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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #634

Adventures of Superman #634

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 17, 2004

Cover date: January 2005

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Michael Clark
Inker: Andy Lanning

"That Healing Touch: Narrative Interruptus Secondus"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

The twin parasites slam into the Kent/Lane apartment, reaching for little Clark and Lucy. Lois throws a flower vase at them.

Lois notes that the female parasite is young, maybe sixteen, (from the girl calling Lois an old lady), and the Parasites tell her to call Superman.

She does, but on the other end of town, in a phone book, Mxy appears, in a Superman suit knockoff, because Superman, he intimates, will be quite involved until page eight.

His dialogue balloon has a Superman font, so when Mxy turns it over, he finds an "If found, return to DC Comics" stamp on the back.

Eddie Berganza, sitting at his desk and playing with his Superman toys (the narrative goes to photos now), is angered when Jeanine, the assistant editor, opens the door, telling him that he has a call, because she sees him with his toys.

Eddie picks up the phone, and Mxy's fist slams into him, telling Berganza not to cheap him on his own logo.

Mxyzptlk slams the phone down and takes off for Lois' apartment, hearing the shouts.

He arrives at the same time as Superman on page eight, not in time to save the day, but in time to see the situation taken care of.

And get this... (I know this is hard to believe, folks, after years past, but look!) Superman stands and starts reasoning with the Parasite twins, starts asking them to let him help them, telling them that he knows what Ruin has done.

Mxy slams Superman out of the way as the girl moves for him, launching him straight into the boy parasite, Alex, who drains him to the point of being unable to get up.

Alex apologizes, appearing reluctant. The girl parasite seems to revel in the power, but Alex just seems to want to be rid of it.

The girl tries to drain Mxy, who says, "Nertz" and looks sad.

They leave with their precious cargo, the information that Clark Kent is Superman.

Mxy, standing next to Lois, laments that this is his fault.

Lois tells him to stop the pair, but he says he is forbidden to interfere, because it will lead to evil Jimmy Olsens with goatees, Eddies in the space-time continuum, and hypertime. After he says this, a rain cloud drenches him, and only him, above his head.

Lois tells Mxy that she knows why he dresses like Superman, but the clothes don't make the man. Mxy stands, renewed, and takes off.

Mxy arrives at Berganza's offices again, but Jeanine swears he's out getting action figures. Standing in front of a poster for the Reign, Mxy barbs Eddie, saying, "Figures."

Mike Carlin, meanwhile, plays with a Superboy and a Wonder Girl figure, making them kiss.

Mxy sees the script for Identity Crisis #7 and snatches it, saying that he thinks it was Ollie, that the resurrection broke his brain.

Carlin snatches it back, and Mxy kisses him. Mxy tells him that he liked it better when Carlin was the editor, that Berganza is just plain weird. Carlin tells Mxy he's missed him too.

Mxy asks for the script for Adventures of Superman #634 and Carlin gives it to him. He splits.

Carlin turns to the reader, eyes red, steam pouring out of his ears and from behind his head, and tells Eddie he's a dead man.

Meanwhile, the teenage parasites use their powers at their high school to get revenge, tossing enemy kids' cars down the row and using the x-ray vision to peek into classrooms.

Alex realizes that his sister likes being parasite, and tells her that they have to get back to Ruin. She counters that Ruin's not going to change them back, so they might as well enjoy it.

Mxy arrives, and tells them he's going to have to take their powers back.

The girl parasite uses the heat vision on Mxy, and then punches through his head. Mxy says that it tickles, snaps his fingers, and she loses her powers, falling to the ground in a swath of purple feathers.

Alex pleads with Mxy to change him back, that he doesn't want to be a Parasite. Mxy tells him that he can't, there are some things he just can't do.

Superman arrives, soon after, and Mxy tells him that he's got forty seven minutes and eleven seconds to save his secret identity. Superman asks why Mxy let them go, and Mxy tells him that it's because he knows how all of this ends, with a tear in his eye.

Superman tears off.

5Story - 5: What can be so tragic that it would make Mxy cry? Now, see, that's a cliffhanger, right there. Last month, we had twin Parasites right at the door, and that was a GREAT cliffhanger, but I actually like this month's better.

People write me a lot with their opinion on my opinion, and one thing I've been getting a lot lately is, "Neal, you need to lay off Azzarello! He's just taking his time to get to a point, and there WILL be a payoff."

They say this after 7 issues with no payoff, and I can understand the notion. After all, it was Rucka himself that taught me the notion that patience will be its own reward, if you have a good story on deck. And he's right.

His story is slow (less slow, more PACED deliberately), but it has ultimate rewards. Just like his run on Wonder Woman, "Stoned" in particular, which just finished well.

So we're a way's in, and the story's not resolved, but as a reader, I don't care. Because EVERY issue of this run, so far, has been incredibly well written to character, it has enough action to suffice, enough humor to suffice, this is, by far, the best run of Superman in ten years. Even Superman/Batman, while pleasing to the crowd, has a lot of flashiness and less character. I love it to DEATH, I really do, who doesn't love Superman/Batman, but if you'd told me when I was meeting him that money down, Adventures would be as good as it is, I would have slapped you. Like, literally. And I'm not a violent man.

"Adventures will be the best run in ten years."


"Ow! What did you hit me for?"

Don't know. Just hadda.

