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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #645

Adventures of Superman #645

Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 26, 2005

Cover date: December 2005

Writer: Greg Rucka, Nunzio Defilippis, Christina Weir
Penciller: Karl Kerschl, Renato Guedes
Inker: Wayne Faucher, Renato Guedes

"Breaking Point"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

In the Daily Planet, the reporters examine the Wonder Woman debacle, reasoning that the image was taken out of context, and trying to come up with the "Why?" of the situation. Clark is forced to bite his tongue.

Their conversation is curtailed, however, when outside, about a hundred OMAC units take their place in Metropolis and hold stationary.

Clark ducks into an unoccupied room, flies up to take care of them, but finds them indifferent and unwilling to fight. Not wanting to hurt innocents, Superman watches them, waiting for a hostile move.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (green eyed version, IE not the "Society" Luthor) holds court with Mercy and Parasite, telling them that he needs to keep tabs on the other villains. He suddenly collapses, his mind going cloudy, but quickly rises again.

Parasite, trying to comfort him, is suddenly attacked by Mercy, who tells her to keep away from Luthor.

In Umec, Lois searches for who shot her. She finds a man shadowing her. She grabs him, slams him up against a wall, and demands that he tell her what's going on. He tells her that the Umeci are not behind her shooting, that they are in fact paranoid that she doesn't get hurt, because they don't want the wrath of Superman down on their heads. He points out that they even surrendered when Superman just visited their country.

Lois deduces that she went all the way to Umec to find out what she should have deduced from home, that it was someone rich and powerful pulling the strings, that Maxwell Lord had to be the one behind the scenes pulling Superman's strings to get him distracted.

Emil Hamilton finds Lupe in the SCU and tells her that he may have Ruin. He's figured out that his suit must have an incredible power draw, so Ruin has to stop and recoup after each major battle, despite being able to teleport seemingly at will. Lupe drops her ruined badge into the garbage and goes to take care of Ruin.

Lurking above the city, Superman flies within the OMAC units, watching them. He turns his sight to the Daily Planet building and sees Luthor, hooking himself up to the roof by cords.

Superman immediately attacks Luthor, driving him off the building and removing the cords. He picks Luthor up by the neck and slams him up against the wall. Luthor explains that he was only trying to find out who Ruin was by tapping into the Daily Planet. He chides Superman for being so violent without provocation.

Superman sets Luthor down. Luthor begins to explain what he knows about what's going on, but exits, stage left, when Ruin arrives and attacks Superman.

Ruin recognizes Luthor, but Luthor explains that Ruin never knew him. Luthor then realizes who Ruin is working for (The Society).

Superman attacks Ruin, telling Ruin that there will be no more attacks on his friends. Ruin continues teleporting and attacking, emitting a white light which Superman realizes comes from the Phantom Zone. Ruin continues to attack Superman, reiterating the idea that he's trying to kill Superman for killing the sun in 4.9 billion years.

Superman realizes that Ruin's tubes aren't power cables, they're keeping Ruin alive. He begins pulling Ruin's mask off, but Ruin teleports. Superman hears a JLA distress call, and flies straight up to the Watchtower, realizing the gravity of the call. He finds the tower destroyed.

Cue the beginning of Infinite Crisis.

4Story - 4: I believe I know who Ruin is. Woot! And I think I've been right since last April. Cool! But you want me to tell you who I think it was? Go scratch! I'm never lucky enough to put the pieces together like that, and if I "Ruin"ed it, you guys would crucify me, and rightly. So watch and enjoy.

"Ah, Neal, you're bluffing! If you did know, you'd tell!"

Think that if you want. I don't care. I'm only mentioning it because it's a part of that ephemeral love of an issue out of many, when you jive, connect, believe in and understand an ongoing storyline, so it's part of the review, even if I don't tell you how.

I will just say that my "Who is Ruin?" article does not TOUCH who I really think it is, and didn't at the time, either. Purposefully. I want to be part of the conspiracy. Mwu ha ha!

