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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #214

Superman #214

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 9, 2004

Cover date: April 2005

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams, Richard Friend, and Sandra Hope

"For Tomorrow" - Part Eleven

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman and Zod do battle. Superman laments trying to create a world in the Phantom Zone, and understands what his father felt when Krypton split, as Zod and his men take "Metropia" apart.

In a lab, Orr talks of the One Man Army Corp and experiments to cure cancer with shady figures. He indicates four experiments, of which Daniel is four and Equus was three. Equus' claws are (assuming he meant Equus, the dialogue makes it vague and near impossible to be sure) angel bones, and they cured cancer using something akin to voodoo (bear with me here).

In the same lab, Daniel is revealed to be growing in his wrist the dagger that Orr fought for. He is hooked up to machines, and his eyes have turned green.

Superman is pummeled by Zod. An old man approaches, and calls to Superman, who is then beaten more.

Superman recalls how he created Metropia in the Phantom Zone as a way to save Earth in the event of a catastrophe like what befell Krypton.

Zod fumes that Superman changed his realm, indicating (I think, bear with me) that Zod was banished to the Phantom Zone in the REAL Krypton (as opposed to the pocket universe Krypton Zod or the Zod from Pokolistan).

We see the Birthright Jor-El finding the Phantom Zone with the old man that called to Superman earlier, and the old man appears to be sucked in (not sure). [Or maybe the old man IS Zod? (I thought Zod was a warrior leader, right?) I don't know, it's very confusing. I apologize, but I've scrutinized it about ten times and can't summarize it with any more clarity than that. Which speaks to the writing. But I'll save that for below. There is also the fact that the Zod character looks a lot like the man with the staff earlier. There is also the fact that Zod, honest-to-God, changes his face every panel when his mask is off. It's very confusing. I think it's supposed to indicate that things are off in the Phantom Zone (per its discorporate nature) but if things are discorporate, why are they maintaining their consciousness and essential forms? It's odd.]

At any rate, we see that Superman used the sphere to create Metropia, then washed it from his brain, leaving its existence known to only one person.

Then, somehow, Superman sent the sphere into Metropia, the sphere that either projects or controls who goes to Metropia. Then just decided to forget it and thus washed it from his mind (seriously).

There, Zod found it, and then sent it back, hoping that it would bring back Superman (really, that's about what it seems to be, I guess). Maybe that means that he's behind the disappearances, but that isn't said, and it doesn't make much sense, really (because why would it work with the rules of outside if it's inside the Phantom...sorry, I shouldn't be speculating here, but this is where you hear the story, and I just can't give you a coherent one, and that's frustrating).

Battling, Superman then steals the sphere while Zod threatens Lois, and twists it, making it go back to the real world. And where is it?

In front of the locked up Daniel Leone.

1Story - 1: Where to begin? Where to begin.

This is like that one episode of South Park where Cartman actually tastes the tears of his enemy and laughs. Why? Well, because in all of my time here at the Homepage, and this includes the abysmal Joe Casey, Steven Seagle, and even the Austen run (despite it suddenly turning around with the last two issues), I have never read a single more confusing and horrible Superman story.


So I sit here, about to plow into this story, and I know how easy it will be, how much there is to say, it's like having this great idea for a story and being able to just go ahead. Now, all of my cards are laid out, I know this story (or lack thereof), and it's time to crack my knuckles and bust out on this crap. And that's the only fair term, crap. Crap with a flowery bow, as I have said, is still crap, and like Lee or hate him, this story can't be saved by pretty pictures.

So many people wrote me when I first started pegging this story for what it was early on...I gave the first issue a fair trot, and then realized more and more that this was really just an odd mish-mash of bad dialogue, posed situations, pet villains, and continuity MESS.

Why did this have to be a year in the future, I wonder? Why couldn't Lois have been missing for a month? As the story draws to a close, I find the major flaw not the flow, which is way too slow, nor the idea, which is boring but passable, or even the dialogue, which is about as incoherent as a mouse trying to speak English. The major flaw is the fact that this story opens up more questions than it answers, and they're just silly.

Metropia. Seriously. Any grown man who names a fantasy land Metropia needs a drop punch to the pills. It's ridiculous. It's like Kryptonopolis, sister city in metaphor to Metropolis. Give me a break.

Here's a little primer on the Phantom Zone. There are multiple interpretations, but all involve being totally discorporate, a place which is like Hell. Like, you know, you're torn apart, inside out, you don't know who you are, you're lost, lost, lost. It's like Purgatory, too. At least, that's how I've always read it in all the mediums I've seen.

Apparently, now it's just some kind of alternate universe where things are just a little off.

But I can guarantee you this... it doesn't have a sun.

Ergo, assuming Zod was, as it seems in this comic, placed into the Phantom Zone by Jor-El on accident or as punishment (another impossible to discern idea), he went in as a Kryptonian, and he had no access to the sun. So how did he get armor, how did he stay together, and for the love of monkeys, how did he get the powers of a yellow sun?

