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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #822

Action Comics #822

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 8, 2004

Cover date: February 2005

Writer: Chuck Austen
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Marc Campos

"Repo Man" - Part One

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Clark Kent asks his boss at The Shack for some time off because of Lois' condition after being shot. The boss gives him a hard time, but says yes.

Visiting the Daily Planet, Clark finds that Jack Ryder has been staying in one place and stinking for a long time. Clark hauls him off, and as he does, Jimmy tells Clark that he (Jimmy) has been given Clark's job.

When Clark gets home (as Superman), Lois sits in a chair, angry, holding up a pair of women's underwear, which she quizzes Clark on. Clark realizes that they're Lana's.

They then leave for Smallville, and upon arrival find Ma and Pa Kent, Conner (Superboy in disguise) and Lana with little Clark. Lana offers to talk with Lois about whatever is bothering her.

The family makes excuses to leave Lois and Lana alone.

Outside a repo man starts taking Pa Kent's truck. Pa objects, insisting that he's made every payment. The repo men agree to wait for cancelled checks. After Pa goes in, one of the repo men has Clark go and get a glass of water, leaving only Conner outside.

When they come back, the repo men are taking the truck away.

Conner tells the man to stop, and the repo man suddenly grows twice as tall as Conner and smashes him through the Kent household and into the backyard. Conner flies over the house and attacks again, and the repo man punches him through the house again.

This time, Superman is standing behind repo man. Repo man starts talking to Superman, and Superman smashes him three times and puts him down. The repo man starts talking about how the white haired man told him that Superman would appear here, and Superman demands to know who the white-haired man is. He then bloats up to attack Superman again.

2Story - 2: There have been times, in my reviews, where I have referenced the five things I've seen that have sucked more than anything else I've ever seen. I believe I added the Joe Casey run to that.

Joe Casey, you might remember, is the man responsible for the homicidal Mxy Twins, the Hollow Men, and Heroville, back when the books were really tanking. His run, it's just, wow, man. And after good work on Majestic for Image Comics, I would have figured he'd have pulled it off.

Austen is similar. I was really jazzed when I saw him on Superman: Metropolis, which is still one of my favorite Superman stories, a story I wish that they would collect, because I would buy it.

And now this.

Of the four runs that we've seen so far since the "reboot", we have Rucka (great), Azarello (atrocious), Loeb (gives the fans what they want, great as well) and Austen (reviewer wonders in confusion what to put in the parenthesis).

You know what it is? The guy's trying too hard. He's delivering the goods, action, Preus, Doomsday, Gog, Darkseid... who can deny that these are fan favorites. The problem is, he's completely forgotten the story and left it by the wayside.

And then this issue, a tease. It's why it's a two instead of a one. I saw the hint of the Metropolis series Austen hiding beneath all of this fluff with the character, at least until... shudder... the Repo Man.

We start off with a little character, Clark and the newsman. Interesting.

Then we see ramifications and actual continuity from the October issue, with Creeper being nuts. This is good, at least, until Clark decides to physically haul Ryder away, which made him seem like a bully.

Mr. Austen, here's something you seem to really miss about Clark and Superman as a character, at least in this run. They REASON, they don't use physicality to solve every dispute. BATMAN resorts to fists more often than reason because he's a realist, not an idealist. Superman would rather talk to a villain for an hour than punch him for five minutes. A writer who gets the character in this case would have had Clark ask Ryder into the elevator, and ONLY if Ryder was causing a danger by being where he was hauled him off.

Also, the revelation that Jimmy has Clark's job. I have two responses to that, one in-continuity, one out.

In both, this turn doesn't make sense, at least, not so far. So Clark wrote a piece about Luthor the world didn't like. Perry's the kind of principled reporter who would stand by Clark and keep him on staff. The idea was that Clark would go undercover to take out Luthor (a plot set up but never really explored) and now, it's just a reason to keep him down and out, but it should still be logical.

My in continuity response is that though Jimmy has a wide variety of acclaim and experience (fame for the death of Superman picture, time as a "Bill O'Reilly" type issue scandal commentator (with the Superman Identity thing a few years back), and a lot of time beneath other reporters), he is NOT a four-time novelist and one part of the Lane/Kent team that made the Planet what it is, including Baldy Awards and etcetera. Clark is, some would say, like Bob Woodward combined with Stephen King. A fiction writer with an unerring sense of truth. I strive to be that guy, so I really hone in on that part of the character. In continuity, he would trump Jimmy.

Outside of continuity or in Birthright continuity, where the average Joe knows Jimmy to be a kid sidekick photographer (if indeed, Jimmy is the Birthright Jimmy (SEE! SEE THE PROBLEMS THAT SERIES OPENS UP????)), it makes absolutely no sense to suddenly make him the lead writer of a major Metropolitan newspaper from being a photographer. That would be like, because people like my reviews, me becoming a photographer on Vanity Fair.

