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Mild Mannered Reviews - Specials

All Star Superman #5

All Star Superman #5

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 30, 2006

Cover date: October 2006

Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Frank Quitely
Inker: Jamie Grant

"The Gospel According to Luthor"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Lex Luthor stands trial for his crimes against humanity, and is sent to the pen unrepentant, designated for electric chair punishment.

Clark Kent goes to visit Luthor in his incarceration. Luthor, brash, taunts him for his bumbling and shows him the Bibliobot robot he's constructed, which can read most every work written to any philistine in HIS prison.

Kent goes about the interview, accidentally saving Lex from a bad power supply, then watching Lex as he works out, taunting Kent all the while.

Luthor examines Kent's shorthand while mocking it, lifting heavy weights.

He tells Clark that were it not for Superman, he might have a chance with Lois Lane, and taunts him for his flabby physique.

Lex asks how Superman is doing, pointing out how he's probably pale and feeling badly. Clark responds that he seems fine...

Clark asks Lex why he squanders his intellect on such a quest, to destroy Superman, and Lex explains that, like his microcosmic city in prison, he just seeks to make a better society.

Luthor taunts him for having "Superman" style eyebrows.

The Parasite bellows, and Luthor tells Clark to ignore it. But Parasite grows with Clark nearby, breaks his restraints and begins to attack the guards.

Luthor stands, arrogant, telling Kent that he's in the Luthor world now. Kent saves him from other villains who try to kill him, but Luthor is so focused that he can't see what's going on. Tear gas canisters come in, but Parasite isn't taken down. Kent and Luthor run.

Police suddenly find themselves outside, thanks to Superman.

Kent and Luthor go back toward Luthor's cell, with Luthor calm, and Clark watching the situation through the walls. The Parasite bursts through toward Clark. Luthor pumps him full of a few rounds. Seeing this, nearby prisoners cheer him on and declare that he's earned leadership.

Luthor stomps Parastie, who collapses under the weight of too much power. Luthor explains that the weight of his bullets stopped the beast, and the prisoners swear allegiance.

Back in his cell, Luthor explains how well he's manipulating the world in his war against Superman, and dramatically describes how he's going to enter the room and shake hands with a baboon in a Superman suit, and sure enough, he has, having made a passage down beneath the prison with the Bibliobot by using sound waves from Moby Dick at incredibly frequency.

His henchwoman meets Clark in a boat and takes him away down what seems to be a sort of river Styx, as Luthor explains that he is the one responsible for why Superman is dying. He repencils his eyebrow, which was wiped off in the fight, to accidentally mimick Superman's (reviewer: I think. Read below). Clark grimaces, having his story.

5Story - 5: Easily the best issue of the series so far, and easily one of the best Superman stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Morrison, hands down, GETS Luthor. In this single issue, we have more to that character than the entire series they weaseled away to Brian Azzarello.

Every single panel and character movement goes to strengthening and at the same time tearing down Luthor, and it's masterful. From the old school tricks to the modern philosophy of why he hates Superman, this is everything I hope to see and everything I hope to write if I get the chance to write Lex.

Clark is also exquisitely characterized, bumbling purposefully to save lives and to carry the plot forward. Tripping on the cords, losing his glasses, defending Superman. It's great.

Shorthand: For Clark, a convention (characterizing him), for Luthor, something new to learn and conquer (characterizing him). Even the simple things, like that. Just incredible writing.

Lex taunting Clark's physique is awesome, and could only work right now with this Quitely Superman. He just looks like a putz, even though he's drawn so that anyone who knows the secret can see he's imitating it. I can't think of another artist who's gotten that close to it since Matthew Clark for me.

Lex blaming Superman for Clark not getting Lois is classic.

There are issues, but they in no way overshadow this story. Still, they have to be mentioned, because this is a story in context, and always will be.