Also, why so many of the same character all over the place? Four Supergirls, three Zods... does every writer have to have their own version of the biggies? Why not one Zod?

I'll tell you why. It's a secret. When you put KNEEL BEFORE ZOD in front of people in a new way, folks think that'll sell more comics. And sadly enough, it does. That doesn't mean it makes for a good story, or good continuity. Continuity that is, as of Berganza's run, totally destroyed. I think that's the biggest failing of 98 on. They need to decide where to go. I've been saying this for five years. They need to pick a direction. Birthright, a new Crisis, whatever, and figure what they're going to stick with, and tell stories in that framework. How many Kryptons, how many Zods, how many confusing stories will there have to be before people just give up?

Now, who made the people disappear?


Why would he?

What purpose would it serve to surround himself with people?

If there were guardians, (Clark bot and Jor-El and Lara bot), why didn't they tell Superman, if that was their purpose?

Why is anything corporate in the Phantom Zone? Why is there any sense to it?

Where are all of the people who disappeared?

Seeing as Superman is responsible for the disappearing, he is now a criminal. His meta device which he created caused the abduction of 100,000 people. Imagine if someone else did that, even on accident. You'd probably want a guy like Superman to put him out of commission, wouldn't you?

Which brings me to the egregious truth that Azzarello has made Superman the villain in his own comic book.

So Orr is played up to have a big role, and instead all he's doing is hunting down relics and kidnapping Leone? Lame. Dumb creation, unappealing. It's like making Boba Fett a seventies looking dude with virtually no cool toys. Why bother?

So they've cured making people into metas with voodoo? And Equus' claws are the wings of angels?


What in the...

Now, what, people will just be cured of cancer in the DC Universe?

And Father Leone is now gonna be a villain or something for one issue (because that's all there is left to wrap up ALL of the loose ends, one issue, and it ain't gonna happen).

Why does Superman still have powers in the Phantom Zone? And if he does, why is he not more juiced up than Zod?

And for that matter, why doesn't he fight Zod? Like, at all? Azz just has Zod beat him for 22 pages. And after he beats him, he taunts him. And then he beats Superman. And then he taunts Superman. Let's play count the panels where Superman sits on his knees in front of Zod or is laid out flat in front of Zod and has Zod taunt him without doing anything about it. I count 18.

Number of times Superman attacks Zod?


So this is the big payoff? Zod beating the crap out of Superman without Superman fighting back at all! Oh, great! Next can we have Metallo pounding on him for ten straight issues while new characters we could care less about float in ancillary fashion around the Phantom Zone and maybe Cadmus?

It's crap.

How did Equus get into the Phantom Zone? How did he run the disappearing machine? It seems Superman operates it by moving his hands in a certain combination at Super-speed.

Why would Equus work for Zod? Why did Equus change his clothes? It appears that's all that is changed in Azz's Phantom Zone... clothes and facial hair. Crap!

I like Star Trek because it has a theory for every line of techno-babble.

For instance, take the miliCochran. It's an actual, measurable unit in theoretical science. Or the warp field...there are rules to maintain it. Or the shield bubble.

When Geordi says that he can't go beyond warp 9.5, there's a reason based in the exponential relation of the warp decimal point to speed and acceleration.

That makes warp 9.5, while techno-babble, sensible. Even cool.

But when a man in a lab where they're using voodoo, angel wings, and cancer to create who knows what, having a character say:

"The haptic, ologotronic, and hinge tech have all been retained, but--with a bonus... ...nanoparticle magneto-rheological fluids, housed in a carbon nanotubular vasculator system."

Almost makes me close the book and give up. Period.

Equus' claws are the bones of an angel? WHAT?

So the Sphere is what sends people to the Phantom Zone. And Superman knows this. But instead, he makes himself forget about this, this dangerous weapon? Why would Superman do that? Sure, he felt arrogant about making it, but why would he not want control of it? If you can explain that to me, you can also, while you're at it, explain coherence in the Phantom Zone.

For that matter, when did Superman get the power to just wipe whatever he wanted from his memory?

And Brian have squandered an opportunity that men like me can only dream of.

I am glad that this will be my last regard of your work on this title. I hope the fame from the one-stop shop with the Man of Steel was worth it. Maybe you can come back when you want to stay for a while and make a difference with the character with a decent story, an ongoing plan, and more than just fluff and "epic" sounding dialogue that is indiscernible from poetry pulled from a hat.

4Art - 4: I love Lee's work. I can't deny it. It's shameful that he's forced to simply draw Superman kneeling and getting beaten up. If only we could see a decent Supes in action.

I take one for Lee making it unclear if the old man was Zod or not, and for me not being able to figure out what was up with Zod period...though Lee had bunk for story he could have made it clearer.

3Cover Art - 3: Well, here's what we WANTED to see, perhaps, Superman throwing down with Zod. Too bad Superman never threw this punch. Too bad Superman never connected with Zod.

And too bad they had to go and return to the flat, colorless background. Imagine if they had put Metropia back there. I mean, name aside, the place is beautiful.

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