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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: War of the Supermen #4 Superman: War of the Supermen #4

Superman: War of the Supermen #4

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 26, 2010

Cover date: July 2010

"The Battle for Survival"

Writer: James Robinson and Sterling Gates
Penciller: Eddy Barrows, CAFU, and Eduardo Pansica
Inker: J.P. Mayer and BIT
Standard Cover Art: Eddy Barrows
Variant Cover Art: Aaron Lopresti

Reviewed by: Ralph Silver with Neal Bailey, Adam Dechanel, and Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

We jump from location to location to observe events as the war rages on. At the White House, Supergirl is in the battle of her life against Ursa. A group consisting of Steel, Natasha Irons, Guardian, Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, and Krypto are heading towards General Lane's hidden base, with Natasha pointing the way. At Project 7734 Bunker 13, far below the Pentagon, General Lane gives the order to take no prisoners; and to execute all Kryptonians that are captured. In Cairo, Egypt, we see that this order is being carried out, with the use of kryptonite ray guns.

In downtown Metropolis, five Kryptonian soldiers hold Superman down while Zod pummels him. Superman breaks free and retaliates against the soldiers. Zod continues to taunt Superman and again threatens to kill Lois Lane. Superman angrily hurtles towards Zod.

In Washington D.C., Supergirl is losing the battle with Ursa, and is in real distress when help arrives. Krypto sinks his teeth into Ursa, and Superboy delivers a knockout punch. Steel applies synthetic gold kryptonite handcuffs which keep Ursa immobilized. At Conner's command, Krypto leaves to fetch a critical weapon.

As Superman and Zod continue to battle, Zod indicates that the Kryptonians will set up a new life on Earth after all of the earthlings are eradicated. At Justice League headquarters, Non is battering several League members into submission when Superboy shows up with the Phantom Zone projector that Krypto fetched from the Fortress of Solitude. Superboy sends Non to the Phantom Zone; and indicates that he has already sent Ursa.

At Bunker 13, Lois angrily quarrels with her father while Supergirl, Steel, and the others breach the facility. Supergirl battles Superwoman and defeats her handily. Steel takes out Atlas. Guardian battles and defeats Codename: Assassin. Supergirl finds General Lane and angrily grabs him by the throat and considers meting out fatal justice, until Lois talks her down.

Unwilling to face criminal prosecution, General Lane points his revolver at his own head and (off camera) pulls the trigger.

Superman again finds himself held down by Zod's soldiers as Zod prepares to murder him with a kryptonite knife. Once again, Superboy and Krypto arrive in the nick of time. Conner uses the projector to send the soldiers who were restraining Superman into the Phantom Zone, while man's best friend pulls Superman to safety. Zod angrily hurls the kryptonite knife in the direction of Superboy; but Krypto intervenes and voluntarily receives the knife attack to save his good friend Conner.

Superman tells Conner to carry Krypto into direct sunlight to save him. Superman rips up a large chunk of concrete and whacks Zod hard, momentarily stunning him. Before Zod can fully recover, Superman sends them both into the Phantom Zone, setting the projector to self-destruct afterward, sealing them both inside. Inside the Zone, Superman vows to forever watch Zod so that he never escapes. But Chris Kent declares his intent to be the one to act as Zod's warden. Chris uses powers from the Nightwing entity to free Superman from the Zone.

As we read excerpts of Lois' story recapping the events of the war, we view scenes of Lois at her father's gravestone, Supergirl morning the loss of New Krypton, and Jim Harper (Guardian) leaving Metropolis and his Guardian identity behind. In the Phantom Zone, Mon-El encounters Chris, who has reverted back to his younger form; and who is slowly losing the memory of all that happened when he and Thara were together.

On a rooftop, Superman and Lois are back together again. They discuss recent events, and indicate that most or all of the Kryptonian soldiers are now locked in the Phantom Zone. They express the hope that someday people will learn to live together in peace and not be so filled with fear and hate for those who are different. They dream of a better world as they fly off into the sunset.

