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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #656

Superman #656

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 20, 2006

Cover date: November 2006

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciller: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Jesus Merino

"Men and Monsters"

Reviewed by: Nick Newman

Click to enlarge

Clark remembers back to his travels around the world after high school, when Callie uncovered a huge prehistoric trilobite and Clark had to save her from being crushed. It was there that Callie decided what to do with her life.

In the present, the discovery that Callie contacted Clark to see pounds Superman into the ground. Superman knocks it off and Subjekt-17 responds with a sonic attack. As the creature begins its next attack, it begins to speak Serbian, and Superman wonders if it picked it up mentally. Superman turns his attention to saving the bystanders, and Subjekt-17 uses the opportunity.

As the complex crumbles around them, Callie refuses to evacuate. She's found the records of Subjekt-17 and needs to find any information that could help Superman.

Clark flashes back to the day he saved Callie again. After being saved she tried to convince Clark that something had pushed her out of the way. Clark deflects her suspicions about the rumored 'Super-boy' of the Midwest that she's heard about. Clark never figured out if she suspected that he might be the 'Super-boy'.

Callie finds the records of the origin of Subjekt-17 and relates them to Superman. A spacecraft crashed in Russia in 1949 and inside they found the pilot dead. However, inside the craft they also found another alien, barely alive but pregnant. She died giving birth, but her baby survived. The baby slowly developed powers, and they experimented on him as he grew. Superman feels for the creature, if his spaceship had come down elsewhere his fate could have been the same, but it still needs to be stopped.

Slamming the creature a half mile into the ground, Superman saves the trapped soldiers. He tells Callie to keep looking for something that will stop it for good, and Callie tells Superman that Subjekt-17 is a damaged child, and he should try not to hurt him too much more.

Clark then slips back to the airport to protect his identity, but an earthquake shakes the airport. Subjekt-17 somehow finds Clark and attacks him. The creature begins to speak English, and Superman tries to reason with him. Callie then yells to him that certain frequencies can shut it down. Superman reproduces these frequencies and then attacks Subjekt-17. Suddenly a beam of energy strikes the creature. Superman looks up to find Arion floating there.

Arion tells him that if he is too late then Superman has already doomed the planet to a living hell.

3Story - 3: I really don't know what to make of these stories by Busiek. Up, Up and Away was great, but evidently Johns had more than his share to do with it. Since then, Kurt's quality has been all over the place. Mainly though, while the actual script has been pretty solid, the plot really suffers. Clark is written well in this issue. I like his internal monologue and I even like Callie, even if she is a throwaway character. The plot though, the plot sucks to put it bluntly. Maybe it'll get better. I really like Arion showing up, and the promise of some apocalyptic future caused by Superman, but this whole Subjekt-17 thing has been a drag. The past two issues should have been condensed into one, and the whole Subjekt-17 concept should have been rethought. The whole thing seems like Doomsday all over again. Dumb monster that's extremely powerful that gradually learns language? Yeah, that's Doomsday. Superman has suffered for a long time from a lack of good villains, and this arc isn't helping that any.

Busiek is a decent writer, I know he is, but we really need better ideas than this. It's still average, but it should be better than that.

5Art - 5: The art was fabulous though. Pacheco has been a favorite of mine since I encountered him on X-men in the late 90s, and his work here has been great. This issue was all about fight scenes, and Pacheco is really shining when it comes to action scenes. Every one of the fight panels is dynamic, while still maintaining a weight to it that I really like. It really conveys the sense of a brutal fight, rather than say something done by Ed McGuinness where everything just feels like a cartoon. Cartoon is great, but I'd rather have realism on Superman. Beyond just the pencils though, the coloring continues to be fantastic. I don't know what to call this effect, but the slightly darker color work is really excellent. I may not be thrilled about Busiek these days, but Pacheco can stay as long as he wants. I'm actually not looking forward to Kubert on Action (I prefer Andy to Adam), but I'm glad a top-notch artist like Pacheco will be on Superman.

3Cover Art - 3: I cannot figure it out, but something about this cover feels dated. Not extremely dated, but it feels like an early-to-mid 90s comic cover. Which isn't bad I guess, but that's what it reminds me of. That impression aside, there's a lot I don't like about this cover. First the lack of a background hurts, but that's at least partially redeemed by the snow effect. Still lazy, but at least they explain it. The biggest problem though, is the speech on the cover. If there's one thing I cannot stand, its speech on a cover. It's particularly bad when, like on this cover, the text doesn't accomplish anything. Aside from those problems, I like this cover. The fight pose has that same dynamic-yet-realistic element that the interior has, and it really reflects the interior of the book. If only they had thrown a background on it and deleted the text this would easily have been a four, if not a five, but with those strikes against it the cover is average at best.

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