Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #208

Superman #208

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 25, 2004

Cover date: October 2004

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams

"For Tomorrow" - Part Five

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

In the hospital, Father Daniel learns that his disease is accelerating.

An orderly comes in and draws blood, but Daniel recoils when he sees the nametag, which reads "Francis Assisi." It's Orr, and he talks with Daniel about the fact that Superman has been visiting him.

Cut back to the desert from last issue. Orr banters with Superman about the way things look, with Nox and Equus vanishing and Superman holding the technology that caused them to vanish. Orr reveals that he works for powerful people, with governments on their payrolls. He points out that there is a burning Superman S on the ground, and that people are going to blame him for what happened.

Superman refuses to give him the device.

Present, he meets Father Daniel on the top of the Metropolis water system falls, and Daniel asks him about how people reacted to the second vanishing.

Superman explains that most stopped trusting him, including the Justice League. Cut to the League, where Superman explains to them that he wants to study the device.

Batman says he will look into the rich backers of Nox's offensive.

Martian Manhunter questions Superman's grief coloring what he does.

Superman asks them to support him, and Wonder Woman asserts that they might not be able to this time. The League turns and leaves. Batman remarks that he's glad that Superman is taking things personally.

He goes to the Fortress of Solitude, and starts examining the weapon.

As he does, he sees a readout with Aquaman's symbol lighting up, as he realizes that the weapon was a distraction of some kind.

He leaves the Fortress to find Aquaman with an army of fish, glaring at him. They look into each other.

In the war ground, where the S has burned out, a woman in robes looks at the Superman symbol and spits. In Metropolis, a giant four armed water beast rises with what seems to be ill intent.

3Story - 3: I have to give this book credit. It's re-evaluating the way I look at comic books, completely.

The seeds of doubt were planted in my head when I talked to Greg Rucka a while back. He gave me a piece of advice that's been in my head for a long just give the writer some time, to be fair, because you can't expect everything in one issue, and if you speculate too much, you do yourself and the artist who's attempting to wow you a disservice.

So here I am, looking at the Azzarello run, and here I am, looking at this issue.

I read this issue in a minor flurry about half a week ago, and I tried to review it, but I realized I needed more time to think on it, so I sat it down and I thought.

Taken on a one-to-one level, this issue stinks. It's not very gratifying, it's got a lot of extrapolation with characters we don't know or care for yet particularly, and there is absolutely NO action.

And yet, taken in the larger context, it's bringing a bunch of elements into the fray that in a few months could mean quite a lot, could be drawn together well.

The problem? Each little piece costs 2.50, and the combined project costs us 30 bucks, when the trade costs about 12-16. Unless, as they've been doing with Loeb, they price it up for the suckers and put it in two different setups. I think that's lame, by the way, doing that, when I just read the entire Reign storyline in one trade that was 15 dollars, 1996. That's 23 comics for 15 bucks. Now, comparable, I'm sure they could do 12 for under ten.

But that's not my point. My point is, as a trade, this story is gonna rock, I'm sure. And as a trade, "Superman: Metropolis" rocked, which is why though I panned individual issues, I loved the hell out of the thing as a whole.

But buying it one at a time, every month, it's driving me buggy.

There are two kinds of stories in comics as the paradigm unfolds, I am finding.

First, there's the story that's revolving around the single issue, which has been historically what we understand to be the format, because 22 pages is profitable enough to produce monthly. The advantage? We don't have to pay 16 bucks for a trade, and there's a little bit of story each month, which is a blast, it can be. Unless, of course, you're reading this particular story. I'm not knocking it, it's just, in single patches, it bites.

Second, you have the story with the trade in mind, which is becoming more and more prevalent. There were visionaries who saw the transition coming, your Cerebus, your Ultimate storylines, and then the comic industry started saying, "Hey! People are buying trades and ignoring the main runs!" So they started making everyone write for arcs, and gearing it toward what was making the money, not realizing how frustrating it would be to the people who read the monthlies for a thrill but want something self-contained.

Rucka has a good balance. People complain that he's slow, but I've been surveying his stuff for a while now, and he delivers on the action with an eye to the overall arc. It's kind of nice, actually.

Azzarello...he's rocking, but he's so focused on the larger "novel", if you will, that he's losing the old-school people like me.

What's the solution? Well, the people like me are just skipping whole runs and then buying trades, and that will invariably, and quickly, KILL the weekly comic. It's already started. What happened to the VHS tape when the DVD came in? More popular, more convenient? The VHS is still there, but it's on its way out, easily. Like an 8 track tape.

So on the one hand there is the fact that while reading this comic, on every level, I am thinking of the death of a convention of my childhood. On the two hand, there is a story that I am enjoying as a whole. On the three hand, there is the fact that as a single dose of 2.50 fun, the story flops. On the four hand, there are all of you, who I am quite un-democratically elected to represent through what do I say?