Ralph Silver's Review:

3Story - 3: I really hope Krypto is OK! I have great affection for this character! He was very heroic in this issue. He deserves to live. I would have appreciated a quick shot of Krypto during Lois' recap to confirm that the canine of steel is indeed still with us.

I enjoyed this issue. Robinson and Gates tell a fast-paced and emotional story; fitting for the final installment of an all-out war. I was pleased to see the Superman family (Supergirl, Steel, Superboy) all play major roles. Besides Krypto, Superboy was really the hero this time around; running from place to place with the Phantom Zone projector to eliminate the threat of Zod's army; and saving both Supergirl and Superman at crucial moments.

But like last issue, there were way too many unanswered questions, forcing me to do a lot of guessing. Maybe you had some of these same questions:

- Why was Ursa able to defeat Supergirl so handily?

- How can Zod wield a kryptonite knife with such ease? (Same objection I had in WOTS #0.)

- Why exactly does Sam Lane kill himself? This seemed out of character to me. Wouldn't a man with so much ego and determination stick around to defend himself?

- Why does Superman send himself into the Zone with Zod? Was that really necessary? Shouldn't he just send Zod into the Zone?

- Chris has powers from the Nightwing entity to free Superman from the Phantom Zone? We saw in Action #889 that the Nightwing entity had the power to send Vohc/Jax-Ur INTO the Zone. I suppose it follows that he could FREE somebody FROM the Zone as well. This is a textbook example of a Deus ex machina. It is rather flimsy to base the entire resolution to the War of the Supermen on abilities of the mythic Nightwing and Flamebird gods; abilities that were previously unrevealed.

- Chris reveals that the Nightwing entity is leaving to be together with Flamebird. Didn't Flamebird perish last issue? Is he going to be with her in Heaven? Or is the explanation that the immortal Flamebird goddess survived when the mortal Thara died? I wish these details were explained!

- What happened to Superwoman? Is she in prison? Does Lucy still have those powers?

It is ironic that most everything is back the way it was before all of this happened. Zod, Ursa, and Non are back in the Phantom Zone. New Krypton is gone. The threat from Zod's army is eliminated. Chris Kent is back in the Phantom Zone and young again. Guardian, Nightwing, Flamebird, and Mon-El, the keepers of Action and Superman comics for over a year, are all out of the picture. Supergirl, who we thought was an orphan before the New Krypton arc, is now an orphan again, this time for real. It is sobering to see that most everything that occurred during this long series has been undone; almost as if none of it ever happened.

Although I really enjoyed the entire New Krypton arc, it will be nice to have Superman back in Action and Superman Comics telling some Earth-bound stories.

I miss Clark Kent.

4Art - 4: This is good solid artwork worthy of the grand finale. My favorite image is probably the splash on page two showing five soldiers restrain Superman while a cowardly Zod takes advantage of the situation to throw a few punches.

3Cover Art - 3: This is a good cover; not a spectacular cover. Superman finds himself dazed and on the ground for the moment, with Zod standing over him grinning triumphantly. What I like is the interesting angle. We are looking up at Superman even though he is very close to the ground; making it feel like the camera is at ground level. What I don't like is that Superman's face is hidden in shadow.

4Cover Art (Variant Edition) - 4: I prefer the variant cover. This is a very clean image. Keeping the theme from the other variant covers in this series, we have an image of a main character, plus two additional images inset. The central character is Superman, looking heroic as he guards the Daily Planet building. I like both inset images; one of the JLA getting whipped by Non, and one of Supergirl angrily clutching General Lane's throat.

Neal Bailey's Review:

1Story - 1: Nothing short of a clumsy, misshapen mass of error filled plot that changes major plotlines for the worse and fails to deliver on any promise of a cinematic, exciting conclusion. I could analyze it from a structural sense, but this issue hasn't earned that level of respect, so I'll simply cite a number of its multitudinous, continuing flaws:

Lane clearly violates the Geneva rules, and yet is somehow spun by the press as a hero? Which press is this? The press in the world I know (though without much needed vigor) tends to exploit and amplify war crimes almost to a fault.

