Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #832

Action Comics #832

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 12, 2005

Cover date: December 2005

Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Penciller: John Byrne
Inker: Nelson

"Old Ghosts"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

As Lois recounts the way her father resented the supernatural nature of Halloween, ghosts fly into a gathering of kids playing trick or treat, scattering them to the four winds.

Lois helps them out, then heads straight for Metropolis, where a massive supernatural storm front is headed in.

Superman, flying through Metropolis, laments the existence of ghosts. He encounters the Spectre, who he pleads with to leave the city. Spectre refuses. Superman punches through him. Spectre merely makes him cold and continues walking.

In the Newstime building, Colin Thornton calls his employees to his bidding, invoking the small print of their contract and preparing for war with Spectre.

Superman sees Spectre doing battle with the Newstime building, and goes to investigate. He finds Colin Thornton inside, who reveals himself to be Satanus to Superman.

Lois, outside, is caught in the storm and crashes through a barrier, going over a cliff.

Superman offers Satanus his soul in exchange for letting the people Satanus has bound free. Satanus agrees, and his minions move to bind Superman.

Willis, Lois' friend, calls down to her wreck, but he's soon driven away by the spirits. Lois is pinned in the wreck, but unhurt.

A voice comes through the spirits, pushing them away from Lois, and Sam Lane reveals himself to his daughter.

Superman doesn't resist his binding. Satanus is displeased.

Lois talks with her father, explaining that she's angry at him for raising her without enough time for her, for treating her like a boy, for treating Lucy better, for treating their mother poorly.

Superman's soul messes up Satanus' spell, but his deal is binding. Satanus is left defenseless. He pleads with Superman for help. Superman refuses, saying he'll only try and persuade Spectre.

Spectre reaches in and squashes Satanus while Superman looks on, helpless.

Sam Lane reveals that he has to leave, because it's dawn. Lois tells him that she loves him.

Superman arrives and takes Lois to safety. She tells him that she saw a ghost. Superman points out that the ghosts have all gone.

Sam Lane walks off into the dawn, still very much alive.

2Story - 2: Wow. I'm not exactly sure what happened here. To date, this is the first Abnett and Lanning story that I've really not been that impressed with. And oddly enough, it's not my typical complaint of late for Action Comics. Byrne's art didn't really drag this one down. Oh, sure, we have a few of the usual Byrne problems with the heads, and the look is definitely 80s-90s, but it was actually quite good for once in most other respects, especially the large, stretched scope work.

But the writing was, well, sloppy. Which I just don't expect that from these two. Their Strange Visitor run was really great, their work on Majestic continues to pull me in month after month (and I don't read many non DC/Marvel books, at all).

This story read and felt like filler, and the sad thing, the gut-wrenching thing, is that it mucks with long-standing things and ends them. Sam Lane and Satanus.

In 1992, I remember the first time they introduced (to me, anyway) the idea that Colin Thornton was really the devil in disguise (or at least a demon), and much like the hints of sub-plots they put into the mainline books that slowly came to fruition across all four titles over months, like Massacre, or Dead Again, or other stories of the like, I always had this little part of me that hoped that eventually someone would remember the story tucked away in Colin Thornton and really torque it home and make it something cool.

Instead, we got the beginning of the Casey run coupled with DeMatteiss floundering his way through a four or five issue Satanus story that ultimately involved Superman giving Satanus his soul, and then NEGATING that bargain by essentially closing his eyes and saying, "Hey, Satanus has no power over me if I simply pretend he doesn't exist."

Think I'm kidding? Read the Adventures of Superman reviews from about three or four years ago. I'm not.

And then BANG, this is the next Satanus story, and what happens? Well, Superman offers Satanus his soul again (What happened to not having any power if no one believed in him?), the Colin Thornton disguise is snuffed, and Spectre just grabs Satanus and kills him.


I mean, why build up a plot for the better part of 15 years and not at very least put it to bed in a way that makes sense? He's dead, you might say, that's putting it to bed, but why build up power comparable to Luthor in order to just be able to create one shaky soul defense that Spectre can just smash. It doesn't follow.

I also don't buy that Satanus would ask Superman for his soul in exchange for the other workers. Satanus KNOWS that when he takes Superman's soul, Superman can escape. Satanus also knows what happens when he takes Superman's soul, having taken it before, so he'd know that doing so would not be what he needed to stop the Spectre. It just doesn't make plot sense.

I was perplexed, because Lanning and company went through all the troubles of pickup up this semi-obscure Thornton plot, but they didn't read or at least apply the last Thornton story to the continuity they were tapping? A simple dialogue to the lines of "But last time you got away!" and then Superman saying, "This time no tricks. My soul is yours."

