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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #225

Superman #225

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 4, 2006

Cover date: March 2006

Writer: Mark Verheiden
Penciller: Ed Benes and Elton Ramalho
Inker: Ed Benes, Mariah Benes, Rob Leigh, Alex Lei

"To Be A Hero"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman stands on top of the Daily Planet building, watching the city go by. Lois comes up to speak with him, and after checking for eyes at super-speed, he kisses her and changes into Clark Kent.

In the news room, Clark and Lois observe fires in Los Angeles. Jimmy has been dispatched to report.

A couple watches as Jimmy passes by in a water dropping plane, and realize that there shouldn't be a fire, as it just rained.

Clark reaches the same conclusion looking up wire articles with Lois, and takes off to fight the fire, ditching Lois and dinner necessarily.

John Henry Irons learns that the Eradicator is still in a coma, and despite a hurt leg, still works to find out how to stop the OMACs, because he knows that Superman would not stop for an injury.

As the water plane passes by, Effigy, in the forrest, lobs flames at the plane, sending it crashing down.

Superman arrives to stop the plane, but finds himself bombarded by heat from Scorch, Heat Wave, Effigy, and Plasmus. Scorch explains that she's going to stop the heroes for mind-wiping the villains.

The plane crashes. Jimmy limps out with broken ribs, helping out one of the pilots. The fuel tanks explode.

On the Kent farm, Conner feeds the chicks, coming inside to hear news of the fire. When he does, he goes back to his chores, unready for action, but he admires Superman's dedication.

The villains attack, explaining that they now know there are no stops after the death of Max Lord. They have decided to band together to attack him, because one at a time, they would undoubtedly fail. Superman tries to explain that Wonder Woman went too far.

Jimmy, meanwhile, tries to help the pilots, only to find himself surrounded by a wall of fire.

The couple from earlier jumps into their vehicle to go try and help, knowing the nearby woods and realizing the plane's victims might perish.

On New Cronus, Supergirl worries about the battle ahead, but is reassured thinking of Superman, talking with Firestorm.

Superman explains that he knows what Wonder Woman did to be wrong, and that they've changed the rules and come out better people.

Jimmy and the pilot are saved by the couple, who drive into the fire storm.

Scorch, realizing they were sent in on false pretenses, calls off the attack and stops the others from attacking Superman. Superman creates an updraft, suffocating the villains and taking them out of the fight.

Nearby, Bizarro watches Superman and admires him (or hates him).

Superman rushes off to help Jimmy, who is now trapped in the vehicle with the couple behind a wall of fire. He saves them.

Superman asks them why they helped Jimmy at personal risk, and the couple replies that his example leads them. They ask themselves "What would Superman do?"

5Story - 5: By far the best script yet from Verheiden, and his whole arc is trending toward better in many ways. I think it's because he started in the rut many writers hit with Superman, the "villain comes to town" thing, a rut Simone never really got away from of late, for comparison, and yet here, after a few ho-hum stories, he breaks out with continuity inspired, far-reaching, and inspiring stories.

It's like the JD Finn Austen issues, except this isn't Verheiden's last hurrah, which is great. It's actually making me eager to see him take the Superman/Batman reins.

Last issue, though I didn't review it, was also excellent, leading into how well this story works (it's a factor). Characterizing Luthor (albeit with strange continuity), and showing a Superman to Luthor comparison, and now this issue, showing why everyone looks up to him with some truly well-put and apt characterization.

Almost every impression of Superman in this story is geared towards how he's regarded, and it's a test that's passed well. Even by the villains, whose preconceptions are based on the lies of evil men.

It might be derivative, if only it hadn't been so well written. It's like the Rucka "Lois gets shot" arc. How many times has Lois been threatened? Is there any possibility she will die? No. But it's the execution. Likewise, with Superman's character, you know he's not gonna ever go Parallax, so his character shining is a foregone conclusion, but if you dress it in an epic story, give it a fitting backdrop, and expand it a bit, as this story does, it works out really well.

Lois, Bizarro, Jimmy, John Henry, Conner, Jonathan, Supergirl, Firestorm, it's almost TOO many people. You don't just have guest stars for the sake of guest stars. But ALL of these characters are major players in the OMAC and Infinite Crisis storylines, so they all work really well for this particular work.

There are a few problems. I still don't understand why Clark is demoted (that's across all the books), I don't understand why Superboy is afraid to fight the good fight. Yeah, I read Teen Titans, but hey, I mean, he has the power to save lives and he's just sitting there in self-pity because Luthor took advantage of him. I want to smack him. So in the middle of a fight Luthor might turn him into an evil killing machine. Oh yeah? Well why wouldn't he do it on the Kent farm, then? It's like knowing you have a timebomb in your head. Do you just give up on life, or do you press on? I'd guess the Punisher, or Cyclops, or a whiny anti-hero might give up and cop to selfish indulgence like that, but not Conner.

