Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #636

Adventures of Superman #636

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 15, 2004

Cover date: February 2005

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Matthew Clark and Rags Morales
Inker: Renato Guedes and John Dell

"The Road to Ruin" - Part One

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Superman bursts in on Ruin, who promptly lays the smack down. He ignites a red sun projector, tells Superman that he is an easy adversary to defeat, once his weakness is ascertained, and pummels him. Ruin intimates that he would kill Superman now were it not for the time it takes to figure out how to tap his power. He leaves Superman, weakened, who throws a table, hitting the projector. Weakened and beaten, he sees Ruin's bulletin board, which has pictures of all his peripheral friends and family. Luthor is even on there, crossed out.

In Gotham City, Batman smashes some goons carrying guns with expert precision. He interrogates them, looking for someone, but gets no answers. A goon fires into his back, but Wonder Woman arrives, blocks the bullets with her bracelets, and saves Batman. She wears her eyes blindfolded, in keeping with recent Wonder Woman issues, where she's been blinded by the Medusa (Neal's outside note: Good reading that, too. I'd pick it up if I were you. Usually I've always been dubious of Wonder Woman, but Rucka's WW rules.).

She tells Batman that Superman wants to see them.

They go to the Fortress. A drone lets them in. Wonder Woman comments that he hasn't seen Superman this upset since what happened to Sue.

Superman explains Ruin to them, and tells them he needs help defeating him.

At STAR Labs on Stryker's Island, Emil Hamilton and Lupe go to examine Xlim. Lupe wants him to help find anything on Ruin, anything at all.

At the Fortress, Superman explains that Ruin is Dr. Light all over again, and he doesn't want what happened to Light to happen again. He doesn't want to let anything like that happen again. Wonder Woman and Batman ask him to explain.

At Lois and Clark's apartment, the doorbell rings, and Pete Ross comes to visit Lois, despondent about Lana. He suggests that perhaps Clark is over at her place, and he is upset about his failing marriage.

He wonders aloud if Lana ever loved him, gives Lois her coffee back, and tells her to tell Clark he's been by.

Wonder Woman lights into Superman for allowing the mind-wipe of Dr. Light. Superman is apologetic, explaining that before he knew what was happening it was done, and that he couldn't bring in half of the Justice League. He also wonders what else could have been done.

Wonder Woman suggests they should have killed Light for being an unstoppable monster.

Wonder Woman advises Superman to kill Ruin. Batman tells Superman that if he does, he will only become like him. Wonder Woman repeats her advice, and flies off.

Superman asks Batman to help him find out who Ruin is. Batman responds that Ruin is someone who knows his secret, who hates him.

Superman immediately thinks: Luthor.

In a shaded room, elsewhere, Ruin, under shaded light, reports that Superman retains more energy when under stress. Ruin asks what to do next.

Lex Luthor reveals himself in the light and tells Ruin to start spilling blood.

5Story - 5: Whoa. Very nice.

I am so totally biased in Rucka's pocket after the stories he's delivered.

Now that I've said that, I can reveal something that I've really been searching for... Rucka's first mistake as a writer on this run.

And hey, here's Emil Hamilton, when last we saw him, he was EVIL!

STAR Labs is now on Strykers? I thought that STAR was in the city? Did that change? I mean, when STAR is under attack a few issues back, it's in the city, not on the Island. Then again, Stryker's Island has moved several times, perhaps I'm confused, but I don't remember STAR being incorporated. Maybe it's just a branch.

So there's my first real jab at Rucka's work. I feel better now. It's like when you're constantly reviewing a run that sucks, like Casey's, and you can suddenly say, "Wow. He got this scene right." It's nice to see that even the great writers have their errors at times.

CORRECTION AND POST-SCRIPT: While I was writing this review, I emailed Greg to ask him about Emil's sudden appearance. He let on that YES, it will be explained, YES, there is a reason. I figured as much, knowing his consistency with continuity, but there you have it, folks, from the writer's mouth. So you don't have to ask me through email... and I have an answer. Awesome. Thanks, Greg!

The rest of the issue, I'm sorry to say, is pure gold. Yes, oh, horror of horrors, I must gush more. Having reviewed through a number of slumps, you'll note I'm being sarcastic.

I mean, we have continuity up the yazoo here. Superman talks with Wonder Woman and Batman about the events of Identity Crisis, we have actual story cohesion... this isn't one of those events that just disappears, at least in this book.

Rucka takes from IC and builds. What questions did IC raise in my head? Well, I'll get to that. I have an article forthcoming that will retrospect this article, with a surprise, perhaps (keep watching the site).

One of them, however, is why the #@$% Superman would allow them to mind-wipe Light. As Wonder Woman and Batman suggest, there is another option, there always is.

He could have brought in half the League. That's what I, as a strict moralist with Superman, would have him do. BUT, in wanting to do that, my writer sense also nagged me with another ideal.

