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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #699

Superman #699

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 28, 2010

Cover date: June 2010

"Last Stand of New Krypton" - Part Eight: "Irony in Ire"

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Bernard Chang

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman and Zod fight the Brainiac robots until Brainiac appears. Zod attacks Brainiac while Superman goes to save Kandor, contacting Supergirl along the way.

Mon-El again remembers being tortured by the ape, only this time with the indirect implication of bestial homosexual sadism. (Reviewer's note: Not a joke! Not an imaginary summary!)

The Legion fights Brainiac robots until a larger one appears, which Mon-El destroys. The Legion tells Mon-El that they have to leave for the future.

Superman sends Brainiac 5 and Supergirl to restore Kandor, and Brainiac 5 warns him he'll be killed by Brainiac if he continues.

Kara and Brainiac 5 restore the city of Kandor and free Superboy.

Superman, Zod, and Brainiac fight.

Mon-El changes his shirt to remove the S, because he feels unworthy of the S, abandoning his friend.

Luthor opens up a city inside of Brainiac's ship, which pokes through the top and sends it crashing down.

1Story - 1: We're reaching the end of the line here, and it's very easy to get swept up in the story being told, I'll give them that. The best part of Our Worlds At War, for the most part, was wondering what weird, strange, unpredictable thing would happen next. However, upon repeat readings, OWAW exposed me to elements of storytelling that, upon a second examination, fall flat. I'm grateful for that, because without that knowledge, this review might be a 3 of 5. Point of fact, if you don't think about the story, it's still a 3. My first reading was.

But then you peel the onion, and you pay attention, and you see all of the glaring flaws with the style of storytelling employed here. It's almost all a series of events. Making that statement, I laugh at myself, because the question is begged, "Well, what else is a story?"

Well, let's take a simple example. Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is completely helpless and powerless though he wants to be something greater in his universe. So what does the plot do to service this? Puts him in a place where he can slowly gain power and do something good, even if there are failures along the way.

Now let's take this example. Mon-El. Mon-El is a guy who wants to know what living is (kind of), who has the power of Superman (so he doesn't need power), and he's destined to survive to the future. His story is serviced (and I should put that in quotes) by playing a regular hero in Metropolis where he faces no substantial challenge save sporadic power failure and sex, and the culmination of his story is saving a city that he somehow just knows he has to save, with help, and then abandoning his friends to die.

Uh, rah rah?

Inevitably the counter to this is that the circumstances surrounding the character forced this. But then, my counter is always that these story circumstances are not arbitrary, they're crafted by the author of the story, though when you're swept up in the narrative, it feels like it's not. That's why writing is such a grand trick.

On a mechanical level, however, beyond this catastrophic failure of character resolution, there's the sloppy technical things that have plagued this entire run.

Zod waxing about irony in the middle of a heated battle simultaneously clunks and diminishes the tension.

Superman expositing through dialogue what Zod's just told him to catch the reader up reeks of the ten thousand thought bubbles that plagued this overall story.

Pages are wasted by the bundle. Good examples include reiterating that Zod is fighting Brainiac to no end, an entire page for Superman to ask where Kandor is (what does that do to serve the narrative, other than make it reek of a first draft, given that unnecessary scenes are not removed?) Two pages to establish psychic hookup with Kara (seriously, look at it, it could be done in one panel, and we know this series hasn't been afraid to use that kind of shortcut via exposition). Three pages of the Legion fighting robots to no real end (save maybe to make Mon-El's appearance dramatic, but that's so ancillary to what's going on at this point that it makes you wonder why he's even there). A page for Mon-El (in profile as opposed to facing us, no less) to say "Hello again!"

For a menace: A bigger Brainiac robot. Seriously?

But all of the above, which I really did think long and hard about, pales in comparison to this line, which may go down in Superman history as one of the all-time lows of the titles. I suppose it was a yuk of some kind, but given that it's the closure of what was an oft-teased subplot in this title, I have to cringe:

Giant ape: "I have long looked forward to medically experimenting on a male Daxamite's reproductive organs."

Bestial homosexual ape sadism fail.

It almost gets an extra point just for having, well, the gall to be what it is, but then, this isn't the Bizarro World special, it's the actual mainline books.

Imagine the conversation at the comic store. "Hey, check this out. Superman's fighting Brainiac with Zod!"


"But what's this?"

"Did... did they just imply that an ape yanked on Mon-El's..."

The comic flutters to the floor, and both eight-year-olds run from the store screaming.

4Art - 4: The art is strong, for the most part. The minus point is just for one panel that pulled me completely out. Dead-center in the middle of the Kara/Superman reuniting page, there's a Superman face that looks like one of those Liefeld cases where his head is just WAY too big for the direction his face is looking. Otherwise, I wasn't pulled out too much, and there were a few great moments that pulled me in more because of the artist. This work is a large reason my initial impression would have been a three.

5Cover Art - 5: Just awesome, outside of the context. In the context, it really feels like a culmination. Probably my favorite of the "Last" covers.

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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