On other notes:

Had to happen sometime...the issue of the Rucka run where I actually take some issue with stuff. BUT, that said, it happened in the middle of a ton of really great stuff, so hey, all in all, no kind of blemish. I'll explain. I'm sure you know what I mean.

This issue has a little bit of a rough-hewn edge to it that's generally not present in the regular issues that Rucka writes, and I'm guessing that this is because of the whole "plot" vs. "script" bit that you can read on the main page. Greg's been busy of late, likely prepping for 52, no doubt, so it would seem (though I can't say, in all honesty) that the writing work got handed off for this one. Or at least, that's how it feels. You can call that me imposing my assumptions onto this issue, and heck, it probably is, but nonetheless, that's my experience, which it's my job to convey.

The dialogue is mainly what got me. I think Greg just REALLY hones that dialogue a lot. And here, the dialogue was good. At times REALLY good. Just not thought out ad infinitum. A good example? Lex:

"All those super-senses and yet you see so little. You want to know more about Ruin? Use your damn eyes, alien."

Needs a nyah. Good banter, yeah, but it's also a little cliché, which Rucka tends to miss. It's not even enough to kill the vibe of the story, it's still a four all the way, better than Superman is most of the time, it's just not BAM, like Rucka usually is, with the honest, frank, very well characterized dialogue I like.

I loved seeing the Daily Planet reaction to the Max Lord affair. It seems totally sensible to me that the Perry reaction, heck, the Daily Planet reaction would be that of the media with integrity (not real-life media, note). Not "How can we sensationalize this?", but "What's the truth behind this?

In real life, I'd be inclined to see Fox News and CNN and every other news outlet just showing the scene over and over again, having talking heads talk about it over and over without any real evidence, indicting Wonder Woman without any transparency. It reminds me of other moments in history. The media is lazy in that respect. It doesn't show what it can, it shows what it wants to. What's sexy. What sells. And the Daily Planet, at least, as I see it, is supposed to be that scrapping little unpopular paper with integrity that fights against that encroaching sense of sensationalism, and here, we see the Planet characterized in that regard as it hasn't been in a long time. Total five work here.

Superman handling the OMAC units is actually where my beef in this issue comes. Rather, I phrase that badly. Superman's actions AFTER he handles the OMAC units are where my beef comes.

When Superman first sees a bojillion OMACs in the Metropolis skies, he flies up, announces himself, and tries to find a peaceful solution. The OMACs do not respond violently, so Superman does the only thing he CAN do. He watches them, and makes sure they mean no harm, because to attack them might mean killing them.

EXCELLENT. Spot-on character. Batman would lob grenades and begin taking them out. Wonder Woman would likely confine them or somehow try to subdue them. But Superman honestly believes the best. It's a failing, and his best trait.

I really liked this scene, because too often of late I've seen "Oh, an OMAC? KILL KILL KILL!"

This shows Superman's character, and why he actually is having problems with Wonder Woman and Batman right now. They think differently on these type of problems.

And then Luthor! Booya! Wow. Very cool. You have no idea how much I've missed his steady presence in the books. It was frustrating to see him as President without an effective tact beyond Loeb's six issue stint, really, outside of Our Worlds At War, but at least he was AROUND, and occasionally, we had really great Luthor moments. Now, he's coming back in a big way, and it's good to see him do so in this book. What's going on with his head? Why does he have Parasite around? All GREAT subplots. I love it.

Lois in Umec seemed a little forced to me, and it was one of the things that brought the issue down for me a bit. She goes to Umec, okay. She's walking down the street, and because some guys are watching her, she grabs them, tosses them against the wall, and says, "What's going on?"

Well, okay. That makes sense. It's in character for Lois to shoot first and ask questions later, I do believe.

What gets me is that she yanks this random stranger from off the street down, they have a few snippets of dialogue that indicate (and rightly) that Superman was being distracted by the shot (makes plot sense), but then it's never really shown who the guy was, what he represented, etcetera. The assumption is that he's from the Umeci government, but one little line of dialogue could have cleared that up a bit. Why was he following Lois? If his intentions were just to relay a piece of information, why not walk up to her? The whole sneaking around thing leads the reader mind to expect something more from him, something that isn't offered.