More on this as it develops.

Then a rather out-of-character selfish Lois outburst about finding a pair of Lana's underwear in the living room.

Oh, yeah. Clark Kent is gonna cheat, and Lois Lane is going to believe that he would. Look, guys, this is the man who has had MAXIMA, LORI LEMARIS, and WONDER WOMAN around him for years, and never even considered infidelity. And let's put it plainly, he's got Lois Lane, who is a tasty dog biscuit in her own right. So he's gonna, what, abandon that for Lana, the OCD Clark fan, when she's still married, because we've never seen the divorce finalized.

Seems a little out of character, and more Austen trying to make arbitrary tension.

So they drive all the way to Smallville (maybe they were going there already, who knows, but the way it's paced makes it look like because of Lois' suspicion they drive straight for Kansas) so that Lois can have her catfight with Lana.

Then it doesn't happen.

That's the whole run so far. Setup. LOTS and LOTS of setup for stuff that never happens. Which, you may recall, was the categorical failing of the teams before these. Luthor knows Clark's secret! What WILL he do with it?

Nothing! We'll just drag out the tension, and when things get boring, have guest stars and crummy old villains, like Wonder Woman and Weapons Master.

So at least there is a little continuity. Even if you disagree with the whole Lana moving to take Clark back and Lois' reaction to it (as I do... I believe that Lana going after Clark has already been covered, and Lois and Lana have become friends and come to terms with it. I should dig up the issues, but then, I have a life. I just remember scenes where this exact issue was covered in the mid-nineties, and much better than this), there is something to respect in the fact that the set-up was made, and it's being executed in a fashion that seems to be continuous, at least, until the... shudder... Repo Man shows up.

This is how I reacted to this story, I'll be honest with you. I started screaming.

My friend, she turned to me, and said, "What?"

I said, "Ahhhhhh!"

She turned to me again. "What?"

"AhhhhhAAAAHHHHHHHaaaaahhh!" I did the old Yossarian moan, and flapped Action Comics #822 and threw it to the floor.

She says "C'mon, explain."

I pulled it out of its little plastic wrapper, and I said, "Look, Austen just got away with PHONING IN the end of a Superman plot with a guy who GROWS IN SIZE and ATTACKS Superman because he won't let him repo his car. And, I kid you not, he's called REPO MAN."

She screws up her face. "You're kidding."

"No. And here's the real kicker. It's a MULTI-PART EPIC. I quote:

(Here I looked at the rear preview section and read:)

'Superman and Superboy are taking a beating from Repo-Man. Can even Krypto save them from a terrible fate?'."

And then I created some similar title on the spot, like. "Administrative Assistant Man is coming for Lois! Can Superman and Streaky possible save her?"

And I'll invariably get letters for this, from the folks who don't like that fact that I want to be a Superman writer and talk about it in my reviews, people who don't understand that if I didn't admit that I'd be lying to them, but I can do it better than this, and when I can, it bothers me. Loeb could kick me sideways, Rucka would have my hand broken before I even started writing the story, he's so good, but this story ending, this is puerile garbage.

Repo Man.



I'm going to burst a blood vessel in the front of my face just thinking about how dumb that is.

Ah. There. See. I just did. Son of a...

The justification for Repo Man is that he's a minion sent by Doomsday (one would assume from the white haired man thing, because I don't think it's Perry) [Editor: Actually I thought Repo Man was referring to Gog]. But why show a fight against a guy who's power is to grow big and strong (dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb, to the tune of the South Park song), when they could simply have Superman face Doomsday (smart smart smart smart smart, same song). Why, when with this other half of the issue they could have resolved this plotline, and despite not agreeing with the direction, at least garnered a five, had the dialogue at least been evocative, the story been dedicated to the characters instead of mindless, out of character violence.

Two more problems with this direction. First, Superman, as I've said, doesn't solve things with violence unless he needs to (even though he did in the 40s, this is not the 40s any more, so that excuse holds little water with me). Repo Man starts asking Superman about an autograph, which is cheesy, yes, but Superman very easily (and likely would have, in character) could have played off that and tried to diffuse the situation. Instead, he starts pummeling the goon for no reason, which is what a MARVEL character or a Batman would do, but not SUPERMAN. It is obvious that Austen knows tension, character (humans, not heroes, his Jimmy and Lois and Creeper are incredible) and visual appeal, but lacks a lot of knowledge of plot and this particular character. Ergo, until he learns that, he should not be writing Superman, but I would buy anything he did about the human condition.

Regardless, I'm reviewing his error here, so I have to continue.

Second, say Superman DOES solve things with violence. There are other places Austen could have went with this that would make more sense. For instance, violence with regard to the OTHER stories he has set in motion.

