You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. Just as we were really getting started, we’ve had to ask some of our favourite experts to step in and make things clearer, however – there’s so much going on!
At the moment we’ve been following through a trail of wreckage left by Emma Houxbois, and that’s led us up to a creature called “Mandrakk”, whatever that is. Luckily I know somebody who just so happens to be a total expert when it comes to monstrous creatures – none other than Kyle Pinion! Kyle, we need to know what Mandrakk is, please!
Kyle! I’ve just heard about someone called “Mandrakk, The Dark Monitor”. Which is… metal. First of all, what’s a Monitor – and especially what’s a “dark” monitor?
Kyle Pinion: So, you know how there’s that guy, Uatu the Watcher, in those Fantastic Four comics who wears what’s basically an intergalactic toga and has a giant baby head? Jeffrey Wright is going to voice him in an upcoming Marvel cartoon series. Anyway, a Monitor is basically the DC version of that. A dude who is far less giant, has a little more hair (though mostly on his face) and basically served the same purpose. He was a Marv Wolfman and George Perez creation for The New Teen Titans, a book that was among a handful of readable work that DC was pumping out in the early 80’s. His basic function is to act as a counter-balancing force against the Anti-Monitor (his anti-matter opposite, kinda like Nega-Duck or Captain Pollution), which is the underlying struggle of the original Crisis.
Long story short, he existed to protect the multiverse from the anti-matterverse. After the multiverse got wiped out at the end of Crisis, he didn’t show up again (as far as I can remember, but my memory ain’t what it used to be) until after Infinite Crisis and 52 brought back the multiverse. As a result of those two event series, 52 Monitors were brought into being to observe the brand-spanking new 52 different universes, and the events of 52 in particular, made it so they all have individualised personalities. There are lady Monitors! Monitors without beards! Monitors with bigger beards! Um…you get it. Their history also changed a bit, but I’ll get there in a second.
One of the things I’ve never quite understood about them myself is where they stand in the hierarchy of DCU immortal beings. Like where do the Monitors stand compared to the New Gods, or the other pantheons? How about in comparison with The Endless? Or that big hand of creation/”real God”? I often find myself envious of how much easier Marvel fans have it, “they’re (mostly) all aliens of some kind!”
The Dark Monitor? Well…first things first, he’s totally different than the Anti-Monitor. Imagine a guy who goes off on a huge, very long trip somewhere and gets indoctrinated by conspiracy theory nonsense for years and years on end, he comes back basically the most toxic person you’ve ever met…that’s sort of what happens with poor Dax Novu in Final Crisis, except he’s locked away in a vault in your house and he’s a vampire. And he’s basically just an actualization of the base nature of all Monitors, so really you’re a vampire too and you don’t even know it. God, I’m already getting a headache trying to think how I’m going to describe all this further.
Okay, so who is Mandrakk? What’s his deal?
Pinion: *deep breath*
There’s actually TWO Mandrakks, which was not something I totally understood the first time I read Final Crisis. You know how people tell you, especially the really annoying Grant Morrison guys (of which I’m totally one of them at times), that you need to read his work twice to really *get* it? With Final Crisis, that legitimately is true. Mandrakk, in the lore of the Monitors – because at some point they created their own whole belief system I guess – is their foretold great enemy.
Let me back up a tick:
In the new mythology of the Monitors, reality began as a white void (in meta-terms, a white piece of paper)…this white void was (and was overseen by) an “Over-Monitor”. At some point, a flaw appeared in his perfect white canvas, which he decided to launch a probe into to learn about it further, that probe (which Final Crisis: Superman Beyond indicates was the Monitor of the original Crisis that we were just talking about) uncovers the concept of “the story”. The idea confuses the hell out of him and causes him to split into two parts, one part begats the “cage” that holds the new multiverse together, the other a giant Superman statue, a symbol of its first contact with stories…which makes sense, as much as this can, since Superman was the birth of the DCU historically. Said statue is also a four-dimensional thought-robot, but we’ll get there…
Okay, so now we have a multiverse and a big honking Superman statue. Recall, we now have 52 Monitors who are all descendants of the original “Over-Monitor”, and they all kind of live together in their own little society. As things tend to happen, the Monitors build their entire theology around it, and in my own read of it it even inspires their mode of dress. Why else are they all wearing capes and superhero-like duds? Anyway, they all come to believe that this giant Superman statue, “The Mystery of the Silent Sentinel” as they call it, will reveal its true purpose on their final day of existence, a bit of a Revelations-like turn. This is something they’ve begun to dread. But they also believe that on this final day, they’ll come to know the “last gift” of Dax Novu, who was the first Monitor to probe the multiverse (and obsensibly the Monitor from Crisis/the probe).
