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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #642

Adventures of Superman #642

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 20, 2005

Cover date: September 2005

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

"Remembrance" - Part Three of "Sacrifice"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman stands over Bruce Wayne, devastated at what he has done, not knowing how it happened. The other members of the JLA and some of the JSA stand about nervously, worried at what Superman might do next.

Superman talks to Wonder Woman, reminds her that he would never do something like this, and she assures him that she knows as much, but still, the prospect of a rampaging Superman is enough to strike fear into anyone. She uses a Themysceran healing device on Bruce.

At the conference table, they replay the security logs. They see Superman attacking Batman unprovoked, and when Diana arrives to protect him, attacking her as well. His level of tactical thought implies that he may not have been manipulated, as J'onn suggests.

Superman explains that he thought he was fighting Ruin.

They decide to try and remove the memory, or at least find the source, and Superman compels them to do so with haste. Diana holds his hand as Martian Manhunter goes in and attempts to find the culprit.

We see an amalgamation of the previous two issues, of the things, real and imagined, that happened. An astute reader (to toot my own horn) notes that in the background of the fight scene from Apokolips an OMAC sleeper agent watches the goings on.

We see Superman kneeling before a priest (the "father" mentioned in OMAC) and asking for advice. We see him beating Batman bloody. The priest turns into Maxwell Lord.

They pull out, and Manhunter reveals that it was Maxwell Lord who implanted the suggestions. Wonder Woman postulates that perhaps the death of Blue Beetle, the Brother I, and Superman's attacks all spring from the same source.

Manhunter informs them that he cannot undo the control. To do so, he would have to destroy the trigger, which would involve simulating to Superman killing someone, which, because of his psychological barriers against killing, would drive him mad.

John Stewart suggests Zatanna. The League vehemently says, "NO."

They agree to use a temporary solution... put him in a transporter loop similar to the one that held Doomsday for a time. As they lead Superman to the transporter, Max tells him that the League is really the one under control.

Superman overhears John Stewart saying they need to get the Kryptonite.

He throws Martian Manhunter into a teleporter loop, then smashes John Stewart's box he erects around Superman, sending construct fragments into everyone and blowing a hole in the space station.

Wonder Woman determines that she will follow Superman to Switzerland, where Superman has flown. Flash sends her in a transporter hesitantly. She feels that because she can see the truth, she will be immune to Max's controls.

Arriving, she finds Max, glib. She asks where Superman is.

Max tells her that he's behind her. Superman grabs Diana and forces her to the ground.

5Story - 5: This whole series, this whole crossover, is what I think Superman should be.

As a story, Superman started as complete stories every month. One story, start to finish, in X number of pages. It was either good, or bad, but it was always a complete, dramatic story.

As the years went by, decompression became the norm. And decompression of story is definitely a great way to tell a story. You get more character than you do if you make a story where Ruin walks into town and Superman just beats him senseless and moves on. Same with any hero, for that matter.

Now, we have something cyclical. It used to be you have each individual artist working on a book and it sank or it swam. Four different super-titles meeting for the obligatory crossover every year or two, and some of the artists were with it, some were out of it, it ended up being holistically a failure and individually shining, depending on the artists.

Now, we have something that has been culminating for two, three, four years, something that has decompression to build to the natural progression. It is that one, cohesive story of a comic spread out over 500 pages, with enough time to change, fairly, the mindset, hearts, and goals of the characters.

The best part? This appears to be just the prelude.

I'm talking Superman... some of the other issues involved are less cohesive with the whole story, especially with regards to the Crisis. A lot of the Countdown follow ups (OMAC aside) are peripheral. And that's okay, for what they are. I'm also talking about the main books. Teen Titans, which I'm diving into whole-heartedly, also has great tie-in, as does Wonder Woman, as does Batman under Winnick. If you see the DC Universe (as opposed to the minis), this whole affair has been coordinated unlike anything I've seen before.

It's an editorial success, and to be completely honest, editorial conditions are usually pretty confused in terms of continuity and otherwise across both companies. The policy is "Take what you'd like, forget if it makes the fans angry, tell a good story."

Which is generally true. But they forget the caveat that Rucka exploits masterfully, "If you CAN use the continuity, however, and still tell a damned good story, DO IT."

And I've cited examples in every issue he's done that I've reviewed, but note, here, the teleporter loop. Note the Themysceran healing ray. Note the reference to Identity Crisis and Zatanna in a priceless moment. Note the coherence with the other books leading up to this one in this mini-series.

Note the general care and attention to detail. You can read these books quickly and plow right through them (which is my usual pace, and the usual geek's pace, to be honest, we have ten comics to read, we take it fast), and then if you read them slow, like a reviewer (which I then do) things, bad things, flaws, usually show up. And you cite them in reviews like this.

Rucka rarely has any, and this issue is no exception.

