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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #698

Superman #698

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 31, 2010

Cover date: May 2010

"Last Stand of New Krypton" - Part Three: "Destiny"

Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Javier Pina & Bernard Chang

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Brainiac's ship lingers above New Krypton as his probes fight residents.

Zod learns 1/10th of the Kryptonians have died, and that Superman is on Brainiac's ship held captive.

Luthor mocks Superman without revealing his intentions, and Brainiac tells Superman he wants him to watch as Kandor is destroyed, to feel it, because Superman made Brainiac feel.

Tellus leads Mon-El to the ship, but once inside, he is faced with many versions of Koko.

Luthor continues to mock Superman, and Brainaic tries to steal his thoughts as he experiences what's happening and learn his secrets.

As Mon-El fights the Koko army, he is contacted by a telepathic bottle city race, who ask him to save them.

Brainiac and Luthor continue to gloat. Superman musters his will and breaks free.

Mon-El is swarmed by apparitions of the telepathic city.

Luthor threatens to shoot a city if Superman doesn't surrender again. Superman surrenders, but Luthor prepares to shoot anyway. Mon-El appears, blasting Luthor's hand with heat vision and disarming him. Mon-El takes the bottle city Luthor threatened, and has a sudden feeling this is what he was released to do.

Brainiac calls down more drones, and Luthor jumps into an escape hatch. Mon-El and Superman fight the robots.

3Story - 3: There was actually a fun and interesting plot here, a good two-way story about two problems at the same time that, uncharacteristic of the run thusfar, didn't waste any space and used the entirety of the story's format to tell the tale.

There were some really great moments, too. I like Luthor in prime form (even if there are some flaws - I'll go into it), and I also like jumping right into some forward momentum on a number of fronts.

The flaw lies, sadly, in a lot of the execution and the choices made. They pull you right along as a reader not giving any close scrutiny, but if you look at the plot, it falls apart in several respects.

Minor quibbles include the fact that Lex, to my knowledge, hasn't had Superman at his mercy in this way that I can think of since Byrne. Like, at all. Usually the Wolfman/Byrne Luthor's shtick is that he's too bright for direct confrontation, which is why the presidential thing was so violently different to most readers for the last decade, for good or ill. It's also (to my mind) a sign that Luthor has matured as a character that he doesn't NYAH! And gloat. He's arrogant, he's power-hungry, and he loathes Superman enough to gloat, but I can't see him putting himself in a situation where he'd just stand there and taunt Superman when he can just kill him. I know that's a trope of comics, but it's a notable trope of Silver Age comics for that very reason. We've evolved (or at least, good stories have) to realize that if Superman lives when Luthor can kill him, there's a reason.

I buy Brainiac's motivation, to a degree. His agoraphobia and the newness of emotions can make him unstable. Luthor, though? I can't see that.

There's also a dilemma flaw. Luthor threatens the city to subdue Superman, but that's because Luthor thinks on a human level. It doesn't make sense, because Brainiac can simply shut the city down, which makes the gesture of removing the gun kind of pointless.

I also don't dig how the entirety of Mon-El's character development is undermined by a hunch that all he's intended to do is save a city. It seems very pat.

Every thought bubble he used (atypically) in the latter half of the story had a purpose, but it should have been a caption. Thought bubbles pull modern readers out. They just do. That's not going to change, no matter how much Bendis or Robinson will it. It will always (and righteously) smack of exposition through dialogue. And why?

Because earlier in this very issue, it's used to exposit story points that are random, chaotic, and non-linear as a convenient out. "Great! Tellus told me exactly where to go! How fortuitous!"

I'm still in the middle about the Aunt May scene. You may not know what I mean by this, but if you do, you're probably giggling. There used to be a trope, and they did it again and again and again, where Spider-Man would be crushed under some dilemma that was beyond the scope of his arbitrary, undefined super-strength. He would then think of his loved ones, and what would happen to them without him, and slowly, slowly, slowly (usually taking up a lot of the issue), he would lift the load and triumph. Excuse me, sorry, forgot, comics. He would TRIUMPH! With lots of thought bubbles preceding it, usually, to carry on the theme.

It fails as a story device for a few reasons (upon cursory examination), because the powers are not defined, and when you say a character can overcome any barrier on their power by simple willpower, you overpower them, de-humanize them, and you screw up future stories, where a reader can then say "Why couldn't he just push Pluto out of the way? He did in Our Worlds At War!" It's how the Silver Age and the sneeze-destroys-the-earth crap began.

Beyond that, it's making his motivation not derived from where his character is going, but from the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, which has an obvious solution in any case where the unstoppable force is the hero. You know he's going to escape, they're not going to kill Superman, so there's no tension involved.

Still, it captivated me somehow, and I give it credit for that. For all the technical flaws I perceive, and the devices I malign, I whipped through the first read and enjoyed it. Before I looked at it.

4Art - 4: The story is told with no glaring flaws or errors. There's something that seems off in the characters, for some reason, even if I can't put my fingers on it. But there are a few great splash pages, some decent work with the Brainiac action, and I can't find too much to complain about and a few things that are really good.

3Cover Art - 3: Something weird about Superman's torso makes this a bit of an odd one for me. Something about the dynamics of the pose makes it awkward. The color, the context, and the grab factor are high, though, so it evens 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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