Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: Flashpoint: Project Superman #3

Flashpoint: Project Superman #3 came out this week and brought this story of the Flashpoint world Superman to a very satisfying close. I haven't been too keen on the Flashpoint world and in particular, found the Atlantean/Amazon war stuff to be pretty tedious. But I have enjoyed both Kid Flash Lost and Project Superman as they were really more character driven series and (for the most part) tangentially involved with the war storyline.

As I have said before, I have read plenty of Superman Elseworld stories before so I am used to these sort of arcs, seeing what would come of Superman if he wasn't raised by the Kents and taught to cherish life. This mini-series has shown a different sort of Superman, sheltered and abused for most of his life, but suffering from that torture rather than angry. For me, the most interesting part of the book has been how big a presence General Sam Lane has had in Kal's life, a position in stark contrast to the one he held in the non-Flashpoint DCU.

Writers Scott Snyder and Lowell Francis do a good job giving Kal some depth here, despite having him say few words. They also do a great job conveying just how horrible this world is, whether it be the torture lab where Kal was kept or the war torn areas of the world.

And Gene Ha's work here really is perfectly suited for the book, thick lined and kinetic, and somehow conveying both a roughness as well as remarkable detail (I know that makes no sense). When words and art mesh, comics are gold. Ha's work meshes here ... wonderfully.

The damage  by the Flash and Batman that freed Kal from his laboratory prison unfortunately destroyed the power supply that was keeping Sinclair/Doomsday and General Lane in the Phantom Zone. Suddenly freed, filled with Doomsday's rage and decades of frustration, Sinclair goes straight to work.

He was built to 'defend' the world from enemies. But now he looks at everyone as his enemy. Fueled by hate and flush with power, Sinclair decides to carve a bloody path across the world, starting with General Lane. There are great moments for Sinclair too. He doesn't allow Lane to even get any 'defiant last words' instead pulping him immediately. Unlike much of Flashpoint, Lane being crushed is done off panel. Here it works.

Through the issue we see Sinclair killing, destroying, absorbing energy from the original Doomsday (who I guess is subject number 3 ... not Supergirl), and tracking down Kal.

And this is why Lane being killed off screen works.

Kal has fled from the compound and heads straight to Europe. He comes across the horrific sights of the war-addled continent. People, dead by their cars as they tried to flee, food for the crows. If Kal thought his prison in the sterile sunless cube was Hell, he has learned a new definition. Look at the horror on his face.

But from a story telling point of view, the crow eating the corpse carries a quiet power to it, something that would have been lessened if we had seen Lane's brains splattered over the previous page. This stands out as terrifying because there wasn't something more terrifying immediately preceding.

Now whether Kal has simply fled and luckily runs into Lois or if he is tracking her, he finds her in the UK, fighting for the Resistance.

I have to say Lois is a bigger presence, a better character in this mini-series than in her self-titled Flashpoint mini.

To Kal she represents something good in this world ... maybe the only good thing. He wants to protect her and the best way to do that is to simply leave the area.

I love Lois' response. First, she states she can't just leave. She has to 'do something' to better the world. That's the Lois I am used to seeing, that I want to see. But then she realizes that Kal is damaged goods, traumatized, and afraid. She softens, realizing that she probably needs to protect Kal at least emotionally. Ha's facial expressions work so well here.

But before this conversation can continue, Sinclair arrives. He is massive, maybe 10 feet tall, towering over everyone like the monster he is.

Again Lois shows her mettle, picking up a weapon and firing on Sinclair. She even tries to talk to Sinclair, telling him that the right thing to do is stop the Atlantean/Amazon war, not mete out his revenge on General Lane by killing her and Kal.

I love the last panel, a sort of homage to the car-crushing cover of Action Comics #1, Kal smashing an auto in Sinclair's face.

Their skirmish attracts the Amazon army forcing Sinclair to wade into battle. It is clear that he is an unstoppable monster, casually crushing the women as he makes his way to Kal and Lois.

As noted in the earlier issues of this mini, it is interesting that General Lane plays the role of Pa Kent in this book, the loving father figure teaching Kal just what a hero does. Despite being overpowered by Sinclair, Kal knows the right thing to do is protect people from monsters. It is a rare look of determination and courage on Kal's face in this Flashpoint world.

Great work by colorist Art Lyon, driving home the fact that Sinclair is a monster, is 'other', by coloring him in blue, the blood soaked area around him bright red.

Now I don't know if I quite understand what happens next but Superman begins absorbing energy from Sinclair, draining him of all the power he has. And in dramatic fashion, Kal ends the fight by punching through Sinclair's chest, causing a massive explosion.

Superman doesn't kill. But Kal on Flashpoint Earth realized that this creature needed to be put down.

But there are consequences to violence like that. It is never as simple an answer as people believe.

Lois is within the blast area of Sinclair's death explosion and is killed by its force. This Lane does get some last words. And her last words are that Kal needs to help the people of this Earth because it is the right thing to do. And then we get a pieta-like panel, reminiscent of Crisis #7.

Man, I love Lois in this issue. Such a strong character, a strong will. It is time for Kal to become Superman on this Earth.

And I like the journey that this Kal has gone on. It would be easy for him to simply hide out after escaping but instead he goes to help Lois. And then makes the logical next step, if Lois deserves protecting then everybody does. So is it nature that makes Superman a hero? Or nurture? There is no denying that even here it is a human loving presence teaching Kal right from wrong that is a big part of who he is. Here it is General Lane.

In the past DCU, it's Ma and Pa Kent. In the new DCnU? Dan Didio says he has no 'human tether'. So what will we see?

Snyder and Francis do a great job showing us enough snippets of Kal's life and Sinclair's devolution to give us a strong sense of who they are, what their motivations are. And it leads to a prefect denouement, with Kal suddenly thrust into the role of world saver. And Gene Ha's art complements that script seamlessly. This miniseries was a bright spot in the Flashpoint universe.

Overall grade: A


taichara said...

The method of Kal's killing of Sinclair struck me as an almost Eradicator-like attack mode more than anything else, although that may have occurred to me mostly because of having read Action immediately prior to Project Superman ...

On Subject Three: I'm not so sure that it would have been Doomsday, because they already had Doomsday in their possession (and used him to alter Sinclair) before Kal's rocket arrived. Subject Three may well have been Kara after all, but my personal guess has been Lar Gand/Mon-El.

... Who would have likely died a horrible and unavoidable death shortly after his acquisition by the project, which would explain Subject Three's absence >.>

Martin Gray said...

Gawd, more killing. But what a terrific mini this has been - great characters, intense action.

I expected Kal to absorb Sinclair's energy and balloon up to regular Superman levels ... why I'm not writing comics!

Excellent review!

Ayhe said...

It was one of the few comics I felt the need of keeping a Kleenex box next to me...It was so sad! And excellent written!
I really enjoyed reading this version of Superman very much :)