Friday, August 29, 2008

Review: Superman #679


James Robinson’s run continues to pick up steam and add some new elements of mystery in this months issue Superman #679, an issue with a lot of Supergirl action.

To recap, as this is my first review of the Superman title, Superman is in a knuckle-busting brawl with a massive figure calling himself Atlas. Atlas appeared in the first issue of the short-lived series 1st issue Spectacular from the 70’s.


1st Issue Spectacular was a sort of showcase for new title ideas where reader feedback might lead to an ongoing title. Atlas was in issue 1 and was a Jack Kirby creation. He lived in a medieval world and was unbelievably strong. His parents were killed by an overlord when he was young and he vowed vengeance. Overall, this was an average issue. On the other hand, I highly recommend finding issue #9, a Dr Fate story written by Marty Pasko and drawn by a young Walt Simonson.

In the Superman title, Atlas is brought to Earth from his planet by the U.S. military and trained to fight Superman. While Atlas vows to basically take over the world if he is freed and defeats Superman, the military decides eliminating Superman is worth that risk. They drop Atlas in Metropolis where he squares off with Superman. Surprisingly, he seems to be getting the better of Superman who is confused how Atlas is able to shrug off his strongest blows.


While Superman is pummeled, we see Supergirl enjoying ‘a moment of play’.


This scene did not strike me as Kara’s being disinterested in heroing or her being flighty and immature. Instead, it struck me as endearing. Kara is playing with lions the way other teenage girls might play with kittens. Look at the happiness on her face. But her down time ends quickly. As soon as her super-hearing picks up the Superman fight, she is off … flying at super-speed to help her cousin.

Here we see her flying into metropolis to join the fray. This shadowed figure is overseeing the battle from a rooftop, but seems to be ‘blipping’ in and out. Jimmy notices him, seems to recognize him, but can’t get a shot of him before he disappears.


The mysterious figure informs the government that Kara (codenamed second blue and red) is incoming. In response, the government decides to ‘let the hussy have it’ and fires a laser cannon from space. Almost makes me want to yell ‘Tetsuo!!’ Notice he has disappeared.


The purple laser hits Supergirl dead on and knocks the fight temporarily out of her. It certainly looks painful!


Before the wounded Supergirl can truly enter the fray, Superman tells her to leave the battle. He knows that he may die in this battle, he knows the deck is stacked against them given the space artillery, and he knows that if he is in trouble than a wounded Supergirl would be too. He implores her to leave to discover the truth behind the attack and (should he die) to avenge him. Begrudgingly, she heeds his words and takes off.



Now some Supergirl fans might bemoan this interaction stating that it makes Kara look weak and ineffective, especially her listening to Superman and taking off. I did not take it that way at all. Superman realizes that this battle was over before it began and a retreat would make sense. He is just too beaten to withdraw. Strategically it makes sense to have Kara 'live to fight another day'. Superman is, in fact, correct about his impending defeat. The fight ends the next page with Atlas standing victoriously over Superman.


Ahh, but there is one more super-family member to face Atlas. Next issue … in steps Krypto!

Overall, this story has been building slowly. We still don’t know why the government is focusing on Superman, how they captured Atlas, why Atlas is so powerful, and who the shadowy figure is. In some ways I hoped for more information about this story here. While drawn nicely, the first 5 pages are splashy brawl pages, which are reminiscent of the Doomsday fight but may have been overkill. Certainly after 3 pages we understood that Atlas was no push-over and actually winning. And I craved more background story about the ‘Atlas plan’; instead we get 2 pages delineating how Lois feels often inadequate for Clark’s love and 5 pages about Lana Lang’s troubles running Lexcorp. While both scenes are well-written (especially the Lois scene so nicely encapsulating how hard it must be to love someone larger than life), they seemed to slow the story down rather than build it up. These are minor quibbles honestly … but I often wonder how much padding is added to make a storyline a nice length for a trade.

I think the art work was nice here. I have liked Guedes’ version of Supergirl even when he caused a minor stir on the web with his concept pictures of Kara before his brief run on her title.