There’s all this other stuff that happens in the TWO issues of Superman Beyond related to the gathering of an army of Supermen (including Superman’s opposite, Ultraman, a Doctor Manhattan stand-in named Captain Adam, Captain Marvel – the Billy Batson variety, and a Nazi-Superman named Overman) and how our Superman needs to gather some of the viscous stuff that exists between universes (The Bleed, a concept ripped right out of The Authority actually) to save Lois Lane’s life, but basically Mandrakk is the end-game bad guy of this story. So, back when Dax Novu probed the Multiverse, he actually became corrupted by it and locked himself away in a tomb. The Monitors thought this was some great sacrifice to prevent the coming of this new dark beast of an enemy named Mandrakk, but really it was Novu trying to prevent himself from becoming Mandrakk and feeding on all light and life. Novu in his attempt to lock himself away, tried to also warn the Monitors of their own base nature, which is vampiric and feeds off the blood of the Multiverse. Surprise, surprise…nobody understood that, and his whole meaning was misinterpreted.
This ends up leading to a big fight between Superman and Mandrakk at the end: Superman and Ultraman become fused by the Doctor Manhattan analogue and end up powering the aforementioned giant Superman thought robot, while Mandrakk is freed. They square off, and Superman/Ultraman fling Mandrakk into the overvoid and that’s the end of the Dax Novu version.
But there’s another Monitor named Rox Ogama, who basically engineered the rise of the first Mandrakk, through a number of actions that occur in Final Crisis early on. At the end of Superman Beyond, he’s banished by the Monitors, now understanding their true nature and the depths of his treachery. But, upon his exile, he happens upon Ultraman who is recovering still from his forceable split from Superman. Ogama decides to turn Ultraman into his own Vampire Superman, and in so doing also becomes the new Mandrakk, having obtained the same level of corruption that infected Dax Novu, plotting his revenge on Superman. It’s a bit like Renfield becoming the new Dracula.
What happened to him in the end? Is he still out there somewhere?
Pinion: With the last issue of Final Crisis, the Rox Ogama version of Mandrakk re-emerges thanks to the chaos of Darkseid unleashing the Anti-Life equation. It’s a bit like Final Fantasy 9, where after you beat the main game’s boss, this other much tougher boss. I can’t imagine what reading this would have been like if you didn’t pick up Superman Beyond or didn’t want to/were unable to fuss with its 3D effects. Mandrakk’s appearance comes out of nowhere otherwise…maybe that’s kind of thrilling. What’s worse than Darkseid, the tiger force in all things? A Mega-Vampire!
But what happens to him? All the Supermen from Superman Beyond, as heroes powered by sunlight, are basically able to rain hell on him. Weakened by their attack, the Green Lantern Corps drive a giant stake through his heart, and he’s basically dusted. Hooray! The Heroes Win! “Don’t f*ck with the Judge of All Evil” and all that. So, Mandrakk is basically done, but there’s a fun little easter egg in The Multiversity’s Guidebook, with the Vampire Ultraman occupying Earth-43, the vampire Earth that was the setting for books like Batman: Red Rain. Did Ultraman start the vampire plague there? I like to think so!
I also rather love how everything related to Ultraman and the term Ultra is generally malevolent in Morrison’s cosmology, thinking specifically to the heavily Jim Starlin-inspired Ultra Comics in The Multiversity.
I believe Mandrakk returned in the recent short-lived series The Unexpected, but I never read much of it. But he’s probably still out there to be used by somebody – aren’t they all?
WOW! Thanks Kyle! If DC ever need somebody to write an encyclopedia about multiversal vampires, I think we all know who to pick! That explains everything about Mandrakk and THEN some. So! Next week, let’s head back round… I believe Emma Houxbois was in the middle of explaining Wonder Woman….
Kyle Pinion is the Entertainment Editor for The Beat, and along with Hannah Lodge runs ScreenRex, a terrific website about movies. You can find him on Twitter here!