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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #640

Adventures of Superman #640

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 25, 2005

Cover date: July 2005

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Karl Kerschl
Inker: Karl Kerschl

"Road to Ruin: Conclusion"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

There are two concurrent stories in this issue, and they weave together. There's the story that runs across the top of the issue, and the story that runs across the bottom, much like the issue in the "Death of" series where Superman is interviewed on television on the bottom as Doomsday comes for Metropolis on the top.

In this case, the top is Lois recounting the events (through mostly static images) that lead to the unmasking of Ruin, and the bottom is Clark's real time living of it.

Because the top story has the spoiler, I'm putting it second.

Bottom story:

Clark approaches an apartment, and the Secret Service questions him. He explains that he's there to see Lana, and they let him in.

He tries to convince Lana that she should try with Pete, and berates her for keeping secret her divorce.

Lana tells him that things won't change, and Clark leaves to meet Pete outside. Upset, Pete leaves in his limo, snubbing Clark.

Jimmy flirts with Jerry while leaving the hospital. Jerry laughs him off.

Clark hears something in the background, a fight, and goes to investigate as Superman. As he does, Jimmy starts taking pictures of Jerry.

He hears sounds of the battle going on above (in the top story), where Ruin is attacking Steelworks.

Ron brings Lois a map of the area where she was shot, and asks her why she's researching. She explains that she's trying to find out who shot her, after a little prying.

Perry tells Lois that Ruin is fighting Superman at Steelworks, and she bolts to get to the scene.

Lois calls Jimmy in Jerry's car, and they race to the scene.

Lois arrives, and seeing what's happening, tells Jimmy to shoot pictures, and he does...

Top story:

We see a picture of the Daily Planet, recounting the battle with Ruin, and the unmasking. Ruin's mask obscures the identity.

Lois begins her voiceover, and describes Clark. She points out that he is three men, and he is invulnerable save in one way: his heart.

We see pictures of Clark, Lana, and Pete growing up.

Ruin arrives at the Steelworks, and attacks John Henry. Natasha, as Steel, attacks Ruin back, who blasts her out of the building into a car and begins attacking her. We see this through a video camera someone is using to tape the fight, and then a camera on a cell phone.

Superman arrives to defend Natasha. We see this through the video screen at the Daily Planet.

Through Newstime, we see Ruin rain down a blast that is almost a city block in size. Superman tries to slam Ruin with a truck. Ruins blasts it. Superman takes a piece of the truck and uses it to block the blasts.

This is where Jimmy's photos come in, from the bottom story. Jimmy takes a photo of Superman throwing Ruin, getting the better of him, then pulling off his mask. Lois' commentary concludes, wondering why in cynicism but with hope, friends can become such enemies.

We see the initial report from page one, only without the mask obscuring the identity.

Ruin is Pete Ross.

5Story - 5: Eddie Berganza, though it doesn't mean beans to many, I officially forgive you for Joe Casey.

All joking aside, this is the culmination of one heck of a story, and it's done quite well. The best part, the part that I'm loathe to speculate on, is that it doesn't appear to be over yet, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Lois' commentary exceeds excellence, as does Rucka's subtle attention to character. Far and away, this is what makes him the best of the Superman writers right now. His story, without going out of its way, regularly features people we thought lost. Jimmy. Perry. Lois. Steel. John. It manages to do this while slipping in new characters. Ruin. Lupe. Jerry.

The result is a slower paced story than the Internet world may prefer, but the best Superman in a long time. And screw the Internet world (Slitting my own wrist? Eh. Honesty is worth that), if it means that we get stories this good. Ratings aren't everything.

Here we have Rucka's big battle scene, the culmination of the base of character work he's spread across an entire year. Unlike other writers, who drop a fight on you every month without motivation (read: Austen), or other writers who drop their pet motivations and characters on you (read: Casey), here we have Greg Rucka putting the characters we know into motion. The end result is a selfless story, and the odd diagonal that we pull from this is that Rucka has made himself distinctive in an age of writers playing the rock star mark to try and make their name.

Ruin's revelation wasn't a surprise to me. Not because I knew ahead of time, not because it was a poorly written story, but because it just plain made plot sense. I've remarked before on the sixth sense that you get when you're a writer for a while, an ability to see when people are phoning it in, to analyze the subtle tricks that an artist is using. It's why the best critics are creators themselves, I would guess, and it's why there aren't very many good critics, myself included perhaps. The point I'm making is that Ruin's revelation was perfect. It's not about the story's surprise, because I was still surprised even though I had guessed. It was about the execution.

"I am your father" is nothing without Bespin. Ruin as Pete Ross is nothing without the Road to Ruin story, the Lupe groundwork, and the subtle manipulation and storytelling.

This is the first run from an artist on Superman that I have not had one LICK of trouble with. Not one. And you all know me, Quint style, I'm as picky about a comic book and how I regard it as JJJ is angry at Spider-Man.

The best part, as I said, is the sixth sense going off, telling me that the story isn't over, not by a long shot. I know a few things, but there are a ton of things I don't know, and here are a few:

Why did Ruin want to kill Superman because he was going to do something to the sun? Does this mean that Pete has access to information that drove him over the edge? Who is supplying this information? Or even more compelling, is Pete really Ruin?

Where did the powers come from? Who is his tech supplier? The obvious answer is Luthor, but why would he give it to Pete? What role does Luthor have in this?

Does Lois' shooting have anything to do with it?

And others.

All in all, just a really great story, it opens up a ton of potentialities, and it brings to a head a great year of issues.

5Art - 5: Kerschl couldn't have asked for a better opening volley, but he delivers regardless. My favorite part about Kerschl is the way he can peg a character. Michael Clark has reality in a comic book world down, and Karl has a distinctive talent at making each one of his characters individual and resonant. He's less realistic than Clark, BUT, he has a very identifiable trait that he puts into every character. You can tell he spends time on expression, body type, and clothing that others miss.

For instance, Lois. Karl and I talked (a bungled interview on my part I intend to correct) about Lois, and the Thora Birch aspect from the last series he did (Strange Visitor), and how he's worked on Lois, and it's clear to me how much time he puts into each character. If you've been on Majestic, he did the first few issues there, and that continued. Daemonites, Khera, Eradicator (his re-imagination is still my favorite incarnation of the character thusfar).

He even manages the impossible... making the mid-calf cape work. Okay, so I like a long cape, but it actually works here.

This issue is no exception. Lois is very distinctive, Perry remains great, Jimmy, Jerry. The fight explodes across entire blocks, and the unmasking was very touchingly done.

A great debut.

Superman #1 4Cover Art - 4: On the one hand, when I saw this in the previews, it gave away a bit of the story, got me excited, and I like the format. A comic panel page showing exactly what happened in the issue... the mains and their reaction to the unmasking of Ruin.

On the other hand, it suffers from the lack of background disease, and it has words on the cover.

But on the OTHER other hand, as I look at it, I realize that perhaps, intentionally or unintentionally, the cover mimics the issue of Superman with the yellow background, flying above the city, from his first issue in 1939. In fact, looking at the two, I'm pretty certain.

You decide...

Either way, the lack of a background counts for something, but otherwise, a great cover, and it builds excitement, even if it does give something away.

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