Some of you like the change, and want it to move forward. Some of you resent it to the core of your being.

I can cite the errors of the text, and they are certainly there.

The Aquaman "revelation" is purposefully confusing. Is he attacking Superman, and that's why the light came on? Does he know who the real villain is, and that's why they didn't have to say anything? Is the lady in the desert behind the four armed water sword goddess? Is the goddess trying to smear the heroes? This is confusing, and I imagine it will probably be revealed in three months, but it bugs me here.

There's the Birthright Lara in the Fortress, which is off kilter, as Birthright isn't resolved yet, not in the fan's mind.

There's Martian Manhunter and Superman interacting, and Superman acting like he's better than other humans. Maybe this is Lois grief, who knows? But I don't like evil Superman, at least, not as a main character...

There's also that the shadow on the Earth of the moon is inconsistent, as are most of the S shields in proportion, but that's an art thing.

Those are the errors of the text I found, other than the shock of the constantly shifting narrative without time cue, because this story is so out of time it's hard to grasp.

Then I can cite the epic moments, the moment when Batman and Superman relate because finally, the reason Superman fights is the same as Batman's, a personal loss.

There's also the very visceral REACTION the heroes have to Superman taking sides in a war, which explains away a lot of my debate and anger with issue 206. But hey, reading that story, how could I have known what was going to happen? That's the problem with reviewing out of sequence, devoid of context, with a story geared to the trade.

If you use the flaws versus the shine as a gradient, this book is a 2 of 5. Little resolution, much confusion. But say the story wraps up all of these loose ends and explains them all, which it could, barring the proportionality of the S. That'd be a 5 of 5, taken in context.

If you rate the book on the ethics of the way it's shafting the consumer in an effort to make a profit in the best way it can instead of sticking to the bohemian nobility of telling a story, seeing as they're obviously gearing for trade and putting the most "money" artists and writers on it to get us to say, "Gimme Gimme!", this story is a 1 of 5.

So to put it mildly, I'm conflicted, confused, excited, and angry.

I'm in the middle on this one, and I don't know what way to turn yet. So I'm gonna stick my rating up there now as a 3 of 5, and maybe you guys can help me hash it out. There's a new feature here on the Superman Homepage, where you all can go on down there and comment. Why don't you tell me what YOU think, and maybe together we can find an understanding or a consensus? Do you feel cheated monthly? Or do you wait for the trade? Or do you think I'm whining too much?

I'm interested, so shoot back below. I'll watch and respond, and hopefully we can do that with most of these books. Who knows? Maybe Eddie or Brian or the other artists will watch and listen.

4Art - 4: Jim Lee rocks. He does. Because he draws detailed, amazing fight scenes, his characters are distinct and detailed.

But this isn't an action story, it isn't a fighting story (at least not yet, Equus was far too short for my taste), and it isn't really a detail story.

This is a talking feels to me like his talents are being somewhat squandered. Not because the story stinks, it doesn't, not too much, but because it's really just not a partnership that makes sense. It'd be like putting Ed McGuinness with, I don't know, Greg Rucka. Loeb and McG are perfectly paired, because they have the same gee-whiz sensibility, loving the epic, the larger-than-life. Matthew Clark works with Rucka because he draws semi-realistically, detailed, and Rucka has a penchant for the human touch, the ramification, the minute.

Azzarello writes books with a lot of talk, so he needs someone who can draw expression, someone who can have two people in varying poses ten times on a page as the dialogue unfolds, like you see in Rucka's Queen and Country. He got Jim Lee, who has the constant frown and the people who are always going nuts ready to kick butt in detail. You don't take those people into monologue...Lee is doing top-notch work, I have to give him that, it's just his art is not geared toward this kind of story, it would seem. I just get that feel, reading it. So the story gearing is average, the art is top-notch, I went in the middle at 4.

3Cover Art - 3: Did it happen in the book? Symbolically.

No words on the cover.

Superman does look awkward, but it's understandable. He just caused a second vanishing.

There is, however, half a cover of detail missing, up above. That grates on my nerves.

I don't know. This one's tought. It shows Nox's body, which is really awkward and off. It made me say, "Oh. So they have bodies when people vanish. Interesting.". Then the story didn't pan out that way, so I felt a little cheated.

It's kind of allegorical for the whole series. All of the heroes look like they want to be fighting and running around and having fun, but instead they're just standing there, frowning, about to have a serious discussion. That doesn't sell a comic for me, necessarily.

Is it drawn well? Yes. But how far does that get you if the subject isn't intriguing, especially in a format that has a few hundred pictures in each issue?

I feel for Superman, but the cover just didn't impress me as much as the classic that kicked off the run.

Other recent reviews:

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.