Darkseid. Gog. Doomsday. Preus. These are GREAT characters, and every time Reis portrays him, we are taken away. It is obvious that Austen wants to work with these characters. The problem is, he isn't. He's hinting at them, not giving us any resolution, and then just ignoring them the next week so he can trot out the next thing that's caught his interest.

If you want to do a Doomsday story, do it. If you want to do a Preus story, do it. But don't hint at all of them constantly and then do little chunks all over the place.

For instance, last month we saw Preus. We even saw Preus rape a woman to death in shreds (ah, how nice. And I thought the kid being smashed to death by Doomsday was extreme. Whups! I had no conception of extreme yet.). The story ended with Preus gunning for Supes. Now he's nowhere to be seen.

Darkseid arrived more than six months ago to hint about Doomsday, we have no Doomsday.

Gog came and threw down, but we have no elaboration as to the how, when, where, or why.

Doomsday smashed a kid to death, and for some reason, he's still walking around.

And we are watching, say it with me, REPO MAN.

Yes, Repo Man. Did Joe Casey come back from non-Superman land to collaborate, or what?

It's like Austen STARTS with what made Metropolis good, then gives up and throws in an obligatory fight because Reis can pencil it well.

Question...when did Action Comics become the Smallville TV show. Seriously, give it a thought here.

Lana goes from someone at peace with herself and her humdrum country existence to a maddening, evil witch who can't have Clark looking at anyone but her without going insane, yet she doesn't return the favor, shacking up with other folk and building lives around other people.

And it's not just Lana, it's Smallville's other flaws, right here, in this story.

Dumb, uninspired villain, Clark as Superman flaunting his powers without concern to anyone seeing him (Conner too, I'll get to that), and soap opera tension moments that aren't really that tense because we can't identify with inconsistent characters.

And a lot of setup with little rare resolution, just like the Kawatchee caves, Jor-El, and Lionel and Lex as villains.

There's also just blatant mistakes that should have been caught in the editing, just like what Casey used to get away with.

Conner, in his disguise as Conner, attacks Repo Man. Now, I'm not positive (I don't read, nor have I read comics involving Superboy in a while), but he's got a secret identity for a reason, one would assume, and though Repo Man smashed into him while he was in his secret identity, he could at least attack back in his Superboy outfit after changing. The Kents MUST have neighbors somewhere, and seeing how many times the Kent farm has been destroyed and Superman has visited (just a few days ago, with Gog), this is all very much too coincidental that Superman is again in town.

Question: Why did this have to take place in Smallville again, and why does this story keep going back to Smallville arbitrarily. Lois and Lana could have spoken on the phone, Lana could have come to Metropolis.

The secret needs to be maintained, at least a little bit.

There's also the fact that the repo men, in order to KNOW that Superman would be at the Kent farm to provoke the attack, would have to know that Superman and the Kents are connected, and that when Clark was there, so too would Superman be. Meaning that these repo men know the secret somehow. A bit odd, to say the least.

Superboy not only gets thrown through a house, he's dumb enough to try the same attack and get hit the same way. Looks like story stretching to me, like a whole page at the end just to show the bad guy getting bigger.

It feels like the ending was phoned in, arbitrarily stretched so Austen could get to the next issue, where he wants a real throw down with... double shudder... Repo Man.

Save me from THAT story, Superman!

5Art - 5: Reis continues to deliver. Story regardless, the man can DRAW. Keep him on here forever, as far as I'm concerned. This is the first time in years that I don't have a problem with ANY of the artists on these books. This is a fine period for Superman art, a fine period indeed. He even makes the Repo Man LOOK cool, even if his character is abysmal.

All of the characters are incredibly detailed, as is the action, the pacing is nice. I looked through at the end (when I was going to complain about the bad writing with the wasted page) to see how many of the splash pages had been used, because I have a problem with splash pages when used in a wasteful fashion, and I could have sworn that there were at least five. There were two. That's Reis' talent. The man gets the most he can out of every page, and I am officially a fan. He's really proven himself with this run.

3Cover Art - 3: Awesome coloring, and a cool background. The poses are even very dynamic. BUT, there are some weird things here. Superman's arm is just obviously too long and his chest is too big, and his pose... try it. I just did.


I think he drew Superman too much in the middle and had to stretch it out or something. Anyway, if you stare at it long enough, the pose looks awkward. And the destruction behind him, Superboy fighting in costume, it didn't happen in the issue. And there are words on the cover, cheesy words. Oh, so cheesy.

So I'm torn. Half and half, I would say. It averages out. GREAT character rendering, but the flaws do drag it down.

And STILL digging that Logo. Best Logo in the Superman books. Awesome.

PS: Thanks to the update in software on the site, you can now RATE the articles. Please tell me what you think of my take on the book, both in the rating and your comments... interaction! Democracy! And inevitable flames... but I just figured I'd show you guys the new tech, because I thought it was awesome, and I gave my True Brit a gimme AWESOME! Mwu ha ha ha! Neal

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