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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #641

Adventures of Superman #641

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 15, 2005

Cover date: August 2005

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


Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Lupe heads into former President Ross' cell, taking off her badge, and asking the guards to turn off the cameras. They offer her a half hour, as a reporter is arriving.

We see Daily Planet blurbs indicating that Lana has filed for divorce from Pete, and a summary of what Pete is accused of. Under those captions, Clark Kent arrives at Stryker's and moves to meet with Ross. As he does, a guard named Chan watches, and his eyes glow.

As he walks down the hall, Alexandra (the girl parasite) wonders why Kent seems so familiar to her.

Clark arrives, and uses his x-ray vision to see through the door. He sees Lupe beating Ross, and demands to be let in, or he'll put what's happening on the front page of the Daily Planet.

Lupe leaves. Clark asks her what she was doing, and she says that Pete was trying to escape, and that she has witnesses.

Clark meets with Pete. Pete explains that he's innocent, and Clark tells Pete that he believes him. Pete doubts Clark's declaration of friendship, and then whispers, very quietly, just quietly enough that Clark can hear but any potential microphones can't, that he knows that Clark is Superman, that Lex told him.

Lois talks to the Batman in the meanwhile, and Batman gives her advice on finding out who shot her, telling her to trace the weapon back to the sniper's nest.

Clark reassures Pete that now that Pete knows his secret, he not only thinks, he knows that Pete is innocent.

In the lab, Emil Hamilton examines the suit and assures Lupe that it is indeed Ross' suit. The lights suddenly go out, exploding.

Guards run about, trying to restore order. Alex, the green Parasite, screams to the guards that his sister is hurt.

One of the guards pops open the door, starts to pick her up, and gets zinged. She's playing possum.

Pete Ross tells Clark that he remembers nothing except being in his hotel room. Guards burst in and escort Clark to a secure room, and take Pete into lockdown.

Once alone, Clark changes into Superman.

Villains begin making their escape down a dark hallway, including Barrage, who points out that he might be another victim, just like Dr. Light. Loophole tells him he was always an idiot, and they clash with the guards.

Alexandra, meanwhile, sucks on Neutron, the Living Bomb, and invites Alex in to share. She tells Alex that Neutron is almost as good as Superman, but Superman arrives, and says that he's insulted.

He offers to let them go back to their cells, and Alexandra responds by knocking him through a wall and out into the courtyard.

They go outside and begin attacking Superman, who defends himself and continues trying to talk them down.

As they do battle, Chan, the guard, changes into an OMAC unit and initiates neutralization protocols on both Parasites. It blasts Alexandra, who flies into the wall, and as Superman moves to intercept the OMAC unit, it blasts Alex.

Superman flies toward the machine, which blasts him with a ray that knocks him far out into the bay, where he notes that the blast is a new feeling. He flies back.

The unit is gone, Alex is dead, and Alexandra is missing. He kneels down next to Alex, and apologizes for failing him.

Meanwhile, in the chaos, they realize that Ross is not secure. Superman walks down a bloody hallway to find the entrance to Ross' cell melted open.

To be continued.

5Story - 5: Seriously, you gotta wonder how he packs all of that into a comic book. And it's not like the crowded scripts you see, where there are nine panels to a page and multiple different settings. What it is, to me anyway, is dialogue. Dialogue, coupled with a good artist, coupled with a setting that is coherent and sensible, and you have, bang, something that has already been done a hundred times by a hundred people sounding and looking new again. At least to me, anyway.

Superman's dialogue with Ross is painful, and not in that Azzarello kind of way, but in that, "It hurts so good" kinda way, where you can identify with both characters, and you honestly don't know who you want to get the verbal upper hand.

Superman is more in character than he's been in, literally, a decade here. Greg has him kneel and apologize to a man he's failed, he tries to talk before punching, he stands up for Ross despite Ross attacking his family. This trust, this feeling, this core is the very essence of the pacifist that I believe Superman to be. This is what Superman can lament, not having powers, but being unable to save everyone, being unable to stop madmen from starting wars... these mimic the frustrations that I feel constantly, and they are why I identify with Supes.

Usually, these books are plot based, and you have to sit there and sigh and deal with that. Now we have what has been missing. An ongoing, coherent narrative that is concerned with its past, its present, its future, and not so much how much of an event it can be as opposed to if it can be a good story.

I get the feeling I used to get when I was a kid reading this book. I actually get the feeling that I used to have as a kid. Being the arrogant SOB that I am, I tend to usually compare my own skills as a writer, such as they are, to the current writer. It's my meter stick of who I am as a reviewer, because it's my life experience. I get up, I write, I sleep. So I usually scoff with my condescending (and typical) way and say, "I can do better than that.". Part of the joy of being a kid was not knowing as much about books, literature, writing, and being able to trust the people who were doing what I felt predestined to do. I could look at Roger Stern and say, "Man, that boy has a master plan. Let's see where he takes me", and he took me great places, thankfully, or I probably would have given up comics at 16, because I was poor, poor, poor. Instead, the stories were so well done, comics are my meat and potatoes.