But neither of these (I'm assuming) are Verheiden's fault or choice.

Excellent attention to continuity with the day to night, Superman checking before kissing Lois. The devil in the details, whipped back to Georgia.

Some of Verheiden's choices that fail are the dialogue, in two places. First, Bizarro again suffers from the reverses that won't work correctly (if you've read my first review on that, I won't go into it again. If not, check back a few reviews. It's a syntax failure). It's annoying, but, given that the context is pretty bittersweet and a nice character moment, it's more than forgivable.

Further, there was one confusing exchange:

Superman (to Scorch): So... you feel... threatened... Maybe... you should... You made a choice... toward evil. The difference being... we know we were wrong. We don't play by those rules anymore... and we're stronger for it.

This sounds, on first reading, like Superman is saying that he knew killing Max was wrong, they don't play by those rules anymore (that killing is bad) and that they're stronger for it.

On a second reading, it makes sense, but ambiguity like that is the writer's job to eliminate. I might have made it:

"So... you feel threatened... maybe that's because you made a choice... toward evil... and you know how hard we fight against that. The difference between our force and your force... when one of you kills... when one of you rapes... you don't feel remorse... when Wonder Woman stepped out of line... we reassessed. I didn't wipe any minds... and I won't let it, or what Wonder Woman did, happen. Not again. Not on my watch."

It's, of course, longer, and I'd have to edit it, for sure, but anyway, it would have gone more to Superman's character to have a little more remorse and a little less brevity, even though I know the format is short.

Also, "What would Superman do?"?

Now, there's paralleling Superman to Jesus, and then there's, well, this. It's a beautiful sentiment, but it's also skirting the line of estranging commitment to a particular ideology. In this case, Christianity. The endless debate which I parrot again and again is that Superman is likely religious, but showing him as a religious figure in the messianic Christian sense is detrimental to character.

Of course, I feel really hypocritical saying that, and maybe I should, because I loved the heck out of it in context with the Superman Returns trailer. But it was more that the trailer showed how important it is when a father sacrifices a son for a greater good (a frequent storyline across ALL religions and mythologies) that has particular AMERICAN significance because of the nation's steadfast dedication to Jesus, the sacrificial son. Whereas this is taking an overtly Christian phrase, "What would JESUS do?" and cut-and-pasting Superman into it.

But for all of that prattling, it couldn't do anything detrimental to the character, the overall story, or the fact that, as of the last two issues, I've jumped from whaling on the Verheiden horse to riding it.

And I wish this run only the continued best in that regard. Rock on.

Side and final note: This marks 150 issues (not including the zero) I've been with this title. Hard to believe it's been FIFTY issues since the Jokerized Doomsday, isn't it?


4Art - 4: Where the fill-in art filled in, there were some issues, but it was mostly pretty good. Benes continues to impress me. Jimmy actually had freckles this time around. Booya. Either they listened to my whining, or I have a big arrogant head. Hmm... wonder which?

(head grows bigger)

But regardless, I'm glad it's fixed.

I slapped myself on the wrist because I looked at the issue and gave it my early once-over for what I'm going to whine about (ah, reviewer's lamented profession), and one of the first things I said in my notes was "check splash pages". And that's one of the things that I check on constantly but comment on very little... splash pages and pacing. From the writer's perspective, it's obvious when a lot of story is being crammed into a little space, and sometimes art can make up for that, but often not. Also equivalently bad are when a writer tries to make up for a lack of story, or decompress a story, by having WAY too many splash pages. Cough cough I mean Frank Miller's All-Star Batman cough cough why am I coughing when I just said it so blatantly cough cough?

If you look at that book, issue three in particular, you can see about 30 splash pages, which is remarkable, given they have 22 pages of story. Actually, no kidding, there were 12. Two of them were double-page spreads.

That's too much.

In this book, I could have sworn, going back in for that second look and summary review, it had about 5 splash pages, and my threshold for an average comic (as opposed to something created to be a graphic novel) is 2-3 splash pages an issue, MAX, before it becomes gratuitous or story gap filling.

There was one.

What does that say? That says that this story was so well drawn, it makes you feel like you're looking at splash after splash. That's EXCELLENT.

The coloring is a big factor. The mood set by this incredible coloring job is half of the work involved, and whoever did this coloring, please... continue. DC, you give that person a raise.

5Cover Art - 5: It's not anything to do with the issue, but it's so full of detail, so iconic, and so bold that it's an obvious seller. Good work, a great cover, and yeah, I'll take that as a poster. Thanks.

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

January 2006

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