I had my hand up, ready to type, "Why the heck don't they just remove the trigger with someone who CAN?" and then, Zatanna. Continuity. They don't because last time they did, they nearly lost Batman off the team, and it screwed up EVERYTHING. It's not necessarily because it's logical, it's because it's the DIRECTION THESE CHARACTERS WOULD GO. And that says something, because that means that they're less archetypes who would definitely do X in this situation, and more defined characters that have a history, know it, and use it with each other. Kind of like, oh, I don't know, BYRNE did making a universe that started from scratch so that encounters could be remembered and remarked upon in later issues.

Only improved.

There's also Rucka's move into using more splashes. I like what he's doing here, he's learning to accentuate dramatic moments, which he already did well, with more of a flourish. Note especially the scene with Bruce on the table, or my favorite, the "push" scene, where you have Superman dismantling the League in the middle, and on the outside, Max is smiling and leaking blood.

Great series so far, and great single issue.

As a fan, I DEMAND more such crossovers. If you don't want to interrupt the flow of the narratives (and I don't), special events are par for the course.

5Art - 5: There are a lot of awesome moments in this book. The pages mentioned three paragraphs up, the general JLA/JSA. This is, to my knowledge (maybe I'm forgetting something) the first time Kerschl has really been able to open up on the JLA, and it works well for him. Kerschl is very honest in drawing his women (meaning he doesn't give them all Power Girl breasts just for the sake of the prurient), and he still managed to make Wonder Woman stunning. The scenes of Superman going wrong in hologram over the faces of the stunned Leaguers, the "car salesman" Lord... all is very well done.

I admit, I may have a bias because I'm seeing how these things are done now, but I have to be honest and say how I feel here. I can say that I don't know Gail Simone, and therefore am less informed about her motivations and where she's coming from, and maybe that leads me to be less cohesive in my reviews as opposed to her intentions.

But aren't comics about communication? As a fan, and because of communication, both in the comic and out, I know a bit of how both of these artists, Greg and Karl, are motivated and what they want to do. And it comes across very effectively because of it.

A good example of how dedicated and how much of a taskmaster Karl is to himself (he's a really humble, self-deprecating kinda guy, at least, in my experience) is his self-assessments of the pages he does on Horhaus, his blog/artist site that he shares with a few other great artists.

This interaction is what makes the experience, at least for me. Well, that, and "moments", which some of you know from my previous comments, are images in a comic that will stick with you when the issue is just a memory.

5Cover Art - 5: Initially offput by the fact that Ruin doesn't feature too prominently into this issue, I looked at the symbolic nature of the cover, and the image itself, and decided that this is one of the cases where it doesn't matter. All of the covers are leading up to the final cover, and to fit in with the theme, what else would Karl have put? Hawkman? Methinks not. Maybe Batman... but then, Superman doesn't think he's fighting Batman, and that would have given the story away in the previews.

Mentioning Horhaus again (honestly, I wasn't asked to plug it, it just relates), they have the cover, and they show a comparison between the pencils and the finished, and I tend to agree with Kerchl, the coloring is what really makes this issue.

Some of you know that I write and create comics myself (or at least, am trying, I need more pencillers for all of these ideas. Finding a penciller is like finding a bathroom in the middle of the night. Lots of walls to bump into) with Alessandro Gianna. We made a Superman fan comic that's on this site (great art, amateur, aggrandized writing, tee hee, when is it not?). The reason I bring it up is because there is definitely something that happens with the three or four different artists who work with a given page. The colorist and the inker can totally change what the artist puts down. The internet is awash with people who are blaming or praising Byrne for what are considered "finishes" on his new work for Action Comics.

At the Emerald City Comic Con, I bought my first pieces of original art. One from Matthew Clark, one Ed McGuinness. Speaking to Matthew, he showed me, just offhand, how inks can be changed from artist to artist, how sometimes a simple thickened line can change the whole meaning, can hurt or help the scene. I hadn't been exposed to that, because Alessandro does his own inks (inkers, like pencillers, are harder to find than a bathroom at night, etc, etc,) out of necessity, and he does his own colors for the most part, so I haven't been exposed too much to the whole sink or swim that colorists and inkers bring. Karl, on the other hand, inks his own work, so all he needs is a good colorist, and according to him, Dave McCaig (his colorist) gets it.

I call this kind of coloring (just with my buds) cel-based. I don't know if that's the right term or not. I base it in the cel-shaded games that I've played in the past. Basically, it's kind of like a cartoon, only with three dimensional refinement taking it out of the realm of cartoon but making the color much more solid and dimensional than your average comic book image. Sometimes it's used really well, other times, it comes out cartoony.

So, to make a long story long, what I'm trying to say is that this is an example of a fine cover enhanced by good coloring, and that it means more to me because I have a background now into how hard it is to make an image like that pop. There are risks, and they were sidestepped. With a little thicker lines, it's actually similar to Alessandro's. Great shading.

Pretty neat, I think.

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