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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #810

Action Comics #810

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 3, 2003

Cover date: February 2004

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Pascual Ferry, Kano, Dave Bullock, Duncan Rouleau, and Renato Guedes
Inker: Marlo Alquiza Keith Champagne, Jorge Correa, Jaime Mendoza, and Cam Smith

"Walking Midnight"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Superman takes Lois across the world through the various time zones, watching each New Year's eve celebration as they occur, starting in London. As they go around the world, Superman hands Lois a letter for each time zone... he's responding to letters from people pleading for his aid.

In Greenland, a stubborn woman refuses to accept medical care out of pride, so Superman flies in an ambulance.

In Brazil, a man pleads for help with a proposal of marriage, and Superman aids in reuniting the lovers.

In Metropolis, Superman has a quiet moment with Lois.

In Smallville, Clark spends some time with his parents and Lois, and Ma tells Lois about "Walking Midnight", Clark's name for the tradition of hitting each time zone.

In Sydney Australia, Superman stops a man from jumping off a bridge.

In Japan, Superman attends a small party and makes fireworks to entertain children.

In Hong Kong, Superman stops a terrorist who mailed him a letter accepting responsibility for an attack before it happened.

In a very spot-on facsimile for Iraq, Superman reassures a tired soldier that we (meaning America) haven't forgotten what they are doing, and calls the soldiers the best of us.

In Italy, a man swears he will not die until Superman visits, and doesn't want to be proven wrong, so he asks Superman to visit him. Superman arrives as he dies, and closes his eyes.

Back in Metropolis, Superman puts Lois in bed and goes to stop Doctor Spectro from unleashing his, well, fury. Superman, seeing the threat pass, leaves Spectro on the roof, telling him it feels good to be Superman.

4Story - 4: Joe Kelly, in a long line of Superman writers, has not been my favorite. That said, he did produce two of my all time favorite stories, a seeming contradiction. Action Comics #800 is an amazing issue, and Action Comics #775, well, many say it's the best Superman story ever written. I think it's tied with Action Comics #719 for me. Action Comics #719 is a really great one where Joker makes Superman choose between killing him or saving Lois, and Superman lets Lois die, only to find out it's a sick joke. Issues that tear Superman apart and bring him back to realize he's righteous despite all evidence to the contrary, those issues do a great deal for me.

That said, this last issue for Kelly is no #775, no #800, but it's not the failing end to the Zod line, it's not some of the more mediocre comics along the way.

It has exemplifications of what, to me, necessitated the change in guard. There is a notable lack of continuity, in that Lois has been with Clark for going on ten, fifteen years, married for 6, and she somehow doesn' t know about his New Year's tradition? And what about the Y2K year? Wouldn't he lament he didn't get to do his usual rounds? I blame this, as I normally do incongruence of such nature, on the editing. Eddie. But it's a standard of the books now, and it's in need of serious work.

Another standard of the old guard. Letting a villain who just did something rather violent and criminal, like threatening terrorism on Metropolis, go. This just after a rather pointed siding with the troops in Iraq, something I felt unnecessary and political in a Superman comic.

And hey, is that villain Metallo, Doomsday, Darkseid, Luthor, or anyone who really rocks the house because of decades of characterization and strong usage? Nope. Dr. Spectro. And we all know Dr. Spectro, right? Well, maybe if you're uber geek, like me, but who wants to read about Dr. Spectro. Or Plasma? Or Shrapnel? Or whatever villain they used last week, the week before, and the week before with these teams.

Let's not go into the politics of the matter on my part (whether I'm for or against the war in Iraq is irrelevant to my point) but having Superman take a side in an issue on which Americans are firmly divided, like the Iraq war, is courting danger to me. I lauded the comics when they satirized Qurac (yet another dangling plotline no one paid attention to, editing, editing, editing), because it took no firm stand, it just had the president imitating our president. A fair caricature and not politicizing. But to have Superman, not a republican, a democrat, or a green, but a humanist, if that makes sense...Madonna joke there, for anyone paying attention, take a firm stance calling the troops in Iraq's effort at building something (IE, nation building) that which makes them the "best" of us, is essentially sanctioning nation building, something Superman has at best shied away from in the past, and something he needs no hand in.

I understand the need to support the troops lest they be killed, I do. And there's a way to do that on either side of the fence without being committal. My father went to Kuwait, so I have a very personal stake in the fate of the troops. That said, I do believe that the statement "We have not forgotten" is magnificent in its message and intention, but to condone nation building, to me, seems a bit partisan for Superman.

Again, not saying I support or decry nation building (I won't be doing that here.) But I would say the same thing if Superman took another hotly debated political issue, like, say, abortion, and sanctioned it one way or another. War is a serious, debated, and heated issue, and if you take one side as a hero, especially a hero like Superman is supposed to be, the anyman hero, you do a disservice.

At least in my opinion.

But then, there's the uncommonly good thing here...the RETURN OF THE LETTERS! This, above all, redeems this entire story. I don't care if it's a story about Superman just accidentally bumping into Hal Jordan, as Green Lantern, out of continuity on Earth-2, just so long as those letters come back. I've missed them SO MUCH, and I thank the teams for bringing them back. Bad enough that we can't send our own letters without being ignored any more (and why the H%#L is that?), but at least we are somewhat sated with the return of RE:Action, though it's called Walking odd term, but somewhat poetic.

I found it hilarious, although touching, that Superman went to see the man off to death and just had to watch as he died. It was apt, and chilling, and still warm. I haven't had such an odd combination as that in comics in quite some time. But it was a good moment.

The scene in Kansas was rather, well, incomprehensible. Another tradition we don't understand, unnamed? What is the herring lucky for, and why? Again, editing.

So we leave Kelly with a great story, somewhat poorly executed, but so missed in plot that I have to give it a four, simply out of respect for the man's run and the return of the mailbag. If only every issue had been #775 and #800, I might be shedding more tears, but he kept us going, the comic didn't get canceled, and believe it or not, all complaints aside, there HAVE been much worse runs on a Superman comic, and this one, at least for Our Worlds, Emperor Joker, Lost Hearts, Return to Krypton, and other notables, wasn't all that bad every now and again. Bye, Joe.

5Art - 5: Other than a disjointed page by the man who does the covers (My God, what's with THAT? I mean, it's kind of, well, 40s, but really, it's just kind of plain. And regressive. Save it for a comic set in the good old days.), most of the art was really touching and well done. Even Dr. Spectro. Ugh. I'm amazed that so many artists pulled off such a well done and uniform story. It's usually obvious when it goes from one page to the next.

That could be a bad thing, given a lack of personal distinction, but here, the story is well done.

3Cover Art - 3: Okay... I really don't like this guy's work, usually, but at least this cover is a normal pose, it has a background (how'd that slip through the cracks?), and it has a dynamic pose. That said, there are words on the cover, there's still the horrible logo that doesn't even stay on the page (for CRYING OUT LOUD, ARE YOU GUYS JUST BLIND AS TO HOW HORRIBLE THAT LOOKS! I AM SO SICK OF WRITING THIS ON ALL MY REVIEWS!) At-hem.

It balances out to average.

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

January 2004

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