Morrison keeps coming back to in his recent superhero work), Superman Beyond 3D is the really big story to Final Crisis‘ merely gargantuan one, a reminder of the even bigger picture in much the same way as Mister Miracle was for Seven Soldiers. And this of course suggests that there are more layers yet – an infinite number of ever grander stories, with ever greater stakes, playing out all at the same time, with pawns in one story moving up the ranks and ending up in the story on the next level.
And it suggests, thankfully, that Final Crisis won’t be Morrison’s last work in the DCU – that, as Didio has been hinting, he’s got some big plans for the Multiverse following this. For all that I love Morrison’s creator-owned stuff, I wouldn’t want to be without his superhero work either. All of these comics have had a grand, Wagnerian feel to them (hardly surprising since this is Morrison’s Götterdämmerung) and so it’s only fitting that Superman’s story here should owe so much to Nietzsche while still repudiating the hatred so associated with his ideas.
And that last page. What a wonderful, inspiring, perfect page that is.
My brain is a little burned out on writing about Final Crisis after the recent comment thread of death, so I won’t go on any more. Suffice to say there’s a ton of stuff in here that relates both to the main story and to the very idea of stories – this is about optimism, and about pessimism, and about fighting the good fight. Those who disliked the last issue of FC as being just one big fight scene should love this, as it’s all idea and metaphor and symbolism – it takes several readings to really get all the subtleties Morrison is putting in here.
To be continued…