Superman Birthday Party Pack
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Cover date: March 2004
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Leinil F Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Superman takes the men responsible to the police, then goes to the man who gave them the guns. The man denies responsibility, so Superman takes a gun, aims it at the man, and fires, scaring him. Superman shows him the bullet in his palm, then tells him now he'll know how it feels to be shot for the rest of his life.
Clark reads the Daily Planet's copy, and realizes that people don't entirely trust Superman.
Lois, working inside Perry's office, peppers him with advice on how to run the place. Perry makes a list of why to fire or keep Lane while she talks, with a slight margin towards keeping her, for how good she is as opposed to how mouthy she is.
Perry bellows for Clark, who arrives. Perry chews him out for not going to meet with Luthor, and tells him to go with Lois at his side.
Arriving, Clark tells Lois that he's learned the ropes, and that she doesn't have to follow him so closely any more, but she indicates that she knows, she only wants to spar with Lex.
They discuss Superman while offering press credentials to the receptionist, and they are sent upstairs.
Clark holds out a hand to Lex, and says that it is good to see him for the first time since Smallville. Lex denies ever being to Smallville, and calls that the second lie Kent has told in the week previous, showing him the paper. He decries Kent's article, pointing out that he has many employees, and any could have perpetrated the terrorist act.
He shows Clark and Lois the surface of Mercury and Neptune through a virtual reality computer program, and how Lex has studied ways to adapt to their harsh climates. He then points out that the only kind of environment that could provide Superman's known powers is one with little to no red sun. He tells them he believes Superman to be an alien, and that he has proof.
He then tells them he believes Superman to have an agenda, and he shows that they could learn a great deal dissecting Superman, showing a graphic representation of Superman being ripped apart.
Kent asks for the proof, but Luthor tells him that he will reveal it in time. The dissection disgusts them, so they leave.
At a coffee house, Clark asks Lois if Lex is right, and Lois says she doesn't know.
Clark thinks about Smallville, and studying the stars with a redheaded Lex, who was made fun of and spent endless amounts of time in the lab.
Perry demands that Clark writes the story telling of Superman's alien origin, so Clark reluctantly does.
Later, like in Superman 4, he stops a subway train because the driver has had a stroke. He asks for a doctor, but the people, not trusting him, don't dare step forward.
Story - 4: This was a good story... but it was also a story we've seen before. Perhaps not so well paced, but I am also inclined to ask why we are sitting through it again. Let's, for instance, list the major changes from current continuity this new origin offers.
1) A more human Krypton.
2) Lex Luthor in Smallville.
3) Clark with powers at a slightly younger age.
Well, is that worth a continuity reboot so far? No, not really.
How about this story? Well, Lex in action is always a blast, but... and forgive me for saying it, the dissection was a bit graphic. Not for me, but I'm sure that it will be for any kids reading this. I'm sure most will just go "cool!" but then, seeing Superman's brains spilled out is just more gritty than you might expect. Superman being distrusted by the public is not a new idea, nor is the Perry/Lois/Jimmy/Clark dynamic. But then, it's really good to see that latter dynamic again. Now, Waid, the trick is to head somewhere with it. I know, it'll take at least 12 issues to retell the origin. My question is why are they doing it at all? It's well done, but what does it do to forward the character?
So while Lex in form and the regular cast back again is pure bonus, the story is already done, nothing new, and really, just a re-run. So it's like watching old George Reeves. Fun, but if you've seen the episode a billion times, redundant.
Which leads me to where they're going with this... three continuities.
Surprise surprise, grim old Neal thinks that this is actually a good idea. One with the original continuity, one with the old continuity (read, Lois and Clark separate) and one with a strange, alternative continuity where Lois is dead. Sounds good. The idea of them coalescing and becoming one with the three Superman fighting each other at the end of the year sounds horrible, but for now, three distinct areas sound good. I don't like part of their offered reasoning, "So we don't have to deal with continuity", because really, in any story you have to deal with continuity, and Superman's isn't really that hard, guys, you just have to do a little reading. Still, the creativity allowed by three different universes, provided they have INTERNAL continuity, at least brings us some continuity, bringing at very least my interest to bear. Now, if editing and writing that shine can follow, you'll have made a believer of me again.
And here, this issue, we have great writing, but no real continuity other than what we already know. Lex's origin is different, and that's important, but so far, if you make the continuities as I listed them 1, 2, and 3, then 1 and 3 are remarkably the same.
So guess what? My guess is that at the end of Birthright, Lois dies. If so, it'll be bold, and make the whole series worthwhile, but then, it'll also take place six months after the series in which it happened began.
This is a big problem. First, Birthright, before anyone understood why. Then Superman #200, explaining why, but then starting something that Birthright begins 6 months before Birthright ends.
Look, people, you need to keep things in order for it to make sense. And I don't mean a year from now, filing my comic books in order, I mean month to month, as we read.
But all in all, this was an issue with a good read. Minus one for already having read it 18 times.
Art - 4: While I do not like the mean looking, staccato new Superman's facial expressions, most of the rest of the book is really dynamic and well drawn, well scripted, and well colored, especially. It is vivid, and strong, and has a taste of its own. It's fast becoming my favorite next to Superman/Batman, beating out even Metropolis, and it has potential to be truly great in the weeks to come.
Cover Art - 3: No background, words on the cover, pictures that are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand save in the most tangential of ways, but then...
The logo is... well... normal? Holy cow. And the color scheme... purple and green, subtle hints of Luthor? Nice, and subliminal to book. Further, this may happen in a future issue, I'm betting, but they want to tease you with the cover. That balances a lot for me. But it's still annoying. Like the Ultimate Spider-Man covers, which, while beautiful, do not reflect the issue at hand. I HATE that. How hard is it to make it pertinent to the issue at hand directly?
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2004.