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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #614

Adventures of Superman #614

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 12, 2003

Cover date: May 2003

Writer: Joe Casey
Penciller: Derec Aucoin
Inker: Derec Aucoin

"Truths Told in Super-Secret"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

In Columbus, Ohio, a young boy moving into a house that hasn't been occupied in twenty years goes and examines the dark and foreboding basement alone. A door is in the center of the room, and he opens it. It floods him with lights, causing him to scream for his mother.

On an airstrip, President Luthor is advised that the situation in Bialyan will cause his approval ratings to drop. He is also advised that the UN Security Council will be very upset at his choice of actions. With a maniacal, almost happy grin, Luthor unleashes his warplanes to attack Bialyan in retribution for the malicious acts of Captain Rajak (detailed in Action Comics).

An aide hands him a sheet of paper, and Luthor, surprised, demands the head of the FBI.

In the Kent apartment, Batman's hologram appears, telling Clark that they need to talk. Batman tells him about a project that has been under wraps for fifty years, under a man named "Camel". Batman wonders why Clark looks afraid, and realizes that Clark thought the hologram might be Luthor. Batman learns that Clark thinks Lex still knows the secret (in actuality, it was wiped from his mind at the conclusion of Ending Battle).

At Star Labs, Ray is having some problems with a disease called Anti-Chromatic Syndrome. He is in a room with a number of other heroes, all apparently in some kind of stasis.

Superman shows up at the house in Columbus, opens the door, and is greeted by a strange scene, a town full of people with Super-powers in costume. Superman walks to a local bar and finds out that Dr. Camel, whom he overhears being discussed, is nearby.

Inside Camel's office, Superman finds out that Heroville is the result of a meta-experiment that took place after World War 2 to try and maintain the new era of prosperity while ascending the human race into their potential in a secret tesseract. Senate Hearings shut the project down, and Camel moved the project into secret.

Camel leads Superman into a secret facility, and inside he reveals Luthor technicians in full battle garb, imprisoned. They release the techs, taking them to Camel's house. When his wife arrives home, she reacts with horror. The men are not normal, and are contaminating the culture. Superman agrees to take them back to modern America.

They dress in Super-hero costumes and go to the exit of the tesseract, an adult bookstore where no one in Heroville would go. They depart.

In Opal City, Sue Dibny calls the JLA emergency hotline and starts screaming about her apartment being broken into by unknown assailants. She doesn't know what's happening to her husband, but he looks like Ray did earlier in the issue.

At the Heroville portal, the Federal Government has cordoned off the area. The family that was moving in is moving out, happy to have been paid double what the house was worth. The son, Billy, reacts in shock to see the Hollow Men standing nearby.

2Story - 2: I am torn about this issue. I was very upset with the first part.we have obscure references to the Hollow Men without really describing what they do or are, and here we are, with more of the same. This would normally be a pretty good deal in a comic, if I didn't have to wait months in between parts and forget pieces of the story. It makes writing reviews hard, but as a fan, it makes following the story even worse. If I had a weekly, continuing story, perhaps...well, I've gone into that tirade before. Still, things are starting to come together a bit. Still, I had to wait through Funky Flashman to get to Heroville. Put me on the Bore-train to Motleytown to be entertained by Stitches the Clown.

I have to give the writers credit for foresight and attention to detail, here. A meticulous piece of information slipped by my radar, and they brought it to the far as Clark knows, Lex still knows that he 's Superman.

A few problems...if the tesseract portal that leads out of Heroville is in a sex shop, why does the tesseract portal that leads in put an intruder right in the middle of a major city street?

They had tesseracts in 1940 but they shut the project down because of moral issues? Humans are greedier than that. They would have exploited any technology they had found. Tesseracts are new.

They put all kinds of Secret Service around the house the day after the Superman visit, but the house is still deserted and empty when Superman arrives? Oh, you might say, perhaps the government hadn't arrived yet. Well, what about the Lex technicians? Okay, you say. Well maybe they had arrived, but just not maintained a perimeter. Okay. Then why did they all go in, and not just one, some, or none? It just doesn't make sense.