Lois then jumps to the conclusion that because the attack on her was about pulling his strings, logically, it had to be Checkmate?





I mean, look at the evidence present. Lois was shot. It was to distract Superman. To pull his strings. Who would want to do that?

I could put a link to the Who's Who section of this site, but I think you get the point. There are, literally, HUNDREDS, maybe THOUSANDS of people who would LOVE to pull Superman's strings. Why suddenly Checkmate? Granted, Checkmate has been going after Supes lately. But so has Luthor. So has Parasite. So has Zod. So has Ruin. On and on and on ad infinitum.

That pulled me out a bit.

Cut to Hamilton and Lupe. Good scene. One of my favorite scenes in all of the comics in the last year (before I even saw it, to wit) was the idea of Superman crushing Lupe's badge and handing it to her, telling her that he didn't like her behavior. It's quintessential Superman. I'm not going to tell you how to do your job and govern yourself, but I am going to show you what's right and what's wrong, that which we know instinctively. It's nice to see it brought back here, and realize that revenge is so coloring her viewpoint that it's going to destroy her. We can see it coming.

I don't want to elaborate more on that (and I don't have any special information, that's not what I'm saying, I know as much as any of you right now), but I do have an educated guess of an assessment, so take that for what you will. How vague can a reviewer be, I know. But I'll explain this paragraph after the Ruin storyline ends. Promise.

Hamilton pops in with the Giordi moment. "Hey, guess what! I figured out the problem!". Not mocking it, I actually love Hamilton in that role. I do want to know how the heck he got back into that role, but I stress that we've been told that will be resolved, and I'm trusting that.

There is one MAJOR failing here. It's really obvious.

Hamilton has two arms.

But he really only has one. Whups! It's hilarious, because his arm is what originally made him go bad again. It's that which has yet to be explained away, his return from bad to good, and to be honest, when I've confronted this kind of thing before, it's been frustrating and I've ripped the heck out of it. BUT, that's part of the good aspect of communicating with the fans. Because the creators communicate with us, we can know that Hamilton will be explained. That's reassuring.

But the extra hand gaffe, oy. That's simple character research right there. I know in previous issues his hand has been purposefully obscured, so I'm guessing this one falls to the editor to explain why he/she didn't catch it (I'm not too lazy to see if it was male or female, there were two listed).

Lupe going to "take care" of the Ruin situation without filing a report, and after tossing her badge in the garbage, very in-character. Awesome.

I note that this plotline was never resolved in this issue. (COUGH). And not unintentionally.

The Luthor scene, while awesome on many levels, also has flaws on many levels. How long have we just been begging to see Superman and Luthor throw down like this? Well, it was before I hit menopause, I'll tell you that much. So I was cheering when I saw them on the roof together, ready to fight. GREEN AND PURPLE! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

BUT, and this is the but that comes with reviewing and ends in blood, I had to then look at it critically and realize that the scene didn't really make all that much sense, no matter how cool it was.

Luthor has at his disposal people who would kill for him, all over the place. He doesn't have the ability to seek information at the Daily Planet without going there himself and hooking up some wires?

Also, and this is my biggest beef with the issue, Steve and I both noticed it. Superman sees Luthor for the first time since the presidency ended, and he doesn't say, "Uh, how are you still alive?" or "What do you want?" or "What's going on here?". He doesn't do what he did with the OMACs. "State your business. I know you have a history of violence, but I'm going to give you a chance before I tear you apart."

He just attacks Luthor. It's a bit out of character.

NOW. A caveat. It makes sense OUT of the context of this issue. Given everything that's been happening to Superman lately, he's under a lot of stress, so it makes TOTAL sense for him to go off the wall and shoot first and ask questions later, so long as he doesn't start accidentally killing people. He's confused, he doesn't know who to trust, his life is falling apart, and here's a guy who plays a big part in any time that kind of thing happens.

The frustration he's experiencing in his life makes the attack on Luthor understandable, if he's losing it, which he should be, given what's going on.

