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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #824

Action Comics #824

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 9, 2005

Cover date: April 2005

Writer: JD Finn
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Marc Campos

"Old Man, New World"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

On the Watchtower, Repo Man spouts at Aquaman, who is making sure that he is stabilized.

Superman, standing nearby, is slow to respond. He's aged visibly from whatever Gog did to him with the liquid K.

He hears Jimmy's signal watch, and goes to rescue him.

Martian Manhunter and Jimmy, trapped in Preus' hold, struggle to get away. Preus takes the signal watch and waits for Superman outside with an army of his faithful.

Superman arrives, and one of the women runs up to him, talking about what Preus did in the tents. She reveals herself to be a suicide bomber, and blows herself up.

Superman does battle with Preus, trying the Kryptonite ring before realizing that Preus is not weakened by Kryptonite. Preus is about to finish him, and Superman begins having a heart attack, when Manhunter informs him that Preus' power is in his chest. Superman rips off the chest plate and Preus falls.

Superman goes to save Preus' life (he's dying) at STAR Labs. On the way he collapses. As he does, Gog waxes about his success in allies and time of strike.

Superman looks up, and multiple Gogs stand above him, ready for the kill.

5Story - 5: Whether this is really JD Finn or Chuck Austen in disguise is irrelevant to me right now. This issue shows the Superman I know and love, it shows character, it brings a lot of loose plot points that seemed rather peripheral and forgotten into a nice, tidy bow, and it's just a good Superman issue, through and through. I'm surprised, really, well and truly surprised.

Superman being excessively weakened has been done before, as has the person with Superman's powers, as has Jimmy in trouble, as has, even, Superman aging. What makes this issue good is that there is an unmistakable character to all involved. Great attention is paid to who acts how, and why, and the situations are plausible, they help to illustrate character, and the pacing is very, very cool.

Superman, for instance, doesn't just want to hurt everyone. He acts like Superman. He laments that he has to heat vision some people in the legs to take them down, because they honestly believe in Preus.

Instead of just leaving Preus to go deal with Doomsday (a staple of the books about two years ago, forgetting about what just happened), he ends up taking Preus to be saved, a very Superman thing to do (though foolish, VERY much in character, his vulnerability to not killing).

The woman bomber was a nice twist, as was the little barb on the patriarchal Superhero stereotypes. Who says the woman always has to be the victim, and not the villain or aggressor in disguise.and who says the old ways will stand forever? I liked that exploration here, even if it was a bit stereotypical, it worked for me. And the confrontation of suicide bombing without being blatantly political was also poignant.

The bait and switch with Doomsday is masterful writing. We expect to see Doomsday and Superman (knowing about next issue and all), but instead, multiple Gogs, very surprising, unexpected, and to the story. It makes sense of all of the random violence with Gog, more as a way to lull Superman into believing all is well. It takes Austen's formerly stagnant loose end and makes it work.

If this is Austen doing this, it's a complete 180 for him. I picture (having perpetrated my own similar hoax of late) him saying, "Look, folks are just ripping on me for my name. Let me write a few issues with a pseudo and see how folks react". Then ratchet up the writing, and BINGO, maybe he keeps his job. Maybe that's naive. It's stupid speculation on my part. But I'm just so blown away by the jump from last issue to this one, and how things have suddenly come on track and well done.

I'm awed by what Reis is doing with a story that is well written, and I want more.

The only flaws I found were the fact that Preus is defeated by ripping his chest piece off (I want to know why), but the setup with Manhunter and the little word play makes up for it.

All in all, a great read. What an incredible turn-around. Let's hope it stays that way. Three good books to one bad one is a GREAT ratio, much better than the two to two we had.

5Art - 5: Incredible. Reis is just incredible. Detailed and human, like Matthew Clark, but also very geared for the dynamic pose, like Lee. That last page just had me looking at it for a long time. The colorist needs to go a little, just a LITTLE brighter, but the whole episode, with the pacing, with the fine work that is Reis' standard, really got me going and into the book. Reis is very good at what he does.

5Cover Art - 5: Okay, so the words are cheesier than a French food festival, but the pose, the background, and even the placement of the logo in this cover is great. The colors are stark, vivid, they go together. THIS is the kind of cover we should demand each week. Incredible work.

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

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