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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #696

Superman #696

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 27, 2010

Cover date: March 2010

"Man of Valor" - Part Three

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

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

In the rubble of the Science Police building, Mon-El checks to make sure that all of his allies are alive.

The heroes decide that Nightwing and Flamebird need to leave Earth for their own safety. They do.

General Lane fires on Mon-El, and Nightwing and Flamebird return to save them. He tells them to leave anyway, and they do. Mon-El exchanges terse words with General Lane.

Guardian calls Mon-El to check on Control. She's alive, but she's also changed back into a Legion member (This reviewer doesn't know the character's name, and it's not mentioned.)

1Story - 1: I hate to sound like a broken record month after month, but this issue suffers from many of the same maladies that plagued its preceding issues, minus the typical random element of characterization that doesn't involve the mains.

It takes the story ten pages to establish that there was an attack, and that everyone is alive. This is done through stall tactic after stall tactic that accomplishes nothing on a story level.

A two-page draw-in that indicates that yes, this man with the powers of Superman can lift himself out of rubble. Really? I'm baffled as to why it seems difficult.

Four pages that consist solely of Mon-El thinking to himself things that he's already experienced. I do that with every sandwich I eat. Mmm! I just ate a sandwich. Must... begin... process... leading to elimination! There is some wiggle room here in that a traumatic event (like, say, if one gets in a fight) is something one can relive in their mind over and over again, but then, this isn't an incredibly traumatic event in the life of a superhero. Buildings collapsing and friends being threatened are an everyday occurrence, even if they're not for us.

Beyond that, though, the thought bubbles don't offer insight, only, well:

"I'm in shock. I think... I can't think..." After thinking for most of a page and then thinking for three more, with the exception of two wasted pages of lifting a chunk of rubble. Or "Lives... I must save lives." No kidding?

I'd be naïve not to acknowledge that it has to be established that all of the main characters survived. It doesn't take ten pages to get from under rubble to checking on everyone. It's at best a two page affair if you take your time writing it, spatially. I would even go so far as to say you could accomplish all that this issue accomplishes in eight pages:

Page 1: Mon-El gets up, recalls the building collapsing.

Page 2-3: Double draw in showing the Science Police building in rubble. Big, cool spread, for scope and the psychological impact it would have, also follows comic tradition.

Page 4: Mon-El checks on his friends, they're alive. Tells Nightwing and Flamebird to leave, quick, for their own good and to prevent Lane from gaining more power.

Page 5: Lane fires a rocket at Nightwing and Flamebird as they try to escape.

Page 6: Mon-El blocks the rocket.

Page 7: Mon-El spends and entire page blaming and confronting General Lane. Lane scoffs. (One might even argue that this is unnecessary, given that this has already happened a few times, and Mon-El could just block the rocket, scowl, and then go to Guardian).

Page 8: Hears a call from Guardian, goes down to find Control is a changeling from the Legion.

This sacrifices the Lois/Chris scene, which had a little charm but no real punch, and the fourth or fifth (I forget) reiteration so far that the ape did something to Mon-El, which we don't need to see again. Throw those in (though they're extraneous) and you have a ten page story.

The reason it stretches so much is that there are many 3-4 page panels that accomplish very little, and are not very active. Why do we need a full splash for Nightwing and Flamebird taking off when they immediately return? Why a two-page splash for the Legion reveal when we don't even learn who the character is? Why does it take two pages for Flamebird to stand up and help Guardian up?

It's just sloppy, and while I admire each and every one of the ideas this story is trying to explore, it's going at them with ancient conventions (thought bubbles to extrapolate), unnecessary splash pages, dramatic moments that hold no drama, and padding so thick it puts Sin City to shame.

3Art - 3: It's rough hewn in that Bogdanove sort of way, but at times the characters don't look like the characters (especially Lois) or a face looks too eschewed not to be awkward. The splashes don't really scream that they needed to be splashes (which is half the writing), and the lines across the face get pretty annoying. Nonetheless, it tells the story, and I had no points of confusion, even if I wasn't a fan of the way the art was put together, necessarily.

2Cover Art - 2: Nothing really exciting here, no major enemy, odd poses, and it didn't happen in the book. It looks like a panel in the middle of an action sequence, not the culmination that sums up the whole issue and drags you in. However, that said, as a continuation of the Action Comics cover, it serves as a good larger picture. I'd give the double-spread a 3 of five. But it's like the Trinity covers, I have to judge each for its own merits.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2010

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