Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman Annual #13

Superman Annual #13

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 28, 2007

Cover date: January 2008

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

"The Fall"

Back-Up Story: "The Best Day"

Writer: Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Madalhaes

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman talks about his predicament with the Phantom Stranger, who hits him with a magical blessing before sending him back to Arion.

We again see Superman dropping the wall of water on the castle, which falls to pieces, the shield dropping.

Arion attacks Superman, and Superman plows through with Stranger's shield. Arion sends two sea beasts to attack Superman, a manta and a tentacle sporting bass-looking guy.

Superman starts to defeat them when a Cthulhu looking Arion arises from the water, attacking Superman. Superman banters with Arion, then pummels him with one punch. Arion tries to get back into the fight, but Superman takes his anchor objects.

Consequently, the castle collapses.

Superman deals with the wave. The two monsters turn back into Young Gods (not sure if they're the same as the ones that stayed behind, see review) and leave for New Genesis. Superman takes Arion to the authorities.

Arion reappears in the 1600s, revealing that he cast a long-term disguise on the "fake" Arion to make Superman think he'd caught him.

Lana Lang talks to her absent son after the cameras are revealed to be a Lexcorp saving success.

Superman looks around the city, seeing Squad K, Prankster escaping, and Lois and Chris waiting on the ground.

Superman attacks two faceless goons and saves a woman.

In Iran, Khyber rises from the grave.

1Main Story - 1: A pretty generic end to a generic tale, overall. It's tragic, because the Camelot Falls issues offered so much promise in terms of a well to tap, and yet here, we have an issue about Superman fighting three giant sea monsters that are as lame as lame can get, an anti-climactic resolution, and what appears to be rampant sloppy writing and editorial control (and that's not even mentioning the backup story, see below). Cthulhu had some promise, but if Mighty Cthulhu is taken out with one punch, what's the point of having him around?

When I say sloppy writing, I refer to a few errors that are obvious and convoluted, some wasted pages, and repeated dilemmas. These are errors that a college student might make, but not someone being attentive to their craft.

Repeated dilemma (without escalation): The castle, which we already saw collapse last issue, collapses again at the beginning of this one, and then collapses again later in the issue. To make matters worse, Superman leaves to stop the tidal wave after the second collapse, but apparently the first collapse didn't cause one? It seemed bigger to me.

Wasted pages: The aforementioned castle collapse repetition. Superman beating the two thugs at the end of the issue, which seems to have purpose in that Superman is thinking about the Arion dilemma. Problem being, he's been thinking about the Arion dilemma for ten issues now already.

Wasted pages: Lois getting worked up about what's going on with Superman and then going to do something about it, then immediately later cutting to her at a hotdog stand unconcerned. Don't introduce a dilemma you don't resolve, etc, or if that's not the introduction of a dilemma, why waste a page with it. Obviously, Lois would be concerned. It's plot irrelevant.

Error/sloppy editing or writing (depends, read on): In the "Young Gods" issue, we see that two Young Gods have stayed behind. One of their names is "Varak," and they are a black dude with dark hair and a white dude with white hair. In this issue, there are two remaining Young Gods, but their names are Sarka and Turrek, and they're a white dude and gal, both with blonde hair.

Now, this could quite honestly be two different Young Gods. Okay. Fine. Then what was the point of introducing the other two? Retroactive redundant pages.

Now say there's an artist error in terms of skin and hair color. Okay. Then how did the names change?

Okay. Say there's a name change goof and a skin and hair color goof, but they're the same guys. Okay. Then why does Superman recall back with his "super-brain" and remember that he counted fewer leaving then stayed, when in the "Young Gods" issue, if you look at it, the two remaining New Gods say that they sent proxies with Lightray?

How does Superman know their names, regardless?

Pulled me out of the story, but beyond that, it's just strange. Almost as strange as the concept that an Earth sorcerer can somehow control a pair of New Gods (Re-read that GODS thing), and that when he does, he would make them (his proxy fighters) "weaker" than his own version (Cthulhu) and yet his monster (Cthulhu) goes down faster than the pair put together.

Speaking of which, Cthulhu goes down with one big punch, as I have mentioned. GAH! It's like I was expecting a philosophical debate with two patties and cheese, and Arion just up and said, "I'm gonna turn into a big monster and hit you! Nyah!" Devoid of character, completely maladroit from what came before (a thinking villain), and just... strange.

Arion goes back to the past, and Superman doesn't realize he's glamoured the fake Arion. This is odd, considering that he disguises the other Arion AFTER he's already lost his powers, and given that Superman has his touchstone objects. In other words, yes, Arion's powers are magical, so Supes might not have seen them, but Arion at that point was not magical, right?

The Lana thing pretty much disgusted me too. It was Lana from Smallville transplanted into the comics. Not in look. Not in past. Just in attitude of others towards her. She's a contemptible person, largely, right now, given that she's left her husband over a man she can never have, she's letting her kid grow up in a single parent household instead of working on her relationship, and she's focusing a ton of energy on a Fortune 100 that she isn't even qualified to run. And now here, she takes an invention someone else has created, and she co-opts it and uses it to make money, and everyone turns to her and says, "Face it, you're amazing!"

