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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #680

Superman #680

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 24, 2008

Cover date: November 2008

"The Coming of Atlas" - Part Four: "Man of Yore, Dog of Tommorow"

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Wilson Magalhaes

Reviewed by: Adam Dechanel

Click to enlarge

Superman is broken, crushed...

He's taken a public beating the city of Metropolis hasn't seen since Doomsday. Clark is a bleeding pulp and aching to draw solar energy and his savior turns out to be someone whose arrival was unexpected... Krypto!

Atlas is taken aback as the the Hound of Steel goes direct for the jugular. No matter what, no matter the pain, Krypto throws his life on the line for Clark. Much to the distress of Atlas, the dog just won't stop coming and from the crowd of civilians Lois realizes just how much of a bitch she's been not just to Clark but to Krypto as well.

Above the crowd the shady floating soldier is back and relaying Krypto's fight to his superiors. Naturally they are not pleased with Krypto altering the tide of battle and, as with Kara, decide to bathe him in a ray from their satellite 'room'.

The ray bursts into smoke and for a brief second his combatant mourns his loss - for a second, as the hound emerges unharmed!

Purple, red, green, gold, blue, aqua none of the rays seem to have the expected effect that Kryptonians would have succumbed to and Atlas is as taken aback as his employers. He howls about Krypto being a magic being and Clark stirs with inspiration.

Racing away while Krypto has the upper hand in battle, Clark arrives at a magic show where he seeks Zatanna's help... she's not there, but her arrogant cousin Zach Zatara is, seeing a little of Kara's past behavior no doubt, Clark tolerates the boy's arrogance and asks him for a spell to counteract Atlas.

Zach's magic can't affect animate objects, so with some quick thinking Superman asks Zach to recreate the power of the sun long enough to give him full power again. It's a risk as they are still using Zach's inanimate powering to power an animate object but time is short - Atlas is close to success.

The world meanwhile watches as Krypto fights with his last ebb of life to prevent them harm and as his life starts slipping away even Lois' feels for him. As the killing blow is about to be struck Clark arrives and, with only sixty seconds of power behind him, makes his power count.

The city watches as Superman slams Atlas into the sidewalk, then deeper, deeper and deeper until silence reigns...

Superman rises triumphant but sees the citizens of Metropolis cheering him and decides to correct them. He publicly tells them Krypto is a hero now and not only is he a dog belonging to him but now he belongs to them too.

Thus begins Krypto's new life as a defender of Metropolis.

4Story - 4: Now this is a story of ups and downs - I'm going to compare it to the Brainiac arc so bear with me. The arc in Action Comics is clearly an attempt to 'fix' Supergirl, by giving her a life and personality while bringing Brainiac back into the fold as a deadly foe (rather than a clone of The Leader). Is that a success? In my opinion DEFINITELY.

This Atlas arc, many had harped on as a misrepresentation of Superman and in many ways it was. It wasn't about Clark, it wasn't even about Atlas (we'll come back to him) this was about the population of Metropolis, Lois Lane, Jimmy and Krypto - was this arc successful with them? DEFINITELY.

For at least three years Lois Lane has been less a main character, let alone a wife, mother and world renowned journalist and more a story facilitator. Before I get abuse, let's look at her ONLY big story this year (with her as a pivotal character) that was over in Birds of Prey when she threatened to crush Barbara's operation - yes, she's been featured in the Superman books but, be honest, besides scowling a lot at Clark, Kara and Chris she hasn't done diddly. If she wins a Kerth award this year I'd like to know how. For the first time in a long time Lois showed character growth and that's honestly down to the groundwork James Robinson has set in motion. Thank God she's no longer a miserable plank of wood.

(Shudders with visions of Clark & Lois as Raymond and Deborah in E.L.R)

Similarly with Krypto, he was introduced and, after that, was pretty much dumped somewhere in the ether that Khyrana, Insect Queen, Subjekt 17 and the third Kryptonian now reside in. In this arc, for the first time, I've seen Krypto as a feasible character with plenty of potential. I hope he isn't relegated to the Fortress again as story possibilities with him around now bring a little 'family' feel back to the book, which oddly has been one of Batman's strengths - I remember Bruce stating to Clark many years ago "I work alone." Funny how he has, Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, Red Robin/Tim, Batwoman and Oracle all at his side.

Anyway back to the book.

Krypto is awesome!

I'm assuming the beams are Kryptonite derivatives as the mysterious enemies also assumed it would finish him off very quickly... there is mystery there so thankfully he's not just the family pet slung in a rocket as a test subject now. His loyalty to Clark, Lois and the citizens of Metropolis is so admirable it even made me look at my dog with a feeling of pride. I, like many, had thought Krypto as a fantastic character - for his time... but now I can see him as a unique part of the DCU.

The character development in the arc overall has made me rate this high, simply because I love the Lois Lane character and hated that no writer felt they could actually write her. Similarly Krypto proved he needn't be played for comic relief. Something people seem to forget about Clark is that he's only as strong as his supporting cast, not if he can juggle planets, is a 'Last Son' or can kick Darkseid to a pulp.

Now aside from the character development - the story itself falls VERY flat.

I hated Atlas, sorry guys but he sucked egg more than the purple Hulk in Trinity... he gets pounded and then vanishes... to where, did Clark kill him? All that development early on and he is suddenly gone with no resolution...

I liked the Science Police but they vanished pretty quick... to where? They were thrown in with some fun characters worthy of the legacy in the 30th Century (which btw is nice to see they are finally thinking about links to that era properly) but after clashing with Atlas they vanish again... boo!

Supergirl got hit by the same ray as Krypto, but she WAS affected... where'd she go?

Zach, a 'Z' list relative to a 'D' list character is introduced but for what actual purpose that Zatanna couldn't have fulfilled just as well...?

Jimmy saw and photographed the hovering soldier but nothing has come of it... poor show. (But nice to see him as something other than the weird mess from Countdown).

Lots of questions that offer so much - but similarly, also many worries - Kurt Busiek did the same but many of his loose story threads have been left to fade and I don't want that kind of storytelling anymore. Superman almost fell into 'hokey territory' and it would have been an injustice for him to be cancelled...

Obviously I know James Robinson is famed, as is Geoff Johns, for their long term/epic arcs so I'm confident this won't be a 'Trinity/Countdown' (aka daggy) story line in the long term and that a lot of this will be revisited or touched upon as time rolls on but as a self contained 'made for trade' story "Coming of Atlas" would have been more digestible as a coherent story that had a solid beginning, middle and an end.

Bittersweet as this was, really a story that only warranted a two parter.

5Art - 5: Krypto leaps from the page in some truly awesome art and Clark triumphing over Atlas looks superb. Renato Guedes is churning out some of the best artwork the DC has published in years - sorry to gush but it is truly awesome to see art that accentuates the story in such a way that you feel part of it.

3Cover Art - 3: A nice painting - though Underdog did it better. Honestly the paintings are starting to look less stunning and more boring with each cover... sorry! Perhaps it's the overkill, not to mention the covers look very washed out.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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