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Justice League: Gods and Monsters [Blu-ray]
In an alternative history Zod is Superman's father, Batman is a vampiric Man-Bat, and Wonder Woman is the child of Ares, God of War. When these dark heroes form an alliance, the question everyone asks is will they save the world, or rule it?
Also available on DVD.
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Cover date: August 2004
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
"For Tomorrow" - Part Three
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
In a baseball field, the silhouette of a person who disappeared along with Lois a year ago is surrounded with memorials.
Superman continues to tell Daniel about what happened in the Middle East.
His actions of pacification gave the country the will to war, so a man named General Nox is moving to take power, killing the King and his guard.
Equus, one of Nox's soldiers, a meta, tells the General that he has secured the palace. He is essentially the guy on the cover, a gray techno-beast creation with a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. He's got Wolverine claws, except there are four instead of three.
Superman moves to intercept Equus in mid-communique, slamming into him.
Equus explains that they are liberating a country. It's a bit confusing here, but they move to fight (I'm not sure if it's Superman or Equus who initiates - Neal). Equus slashes Superman, and Superman pops Equus.
General Nox arrives and puts a stop to the fight.
Superman tells them to surrender to the proper authority. Nox explains that he is the authority now, and the people outside chant for Nox. Nox explains that he is liberating the people, and that Superman wanted to end a war, so he has. Now Nox asks him to help rebuild, which Superman does, helping rescue casualties of war.
Superman exchanges a little banter with Daniel, then moves back to further explanation of Nox and Equus.
Superman, in flight, hears Nox talking about a machine. He comes down to find the machine, designed to take out Nox, which instead took out all of the people that disappeared. Equus has the King, who Nox says did it. Equus takes the King's gun, and they hear him shoot through the radio. Superman goes to stop him.
To be continued...
Story - 2: Lee and Azarello have certainly taken up an idea that is ambitious with this story. Superman, and war. The problem that I'm having, moving further into this series is two fold. First, this story has already been done to death, and typically isn't done for a reason, which I'll get into, and secondly, the story is also really dragging.
The first issue was perfectly appropriate. It's important, as a storyteller, to take a little time to introduce the principal characters of a story. There's Lupe, there's Daniel, there's Superman, and there's the dilemma. There are a bojillion people missing.
All right. Good start. That's interesting. I'm hooked.
Then what do you do? You crank up what happened. And what has happened in the last fifty pages of this story?
Superman has whined at a priest who is having a crisis of faith, it would seem, and Superman has interceded in a war, leading to a solitary clue about the fate of all the disappearing people.
Let's look at that.
Superman stays out of wars for a reason. To paraphrase Greg Rucka from his interview he did with me, Superman takes a picture with the president, he also takes one with the leader of the opposition, because he can't be partial to any party, any group of people, really, because he's a representative of diversity, or non-partisanship, he's the conscience of America and other countries.
So what does he do? He takes a side in a war, takes out a sovereign army, etcetera. Why? Because it's COOL looking, I'd venture. And it is. I mean, any picture of Superman hucking a tank, melting weapons, or in the case of last issue, looking at someone in anger with red, heat vision eyes, it just makes you step back and go, "Whoa, man!"
And that's a neat moment. Enjoy that.
But then, you gotta look at the ramifications of the story, the way that this is gonna pan out, what this is going to say about the hero in question.
No opinions here, but you have to admit, when the United States, which is as much an allegorical construct as the Superman, invaded Iraq, it made people question a lot of the precepts contained therein. It made some people support us more, made some people quite angry with us. But it was a choice made in a decisive fashion toward one group of people and against another. Which is something America sometimes does, but which is something Superman, almost universally, according to people I speak to, should not.
In the beginning, I really praised this arc, because it was showing a more human side of a failed Superman. Now, it has shown far too much of the self-destructive, angry brooding Superman, and on top of that, we have Superman involved directly in choosing sides in a war, and on top of that, we have added in more characters, characters I'm not particularly enamored of, and Superman is siding with them.
There's Equus, which is clearly a knockoff of Wolverine, which, knowing Jim Lee, doesn't surprise me, but still, you'd think they'd make it a little less obvious. And what does Equus do? Well, he's a one-sided goon that takes a swipe at Superman and fades into the background. Like we really need another one of those. What's his character motivation? Liberating the unnamed country? Wow. I'm impressed. Taking bets now as to whether he'll even appear again after this story. Maybe they can do a crossover with Marvel, Equus vs. Wolverine.
And what's with his name? I mean, he doesn't even LOOK like a horse. My guess is that he's trying to make some obscure reference to the Peter Shaffer work, in which a little boy who blinds horses is brought to the fray in an examination of cruelty. But then, that'd be like calling a paranoid hero Pi because he is supposed to symbolize the main character of Darren Arronofsky's rather gruesome film. It just doesn't jive.
Or calling a character based on me Review. Get it?
But never mind the name or the character. The first scene with Equus is just incredibly awkward and stereotypical. How many times has Superman FWOOM, flown into a guy, and a fight ensues. But get this... you add in Az's style, so it's Superman flies in, boom, says something, then they fight again. But the funny thing is, when they speak, they say something that would stop the fight. They're a liberating army. Then, it's either Lee's fault for bad drawing or Az's for bad scripting, but you can't tell who starts the fight, Supes or Equus. If it's Supes, shame on him, but I'm guessing it's Equus. But why would Equus do that, if Superman's standing down? He must know he can't beat Superman...