I have nothing but applause for the way that the writers directly confronted the conflict in Iraq through a closely tied Bush/Luthor comparison. UN Security Council references, Joint Chief advisements. I have a very public stance against military action in Iraq, myself (I know I'm going to get flack for that through email, but what the hey), and to see either perspective represented in a comic book, pro or con, is a bold step for comics. Most are afraid to touch any issue that isn't particularly touchy-feely or applicable to most anyone, meaning, it's okay to do an issue about a character with AIDS, because we are all touched by this and agree that it's a negative thing (save the most extreme or religious zealots), whereas if someone represents different aspects of a political debate, there is the risk of controversy and lost readership, because people are largely fickle, stuck in the mud, and stupid when it comes to opposing viewpoints. They don't want to listen to anything that doesn't agree with their viewpoints. I encourage media from all sides of the political spectrum, and to see a paradigm of Bush in Luthor is great for me. Perhaps next week they can have Pete Ross representing the other side of the issue. There are places to go here that aren't commonly explored, and I have to applaud Casey for that. It takes Super-strength, to be sure, in this second era of explored "Un-American activity", where Homeland is a word people are largely sensitive and outright angry about for all it means and represents to us all. Either way, I encourage dialogue on this, and this issue fosters said dialogue.

On the other hand, thanks to continuity issues, I have no idea at all why DC America is attacking Bialyan other than the brief reference in Action 801, something to do with Zod and a strange man on a couch, along with a man with electrical powers. Is anyone else as confused as I am? I imagine this might all be cleared up if the storyline were more linear. But I repeat myself.

Heroville was cheesy. I imagine it somehow relates to the meta-epidemic. If it does, this is plot overkill. If it doesn't, the similarity in the two plots is too much. Lose-lose with this issue, in that sense. Perhaps this is some fanboy obscure reference to a pre-CRISIS world I'm not quite familiar with, and if so, it's outdated, and if not, it's hokey. I don't like the idea of ordinary people having extraordinary people unless they have a monogrammed logo over their comic book. It's what makes Superman special. If there are a lot of people with Super-powers, first off, no one could take care of themselves, much less the actual heroes, and second off, the heroes that still existed would fade away. What does this offer the heroes? Humility? I don't really see what this storyline has to offer thusfar except chapter two of the introduction to the Hollow Men, who haven't given me any reason to like or fear them.

So basically, another big set-up after a stand-alone issue that stank. Points for politics, but minus for nothing else really that interesting. I admire a stance against BIFF, BOFF, and SOK, Joe, but let's have something with more depth. What did Superman learn in this issue? How did he move forward as a character. He met an encapsulated culture. Sure. So? He might have realized that he isn't so special after all, but did he note this, see this, learn from this? No. He went through the Superhero motions, and there is no character development that way. It disappoints me, as a long-time reader.

2Art - 2: Pretty much the same deal as the story. The panels are great, well-orchestrated, and nicely paced. My problem is the same as it has been for years. Superman is not a dark character. Batman is. The Batman scene was great, but what about the rest of the scenes, where everyone was truly dark and menacing looking? The world looked like a harsh and unforgiving place, which it is, but not in Superman's eyes, the eyes I look through to read this comic. So please, bring a little idealism, a little light into this work.

Overly large introductions to ideas, like Heroville, put me off.

However, I have to give mad, mad, mad props to the Luthor picture with the planes soaring over his head. It gave me honest-to-angry-monkey chills. Well executed. Luthor is a dark character, and the work went well with the scene.

1Cover Art - 1: Bad logo? Check.

Words on the cover? Check.

Superman in an odd and contorted stance, like passing a BM...well, that's debatable, but he doesn't look like Superman, to me. He looks like Rocky from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, sans the blond hair and plus about eighty degrees of Neanderthal. Lanky, too. Just odd.

Everyone in Heroville looks angry and pessimistic. Heroville, hokey as it is, is an idealistic place. Thus though this scene happened in the issue, the general demeanor did not. The attitude is trying to sell the piece, not bookend the story inside, and for that it makes the reader feel cheated. I dislike it.

Welcome to Heroville...Population: You!

What in the heck does that mean? How gone is that, daddy-o?

I am now making the same motion as Superman on the cover, while typing the last sentence of this review.

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January 2003

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