The feeling faded with Joe Casey, With failures taking on what I consider a beloved character. I grew more cynical, I said, "Man, I can do better than this."

Loeb smacked me and told me different. Abnett and Lanning gave me a good shot of shut up. And now, Rucka has shown me what it's like to be a kid again, and I can't stress more how cool that is. I know his run can't go on forever, but right now, in the height of its awesome, I want it to.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out my total bias here. Neutron, the living bomb, happens to be my absolute favorite non-Luthor villain in the Superman world. And hey, how about attention to continuity and that little nod to the fans there, with Loophole and Barrage? Eh? Folks? Tell me you saw that care and attention, that level of commitment to getting it right when Superman was threatening to pop the neck off thirteen different villains in the Austen run.

That's right, girlfriend, you di'int! (Snap snap).

My usual commentary is that a crummy book will get a long review, because there's so much to flay, and that a good one will get a short review, because it does its job, and there's nothing to commentate on. When it goes a step further, and is so good you want to write quite a bit, that's rare.

A good teaser, too. Ross, dead? Probably not. But a nice tense risk there. Killing Alex was brave, and sensible, given that it leaves us with a new Parasite, back in the traditional purple sense, but with a tragic backstory.

And the OMAC? Bring on that Crisis, man. Continuity there, too, with mentioning the Verheiden work ("Not again!", from Supes).

Is Pete Ruin? I still say not. I have my theory. I think it's a good solid theory. I could have asked Rucka when I interviewed him a while back, but I didn't, because like you, I really want it to be a surprise (not that he'd have told me anyway, he's dedicated to the experience too). But I have a feeling it's going to be incredible.

As was this issue, as is this run, cumulatively.

5Art - 5: Kershl continues to balance picking up where Matthew left off well. I have even more respect for his ability to catch the human side of his character. Looking at the expressions on both Pete and Clark's faces, especially when Pete is standing alone in his jumpsuit and when Clark is kneeling before Alex, hurt. It really hurt.

And the paneling, for that matter, is also incredible. When I write my comics and talk about them with the folk who will be penciling (and if you draw, please email me. I need folks), I always like to urge them to change up the paneling, that the box format, again and again, is probably the bane of my existence if I had my preference. Thankfully, some artists just get it, overlapping panels, pushing the boundaries. A good example is the understated use of the monitor when Pete and Clark are worried they'll be watched. We see a guard with a recording in the background even though they said they were not recording, and it would have been understood that this was in the background, but the paneling makes it recessed, furthering the already subconscious notion. It's little stuff like that which pushes art for me, when everything has already been said and done.

There's also a lot to be said for the colorist here, and the use of backgrounds. Some of you know my usual complaint is that even if an artist can draw well, dynamically, etcetera, there are many cases where the background is left out. A good example of how to leave backgrounds out in some cases, and when they shouldn't, is in this book. There are a ton of battle scenes where it could have been blank, but Kerchl pops in debris, walls, etcetera. But the dialogue scenes, when there is an emphatic changing of thought, he leaves a few backgrounds open, but unlike, say, in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, the colors are varied, as when Clark comes to the realization that Pete is innocent, or when one says something especially profound. It also plays to the light of the situation. When Pete Ross stands under a light, white washes his face. When we step back, we can see each individual brick.

Good balance.

As strange as it sounds, my favorite panel in the whole book was when Alexandra was playing possum. Her posture and how she was drawn made her look so pitiful that I, like the guard, would have knelt right down. Speaking as a guy who always thinks the guards are stupid getting suckered by the Parasite all the time, this was a case where art saved pitfall, which is why art really is half the battle.

5Cover Art - 5: I believe I mentioned it before, but this is still the first time the shorter cape has ever worked for me, period. The pose is great, as is the OMAC agent. The coloring is incredibly succinct, but plays off purple's place across from your yellow focal point on the color wheel (sorry, that's all I remember from my classes).

I had the issue on my coffee table for a number of days, and I couldn't keep my eyes off it, that says something.

The words are abysmal and cheesy, and they really tear you out of the experience. Whoever keeps putting words on the covers should be drawn, quartered, shot, hung, then burned. Send an OMAC agent to do it. Openly Mutated Anti-Word Comic-fan. TARGET: Whoever the heck put those words on the cover distracting from such awesome work. Normally I'd dock a point just for that, but I can't bring myself to do it.

Still all in all and pound for pound the best comic I'm reading.

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

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