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Cover date: June 2008
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciller: Renato Guedes, Jorge Correa Jr. (21-30)
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes
"Shadows Linger" - Part Two: "The Long Road"
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Paragon fetches a machine gun and shoots the priest elders. Most of the bullets pass through, but one stays lodged, poisoning the three, who flee after striking out at Paragon.
Superman attempts to reason with Paragon, and recruits him to help stop the Elders.
Clark Kent emerges from the rubble of the Daily Planet, indicating that he's okay, but wants to go home and rest.
Mon-El tells Superman the story of the way the Priest-Elders became arrogant and controlling, and of a scientist who created an unknown weapon, the "most dangerous weapon ever conceived." Superman designs a cure for the Priests.
The most dangerous weapon ever conceived, a giant Golem with planets in its body, appears in front of Metropolis.
The Priest-Elders appear to mock Superman, and continue to ignore his pleas to get help for their lead situation.
Superman has Paragon absorb the weapon, but it almost kills Paragon, so they pull him out.
Paragon merges with the creature, allowing Superman to fly inside, and then through the control button for the golem on the forehead, causing it to deactivate.
Tired, Superman reels, and Paragon escapes.
Superman goes to the priests, tries to give them the cure, and the Priests self-destruct.
Superman shows a library he's created so humanity will survive to Chris.
Out in space, a giant hand appears over a swirling black hole.
Story - 1: I think I put my finger on exactly what it was in the Busiek Superman run that irked me. He's not writing for the Superman universe. He's writing for a universe of his own creation. He did not subsume himself sufficiently. Granted, one must leave themselves in whatever they create, but to put your own preferences ahead of the character, even if you think it'd be really cool, hurts your work.
Everything that happens in his series has no real broader implications, and is over the second the story is over, save in another Busiek work. The history of the character played no part in this run aside from the Silver Age. We saw no major villains save Prankster that I can recall offhand. Instead we were treated to one-off after one-off that were homages to the Silver Age, reimaginations of Silver Age style concepts, or just crap on a stick, sometimes (Khyrana).
This issue was essentially the finale to Camelot Falls minus the subtext. Just a big, chaotic fight with a random entity, the PRIEST-ELDERS OF THE PROTONIC FLAME! Seriously. Am I five here? Do they think I am five?
Aside from the obvious simple criticism of the fact that Mon-El describes a villain, and then bang, that villain appears, there's also Paragon, a character who, in all honesty, could have better been Parasite. I understand that Busiek wants to introduce his own character to the mythos, but in ignoring all that has come before and favoring his own obscure character choices, he's ostracized me as a long-term fan. Made it clear this is KURT WRITING SUPERMAN instead of a Superman story.
But regardless, Paragon is rather one note, a nyah style villain who seeks power arbitrarily, and here, in this issue, decides to renounce that goal equally arbitrarily, which is very common in comics, but not in comics I like to read, where complex motivations move forward plots that are related to the character's development. And no, a giant golem appearing and stomping things as a catalyst to a guy deciding not to enslave the world in a snap doesn't count.
Aside from that, there are multiple irking things in the book. Superman decides to work with a guy right after he machine guns people (albeit bad people) in cold blood, another example of Busiek forgetting the universe he's in. Superman should have smacked Paragon stupid and called in the JLA. And would have, for a giant golem about to smash Metropolis. This is an example of the solution to the dilemma being used as a way to justify poor character choices. Because, after all, without Paragon, Superman couldn't have stopped the golem! Not the point. You don't trust a dude who just machine-gunned three people if you're Superman. Not with John Stewart a few buttons away.
Beats errors: As the Priest-Elders AND Machine-gunnin' Paragon are running around dying, killing, or doing God Knows What, Clark takes steps to protect his secret identity, a selfish, out-of-character action that really struck me as odd. Beyond that, he spends time listening to Mon-El and designing a cure for the Priest-Elders as they run rampant, BEFORE knowing they'll accept said cure. So while it seems that Superman is trying to find the solution to the dilemma, he's actually behaving rather irresponsibly. Think about it. Imagine the same kind of plot construction. A huge guy is running around my neighborhood threatening to kill everyone in it. I walk up to him and say, "Hey, big guy! All you need is your medicine!" He replies, "I won't drink my medicine! You will all die!" and begins choking a puppy.
I then go home and begin to put his medicine together in capsules. Do you see the oddness of that construction? Particularly when I'm a guy who's similar in size to the guy rampaging around the neighborhood, OR, even more, have a Justice League of buddies a block down who will help me come kick the bully senseless.
I also cringe any time I hear things like, "That was the hardest I've ever been hit!" from Supes, or "IT'S THE MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON EVER CONCIEVED!"
Particularly when one sharp blow from Superman decimates it. Hokey. A giant man with a button on his forehead doesn't strike me as the most dangerous weapon ever conceived. It doesn't even seem a beta level threat. It seems like a backup story villain, to be frankly honest. Hokey.
Another poor character choice:
"Didn't you just say you wanted to enslave the world, and didn't you machine gun three people over a misunderstanding?"
"Uh, yeah, dude."
"Well then! By all means, I'm gonna let you go up there and absorb THE MOST DANGEROUS, POWERFUL SUPERWEAPON EVER THOUGHT OF IN THE HISTORY OF THE MULTI-UNIVERSE!"
Tack on a scene with a library that's more conflict-lacking "Look how cool my imagination is!" stuff, and couple that with a swirling black hole and a hand above it that looks strikingly like an Infinite Crisis ripoff, and you've completely lost my anticipation for Trinity.
I mean, when the main story is a two-parter about Paragon, a guy who doesn't even have a wikipedia entry (when Guy Smiley does), that's just sad.
Art - 4: The art was rather compelling and well done, despite the hokey story it accompanied. The action was strong. The golem looked hokey, but how do you not make "giant man filled with planets with a button on his forehead" rocking? Outside of that, the character work, which is what I speak of as what I base the rating in, was incredible.
Cover Art (Alex Ross) - 3: Sometimes, and I know I get flak for this, but sometimes Ross just doesn't do it for me. Like when he seems too Alex Ross for Alex Ross. Here, we have Superman silhouetted over Metropolis in the waning sunlight, but there's nothing that jumps out at me here and makes me go, "Wow." I know people give Ross a pass for his exemplary level of detail and how he paints his caricatures, and I'm one of those people, but there isn't much hear that makes me go, "AMAZING!" It's just a good picture. And a good picture is a good picture, but it's not a cover that makes me leap out and grab a book. If it's any consolation to those of you who will likely fry me alive, it's nearer a 3.5 than a 3, but it's still just a cover I will forget in a week.
Cover Art (Golem) - 3: Words on the cover, emphasis on the Golem, and yet, it's a stronger depiction of the golem than is in the book itself, making it interesting at the very least.
Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2008.