Sunday, December 13, 2009


In last years big Grant Morison-driven DC Comics event, Final Crisis, the two star comics were Superman Beyond. Written by the mastermind of the DC event, this extremely complex pair of comics boiled down to being about one thing: narrative's essential and eternal role in the concept of reality itself. Morison, while hardly the first comic book writer to explore the idea of superheroes that become aware of themselves as comic book characters that "we" are reading, did an epic job of expanding this concept with his run on Animal Man. Superman Beyond is his swan song of the post-modern, self-aware super hero tale. With tear jerking monologues from Superman, comparing the sensation of being read to being cradled like a baby by a breath that comes from "direction with no name". This pair of comics serves as the capital city of the Final Crisis series, a series that celebrates the love of making comic books, stories, and myth.
This year's big DC event, Blackest Night, presents a yin to Superman Beyond's yang. Also written by the events mastermind (this time Geoff Johns), and involving postmodern blurring of the comic book world and the real world; this pair of comics serves as a mockery of comic book making rather than a celebration. But a yin/yang relationship involves similarity as well, so trust me when I say that both are brilliant. Slapstick comedy instead of poetic existentialism. Bitter cruelty towards the reader and critic in us all rather than overwhelming love for the writer and creator in each of us. Blunt, literal smashing of the 4th wall instead of graceful Lynchian melting of it. Again though, still so brilliant. The cliff hanger at the end of part one is just as frightening as Superman Beyonds cliffhanger. The ending opens up possibilities for the DC Universe that are exciting and drive the imagination countless places.
It is also quite and impressive feat that Superboy Prime's humanity and heroic potential is returned in these Adventure Comics. He had been buried in a pretty deep hole of nasty behavior over the past decade. An incredible fun hole to see dug, but definitely a deep one. Here Geoff Johns gets him out of it very quickly and believably. I hope they continue in this direction with the character in 2010.
So, don't expect monumental philosophical exposition out of these two comics, they are rooted in a 50's silly pulp concept of the comic book. But they are fantastic in their own way, that serves as a great foil to Morison's similar self-referential tales.

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