I really think those pictures show a lovely and healthy appearing Supergirl. Believe it or not there was an outcry from a subset of fans who sad Kara looked fat and frumpy! I definitely absolutely positively do not see that at all in these pictures!! It frightens me to think that some people saw that. She looks strong and athletic to me.


There also was a smaller outcry for his inclusion of bike shorts under the mini-skirt as opposed to lollipop pants or panties. I didn’t particularly mind that addition, feeling it at least solved the ‘panty shot’ vs. ‘how does her mini-skirt always stay down’ problem some artists run into.

The one problem I have with the art is the coloring which seems a bit overdone with multiple layers of shadowing/shading in panels that don’t necessarily call for it.

So, the Atlas storyline continues to move forward but with more questions and no new answers. Supergirl is well represented and seems to have really taken to heart the ‘I was sent to protect Kal’ impetus that we have seen her say over in Johns’ Action Comics. And there is no denying Superman and Supergirl are easily dispatched here, making me intrigued to read more.

Overall grade: B

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Superman board at DC comics.com seems to be full of peeps who hate this story for some reason like you I am intrigued.
And the scene with the pride of lions made me happy, truly Kara is a "cat person".
of course when Krypto gets a snootful of the "cat smell" on Kara it might be a different story.

:D
John Feer

Anonymous said...

Just guessing...

but could that sillhouette be Linda Danvers?....

oh wait....

you said it was a he....

Maybe an AU version of Conner Kent?

-ealperin

Anj said...

The Superman board at DC comics.com seems to be full of peeps who hate this story for some reason like you I am intrigued.
And the scene with the pride of lions made me happy, truly Kara is a "cat person".


This storyline is not as good as the Johns stuff in Action, but it is keeping my interest. And I can't always say that about all comics these days.

And she is a cat person ... 2008 is the year of Streaky.

Anj said...

but could that sillhouette be Linda Danvers?....

oh wait....

you said it was a he....

Maybe an AU version of Conner Kent?


Linda is in Reign in Hell, and they did call the guy a he.

It might be too early for it to be Conner. But not a bad guess. I am stumped.

Heath Edwards said...

these superman issues have been a good read, but do seem to be taking their time going any place. i don't mind though, as its not boring or stuck. it does sem a bit strange to throw lana out of her place in lexcorp so soon after her receiving it, but there you go...
kara's appearance was fun. though i am weirded out by her playing with lions scene, it was playful, and as you point out, she is a cat person. personally, i have no problems reading a kara who knows when to stick around and fight, or when to go find out more & strategize against an opponent.
though i'm not a dog person, the last line from krypto, 'krypto good boy' gave me chills :) :)...

Anj said...

these superman issues have been a good read, but do seem to be taking their time going any place. i don't mind though, as its not boring or stuck. it does sem a bit strange to throw lana out of her place in lexcorp so soon after her receiving it, but there you go...

You're right in that the story does not seem stuck. It is a rather deliberate pace.

Maybe Krypto will kick the story into high gear. LOL.

TalOs said...

anj wrote, Now some Supergirl fans might bemoan this interaction stating that it makes Kara look weak and ineffective, especially her listening to Superman and taking off. I did not take it that way at all. Superman realizes that this battle was over before it began and a retreat would make sense. He is just too beaten to withdraw. Strategically it makes sense to have Kara 'live to fight another day'.

Well, at the time I honestly thought it was basically bad writing of Supergirl on Robinson's part but after really stopping and thinking about it I eventually actually came to the same conclusion as you did in turn as for exactly why he did what he had done with Supergirl in this title's issue out.

Anj said...

I eventually actually came to the same conclusion as you did in turn as for exactly why he did what he had done with Supergirl in this title's issue out.

Yeah. It would have been nice if she landed a punch before the satellite blasted her. But I think part of the suspense was realizing just how prepared the government was handle both Supers.

Anonymous said...

IT'S ATLAS!!!