BUT, if he can fly out and be peaceable with the OMACs, it doesn't make sense that he would then immediately lose it and go guns-out for Luthor. Because, honestly, what's frustrating and destroying him more right now? A man he hasn't even SEEN in about 1-2 years (given the Azzarello year and the probably year between the end of the presidency and now, given no second term, in relative comic terms), or the OMAC units whose war just made him a potential aid-and-abettor for a murder?

Also, the methodology was a bit more Austen than Rucka. Grab Luthor by his NECK, where he's extremely vulnerable, LIFT HIM by that neck, and then slam him against the wall? A NORMAL person doing that might kill Luthor. Then again, Luthor could talk, so he must not have been holding him THAT tightly. Still, how else could he have been holding Luthor up? It's a bit incongruous.

Luthor then mocks him, saying, "Aho! See! You guys ARE getting more lethal! Look at how you're treating me!"

And that's a great character moment that almost makes up for the incongruity, honestly. Luthor's character is to look for ways that the heroes are not, and this adds fuel to his fire. The A to B that led us there is what got me. Or maybe just that Superman didn't express any humility for nearly killing a man just seeking information.

Superman also, truth be told, could have flown down at super-speed, ripped Luthor's suit apart, and tied him to the wall with bent up metal in about ten seconds flat if Luthor didn't have his shields up (which, by grabbing his neck, we know he didn't), so I'm wondering why Superman handled it the way he did. It goes to that frustration argument, which I buy, if only they hadn't shown him being so patient a minute ago.

Ruin and Superman fighting was great. I about shredded myself screaming "REVEAL! REVEAL!" at the page, and I was kicked in the butt and told to wait again by Infinite Crisis. But not in that bad way. In that "I'm begging for more" way.

THIS, my friends, is a top-notch ongoing mystery, and I'm still in love with it.

I will say two things.

I believe the "4.9 billion years" is a red herring. I believe Ruin is pretending to be crazy.

I also believe that Ruin is not Zod. I believe the Phantom Zone is the power source, but I also believe it is a red herring to promote Zod speculation.

If I'm wrong, feel free to laugh at me. I will. That I even care to speculate this much makes this beloved to me.

There were a few inconsistencies for the first time that I couldn't reconcile. That's never happened in this Adventures run, and given the quality of Infinite Crisis and everything else is going on, if one ongoing gets only SLIGHTLY dinged in the wake of the wave of RULE that is crashing down on all of our heads, I will not be upset in the slightest.

It just shows, to me, what Rucka brings to the table, and how much I'm going to covet his writer as a Buffy fan does Whedon...with a fetishism bordering on alarm.

Now I feel...dirty.

But anyway, these few problems do not tarnish what this issue brings. Luthor. Ruin a little more unmasked. Green and Purple suit. Superman in character. Lois closer to finding the truth. Lupe in crisis. And heck, the Daily Planet as it was meant to be, with integrity.

If this could be a 4.5, it could be, but we have to be whole numbers here.

5Art - 5: It's hard to categorize art that's done by two pencillers. I was half tempted to make a section for each artist, but then, I can't really do that. The review is supposed to touch upon the book's coherent narrative, and since it involved two artists, I have to judge both. Plus, they both did extraordinarily well.

Kerschl continues to impress me, particularly the way he's refining his character portrayal. It's a more traditional look, and it's experimenting a bit, but every character is distinctive. It's not flair for the sake of taking a namesake character and monkeying with it, at least as I see it. I loved the Planet work.

The other artist, Guedes, does good work as well. I like the level of detail he brings to the table, and with the colorist who did incredible work, I was quite impressed. Luthor's expressions were incredible.

5Cover Art - 5: WOW. Now THAT is a cover that pulls you in. Luthor and Supes, squared off, tons of background detail, a great symbolism to the issue at hand. I'd say this is probably my favorite Kerschl cover so far. And considering the Ruin cover, and the other great covers so far, that's saying something. The colorist for these covers deserves a bonus as well. Just incredible.

I wondered what that creature was at the top, and then I realized that it's a subtle nod to the Phantom can even see it there off to the right. That's care. That's subtlety. That's really good work.

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