All of Lane's bases are taken care of - with one line of dialogue.

Zod certainly talks a lot while having a fistfight with Superman, and not during pauses, but while he's actually laying down blows.

Conner's dialogue was atrocious. "Normally I have a rule about hitting women, but I'll make an exception, in your case!" "Look at the birdie - OH NOES IT'S A PHANTOM PROJECTOR!" Clunk, clunk, clunk.

They can now synthesize kryptonite? And GOLD kryptonite? Well, that's a big plot point to drop casually. I guess because only Steel can do it, it'll all be okay and not widely dispersed, given that the Steelworks wasn't hijacked by General... OH, WAIT.

A blast from Steel's wrist gauntlets takes out Ursa. Go on, read that again.

Steel takes down Atlas in like four panels, after Atlas took out Steel, Superman, and pretty much every member of the Superman cast, over the course of two issues. Go on, read that again.

Mon-El and Chris' plot resolution is to be placed in a Phantom Zone with all of the homicidal Kryptonians responsible for his multiple year, continuing child abuse. Superman doesn't immediately dive into the Zone to try and get him free. Go on, read that again.

Supergirl gets to General Lane, she has him by the throat, he's just killed (essentially) a hundred thousand people, and this gets, as a resolution, maybe a half page's worth of effort, while Superman and Lois beaking on the balcony takes two pages.

Supergirl essentially lets Lane shoot himself. If you can move at superspeed, I don't believe a person with human speed can draw a gun to his chin and shoot himself. Even if you argue that it took Supergirl by surprise, the second he put his hand on a gun for any purpose, she would have ramped into superspeed.

What about Superwoman? Lois' sister gets no resolution at all.

Why would Superman set the zone projector to explode instead of just shooting Zod with it? This makes absolutely no sense save to insert arbitrary drama, and instead of inserting arbitrary drama, it convolutes the plot, because it makes Superman firstly acknowledge that he's letting his infant adopted son be stuck in a literal hell with Zod and all of his bad guy friends, and secondly, it makes Superman stupid enough to sacrifice a perfectly good Phantom Zone projector he might need.

Beyond that, there's also the dubious moral decision to put all of Zod's goons in the Phantom Zone in the first place, assuming you believe, as I do, that the Phantom Zone is a spiritless hell where your soul is torn apart nearly constantly, where it's hard to even form a thought, much less repent and/or learn anything. It seems like the most non-Superman imprisoning device ever created, and yet it's often used casually with no regard to its moral ramifications.

How the hell would Nightwing know what's coming in the future for Superman? What is that line all about?

The Guardian is character assassinated, basically. He is taken out of the rolls of the characters present in Metropolis rather arbitrarily. But hey, if that's cool by you, maybe I can infuriate you with the fact that Mon-El now has a bastard coming. He's essentially left a single mother back on Earth. Good times! Great morals.

The thing that irks me the most, though, is what they just did to Lois Lane. She is, to my mind, the second most important character in the Superman mythos. Here, in this series, her sister became a mass murderer, and her father shot himself in the head right in front of her, splattering his brains.

This not only changes her character in many ways, which is bad enough, given the trauma she's faced, but my guess is, given the stewardship over the last eight issues, her trauma here will not even be remotely addressed, just as the trauma of losing Pa was not appropriately addressed. It is, in essence, killing a character for shock value instead of to benefit the growth of other characters. It is plot resolution through death, which never has the resonance of plot resolution as a way to solve the dilemma of the characters involved. Lois has not gone from anything to anything, she's just suffered, and with little motivation and connection to the story beyond what was done with Chris in the Nightwing/Flamebird arc.

And hey, it kinda sucks that the suit is made of Kryptonian fabric, because now that it's all torn up, Superman's gonna have to walk around with rips in his suit all the time, right?


1Art - 1: I'm starting to really, really tire of constantly gritting teeth, contorted bodies, and badly oriented action scenes. I took a flip through, and I got about ten pages before I found a page without a wide open mouth with full gritted teeth. And if it's not that, it's wide eyes and a wide open mouth. It's as subtle as a brick, and just as effective at conveying emotion in a way that resonates.