But even then, I've never bought the idea of Superman just willingly offering up his soul. It's kind of cheesy, and it's also bordering that taking a stance on religion issue.

On an off note, why isn't Superman battling Spectre with Torquaism-Vao? Heh. Okay. That wasn't a good memory to bring up.

There's also the Sam Lane issue. It's clearly dawn when the story ends, but Sam Lane is still walking around. The writer could have chosen to have him fade away easily (there was more than enough room), so this is telling me that Sam Lane is somehow still alive. That's odd, considering that he died in a small nuclear explosion, didn't he? I'm interested to hear how he survived that.

Lois essentially treats her father like crap, which I also had issues with. You see your dad, no matter how bad he treats you, and he's been dead, you immediately make with the "I thought I'd never see you again! It's so great to have you around!" Maybe that's out of Lois character, I don't know. I just had trouble relating to her suddenly berating him when he magically appears before her, and with her just accepting him as a ghost, being the logical reporter type and all.

It was also weird and out of place in the middle of the Spectre story. I know it fits into the Halloween idea, but both of these stories are enough to be a whole comic. Mashing them together made it feel rushed. And then there were whole scenes that didn't need to be there, like Superman saying he wasn't going to fight and Satanus going "Bah!" seeing that, I immediately said, "Graft, unnecessary to the story", which, when you're learning to write comics, starts to stand out as a red flag when you realize the absolute essential quality of every single action and page in one of these stories. Every page has to be TRULY essential. It's very much like a thirty minute TV show, but with more to cover, because it happens once a month, not once a week, and people are impatient. Just a personal musing, that.

It also jumps out of character when Superman stands by idle while Satanus is KILLED. Satanus says, "Superman, help!" and Superman just kind of looks on and says, "Screw!". Now, granted Spectre immobilizes him before he can do anything, but that's not my point. My point is that even before he's immobilized, he tells Satanus no. Imperiex and Brainiac were conspiring to destroy the UNIVERSE and reboot time, and yet he still tried to save their lives by allowing them to exist in the stream of time. Superman saves EVERYONE, even the most corrupt, so I found this out of character and abrasive.

Where has Sam Lane been the other times Lois has been in danger, if he's still a ghost and that's why he can appear?

There was also some cheese dialogue that made me smack my head. "Great Krypton!", "It's magic time!". Gah.

It also occurred to me (and this is my idea for when I'm writing Superman sometime in the next, oh, eight decades) that Lois REALLY needs a signal watch. Of course, when Superman offered it, she'd decline out of character, but still, I was just thinking, it would really help her out every now and again. Jimmy isn't in life-or-death situations half as much as she is.

So in summation, this story makes a curt end to the Satanus idea, which I really liked, undeads Sam Lane with no real reason, and does it in kind of a staggering way atypical of the usual great Abnett and Lanning work. I'm confused, and sad. The only really good part was the actual dialogue between Lois and her father, which saved this issue from a one. Well executed, well plotted, and touching.

4Art - 4: The world's gone mad! The world's gone mad!

No, actually, Byrne just drew a really good issue. The last few have been really annoyingly bad to me, but this one really brought out the stops. I know you all may jump on me because I just branded Byrne a really mean guy in the comments over his remarks regarding his cancellation on this title, but what would be better, to arbitrarily break this issue down just because I have an issue with the man and his attitude, or be straight and tell you what I honestly thought, as I always do.

His run so far has stank for me, but this issue was really well done. His faces are still a little off, but it's not as extreme as usual. The splash pages in particular are incredibly well done. The paneling is more dynamic, Spectre is well drawn and imposing. Sam Lane looks a little off, and Lois still doesn't look entirely like Lois, but all of the action in this issue is imposing, strong, the colors are vivid, Satanus is strong... I don't know if this is a fluke or the new trend, but I liked the art in this issue.

Doesn't change my feelings about the crude, rude things that Byrne said about Superman fans being mindless knuckle-draggers who buy crap in triplicate, but hey, that's a completely separate issue.

4Cover Art - 4: I knocked one point for the fact that the left side of Superman's cape (from our perspective) doesn't seem attached to anything, and that really screws up the focal point, but otherwise, this is an incredible, vivid Jurgens image. I'm a BIG Jurgens fan, and I'm always grateful to see him back on Superman. The little hint of his classic use of the Superman cape on this cover is enough to make me want to grab DC by the leg and tell them to drag Dan kicking and screaming back to Superman.

It's issue symbolic (even if the big hands didn't happen), it fills the whole format, and there are words, but they're small. More Jurgens!

Other recent reviews:

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2005.