This run makes me proud to be a Superman fan in public. Not that I wasn't before, it's just, when you're in the shop jawing, and you say, "Superman, of course!" when they say, "What's your favorite hero?", you always get laughed at, like you're some little kiddie because you haven't moved onto the oh-so-more sophisticated murderer class of heroes. Or Marvel, as it's commonly known.

I reply now, "Oh yeah? Well what about Rucka?"

To which they take a pause, stand back, and say, "Hey, you know, he has a point there."

Revealing the sad truth, that they read the stories but don't want to seem puss, and the good truth, that Rucka owns them all.

And he does.

I've done a lot of preliminary here as to how much Rucka rules, but here's why:

Metaphysical acknowledgement that it's a comic book, taking us OUT of the story, while keeping us IN. THAT, my friends, is some darned good writing. And hilarity ensues. All of these faceless people we see in names over the years, with names and faces now, interacting with the characters, fanboys just like most of us.

The sheer JOY it looks like Rucka had, writing this, with Mxy popping around, acting like the serious cartoon, trying to do his best and failing.

A lot of people hate Mxy. They think he's stupid. They think, oh, I won't name names, but Smallville seems to think he has to be a homicidal gambler who nearly rapes people and attempts murder.

Mxy not cool enough for you? Check this book.

So we hit the Parasites attacking, and Mxy tries to show up, but he's unable to in time because of his nature, and Superman saves the day. The threat was real, the tension palpable, but nonetheless it is diffused, and not in a bad way. There were so many ways that Mxy being in this story, bringing humor, could have soured it, and somehow, it didn't. That's just masterful.

We have that overhead threat of a Crisis, Hypertime, that thing which Rucka couldn't talk about, and the groundwork is being laid here, just like with Imperiex, is my guess. I hope this is something that goes somewhere, because I would be extremely disappointed if this is another "hinted at" future plot they never touch. But I don't think, knowing Rucka so far as I do, that he'd do that, and he's a rising comic star, so he'll likely have enough clout to get his big thing done, whatever it is.

The lone complaint I have is that I couldn't find the girl parasite's name anywhere, and I forgot it. True to form, I don't research when I do a review (so I can look at it like you would look at it, not researching when you read it, likely), and I don't have her name. But in a trade, that would be fixed, which will likely be the best way to read it.

And by the way, if I ever get arrested in the DC offices for trying, in true comedic fashion, to claw my way into Berganza's office to just please please please get him to look at my script, I hope I am dragged out by that incredibly hot Jeanine. My god! I thought comic dudes only made hot chicks in their fake comics, and here she is in real life!

No offense, Steve, but why can't YOU be a hot chick? I want a hot chick editor, stat!

See? I'm not as good at injecting the humor as Rucka is. Steve is now on the way to plastic surgery, therapy, and horrible, horrible explanations to his wife. WHAT HAVE I DONE?

But all of these fanboy tics aside, what makes this book what it is would be character. Lois is in character. Lucy. The parasites act like teenagers. Superman acts like Superman. Mxy acts like Mxy, and I would assume Carlin and Beganza, from interviews and their general demeanor, are close to a humorous version of themselves, and that's been wholly consistent for this whole run.

By God, Superman tries to REASON with a bad guy before hitting them!

You try and tell me Rucka doesn't get it after seeing that!

5Art - 5: I want to know who took the pictures. That must have been fun.

Superman moves forward every few years, it's pretty easy to see. Some adaption to the cape or the costume that makes him take a palpable new "persona". I can only liken it to that cover from a while back, I think it was Man of Steel, where we see all of the varying takes on Batman over the years. There's the Byrne Superman, who has a very definite face, the Bog Superman, with cartoonish but defined features, moving on to the Grummet Superman, who is very clean-cut, wholesome, and the McGuiness Superman, which is pseudo-Manga (though I know he hates it being said like that, but you all know what I mean), and I notice that the Clark Superman is the first Superman that I have seen who seems wholly human, to me. Not a construct, but an artist trying to render Superman what he would look like if he were standing right before you, instead of a man as a medium in comics. I also like the exaggeration of the shield, the attention to the cape. It's like an affair with the elements of the costumes, and I really enjoy it.

The action is conveyed well, Mxy is defined, Lois is incredible, and like Rucka, the characters stay in character. Lois doesn't suddenly become a D cup to sell comics, and the Parasites don't have impossibly huge muscles, they look REAL, which is important.

Incredible work continues.

5Cover Art - 5: I was wholly impressed with this cover when I first saw it, simply because of the hidden Mxy. The cover itself is a dramatic "Look, up in the sky" pose, but when you look closer, as a reader, Will informed me, there are no less than EIGHT Mxys on this cover! One in the eyeglasses, two in the tattoo, one in the windows of the building, one in the reflection of the Planet globe, one hidden in the purple hat with the tattoo as his face, and two in the columns in the lower buildings. Incredibly cool!

So not only do we have a decent pose (a four, perhaps), but the hidden context, as relates to the story at hand, makes this a cover you can look at for darned near 15-30 minutes, and with friends. How many covers can you say that about?

All around, just an incredible comic.

Someone called me when I was reading it, and said, "Whatcha doing?"

I was only to the second photo montage, but I said, "One of the quintessential Superman stories of my life."

They said, "No, seriously."

And I said, "Nope. Seriously. This is a defining character of Superman, right here, these books. I can only liken it to the characterization of Luthor when he gave his baby to Brainiac in exchange for power. Such masterful characterization, working in conjunction with art. It' s heaven, baby."

And it is.

I hearby start the petition to have Rucka write Action and the main book too. Huzzah!

Or rather, Nertz.

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January 2005

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