So they get to the point where Superman has made piece with these brutal coup folk. Now do me a favor, if you have the comic handy. Open it up to the page six (of pages with art) where we first meet Equus and Nox. Look at Nox, talking about his "house" and look at Nox, holding the bloody, dead soldier and seeming very pleased about it.
Now consider the fact that this writer is trying to make us believe that Superman should ally with these brutal, cruel, sadistic @&%#s. The men who, predictably, start murdering the other side of the equation at the end of the story.
This has taken the story on a decidedly down turn with me, and the good will I had toward Azzarello's story has been squandered. You don't associate Superman with people like Luthor for a reason. These are people who, if it's possible, are WORSE than Luthor.
In the first fight scene with Equus, there's also a major script or art flaw. Superman Fights Equus in the entirety in one page. There's 21 pages of talk, one page of fight, and though I think the fight was cliche, they should have at least taken the time to do it right. Look at the page after the fight. There's room for a whole panel of URRRR!
In other words, Azzarello has a great idea, but execution that lacks in attention to the character.
And also, a whole lot of stereotypes. It's a comic book, but come on, now. Equus is Wolverine, the "country" is Iraq. If you're going to say something about Iraq, have the Equus to call it what it is. And don't use the wrong word for a certain feeling of allegory. And the Priest?
Well, I may get in a little bit of flak for spoiling this for you, so here's a little speculation. I honestly have no idea as to whether this is true or not, but I think time will bear me out.
The priest is just a nominal character that we have no reason to like, a character that just appears as a catalyst for Superman to speak to. At least, that's what we're supposed to think. And Azzarello is taking great pains to prove this, taking time out of his arc to show us who the priest is, but not giving us any notion of his past. Like with Equus. What's Equus' character motivation? Being there, so he can betray Superman and move the plot forward, killing the king. So, if this follows my writer's logic, and I'm taking bets that it will, this Priest will turn into a bad guy before the end of the series. And seeing as this whole run so far is like a repeat of his Batman run, which is, in essence, a surprise murder mystery (which wasn't very surprising, at that), I'm betting it'll follow the same pattern.
Bottom line? It's shaping up like Azzarello is just nominal for Batman, but terrible for Superman. This seems like a comic with a creator designed to spike sales and then fade away, and that's what it feels like, too. Rucka feels like a guy who wants to make a difference in the titles and stay on for a while. So does Loeb. So does Waid, heck. He may be leading Superman astray in a lot of ways, but he's doing it with a passion. And Austen? Heck, I'm still trying to figure his run out. He's got the Spider-Man thing going on.
It's like Eddie pulled them all together and said, "Pick your favorite hero, and make Superman just like him. We'll see which one the fans like."
Az picked Batman.
Waid picked the Silver Age Superman.
Austen picked Spider-Man.
Loeb picked the Smallville Supes.
And Rucka picked the regular Superman.
Now not only did Az pick Batman, but he picked the Batman CROSSED with the whining post-modern Superman from last year, which I loathe. Oh, I'm too sad and wimpy to use my mighty powers, because the world is a horrible place, so horrible I need therapy and a black S and I'm getting careless.
You know the guy, I'm sure. And I was sick of him... I'm still sick of him. The epitomized CASEY Superman. The "I hate myself, Mxy is a homicidal NUT" Superman.
This story has every opportunity to turn around, and it needs to, but here's the bottom line. Lois has to come back, this still has to happen in a year, and there are a bunch of continuity issues raised by this story. My guess is, it's headed toward Birthright badness. I don't want to put the touch of death on something three issues in, but let me just say that this issue was not reassuring me away from the tailspin last issue started with Superman siding in a war.
And hey, we're promised Superman and Equus round two, next issue. That doesn't really encourage me. Equus is just...well, crap. How's that for a flowery way to put it?
Art - 3: Lee is definitely breathtaking and detailed when he's given an action scene, I've seen it for a long time now, and I've always been a fan of Lee.
This issue, he has a lot of Superman sitting around on his hams and talking, and for the last three we've seen that, save in the attack on the war last issue, and saving the old lady. Like I said, one real scene of fight in this issue, twenty-one pages of talk.
And where Lee fails, as most folks can tell you, is with expression. His faces look often the same, and they all have that similar, cathartic frown. Look, even when he's smiling, Superman's mouth is still downturned. And the priest, I think his mouth manages to go up above flat, but just barely.
Rucka with Queen and Country, he has a lot of dialogue, but he has artists, typically, that are just SUPERB at making dialogue work without action. Expression is key to a writer who makes a lot of dialogue, and Lee and Azzarello are turning out to be a bad pairing in that sense.
For instance, read Ultimate Spider-Man. Bendis is a nut for dialogue, and he's amazing at it, and Bagley is perfect for that. He's got expressive, vibrant characters, and he has them in crazy, cool places during dialogue. You can have whole issues without Spidey in costume and it's okay.
Here, we have Superman standing and whining, and you almost want to choke Az for doing that to an artist like Lee.
So while Lee's typically a 5 man, I have to be honest here. With no big action, Lee's a 3.
Cover Art - 3: We've also retracted a bit on the cover. The logo is back, bless that, and the format is much more dynamic, but here we go with another missing background, Superman looking like he's about to pop a turtle head, and two goons about to pound each other in a way that never really happens in the book in any real sense. They exchange two blows, but never really throw down. So it's misleading.
Still, nonetheless, it's an INTERESTING piece, the logos are cool, it's exciting. It's not a tragedy of a cover. It's average.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.