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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #695

Superman #695

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 23, 2009

Cover date: February 2010

"Man of Valor" - Part Two

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Bernard Chang
Inker: Bernard Chang

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Mon-El faces down Bizarro and Parasite, and manages to stop their onslaught by remembering training with Guardian. He judo flips Bizarro into Parasite.

Mon-El's powers return as Guardian appears. He takes Bizarro up toward space. Bizarro flees, promising to return with Bizarro Mon-El.

Mon-El speaks with Conner (it isn't made clear when, but the bubbles seem to indicate it might be in the past as opposed to after the fight) and asks Conner to reprogram Kelex to fix his ship. Conner expresses surprise that Kelex exists. Mon-El alludes to the idea of leaving Earth.

Guardian and Mon-El and a third woman (it is unclear who she is to this reviewer) talk about Lane's tactics. Lane, on a television, indicates Mon-El might be unstable.

Perry White contacts Mon-El and tells him that Jimmy Olsen is thought dead, but isn't really. Perry takes him to Jimmy's new lair in the Pemberton camera factory where Mon-El meets Natasha and learns she was responsible for his escape.

Natasha visits John Henry and talks to him. After she leaves, he springs out of his coma.

Mon-El goes to see Billi. Later, after sex (implied), Mon-El hears something and goes somewhere (it's not indicated where) to meet Guardian as Nightwing and Flamebird pop out of a door.

2Story - 2: There's a few grains of good stuff in here. The pages with John Henry, even though the "talking to a guy in a coma" thing is a bit done, touched me. The pages with Jimmy Olsen coming back from the dead were neat in a sense, showing the random elements coming together. I was digging the comic and rolling right along for that. Problem is, that's six pages of this 22 page story, and the rest of it was filled with things that drive me crazy.

The thought bubbles wouldn't be so bad if they were used for a real purpose other than being thought bubbles. They don't seem to compliment or add anything special to the story, they're mainly used for exposition, like explaining what happened with Mitch off camera, which strikes me as a rich waste in a comic where so much space is devoted to stuff that doesn't forward the plot, or stuff that could have been implied.

If the bubbles were being used to add some insight into Mon-El's character, I'd be impressed, but key examples include stuff like, "Powers... still missing!" That's not an exact quote, but it's the style of most of the bubbles.

I could just write: "Mon-El defeats Bizarro with a judo flip." and that should be enough to excuse me for saying the resolution sucks, but it's beyond that. There's also some kind of weird, unexplained implication that the Parasite unintentionally sucked up Bizarro's powers (doesn't he control who he takes power from?), and that Bizarro's powers aren't working right despite the fact that he still can fly and flees Mon-El seemingly intact and invulnerable.

In the place of thought bubbles, however, I might also add that it's just as bad in terms of writing to have the Parasite wax in dialogue about what's happening to him: "My powers - what? Uncontrollable! 'S'agony!" So's reading that damned dialogue.

Mon-El's powers are now, for the second time, used to justify a cliffhanger for a comic in a way that's instantly reversed. Once is forgivable, in a pinch, twice just looks like lazy writing. First he arbitrarily loses his powers and falls, then he arbitrarily loses his powers when Bizarro and Parasite are coming from him. If it's too convenient, the device loses its luster.

Bizarro Mon-El sounds like something interesting, I'll grant.

There are many pages that are flat-out unnecessary, and pages that are at best debateable. The cluttered double splash with Lane explaining why Mon-El might be rogue is probably one of the most off-task pieces of comic scripting I've seen. Eighteen things going on at once, none of them really essential to the story beyond the idea that Lane is framing up Mon-El, which is clear after his first bubble ends. Couple that with the fact that I have no idea who that gal is, and you have a whole page that, were I not reviewing this, would have made me put the comic down and drop it from my pull list. If this is someone's first comic, it's probably their last. I counted thirty-six pieces of copy, most double or triple script lines.

The odd time jumps don't help. I'm guessing he's implying the gorilla did something to his mind, but it comes off as trying to be arty and instead just being cluttered. I don't catch the vibe. Maybe that's my fault. But I challenge anyone to explain what the purpose of that entire half page of Mon-El flying up into space and then down toward earth was.

Conner doesn't know what Kelex is? Really?

What is the purpose of the Science Police muster, and what does it add? I understand it's the beginning of Mon-El seeing Billi leading to them having sex. But it takes two pages, doesn't really do much, and then later he flies to see her, wasting another page (that's where he thinks about Mitch's resolution for our benefit in a clunky way).

I don't have a problem with Mon-El hitting the sack with the gal. That's probably going to inflame some, but he's an adult, it's a reasonable way to try and experience life, and it actually, unlike other things, goes to character and his overarching plot. It's a reason to live.

The problem for me comes in that there's no development of this relationship despite all of the wasted space these comics have continually displayed.

And then that ending. What the hell was that? Oh! I hear something! Look! Nightwing and Flamebird! How is that tension? How is that interesting? It was like the comic just died on the vine.

I want to be a typical online reviewer and make a glib comment like, "THE EDITOR NEEDS TO REIGN THIS GUY IN!" But I don't know the situation. Maybe James Robinson needs to reign himself in. Maybe it's some other factor. Doesn't change the fact that as a story, this thing needs to be edited a good bit and slapped with a little bit more of an ongoing sense of purpose and a direct approach to assailing that purpose through character and plot. As it is now, it's just rambling odd scenes that amuse the writer that seem to fall willy-nilly into the page, with a reminder now and then that a larger story is going on for about six pages an issue.

I read this and I wonder how all of this gets by, all of this extra and graft and unnecessary stuff.

2Art - 2: Most of the story is conveyed in an understandable way, and the action is decent, but most of the characters look very similar, and there's something hollow about the faces that pulled me out of the narrative. I wish I could put my finger on it better (I'm obviously more of a story guy than an art guy) but there's something here that seems off to me. Maybe it's just that the art is fine, just indistinctive, and I expect or want more. Not sure. Either way, this is a shaky rating on my part, so take it as such. It could be colored by my take on the story.

2Cover Art - 2: A plain, odd pose depicting something that didn't even happen in the story on a dull background. The first reaction I have is "Why is Parasite not sucking the power out of him?" not "WOW, I'm buying this!"

Mild Mannered Reviews


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