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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #830

Action Comics #830

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 10, 2005

Cover date: October 2005

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Larry Strucker and Nelson

"The Great Society"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

On a plane ride, Dr. Psycho meets a mother and her child. They become fast friends, until the mother makes a derisive comment toward "little people". Psycho goes, well, psycho, and makes the kid devoid of love before turning his powers on everyone in the plane.

They arrive in Metropolis, and the passengers get off in a daze.

Psycho walks up to a Superman goods vendor, and the people attack him, trying to get close to Superman.

Lois and Clark, in bed, talk about Clark's recent activities, including the events of Sacrifice and the heat vision event where he nearly went out of control. Lois reassures Clark that though he enjoyed it in some way, she knows that he would never hurt her.

Clark hears something downtown, and changes into Superman, flying off. Lois laments being unable to tell anyone of the things she sees on a daily basis.

Shrapnel hits on a bank teller in lieu of taking the vault. Superman arrives.

Shrapnel takes the woman hostage. Superman burns through his eyes and smashes him into the vault before locking Shrapnel in. The vault explodes as Superman tells people to run.

Outside, Dr. Psycho goads on his crowd. Luthor, on the phone, tells him that he is endangering the mission. Psycho hangs up on him and grabs a nearby pedestrian.

Shrapnel threatens to destroy three city blocks. As Superman is about to stop him, the man Psycho grabbed asks Superman for his autograph. Superman is swarmed by admirers.

Luthor sends Black Adam after Psycho.

The mother from the plane leaps from the top of a building. Shrapnel takes the cash and runs. Superman punches his way out of the crowd and flies up to catch the woman.

He saves her, but hears many other people preparing to jump similarly.

Lois meets with the vendor, and pulls from him the fact that a little person started the whole mess.

Black Adam grabs Psycho.

Superman hands the panic over to officers, saying he has an experiment to conduct.

Lois finds out that Psycho has been on the loose. She calls Lana, telling her that Superman needs her help.

Superman drops down on Shrapnel, wraps him in copper wire, grabs electricity, and magnetizes him into not exploding. Shrapnel offers to tell him who sent him if he'll stop.

Black Adam and Psycho talk about his actions. Psycho tells Adam he didn't attack Superman out of professional courtesy, seeing as someone had already been in there of late.

Superman arrives, and tells them that they've worn out their welcome.

2Story - 2: Part of me wants to like this story, because it's really trying to have a heart, and it's really based around the human and the characters. The problem is, there are a number of inconsistencies, and there's also that repeated feeling I've described before, the feeling that it isn't really moving the character forward to have villain X come to town, a villain that doesn't really threaten Superman at all, and then have Superman deal with him, only to move on to the NEXT villain X. Of course, this is an improvement of that old standby in that it ties in to Villains United and involves a number of sub-plots, but at its core, that's what drags this story down.

The inconsistencies at least can almost be explained away, and most go to plausibility.

The first I noted was the fact that when Superman was surrounded by a crowd of innocent people, he pulls the NYARG! move, you know, the one from the He-Man movie where all of Skeletor's goons pile on top of He-Man, then he throws them off in a big NYARG! and it looks really cool? Well, yeah, it looks really cool, but when you can just fly up, and when you're Superman, doing the NYARG! will likely kill somebody. It pulled me out of the story.

The next, a big one, is why Black Adam and Psycho just hang around Metropolis talking on a rooftop while waiting for Superman to catch them. I said to myself, man, that's one obvious way to set up the cliffhanger. There's no reason Adam wouldn't just fly his butt back to Gotham... unless I'm missing something. And that's important. ABC, without the B.

I also don't buy the professional courtesy line. There's no reason Psycho wouldn't mess around with Superman... he's a nihilist. A villain. Honor among thieves, yes, but this is Dr. Psycho. He makes children hate their mothers (see this issue). He doesn't have honor.

I'm wondering why Lois' subplot is here at all. I'm hoping, and guessing, that it will make sense next issue, but it's very puzzling, to say the least. Lana? What can Lana do to save Superman. And that's, I'm sure, the exact intent of the sub-plot, but when it's coupled with an investigation that doesn't make much sense, it's confusing.

Because really, all Lois learned was that a little man was making people act crazy.

