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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #218

Superman #218

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 1, 2005

Cover date: August 2005

Writer: Mark Verheiden
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Alex Lei, Rob Lea, Mariah Benes


Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

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On television, a reality show talks about the power of nature, and what it can do to a society. The show reveals its topic to be Superman, and what he could do if he turned his powers on society.

Clark, distraught, laments and looks out the window, worried about how people perceive what he does.

Meanwhile, Sam Benjamin begins telling the tale of how he became Blackrock. Her relates the tale of how he was released from prison, went home, and heard a man making noise with his TV in the next room. He went next door, found the man watching TV, and realized that it was Blackrock, and that he derived his power from the stone in his chest, and that the power was relational to how strong the person was. The former Blackrock, being weak, had little power left.

Sam takes the rock and beats the man to death, taking the power and becoming the new Blackrock.

Blackrock attacks the city, sending a black beam through multiple buildings. Clark, in the Daily Planet, sees what's going on, tells Jimmy to evacuate, and changes into Superman.

He finds Blackrock in a communications center and tells him that he remembers the rock, but that the face is new. Blackrock responds by sending him through a building and into the streets below.

Blackrock blasts Superman through the street and into the sewer. Superman pulls himself back above ground and smashes into Blackrock.

Superman blasts Blackrock with heat vision, slowly overpowering him. Jimmy and his friend, on the street taking pictures, are scared away as the camera begins to melt and Superman refuses to let off.

Blackrock tires and falls.

Jimmy reassures Superman that he did right, but his female friend runs off, afraid of Superman. People begin to talk negatively about Superman, calling him a threat.

Superman takes the rock and throws it into the sun.

At a computer screen, a figure in the shadows watches, and thinks about how it is almost time to attack.

4Story - 4: To be honest, I'm conflicted about this plot. But I'm really enjoying the writing. I didn't like a LOT of Verheiden's work on Smallville, the comic, and in his episodes I am mixed, but so far he's been really incredible on Superman. The first two issues have wowed me in a way that is surprising given his past and my regard of his work. It's a great start out of the gate.

There are some problems.

What we have here, though it is disguised under some GREAT writing, is your average "villain comes to town" story. The kind of story that died in the early 90s for a good reason unless the villain coming to town is a major, MAJOR baddie. There is always a THREAT, but the threat is not necessarily, nor should it be in perpetuity, a goon who finds powers, attacks Superman, and has his butt handed to him. The format has simply changed. You balance a story out over a ton of issues, you humanize the character (even if you're not sympathetic), and along the way, peripheral villains may appear, but rarely does a goon just show up, attack, and fail miserably.

The point is not lost on me, though. The idea was a vehicle to show how Superman's powers are perceived as a threat. And it's done well in this issue. I am sick to death of stories where Superman laments the power he has (and this issue came close to that), but this story was less a lament of his powers and more of a ploy against bigotry, and in that, it is well put. Superman is definitely not lamenting his powers, but rather people's perceptions of them. Of course, that's almost the same thing, but I think Verheiden's entitled to the issue once, and it's not repetitious yet. I mean, Brian Azzarello did it for twelve straight issues, and Verheiden is picking up right after that, it makes character sense to give him a reason to realize that his powers are not a burden, even if I don't like the plot.

There's also the fact that Superman, over time, has become remarkably sensitive as to how people perceive his powers, and I don't believe for a second that he would lose his temper (which he does), or misuse his powers and almost hurt someone (the girl with the camera). That's the Austen side of what stinks about Superman writing, brute force for no reason. The cover seems to celebrate that.

But all in all, in context, there is a reason for every action, one thing follows the other, and despite these trappings of former failing writers, this story is entertaining, provocative, and to the core of what Superman is. Clark at the Daily Planet, actual Lois interaction, Jimmy, a classic villain, and a provocative background threat.

It's also a one-shot villain story about how Superman laments being Superman in ways.

So I go with my gut, which is that I enjoyed the story, but there were some flaws, so I take a point. Above average, and were it on a differing subject after all the recent abuses of the subject contained herein, I would likely have fived this issue.

A good start, honestly.

5Art - 5: I think Benes got the right idea going in here. He's got grim and gritty when Superman isn't around, and dark shading, but when Superman appears, there's bright, optimistic work. His action is incomparable, and his work is very bright, vivid, detailed... in short, incredibly well done. It's not as distinctive as other artists (meaning, he has nothing that leaps out at me as his own), but the art is still so well done that it's completely irrelevant. The action, the depiction of the mains, all very good, very well done.

A good start for Benes, as well.

5Cover Art - 5: This cover just screams. It's really a great cover. Of course, it plays right into that "Superman is a mean dude who will kill you" vibe they like to push to try and get the guys who like the Punisher to buy Superman (Clue: It ain't happening, even if Jim Lee draws it). Remember the cover where Superman is stopping bullets with his heat vision and looks like he's so angry he's about to eat a few babies? Yeah. That's the vibe I don't like.

But this cover has another aspect to it that brings that criticism into check. First, it's a blatant and great homage to the Mongul moment, where Superman just looks at Mongul with hate and distaste for being so evil, turns on the eyes, and says, "Burn.". The reason being it won't kill Mongul, but it will stop him, which is exactly what happened with Blackrock in this issue. That forgives the words, for sure.

It's also a scene that HAPPENED in this issue, which is a big plus for me.

And hey, just on a basic level, any time the cover would make a good poster that I would like to have, I five it.

Pretty darned good comic, overall. Rucka finally has some competition round here.

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

January 2005

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