Superman, in this continuity, kills. He has killed.

Think about it.

Wonder Woman is a stone cold killer, if it's self-defense, if the enemy is a threat. That's good, too, for the Amazonian perspective. She lopped off Medusa's head without a lick of conscience bugging at her, because she was threatening Wonder Woman's adopted country. And that's in her character.

Batman will never kill. Killing turns him into what he hates the most. The closest he's ever come that I know of was back in Knightsend, when he killed a guy for a minute and brought him back. It's abhorrent to his character, despite the violence inherent to it.

Superman will kill, but only in desperation, in the lack of all options. Zod. Imperiex. Brainiac. All undefeatable without total annihilation, and dealt with as such.

And now Ruin?

What do you do with someone that knows all your secrets, knows where your family is, and cannot be stopped short of murder, so it would seem?

My universal answer has always been, Superman CAN be justified to kill, but he will find another way unless there's no options.

I'm guessing that Rucka will go that way, but still, the fact that those philosophies are now traipsing about my head as a result of this issue shows a masterful manipulation of character form on Rucka's part.

He also maintains the periphery very well, better than since the early 90s. We see pictures of Troupe, Bibbo, Lucy, heck, even Pete stops by to visit with Lois, and unlike Austen's manipulative Lana, Pete is believable, looking for a solution, and wanting to speak with Clark about the whole situation.

Even simple things, like having Batman and Wonder Woman have to be cleared to get into the Fortress, instead of just barging in, like in Austen's version. I would assume that in Austen's, at very least, Superman would have turned the visitor setting OFF, seeing as he was trying to do something he knew would really tick off Wonder Woman and Bats.

There's also scenes that just wouldn't work well elsewhere, that work well here. For instance, Ruin handing Superman his butt.

It wouldn't work with Austen, because that's his essential storyline, and it's done to death. It wouldn't work in Azz, because Azz would just have Ruin talk Superman to death. And Loeb, he's half character, half action, so it would likely work. But Rucka really pours a lot of thought into reason and timing. For instance, because Superman doesn't throw down all the time, but thinks, and acts, because Superman is a character with motivations, timing, and note to plot, when he's in a fight, it means something, which is how it @#$%* well should be, to be frank. That should be the minimum, and thank Rucka for exceeding the minimum and turning it into something epic.

Superman is really pummeled. The art helped that, as did Ruin having a plausible way of taking Supes down. Though how one projects a red sun ray is beyond me, but still, given Ruin's seeming alien origin, it's plausible. I can suspend for that.

[Editor's Note: Although to be honest, red sun shouldn't weaken Superman as it did. A red sun should simply stop Superman from being able to absorb more energy once he's depleated his current reserves of yellow sun energy.]

And then the ending.

It surprised me. Not because I don't think Rucka can handle Luthor, but because really, I thought Luthor was in Loeb's hands. I didn't expect him here. Now where is he, and what is he doing? Who are the people with him? Dear God, will we be seeing a plausible Legion of Doom?

I think, in the whole of comicdom, there are only three people that could hand us a plausible Legion of Doom. Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, and Grant Morrison.

Luthor's back, and I love it. He's my favorite, he's always been my favorite, and I don't care if he's in a green and purple suit or hiding behind Hope and Mercy...

Hail to the king, baby.

And Rucka just delivered the king. Enough said.

For more on Ruin, see my companion article, "Who is Ruin?" I'm about to let some speculation fly.

The story is just top-notch. The fans write in week after week and confirm that I'm not insane, I'm not unfairly biased, this is just the best Superman run in a really long time.

DC, you pay this man whatever he needs. Keep him on Superman, please. I'll chip in, if need be.

5Art - 5: I'm sad to see Clark leaving, and I lament what is the last of his art on this title. I'm also confused, because of the dual credits, as to whether he did all of this issue, none of this issue, or what.

His style is very distinctive, but Rags also has a similar style in ways. If I had page numbers, I could tell you what I think is Clark and what I think is Rags, but either way, they melded VERY well, better than most collaborations I've seen, to create a nice pace with Rucka's dialogue and action. The beating scene was very believable, and though it's not necessarily to the penciller's credit, putting the preview page back a few pages so the Luthor revelation is more dramatic is money.

Actually, looking, my guess is that it's all Rags, though his impression of Matthew Clark's Lupe is just uncanny.

Either way, godspeed and best of luck, Michael, and thank you, Rags, for a great issue.

5Cover Art - 5: Sometimes when a theme is repeated often enough, it becomes near impossible to bring to the page without cliche and beautiful.

I am trounced by the fact that the typical shirt opening image can be made so beautiful after so many renditions. The lighting, the effect, the color, and the dramatic pose of this blew a circuit in my head.

The words on the cover, per ever, are cheese, but couldn't dull the image, at least for me. And a nice, tucked, interesting way to do the logo, budda bing! Good cover.

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.