If you're Lois Lane, and really think about this, if you're Lois Lane and someone says, "A little man made people go after Superman merchandise" in Metropolis, what's your conclusion?

Mxy! Yes. Mxy. You don't immediately jump to Dr. Psycho. You do if you're in Wonder Woman's town, but not Superman. And that's an important logical leap, and a peril with involving a guest star outside of the framework of an individual character's book.

But all of these things are nitpicks, I concede. What really gets me, what really drags this books down for me, is a combination of the artwork (which you can hardly blame Gail for) and how it drags down a story that might be good in theory, but becomes slightly below average when coupled with a few inconsistencies and Byrne's now outdated artwork.

Add into this the fact that in the issues she's had, Gail hasn't really established too much to forward the character, and it adds up. We've had a two-issue encounter with Polaris, a middle-of-a-series issue, and now another one-issue encounter with Shrapnel that will, presumably, next issue turn into an encounter with Psycho and Adam. Though I do have to compliment Gail on her continuity... mentioning the Blackrock issue. The problem being, the Blackrock issue, too, was just a "guy comes to town" story...

And it's, honestly, boring. I feel bad saying that, because Gail has posted to the message board and in everything I read seems to be a very nice lady. It's nothing personal, it's just honest.

Reviewing enters a new realm when you start understanding and working with the people involved... when I first flayed Jeph Loeb (back in 2000, when I knew nothing), he gave me some kind words in private, and suddenly, I had the realization that these aren't impermeable "ARTISTS", they're people. Meeting Rucka and talking to Kerschl and realizing the way that they all agonize over their process, I feel horrible EVER taking a potshot, unlike in the past, when it was a faceless entity that I would never meet. With Rucka, I've been thankfully put in the position where I've never had to say, "Hey, this sucks." But as a reviewer, I have to go my gut, and I have to be honest, and I hate to qualify it that way, but it's true.

I do, however, have hope, because I am enjoying Gail's work in Villains United. Writing Superman is, from what I'm told, the most daunting thing ever. So let's give Gail some time to meet her stride... this issue, however, not as much to my liking.

It's hard to describe... the best I could come up with is that this feels like a 90s story, but without the overarching continuity that made the Stern era, while limited in terms of individual scope, golden for me.

Then there's also, "If you go cray-zay do I still call you Superman?", which I will spare comment on for obvious reasons...

The story is not horrible. It's just not up to Superman par for me.

2Art - 2: I get a lot of letters asking me what I think of Byrne's return. A lot of people then add in "I think he's phoning it in."

I kind of get that impression too, and I don't mean that in a mean way. I mean, ask ANYONE who has shared more than three Superman related sentences with me in the last 13 years, and you'll hear a woeful story of a nerd who talks too much, and constantly about how good John Byrne's changes to Superman were with regards to concept, if not execution.

I like the human Superman. I really, really do.

His work, as well, in 1985, was incredible.

It is now 2005, and the style has not moved forward, changed in dynamic... it's very old and stale. The paneling is blocky and plain, the characters are cartoony, but not in the dynamic cartoon way, in the "this is for kiddies" way.

I'm not trying to be insulting, but there's a Bionicle ad in the middle of this book, with a four page paid comic. It's bad, cheesy work. When I turned from Byrne's work in-book to the ad, I actually messed up and started reading Bionicle, thinking it was a continuation of the story and suddenly robots were involved. I think that's about the best criticism I can level. Stagnation. I mistook this for a child's toy. This is an adult comic book, much as purists would have you think otherwise... and adults read it. Kids can, but they're savvy kids, nine times out of ten.

Byrne needs to bring up his game or, much as I love him and his work, he's going to drag this comic down. I feel bad for Gail, because her scripts with a more dynamic artist might make the plot easier to bear...

2Cover Art - 2: Of all of the things that have brought down this run so far, the covers have been chief among them, with the Sacrifice cover as an exception.

The Shrapnel one was dynamic, but it was also cartoonish, as was the one with Dr. Polaris' female alter ego. This one has writing all over the cover, repetitive writing at that. Superman looks contorted in a way that a human can't be contorted, he looks flat out evil, and there appears to be an exploding building in the background. (?).

I don't know if this would have even passed muster in the 90s, to be honest.

It does have a good perspective going for it, and it did happen in the issue, but other than that, it's very much similar to the Casey period save in the very vivid colors, which work well for the cover.

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