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Cover date: December 2004
Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Matthew Clark
Inker: Andy Lanning
"That Healing Touch" - Part 1
Reviewed by: Nick Newman
Clark returns home with his arms full of groceries. As the doorman helps Clark into the elevator, he asks about Lois. Clark tells him that she is feeling much better, but she still isn't supposed to move around much.
Entering his apartment, Clark finds a scene of chaos. Both his and Lois' mothers are busy cooking, and Lucy is trying to control her young son Sam. Taking Sam, Clark heads into the bedroom to see his wife. He finds her talking with Perry, and Perry adamantly refusing to let her come back to work. She tells Perry that she was shot two months ago, and she's ready to work again. As soon as Perry leaves, Lois gets up from the bed, telling Clark that she's going to go crazy. Lois tells Clark that all she wants is to get on with her life. Clark tells Lois that he's going to go to Stryker's later, and Lois tells him that she'll get rid of everyone if she can.
Inside Stryker's, Lupe interrogates Xlim again, trying to learn where Ruin is. He tells her that he doesn't know anything, and that it wasn't his fault. Lupe begins to threaten him, but Superman enters and asks if he can talk to him instead. Lupe leaves the two of them alone. Superman tells Xlim that he needs his help to find Ruin, and to find the two missing people.
Leaving, Superman and Lupe talk about her treatment of Xlim. She tells Superman that she'll do what she needs to do to find the missing siblings. Superman tells her that while Xlim doesn't know where Ruin is, he was able to tell Superman why he can't find him. Ruin knows how to counter Superman's powers, and that makes him very dangerous.
Hovering above the city, Superman looks for places that he can't see, places where he can't hear. He locates a factory in the city, and without a moments pause flies inside, crashing through the ceiling into a large room. All he finds is a desiccated corpse and the words 'Too Late' scrawled on the wall.
Back home, Lucy prepares to leave, the last one out of the apartment. As Lois opens the door, the two Parasites greet the sisters.
Story - 5: Rucka's whole arc just keeps getting better. It's this stuff that makes comics such a great medium. We have self contained stories, issues that can be read on their own, but over the past seven months each issue has combined into one big story. That is what makes comics unique and that's why Rucka's been doing a phenomenal job.
Stepping back from the arc as a whole, this issue had so many fantastic little details. Clark continues to be a great character in this book. He isn't a nerd, he isn't a wimp, yet little details like fighting with the groceries bring back just a little of the bumbling Clark. Not too much to ruin the story, but enough to mask his identity and I really like it. And then, oh my goodness, Sam Troupe is still alive. Not only that, but Lucy is here too. So is Lois' mom, and Martha, and even Perry made an appearance. But it's little Sam that is really special. We are actually seeing some acknowledging of Superman's past and it's a great thing. Lois' attitude is spot on yet again. She's strong, she's fierce, and yet she loves her husband. If only Austen would take some time to read this book then maybe he would realize that Lois really isn't evil, and that Clark certainly doesn't belong with Lana.
A particularly nice, and very subtle touch, was the passage of two months between last issue and this one. I liked this for a number of reasons. First, it heals Lois up. I thought that her shooting was extremely well handled (if only there could have been a way to mention Identity Crisis it could have been even better, but I understand why that wasn't feasible), but having her unconscious for another 2 issues would have just dragged it out too long. It also gives a sense of power to Ruin, and a sense of urgency to the SCU and Superman, as he has been evading them for two whole months. And finally, and most importantly in the grand scheme of things, it moves us towards For Tomorrow. Now I may not like For Tomorrow once we get there, but it is nice to see one of the other writers beginning to tie his book into Azzarello's. It gives a nice sense of continuity even when the books aren't connected.
The Xlim/Ruin story continues on, with little development, and the part with Ruin hiding by masking his location would have been innovative, if it hadn't already been done 18 years ago in Superman #9 (if you haven't read it, go get it now, the backup story 'Metropolis: 900 Miles' is the defining Luthor story). Superman didn't need any advice on how to find lead-lined coffins then, so why did he now? It's really not that big of a deal though, as I'm sure that there is lots of lead around a city that would make some areas opaque to Superman's vision, so maybe he wouldn't notice it after all.
And then Lois and Lucy are attacked by the Parasites. Which raises a few questions, the most important being: does Ruin know who Superman is? We saw last issue that Ruin is pretty much insane, blaming Superman for the eventual death of the sun in another four billion years, but does he know even more about Clark than has already been let on?
With that all covered, the only thing left are the new Parasites. Now I was upset when Loeb killed Rudy off four years back in Superman #157 (has it really been that long?). The Parasite had really been developed, through his physical mutation when Clark was overpowered after the Eradicator reenergized him and then through the absorption of the doctor, into a solid Superman villain and McGuinness drew him so perfectly that it seemed a waste to kill him. That being said, I don't like the idea of a new Parasite, but killing them wasn't Rucka's idea, so at least he is bringing them back. Twin Mxyzptlks didn't work, and the Sodom and Gomorrah travesty certainly didn't, but the parasite thing might actually work. I'll have to wait and see.
In summary, this book feels like a Superman book from 1992, and as that was one of my favorite post-Crisis eras on the Super-books, that's very high praise indeed. The use of the supporting cast, the scenes in their apartment, everything just combines to produce an incredibly human Superman. And Rucka did it without a single Spider-man-style wisecrack. This was almost my favorite book this week, and considering that both Tean Titans and Identity Crisis came out too, that's saying a lot (note: you should be reading both of these books). This is how you write a Superman book.
Art - 4: We have more of Clark's fantastic work in this book. His Lois and Clark in particular look fantastic, extremely human and exactly like they should. Lois' hair is perhaps a tad too dark for my tastes, but I can live with that. I was especially impressed with the use of light and shadow while Superman was talking to Xlim. I thought that the entire scene was very well done, with the light coming from behind Superman as he entered, and then later with the moon shining from behind Superman and Lupe. And I thought the splash of Superman searching Metropolis was great. The panels inset over Kal were a really nice effect. You might ask then why, if I seem to love the issue so much, do I give it a four? The answer to that is very simple. Page four. Superman is an all-ages title. I'm not saying that there can't be mature themes in it, but the writers and artists should try to keep things for the kids. I know I had tons of arguments with my mom back when I was nine over whether the female costumes were appropriate. A scene involving a glowing woman straddling a guy in what could be argued is a seductive pose is just not the way to illustrate this book. If the comic had to be drawn this way, then fine, I would accept it, but this scene could have been done differently. I know the second I saw this page I thought that it was inappropriate for the kiddies, and I'm sure that there are plenty of parents who would feel the same way. And please, no one email me telling me I'm a prude. Personally, I've got no problem with it, but I know there is some ten-year-old out there right now who got this issue taken away from him because his mother or father didn't approve of it, and I'm sure he's not too happy right now.
Cover Art - 3: I like this cover, I really do. Superman looks exactly like Superman should when being attacked by the Parasite, and although the Parasites for some reason are wearing clothes, it's still a neat cover. However, this seems to me to be a bad case of using the wrong cover in the wrong place. The Parasites didn't even attack Superman this issue. Presumably they will next issue, but if you check out the cover to Adventures of Superman #634 you'll find a generic scene of Superman flying over Metropolis. Now to me, it seems like the flying scene would have fit this issue much better, while the Parasite cover would have been much better next month. Why they are the other way around, I have no idea. I hate it when good covers aren't used to their full potential just because they were put on the wrong issue. It's still a fair cover, but I would have rated it higher had it been on the issue in which they actually fight.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.