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Cover date: October 2004
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Matthew Clark and Renato Guedes
Inker: Andy Lanning
"Battery" - Part Five
Reviewed by: Nick Newman
Superman is blasted through a wall, pursued by Xlim who again apologizes for his actions, claiming that Ruin is making him do it. Ruin agrees. Superman asks him why he is doing it, and Ruin responds that he is saving the world. Outside, the SCU hears gunshots and Lupe leaps into action, charging into the building. Moving inside, they find a group of prisoners tied up. Removing the gag from one of the women, Lupe learns that Replikon somehow stole all of Superman's power.
Lois crouches over the wounded soldier and reinforcements arrive. Bandaging him up, the troops tell Lois that they are going to move. As they walk out of the building, an explosion suddenly erupts in the street. The sole surviving marine struggles to his feet only to be put down by a sniper. Lois looks on in horror, but knows that leaving shelter would only be committing suicide.
Xlim continues to beat on Superman as Ruin watches. Ruin explains that he has built two kinds of machine using his battery technology. His stores Superman's power, or did until it was ruptured. Xlim's cannon negates his powers instead. Xlim hits him again with a blast of energy, but Superman isn't going to wait around to complete lose his powers, he turns and runs. Xlim hesitates, but a jolt of pain delivered by Ruin sends him on his way.
Hiding behind war torn walls, Carter tells Lois that they should be safe as soon as daylight comes. Lois apologizes to him for getting them involved in such a dangerous situation. Suddenly one of the marines coughs out in the street. He's still alive. Lois moves to help him.
Hiding, Superman nurses his wounds as Ruin and Xlim search for him. Reflecting his heat vision off a mirror, the beams hit Ruin. Superman surges forward and grabs Ruin, his control over Xlim gone. Suddenly, Xlim fires on Ruin, incapacitating him. Superman tells him that it wasn't the right thing to do, and he would never have done it. Xlim backs down.
As Superman leads Ruin and Xlim out of the building, he suddenly hears a gun fire. As Lois drags the marine from the street she suddenly stumbles as blood begins to spread over hear chest. Superman catches her before she hits the ground.
Story - 4: Rucka really continues to deliver a solid story with Battery. The Lois at war storyline has turned out fantastically and, contrary to what I expected not at all preachy. I was afraid we would have to deal with another (at least in my opinion) abysmal storyline like we saw in JLA #83 last year. Instead we have a strong Lois who actually seems in character for the first time in a long time (ie: not a witch as Austen would have you believe).
On the Superman front, the Ruin and Xlim plot continues to shape up nicely. Ruin claims to be saving the world by killing Superman, and Eddie has said that Action and Adventures will build up to the vanishing story, so maybe we're seeing the first developments of that.
There does seem to be way too much weakening of Superman, both by Austen with his K poisoning and here with Rucka, but as long as the story is solid then it's fine with me. The idea of a battery that can steal Superman's powers is also nice. It accomplishes the exact same thing as Kryptonite, without having to resort to using the K itself. Barely anyone should have Kryptonite, which was definitely one of the best changes made by Byrne back in '86. Pre-crisis, you see, Kryptonite was practically available at the corner drug store.
Lupe continues to be a well used character as well. She is given cameos that fit her character, and yet she never crowds Superman out of the story. Rucka in general is doing a great job at keeping the supporting cast in the books. Lois, as previously mentioned, is great, Lupe is handled well, and even in this issue he manages to get a reference to Jimmy in. It's stuff like this that really ties the book together into a cohesive story.
It was also great to see Superman actually thinking for a change. He was fighting against a weapon he knew he couldn't beat, so he...retreats. He actually did something that makes sense. Just because Superman is incredibly powerful does not mean he needs to act like a moron in fights. Running to collect his strength and then striking from the shadows (even if the reflected heat vision was a bit of a stretch) was a terrific move. Then Xlim tries to kill Ruin (but doesn't, which means Ruin isn't just a temporary villain, good move Rucka) and Superman has a classic moment where he can honestly say he wouldn't take a life.
Then, the shooting of Lois. I'm not really sure how I feel about this, but since it occurred in a war and not just in Suicide Slum or something contrived like that then I'm pretty much for it. The only thing ruining any sense of suspense is the fact that we know she has to be alive for the vanishing in another few months, but it's not like they'd actually kill Lois anyway (that would make Austen way too happy) so it's fine. Of course, they violate the speed of Superman by having Superman hear the bullet (remember the limitations on Jimmy's signal watch?), but I can forgive that for the purpose of storytelling. After all, Superman just has to be there to catch his wife as she falls.
Overall a very solid story, only hurt a little bit by the fact that the Superman portion really didn't tell us much, it just continued the fight that's been progressing for the last few issues. It was still good though, and the Lois part was great. Well done Rucka, for making this the book I look forward to most every month (of the Super titles at least, because I am absolutely loving Identity Crisis).
Art - 4: More very good art from Clark. I feel like he's made all of the tweaks that needed to be made from his first issue or two and is now delivering very solid art on every page. Lois looks great, the whole war scene is very appropriate, and our wounded Superman actually looks beat up. I feel like the inking is still a little too heave for my tastes (and did you notice the cover credits Nelson but the interior credits Andy Lanning, in my opinion it looks like Nelson's work, not Lanning's, but who knows) but it does work well with Clark's pencils so I can't really knock it too much. One of the most impressive things though is the use of lighting in this book. The explosion by Lois and the blast of Xlim's gun are extremely well done, taking advantage of the technology available to deliver the best effects. And then the final page. Superman Lois' wound is a little exaggerated (why is it spewing blood like that?) but it works great for dramatic effect. I'm a big fan of splash pages only when appropriate, and this one definitely was.
Cover Art - 5: This cover is just perfect. First off, the art is spectacular. The colors, the details, everything. Lois looks great, and all of the little things, like the trash on the street, and the picture of Superman in the paper really tie it together for me. What really sold me on it though, was Lois' expression. Not only does it look incredibly realistic, but it does a perfect job. On first glance, it looks like Lois is just leaning up against the wall. After reading the story and examining it closely however, its very clear that Lois is in pain and gripping her wound. The cover doesn't ruin the story, and yet after you've read it the cover clearly shows what happens inside. All because of the perfect expression on Lois' face. Very well done.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.