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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #644

Adventures of Superman #644

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 28, 2005

Cover date: November 2005

Writer: Greg Rucka, Nunzio Defilippis, Christina Weir
Penciller: Karl Kerschl, Darryl Banks, Adam DeKraker
Inker: Wayne Faucher, Cam Smith, Robin Riggs

"Blame and Remorse"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

At the SCU, the officers argue about what happened with Pete Ross at Stryker's Island. Lupe looks on. Superman, outside, sweeps in, grabs Lupe's badge, and crushes it, telling her that she doesn't deserve to wear it, and that he knows what she's done to Pete Ross.

At the Daily Planet, Jerry and Jimmy visit Clark, who's having a debate about Ross's innocence with a co-worker. They tell him that Jerry's working for the Daily Planet now. The pair poke fun at Jimmy. Jerry is obviously enamored of him.

Lois and Clark talk about the things that have been happening to them of late, particularly Diana killing Max. Lois takes Wonder Woman's position, trying to console Clark that he may constantly feel guilty and second guess himself, but Wonder Woman's position was morally defensible.

Clark, concerned that the mental programming may go deeper than he'd like, changes into Superman to go and see Zatanna.

Upset from the events in recent JLA books, Zatanna resists Superman's request at first. Superman asks her if she's used her powers on any of his villains, and she mentions Toyman. Superman asks if she can do a locator spell, and she does.

Toyman sits with a group of children, handing them toys, and telling them that Superman has changed him from what he used to be.

Superman carries Zatanna to his location. They ponder whether Toyman is Ruin or not. Zatanna tells Superman she visited Schott in prison and tried to make him a better person, after he murdered Adam Grant.

They find him in a dingy room, holding children hostage. Schott sees it as a fairy-tale scene thanks to Zatanna's mental work, but it's really another hostage situation. Superman does battle with the toys while Schott binds Zatanna with tape.

Zatanna frees herself while Superman is overwhelmed, and casts a spell to have Schott remember. He stops his toys, but they've already weakened the building. Zatanna warps the children out.

Superman goes back for Toyman, but the building collapses.

Superman indicates that he sees no sign of Schott. He tells Zatanna that she'll have to forgive herself. Zatanna tells him that it's a hard thing to do. Superman offers to forgive her for herself.

Underground, Parasite sucks a rat dry. Luthor, in full battle suit, steps out with Mercy and offers her a better meal.

5Story - 5: Chugging along, as ever, and it's nice to get back to the main story. I understand that the event work has to slip in every now and again, but I've been waiting for that confrontation with Lupe for a long time, and it comes off powerfully. It feeds a theory that I've had for a while that I don't really want to get into, but suffice it to say, I'm glad this interaction's happened. Superman DOES toe the line to the ultimate degree. He doesn't accept righteous anger, or what seems like righteous anger, if there's a chance that it's wrong, and he doesn't kill. VERY on character. Lupe, on the other hand...

I'm learning so much about character from reading these books, mostly because Rucka's getting the character relationship right. Used to be I'd just know because I'd feel it was right. Now I examine it from the perspective of a creator, and that adds new depths, because you can see when someone's trying to stamp a character and when someone is running with it. It's helping me learn adaptation, this is my chief source.

A good example is Jimmy. While Verheiden has been hit and miss for me so far, the biggest miss so far for me was making Jimmy into a bit of a butthead in the issue with Bizarro, lording his position over Clark, treating Superman like a threat... it's just not Jimmy to me. Here, we see him awkward, the perpetual bowtie geek, interacting with Clark, nervous but dedicated to Jerry... they poke fun at HIM, even though he's technically higher up the ladder, and that's on-character.

Schott as well. Rucka focused on the key aspect of his character's tragedy, that he's really a good man who wants to help children, just misguided, and turned what would be his cure into an excuse for Schott to see the fact that, look man, you murdered Adam Grant. It makes Zatanna's choice all the more of a double-edged sword, because you say to yourself, hey, maybe she DID do a good thing here. Schott's finally taking responsibility for what he is.

But Schott is dead (maybe), and the children are still murdered. So Superman has one heck of a point too.

These dilemmas don't happen when monster X comes to town, reeks some trouble, then is beaten. These dilemmas only occur when the writer pro-actively fashions them. I believe, anyway.

I think that's what was trying to be done with Jimmy in that last Superman, which is why I felt so bad for gutting it, but then, there's where it works, and where it doesn't.

Lois agreeing with Wonder Woman was a key example. That's Lois's character... and I'm sure it's what the mild-mannered side of Superman is so in love with. That balance. That justification. That rationale for guilt. Speaking as a guy who's constantly having to question the motivations of his quest to become a writer, becoming a mooch, in ways, I have to say, "Is what I'm doing right?" constantly. Identity point with the character... and do I need a Lois, in that respect...

I kind of regret that the opportunity wasn't taken to kind of poke at Lois's jealousy here. Not on Clark's part, that would be out of character, but more Lois saying, "You know what? Wonder Woman and I, we're not friends. I worry about her and you, all the time..." (etc, to character the last few years, anyway), but all in all, incredible dialogue, all the way. Humanity.

The last line, about Superman forgiving Zatanna... folks, this run, I tell you.

I laughed at the end, though. Not because it was a bad cliffhanger, it was awesome, but I suddenly shifted gears into Loeb mode. Am I nuts, or do you guys know what I mean? Loeb is cinematic, and he always has that BIG, boom last page. It'll be, you know, Batman smiling next to his living parents, or Superman chewing on Kryponite, whatever. Usually, Rucka's scripts are very character scripts, so the end beat is a human touch. The Mxy moral, the loss, etcetera. Then we have the Loeb cliffhanger here, which makes total sense, but still threw me off a bit. I kind of liked it, because it made me say, "Holy crap, can that character sense meet Loeb's cinema sense... and will that be Infinite Crisis?"

So I am, to put it mildly, amped.

I just realized, right now, that this was a guest-star book. That means something. Usually, the guest-star books are so incredibly pushed to make cashola you resent it (note Zoom on Superman despite one page). Here, it's like, oh, this is essential to the story, not a trick. It ALL ties in. Everything connects to the larger whole. THAT is continuity. I haven't felt this in comics in a long time...

I'm curious how much the other writers did... it's odd to see so many names, to know who's doing what.

5Art - 5: Still riffing off Kerchl, good work. He's the first guy who's sold me on the shorter cape in a LONG time. Maybe All-Star Superman might change that soon, but so far, this is the first in a long time.

The patchwork art with a number of artists usually fails, but here it's pretty seamless, even though it's obvious who's who...

Lois looks like a real girl in a real world interacting with a man-god, if you will, and that's conveyed well in the art.

Also of note, the incredible page where Schott realizes what he's doing and where he is, the panel where the building falls in, you can really see Superman's desperation, and finally, LUTHOR. Heh. Can't beat Luthor in suit.

All in all, still very strong work.

4Cover Art - 4: There's always that tendency to lose the background on a lot of the covers, that's always bothered me, and it always will. So minus a one for the missing background (even if I can't honestly say what would fill it up, so hey, I may (and likely am) full of it. Just a personal bias).

That said, the cover is very iconic and representative, the coloring itself, like that last few, is just incredible.

Dr. Light, Spectre, and Batman don't really feature in this book, and I'd usually get ticked about that, but if you think about it, it belongs to the larger perspective of the Identity books, the Zatanna guest appearance, so it makes sense in the representative.

I like the pose, I like the concept, and I love the coloring... great stuff.

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January 2005

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