3Cover Art - 3: Again, like before, I can give credit for the unique angle, but it's still an odd image featuring big gritting teeth and a weird pose.

3Cover Art (Variant Cover) - 3: There's nothing wrong with these covers on an analytical level, but nothing about them grabs you, either. They're like panels in the issue, and as such they don't really seem like covers to me. It also makes me yearn for a battle with an ape I never saw, which breaks my heart, given my love of simian humor in comics. Sigh.

Adam Dechanel's Review:

3Story - 3: Sigh... everything old is new again - it's all been a waste you say? Why?

What's been changed and then reverted back?

Zod and his crew were released from the Zone - they're back.

Chris grew old - then back.

The Phantom Zone was destroyed - then back.

Mon-El was released from the Zone - and then sent back.

Kryptonians came back from the dead - then back.

Sam Lane came back from the dead - then back.

So what exactly changed after this two year saga?

Lucy Lane is Superwoman.

Metallo got a green gimp suit.

Mon-El is a father.

Lex is a businessman again.

What was wasted?

There is so much but here are a few things...

Superwoman plagued Supergirl for a YEAR and she was taken out in one panel.

Atlas beat Superman, Krypto and Steel and he too was taken out.


I also have issue with Superboy doing all the legwork to win the war - how is it possible that Superman is a bit player in his own finale??

Sorry guys but War of the Supermen felt so rushed... and I'm really worried about DC taking a leaf out of Marvel's book with Superman now... their whole thing about the people they save having that 'we love him/but hate him too,' as their foundation works for Spidey, Tony Stark & Iron Man but Superman is a cut above them...

But now at least we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

2Art - 2: The art was a mess. I know it was a case of meeting a deadline forced upon the team, but mixing THREE artists and expecting the clash of styles not to pull us out of the story is a mighty goal and one that had me frustrated with the lack of consistency, continuity and anatomy.

5Cover Art - 5: The. Best. Emotive. Cover. The cheesiness of the sadly overused "Kneel Before Zod" was not enough to make me downgrade it.

2Cover Art (Variant Cover) - 2: Aaron Lopresti in Wonder Woman is comicbook gold - somehow all the covers seem to lack that extra impact - especially with the finale.

Barry Freiman's Review:

3Story - 3: An average end to an average year or so in Superman's life. Seems DC is beginning to learn exactly why the old guard called in John Byrne and Marv Wolfman to reboot Superman's continuity following the first Crisis. Certain things are simply fait accompli or, more to the point, been-there-done-that with the old Silver Age continuity. The grand for instance in this story: every Phantom Zone story ends the same way - the bad guys get put back in the Zone. Big yawn.

Now don't get me wrong. I love having elements of the Silver Age back. And I think there are writers - like Elliott S! Maggin - with the talent to bring it to three dimensional life. But here and now in this story arc, Robinson and Gates flunk pre-Crisis logic.

The story tries to create artificial moments of suspense that prove the pre-Byrne notion that Earth-1 Silver Age continuity had limitations. Krypto has a moment where we're supposed to believe he might die. He's Krypto the Super Dog. He's been around longer than Spider-Man. Of course they're not killing him. So instead we get a throwaway line about getting him into the yellow sun as if that much radiation thrust into a canine body wouldn't have a lingering impact.

4Art - 4: What can I say about the art that I haven't said in the past four reviews - by the by, DC, cut the "0" issues already; they screw up everybody's comic collections; but I digress. There. I said something new about the art (OK so it wasn't about the art but I liked the pretty pictures).

2Cover Art - 2: This is a perfect cover once again ruined by the heavy pink, almost purple, skin hues. When I see a picture of a real person, say on Facebook, with that kind of lighting, I think one thing: too much Photoshop. Unless there's a new Kryptonian power to turn Barney-purple in a fight, fire the colorist.

1Cover Art (Variant Cover) - 1: Again a totally un-special variant cover with random and arbitrary images from the story. Has someone forgotten the point of variant covers?

Mild Mannered Reviews


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