First, the schedule. NOW, the masthead reads "bimonthly." Last...December, was it? When the last issue came out anyway, I got a lot of flak for pointing out the fact that this book and All-Star Batman take forever to come out when, given that they're not in continuity, there's no reason to put them out save in a timely matter beyond pure greed. It hurts the story, and it hurts sales, ultimately, I believe. You think it's selling hot now? Imagine if it were regular.

It hurts the story in that I can't honestly remember if Superman is healed or not, or if he's still dying. As I recall, he's fine now, didn't he heal himself somehow? If so, that makes Luthor's revelation all the more to the detriment (and irony) of his character. If not, that makes the ending a real cliffhanger. Problem is, I don't know, because I didn't look it up on the internet or in back issues and I won't.

Here's where someone writes me a letter (and it happens all the time) saying, "IT'S YOUR JOB AS A REVIEWER TO KNOW EVERYTHING!"

No. It's my job as a reviewer to know YOU. And how you would react to this story. And how that works with how I would react to this story. And I know that you guys, like me, when you're not reviewing a story, would regard this as you would regard most stories, and NOT hit the internet to find information about past stories if you just forgot stuff. And if I forgot it, a good chance says that you did too, given that I'm an average comic reading schlub.

Infinite Crisis? Different story. It's an event, you'll need to hit the net.

Your average monthly book? Well, hopefully now you see why I'm a bit peeved at the release schedule.

Also, there's an issue that Morrison consistently seems to fail with, and that's making sure that Superman CARES about collateral damage, the fancy ministry of information term for dead, bleeding civilians. This issue takes steps to rectify this, showing Superman taking the police outside (in a panel you could miss if you blink...I didn't see it until the second read-through, I was so riveted on Luthor), but bottom line, Superman does nothing to stop the monster from hurting prisoners, and I believe Superman would drop his secret identity even to save the lives of prisoners, who were clearly at risk here.

Part of dealing with the dual identity is getting Supeman out of situations like this, and yes, it would have broken the narrative flow, but then, what's better, character inconsistency or a narrative flow? It made what was otherwise a perfect issue flawed. A simple re-write could have saved that, by, say, Superman blocking between Parasite and the prisoners with a well-placed wall cave-in. Or anything, really. Have Parasite suddenly turn from the prisoners towards Kent, then have the same outcome with Lex shooting him. Instead, we see him attacking prisoners, and Clark nervous but not doing anything about it when he took pains to save guards.

Also, Lex's eyebrow is unclear. I'm going to assume (because that makes story sense) that he accidentally penciled in Superman's eyebrow, because that would show how though outwardly he hates Supes, inside, he just wants to BE Supes, that's all (and that's just it). But it's unclear because honestly, that looks more like a Luthor eyebrow than a Superman one in the end there, even if the Luthor eyebrow next to it is different. How can I explain that? You see why it was confusing? I can't even describe it. Point being, I get the symbolism, and well done on Morrison's part, but it could have been clearer.

Final factor: Average comic? 13 pages of ads. This one?

TWENTY-EIGHT. ENOUGH. We're paying the normal price, we shouldn't get extra ads just because this one sells better. Greed, greed, GREED.

5Art - 5: Masterful as well. It's almost as if I'm creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, but as I said, like with New X-Men, Quitely warms up with me as he goes along and gets more of a feel, getting more and more into the characters, and here is no exception. Lex and Clark and the prison and even Parasite just blow me away.

I think I've seen few panels as well done as the one where Lex and Clark are going down the stairs, from both a writing and a drawing perspective. It plays on so many psychological angles, and yet it's so simplistic that you can just ignore it if you'd like. Being a minimalist at my cruel, cold, noveling heart, I take a perverse pleasure in this page, and it elevates Quitely's game to me, makes him someone I watch closer.

5Cover Art - 5: Representative of what's happening in the issue, a great pose with a classic looking threat, awesome coloring, great depictions. Not much more you can ask for in a cover. And hey, no words!

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2006

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