Another tie-in miniseries wraps up this week, in one of three Superman-related reviews coming this weekend (along with the latest episode of “Smallville” and the recent “New Krypton” comic event.) My advice: don’t think of this as a Superman series, think of it as a Final Crisis series. That way, it doesn’t have to make sense.

General Information

Title: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1-2

Author: Grant Morrison

Illustrator(s): Doug Mahnke (pencils); Christian Alamy with assists from Ton Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Rodney Ramos, Walden Wong and Derek Fridolfs (inks); David Baron (colours); Ray Zone (3-D effects)

Cover Date: October 2008 for #1, March 2009 for #1

Cover Price: $4.50 US each

Premise

During “Final Crisis,” Lois Lane was mortally wounded, forcing Superman to stay at her bedside instead of joining the fray. A Monitor arrives, offering to save Lois in exchange for Clark’s help saving the multiverse.

High Point

Actually finding out what happened to Superman between his early and latest appearances in Final Crisis. It’s a big piece of the puzzle. Couldn’t it have been in the actual puzzle, rather than this tangent?

Low Point

The 3D effects dull the colors in a purple wash of gimmickry. Not only do I find it headache-inducing to the point that I opted not to use the 3D glasses for large stretches of the second issue, but the effects aren’t effectively 3D. Instead, it looks more like a pop-up book, with a series of 2D cutouts layered in a 3D space. Want to add depth without nauseating your readers? Forget the 3D, and get someone like Frank D’Armata to colour the issue.

The Scores

This doesn’t feel original at all. In fact, it’s the same basic story I’ve seen from every playground with a multiverse: the multiverse is in danger, so grab multiple versions of the same basic hero and bring them together to save everything. I give it 3 out of 6.

The artwork on the 2D pages is enjoyable. The same can’t be said for the 3D pages. After reading these issues again for this review, I’m seriously tempted to down a couple of Advil for the headache and then soak my eyes in cold water to rehydrate them and eliminate the ache. The gimmick comes across as exactly that, particularly since the in-story motivation for it was the need for a “4-D vision upgrade” to see the new dimension. How did Superman get such an upgrade? “[4D vision is] well within your superior optical range. Your ability to see 4-D perspective will most likely develop spontaneously when required.” It does, complete with glowing red and green eyes. Too bad the lenses the issue actually uses are red and blue. And uncomfortable. And narrow. And attached to the issue on a punchout in the first few pages, which makes it hard to read the issue, with one hand trying to hold pages down on both side of the spine which the cardboard is holding up, and the other hand holding the glasses in place. The glasses in the second issue come with attachable arms to help with this situation, but the face is too narrow and the arms to short to help at all. (They don’t fit under my reading glasses at all, let alone comfortably, and if I put them over my reading glasses the arms don’t reach my ears, rendering them rather pointless, and I’m back to holding them.) When turning pages requires conscious effort, it’s hard to stay focussed on the content. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story feels like it belongs in the main series. This isn’t an add on or embellishment, this seems like it’s explaining the absence and return of a major player for good, as well as revealing and describing a major player for evil (thus far hinted at only very recently in the main series, but whom I suspect will be a significant part of issue 7.) It doesn’t stand alone well at all, particularly since the absence of the hero is ultimately not explained, given the time frames depicted. I give it 3 out of 6.

The characterization of the Supermen is clear. The monitors aren’t as clear, but that could be a characteristic of the species (much like the Guardians of the Universe on Oa.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response, as you’ve likely guessed by now, is terrible. There were too many hassles and (literal) headaches involved in the reading process to get involved in the story. I give it 2 out of 6.

The flow isn’t nearly as smooth as it should be for a continuous narrative. The effort needed to turn pages, and the not-always-explicable switches to and from the 3D view kept me from gaining any sort of momentum when reading the story. I would have greatly preferred a 2D version. I give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, it’s tough to recommend. It’s a pain to read, but it has major implications for the main title. If you are intent on making sense of the main series, pick this up. If you’ve given up on making sense of the main series, don’t bother with this one. I give it 3 out of 6.

In total, Final Crisis: Superman Beyond recieves 21 out of 42.

Final Crisis Checklist