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Superman: Strength #1

Superman: Strength #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 5, 2005

Cover date: March 2005

Writer: Scott McCloud
Penciller: Aluir Amancio
Inker: Terry Austin

"Part One: The Man Who Broke Superman's Arm"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

A man named Fido speculates on where Superman came from, who he grew up with, and decides that he must have grown up rich, in the lap of luxury.

Meanwhile, as a test of strength, they have hired a man to rob a nearby bank. Superman stops the villain, then flies up, having heard them talking about the test, warning them to behave.

Fido blows smoke in his face. Superman warns him and leaves.

Fido recalls to the group when his father broke Superman's arm in a lucky fight.

Pa Kent arrives in Metropolis, and Clark meets him at the train station. Lois picks them up and takes them home, where they talk about the Planet. Clark's first time in the big city comes up, and Pa tells the story.


They go to the store to get items, and the shopkeeper tries to swindle them. In the meanwhile, Clark watches an eclipse.

They leave, buying the outrageously priced fertilizer. Jonathan takes a few pieces of candy for Clark without paying, slipping, telling Clark it was because the shopkeeper had taken so much from people.

Clark starts eating frantically, and later, stands in front of a big field, looking off into the distance.

Fido starts outlining his plan, once again in the present. He reveals that he knows the location of a pair of gloves in a tech facility that can create a sort of portable hole that can take a person to anywhere on Earth, and that as long as they can keep Superman distracted, they can get to them.

As Fido outlines the plan, we see it in motion.

First, they blow up a bridge, then they light a hospital on the other side of town on fire, then they blow up a Space Needle-like restaurant, making Superman catch it and set it gently onto a lake. All the while, they break into the facility, just getting to the gloves in time for Superman to catch them.

Superman puts Fido in a choke hold. Fido turns the gloves on, creating a hole beneath them. Superman and Fido fall through. Fido activates the gloves again, and falls back into the lab, leaving Superman ten miles away. The gang jumps through the hole and goes back to the hideout. Superman arrives just a little too late, catching just his head in the hole. His body is stuck back in the lab.

Fido puts Superman's head in a jar, covers his eyes with lead glasses, and calls his father to come see his nemesis.

In the past, young Clark stares into the distance and starts running...

3Story - 3: This story has some really good points and some really bad points. I was expecting something completely different, so I was at first taken aback, but on second reading, the merits of the story became clearer.

The problem is, I came in expecting what the cover and the advertising offered, a story about the powers and limitations of Superman. That's not what this is. It's just a Superman story. A Superman story that shines at some points, and fails critically at others, at least, so far.

The great moments are easy to spot. Superman's reaction to the criminals talking of his powers, coming up, sitting on the table, being a man but still being a rational man, that's top-notch Superman. Threatening, but still non-violent. It's a hard balance to strike, because Superman can't enjoy being strong, he has to have humility, and the balance is struck well here.

The dialogue between Lois and Clark, the actions of Pa and little Clark, all excellent.

The entire Fido sub-plot is very cliched and kind of plodding. I wish it weren't here. I like the idea of Superman being a good guy, saving people on bridges, stopping hospitals from burning down, and even battling technology, but that's not what's at the core of this story, that's the framework this story is built around. We have the promise of an exploration of Superman's youth and his powers, padded with a cheap story about a goon with gloves, and that's confusing for the reader.

I do like the novel way with which Superman is caught, halfway through teleport, though I think that'd just kill him. It's a cool device, it incapacitates the unbound man.

I also like the way every main was spot on in character.

There was one moment that REALLY made me cringe, when Fido used the hole machine to create a hole beneath himself, and both Superman and Fido fell through. Look, Fido, Superman can FLY. If he's holding you up by your neck and you create a hole beneath him, you will remain hovering. His reflexes are fast enough so that even if he was putting weight on the floor, he could react at super-speed.

But assume you trick him into falling through a hole with you. He'd still have you again before you could fall enough for another hole.

Bad use of the physics of Superman there.

Otherwise, I think this story, with a few more issues, might make a promising conclusion, if the fog of Fido can be culled.

I also abhor the price, which is a factor in this rating. This story could just as easily have been two dollars in non-prestige format, and it wouldn't have changed much. I hate the way DC arbitrarily makes pieces prestige, when most of them frankly suck. I want to pay six dollars for a book when we have something truly amazing. Kingdom Come, Lex 2000. Not a simple Superman story. Just release it as a special and save us some dough. We'll still buy it. In fact, I know people that wouldn't buy it UNLESS it was cheaper. That's going to sell this story short. Simple economics. Lower price, higher utility.

I think this story may turn around in the ways that it is failing. I have hope.

4Art - 4: Vibrant, colorful, and alive.

It's a WEE bit cartoonish in some places, and Superman looks positively ancient, but once the vibe starts growing on you, this is a great piece of art. Especially the splashes, very well done. A lot of the characters have the same feel, but then, they're drawn well, so it works out. It's classic comic style, which is affronting when you're used to the craziness of the post-modern, which makes it all the more special. Ten years ago, it would have been a cliche, now it's a new area to explore again. That's what I like about art.

The women are fantastically well drawn. Lois in particular, just beautiful. I'm reminded of Frank Cho with this guy, with a more comic feel as opposed to realism. Awesome work. I look forward to more.

5Cover Art - 5: You know, I don't even think I need to say a thing about why this cover is a five. It's so incredibly obvious looking at it. It'd be like trying to describe why the cover to Action Comics #1 is a... oh, wait!

In all seriousness though, this image is gold on paper, gold enough to forgive even the garish title on the right. Alex Ross deserves a throne, man.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2005

February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005

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