And then BANG, Khyber still lives. That much we could see from a mile away, but at least it was semi-interesting. Maybe we might actually see some more Camelot Falls in the next Camelot Falls story instead of, as we laboriously see again, Squad K (lame), Prankster being arrogant and sidetracking the plot, or Young Gods from nowhere. Or even Subjekt-17.

All in all, this story was a two to four issue dilemma that stretched to ten, and the finale was less than rewarding.

4Main Art - 4: There are a few pages with dry paneling, but otherwise, the whole thing pops with detail and strong character. I could have enjoyed better design on the sea monsters, but every panel flows into the next, and there's strong work here.

"Fortress Fact File"

(Subjekt-17 and Khyber)

Two pages with art describe Subjekt-17 and Khyber.

1Fact Files - 1: If we've been reading so far, we know this stuff, so this doesn't really do too much for me. It's kind of like saying, "Oh, you're reading? Well, here's what you just read again." I'm sick and tired of repetition in a medium that is already far too short in periodical length. EVERY page counts, and when you waste them, it irks me. See the next story...

Beyond that, it indicates that Khyber is presumed dead two pages after they show him resurrected. DUR, editorial.

5Fact File Art - 5: Even if the origin is a waste of time, the pictures are quite compelling. Subjekt-17 doesn't look as raw and archetypical as he has in previous issues, here he looks somewhat neat. Doesn't change his origin from a stereotype or give him any depth, but a nice picture. Khyber, as well, is very awesome, and the splash is very well utilized to meld organically many concepts. Well done.

Back-Up Story: "The Best Day"

Writer: Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Madalhaes

Superman takes Supergirl, Lois, Krypto, Chris, Martha, and Jonathan on a trip to a planet he's named "Terabithia" where humans can fly.

They spend the day fishing, talking, eating, and exploring Krypton's past with Supergirl. Ma and Pa then recall finding Clark, and they return home.

1Back-Up Story - 1: I am quite literally so disgusted with this story that it makes me want to stop reading comics. I know I sometimes play up stuff and go in character, but in all seriousness, this is...

It's not that I don't like the idea that Superman has a place called Terabithia that his family would enjoy. Or that I don't like Superman's parents ruminating on the past. Or that I don't like seeing the Superman Family together, even if I do lament how many there are. As I've always said, continuity is irrespective to a damned good story.

Therein lies the rub.

THIS IS NOT A STORY. And it still got published.

"But Neal, it's on paper, it has art, it has words, and it obviously concludes!"

Yes. But read the d#%ned thing. It has NO CONFLICT. It is a story with NO CONFLICT, and it was published by DC Comics.

This story is pure $%#@%&$@%*#. Silver Age style, no less.

And that word that is blanked out rhymes with elation and refers to self-gratification. Family friendly website and all, but I can give you adults hints.

The closest this comes to conflict is an implied future conflict.

It is important to note that this is not a conflict.

This hurts as a reader and a fan, but also as a writer, because I spend days, months, and YEARS crafting the best possible conflict to keep a mind, even if it's mine, entertained. I remember writing a story about going to the store when I was in third grade, THIRD FRICKING GRADE, and when I turned it in, the teacher said, "That's a very nice story, but did something interesting happen? This is just a list of what you bought and a bunch of descriptions."

And it was. And that's what this is. It's the story of Superman going someplace and talking about the history of Krypton. Beyond that, it also REPEATS, for the five millionth time, Clark arriving on Earth without ANY REAL REASON.

It's like watching Leave it to Beaver, the people are so glibly self-satisfied, only WITH NO CONFLICT.

I am not saying a story cannot be written without conflict and be entertaining. It has happened. I have seen it. I like to arrogantly think I've written a few poems that are without conflict and yet compelling.

This story is not.

But the fact that the story is horribly written is not what has almost made me throw my comics to the wind. It's the fact that no editor took this, read it, and said, "Uh, guys? What's the conflict?" No editor said, "What would people enjoy about this?"

And that goes doubly so for the authors of this piece.

This piece is an embarrassment to comics. Fourteen pages of nothing.

4Back-Up Story Art - 4: Decent pictures, though. I'm compelled to think that this art was reason enough to read this story.

Then I realize that if I were watching TV without sound, it'd be a piece of canvas, and if I were listening to the TV without pictures, it'd be a radio, so a lack of a story with completely great art is still just a pin-up gallery.

Still, the character work is fine, and the colors with the imagining of these strange things doesn't displease the eye. Until you read the gee golly words and wonder when it's going to go somewhere.

4Cover Art - 4: I think it's trying to be a chain-breaking homage. The image is odd, because Arion is beside Cthulhu, whereas in the issue he IS Cthulhu, but the detail is very strong, the coloring is excellent, and the pose is compelling. The only thing really out of sorts is the big, awkward ANNUAL, which sticks out like a sore thumb.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2008

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