Writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason lean on Grant Morrison's Multiversity mini-series, bringing in the Justice Incarnate team to team up with the Superman of Earth 0. They showcase many of the 52 worlds that were laid out in the orrery of worlds. In fact, Tomasi and Gleason might be in charge of defining some of Morrison's unknown Earths. At least one is defined in this issue.
But there also seems to healthy dollop of Final Crisis: Beyond Superman mini-series as well. I feel I need to go back and reread that mind-trip to see if it adds anything here.
This issue is a quick read. Artists Ed Benes draws the bulk of the issue's pages and Ryan Sook, Clay Mann, and Jorge Jimenzez fill in some place, providing "big art" here. We get near splash pages, splash pages, double page splashes, and wide screen effects over two pages. This is the very definition of big art. And yet, despite the speed with which I read this, I felt this material deserved this treatment. This really is a sprawling story and big stories deserve big art. And shockingly, Benes reels in the cheesecake, giving us iconic hero poses rather than butt shots. I love the cover by Ryan Sook as well. What is more Superman than protecting a depowered Captain Carrot bunny?
Lastly, there is a reveal here ... a nameless reveal ... but it does cross off one mystery. Who is the villain here?
On to the book!
The issue opens on Earth 14, one of the unknown Earths in the orrery. This Earth seems to be a sort of Mad Max style place where the JLA are the Justice League of Assassins. Garbed in armor and gang gear, these heroes are trying to repel the Gatherers who are here to take this world's Superman.
Laying down a withering spray of lasers and mowing down the Gatheres, the team seems close to victory. But then the mastermind behind these kidnappings arrives. That blue energy, those blue word balloons, the mystery of Mr. Oz, the current Watchmen thread running through the DCU. Let's face it, this unseen villain seems to be Dr. Manhatten. And without much fuss, he takes the scarred Superman away.
The art is wonderful here, brilliant and palpable. That upper panel, with the League being diced and eviscerated, is horrifically beautiful.
They tell Superman of the threat against Supermen everywhere. Remember, Captain Carrot was part of this team and has gone missing.
But our Superman asks the question that I have been questioning. Why are some Supers being taken and not others? Why Kenan Kong and not Superman?
If I had to guess I would say that whoever the kidnapper is, he is taking the Supermen linked to each Earth. And because this Superman is from the pre-Flashpoint world, not really of Earth 0, he didn't resonate with the Gatherers' targeting system.
The team is interrupted by the image of Harbinger who tells them that the Superman of Earth 14 has disappeared off the map. That makes 15 of 52 missing. That's a lot of Supermen.
Can I say, and I know I am dating myself, I love Harbinger. Any interaction with that character is wonderful. So I was glad to see her here, even if it is as the electronic majordomo/AI of the ship.
The team decides they need to become pro-active in protecting the remaining Supermen of the multiverse. Some come willingly. Others need to be beaten down and dragged away.
While the fight with the Super-demon of Earth 13 was a fun scene, the Incarnate fighting the with monster League, I liked this two page wide screen splash instead. I loved seeing these silent interactions with the heroes of the worlds.
I mean how awesome is that middle one with Superman talking to Super-Chief by a fire. Or The Batman Beyond world looking so cool while their Superman listens to the others.
Again, this adds to that David Lean, epic feel to this arc. We are visiting universes here. We need big art.
With any number of Supermen on the Ultima Thule, our Superman reveals his plan. The ship will appear in the actual space/time. With so many Supermen in one spot, it will be like ringing the dinner bell for the villain.
But the details of the plan aren't laid out. There are two elements we know. One, all the other Supermen will somehow leave the ship (I assume to hang out nearby, out of phase). The other, Superman plans to lose.
I guess the idea will be that our Superman will lose a fight and get brought to wherever all the other Supermen have been brought. Once the Incarnate and the remaining Supermen know where they are hidden, they will spring to action and rescue everyone.
I like how 'our' Superman takes a role of leadership even in this incredible group of heroes.
At last we see the villain of the piece.
And guess what ... it isn't Dr. Manhatten!
But given that Morrison's Superman from Earth 4 spoke in blue balloons and seeing the red cape and costume on this guy, he has to be one of the multiversal Supermen. Maybe he also is from one of the unknown Earths?
But why is he doing this? Is he dying and needs to ingest super-energy to survive? Is he like Highlander, trying to be the only one, and gaining powers when he drains his doppelgangers?
I am ready to find out.
I mean he has to be a Superman right. I see what you are doing there ...
So this issue was a filled with huge art and giant moments. It moved this arc along pretty nicely. And frankly, I am all in. Just fantastic stuff!
I am anticipating a massive brawl at some point during this arc, all the Supermen fighting who ever this flame-headed villain is. And that is going to be too fantastic.
So kudos to Tomasi and Gleason for this arc. I am kind of giddy with it.
Overall grade: A