Saturday, August 30, 2008

Superman #679 Review

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes

James Robinson has the unfortunate task of entering the Superman franchise right as Geoff Johns is writing some of the best Superman stories the book has ever seen over in Action Comics. He also has been tasked with writing about a lame villain, Atlas, when Johns is fleshing out the arch-nemesis Braniac over in the other book. However, not all comic books need to be monumental events. Sometimes, it is worthwhile just to write fun stories about Superman, and here Robinson is succeeding. In the last issue, Atlas was introduced, and he wasn't very interesting. However, in that issue, Superman wasn't very interesting either, and had almost no dialogue.

A lot of the problems with the last issue have been cleared up here, and Robinson is clearly having a lot of fun with the characters in the Superman family. The strange reference to Zatanna has been cleared up, and while the payoff is simply that Lois is jealous of the all-powerful super-magician in fishnets, the scene with her and Clark at breakfast is a nice moment. Superman is living is such a world of walking metaphors that it is actually a little refreshing to see Lois get a little jealous of one of them (of course, the one she should really be jealous of is Wonder Woman, seeing that Clark ends up married to her in about half of DC's possible futures). Robinson made a bit of a mistake in not giving us any of Superman's characterization until this issue, but here, he nails it.

The other characters are very interesting as well. Jimmy comes across, as usual, as somewhere between an insecure kid and a sharp investigative journalist. He spends his time between worrying about Superman losing the fight to Atlas and trying to figure out who the strange shadow (in a baseball cap?) is on the roof of a building. The relationship between Supergirl and Superman is developed, and we can really see their devotion to each other, both because they are family and because they are the last survivors of their planet. She rushes off to save him, and the two of them are so busy protecting each other, they almost get in each other's way. There is a really awesome moment in which we see Supergirl hanging out with her pet pride of...lions? Yes, lions. I guess when you are invulnerable you can have pet lions, and this is a really great idea. We know she loves cats, so having a pride of pet lions makes perfect sense. The funny thing is that from the looks on the lions face, it's not entirely clear what they think of her, but that's okay. Having a pet with contempt for you half of the time is part of the fun of having a cat.

There is also an interesting scene between Lana Lang and one of her minions at Lex Corp. DC has been trying to figure out to do with the third wheel of the Superman-Lois-Lana tricycle ever since Superman and Lois got married back in 1996, especially given the popularity of the character in the Smallville television show. Having her be the tough, corporate lady is an interesting choice, which makes some sense as she is the former first lady. Here we see that toughness as she stands up to her contemptuous minion and tries to protect Superman using her resources. Unfortunately, she is fired from Lex Corp in this issue in a not-especially-plausible contract dispute, so I hope they don't abandon what is an interesting direction for the character. However, the characterization here is very believable given her recent direction in the franchise.

Finally, of course, we have the introduction of Krypto to save the day at the end of the book. With this moment, Robinson abandons any pretense that this will be an epic Superman story, but that is all right. It is nice to see a master protected by his dog, and Krypto is a character who has always been potentially silly, but clearly represents something important to fans. When he was wiped out in order to make Superman the last Kryptonian in Crisis on Infinite Earths, so many fans rejected his annihilation that they simply refused to accept his removal as canon. This refusal to accept the canonicity of stories actually has come to be known as "Krypto-revisionism", named after the fan rebellion at the removal of this dog, and has been widely used in other instances of fan-rebellion, such as the rejection of Highlander 2. Krypto is, for whatever reason, an important part of the Superman mythos, and I am glad for it. One of the best things about this story is the way we see that Superman isn't alone, but is constantly surrounded by a family and even pets who care for him. I look forward to a Krypto story next issue. It's been a while.

The fight with Atlas is becoming interesting, despite having gone on for two issues now. Somehow, Atlas is super-strong and able to defeat Superman. This reminds me somewhat of the fight with Doomsday, in which a character that comes out of nowhere is the one who finally (apparently) kills Superman. I admit, despite really not liking the character last issue, this one left me intrigued as to who this character is, and I hope there is some explanation beyond the silly one from last issue.

Overall, then, this is a good book. It is not as strong or epic as Action Comics, but this book has finally found its stride. It is a nice, even occasionaly cute, adventure story about Superman. There's nothing wrong with that.


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