Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Superman #10

Superman #10 came out this week and it was hard to get excited for this book with the knowledge that the creative team of writer/artist Dan Jurgens and artist Jesus Merino are simply keeping the seat warm for the next big creative team of Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort.

I still don't have the best sense of this Superman although the Jurgens issues have felt like most of the main attributes of the main character are in place. But it is the ancillary stuff that has been missing here, the rest of the mythos. And how much can Jurgens really do here knowing that his time is short?

Of course, Jurgens was/is probably as handcuffed as George Perez was on the title. Because just how much can be revealed about the 'now' Superman when Grant Morrison is still building the 'then' Superman. The problem here, as discussed in other places in this blog, is that there is simply no foundation for this new Superman right now in the DCnU. As readers we are sort of flying blind, falling back on assumptions of prior incarnations of Superman to make this one make sense.

Now I am not a reader who necessarily needs to fall back on 'does it matter'. I don't need every issue to bring some massive continuity effecting event. I just want good stories. And this story of the untouchable Anguish and the wrong secret identity guess was ... okay. Could part of that be that Jurgens was holding back?

 Last issue, Morgan Edge televised a story where blogger Vic Barnes named Spencer Becker as Superman's secret identity, an proclamation based solely on the weakest of circumstantial evidence. In fact, the story was so weak that Lois had already rejected it.

So this is an interesting side story in which journalistic ethics butts head with sensationalism and ratings. I had wondered if part of what was going to happen here was that Lois was going to step down from her administrative position and instead return to her journalist roots. And I thought I wanted that.

While I will always love Lois as the intrepid investigative reporter, someone searching for truth and justice, I hope she doesn't leave this job. If anything, we need Lois on that wall, fighting for the truth now on a larger scale.

As for Anguish, the untouchable woman, she reveals to Superman that she broke into that bank vault to get a locket with her mother's picture in it.

It is clear that Anguish's father abused her in some way. It is never really stated whether it was neglect, or physical abuse, or sexual abuse. But her power of being unable to be touched or feel anything at all does make me wonder if it wasn't some combination of all of them.

During this time, when her mother was gone and her father was 'caring' for her, Anguish developed this power to 'automatically' alter her density. Thus, she can be walking on the street and hold the locket but also have bullets, heat vision, and punches go through her. It is the ultimate defense mechanism ... interesting given the traumatic beginnings.

That power alone would be enough. But somehow that density also gives her super-strength, enough to hurt Superman and hurl cars around. Too bad because the first power would have been enough for me.

 In fact, realizing that physical attacks are worthless, Superman decides to go after the one thing Anguish does care about ... the locket. But the battle shatters it.

It causes Anguish anguish. She says she was simply going to take the locket and disappear. She didn't want all this drama and damage. But if Superman robbed her of what she loved then she will do the same. And, unfortunately, she thinks Superman is Spencer Becker. She storms off to Becker's house.

The truth is wouldn't every super-villain be heading off to Becker's house? This was my problem with Marvel's Civil War. As soon as Peter Parker unmasked, every rogue would be on their way to 'visit' Aunt May and Mary Jane.

 One thing that Jurgens does establish for this new Superman is the notion of a secret identity ... or lack thereof. Most people don't think Superman has a 'secret identity'. They think he is Superman only. And Superman doesn't do anything to dissuade people of that idea. When Lois arrives at the scene of his fight with Anguish and goes into reporter mode, Superman deftly sidesteps Lois' questions, never really answering her inquiries about where he goes when he isn't working.

I love Jimmy's ideas about it. Superman is on a tropical island with anti-detection technology and a harem.

 As I said above, I like that Lois is trying to stand up for the truth in journalism. Edge cares for ratings and even if he is wrong about this Becker story, even if it brings harm to Becker, even if Lois is right, Edge will be happy. Ratings went up.

How will Lois combat her boss about this problem? Should be good to read.

 While villains don't descend on the Becker house, television crews do. This includes Barnes who comes close to a lot of truth but missing the mark. He stalked Becker's work building where Superman is often seen flying around (the building is across the street from the Daily Planet). He wonders if there is a tunnel under this house which exits far away so Superman could leave secretly (similar to the tunnel under the Kent house in the Silver Age). Even Becker's disheveled appearance is explained as his working out in the nearby gym during his lunch hour. Some assumptions close to reality but not true.

Anyways, Anguish arrives hoping to kill Mrs. Becker and the family's young daughter.

 Knowing that fighting Anguish is impossible, Superman again goes back to the one thing that has effected her. He brings her back the locket, repaired via heat vision.

And then he goes into pure Superman mode. It is clear that Anguish is hurting psychologically. And it must be maddening to never be touched, even in a kind way. He offers her help. That is Superman.

But like many victims, Anguish thinks she cannot be helped. She fades away. It is a sad ending. And who knows if we will ever see her again.  But it also shows that even Superman can't solve everything ... certainly not by punching it. It was the most powerful moment in the story and for me the best moment.

The story ends with Barnes being punched out by Becker and with Lois still hammering away about what Superman does when he isn't Superman. If Superman has been around a while, you would think that this argument or question or denial would be water under the bridge. It is another example of how the time gap between books is awkward.

So this was an okay story. The Lois in opposition to Edge moments and Anguish's rain-soaked goodbye stand out as the high points. The art was fine if unspectacular. And so the Dan Jurgens time on the title comes one step closer to the end.

Overall grade: C+


Dave Mullen said...

To say you gave it a 'C' you're actually very positive about it!

I felt it was a let down myself, I thoroughly enjoyed Jurgens previous issues but this being without Keith Giffen may explain why it felt a little bit rushed and illogical. Giffen plotted it and Jurgens now has to work out how it ends? It shows. I found myself questioning events too much and couldn't accept what I was reading at face value.

Anguish is a villain or not? On the one hand she's seen as a victim, but then on a whim takes a straight line to the house and family of Becker and it most definitly looks ugly...
Superman despite his array of powers cannot work out a way of stopping her? Really? I found this confirmation that this really is a dumbed down Superman we've been served. If he has not the wits to work out a method of overcoming a relatively minor threat like this it's a sad day for readers. I can appreciate fallibility from him, but not low intelligence.

Maybe the fundamental problem for me is that this all felt like much ado about nothing, Anguish's story is completely open ended and despite her erratic actions she isn't appearing to be regarded as a villain. Spencer Beck as 'Superman' was a nice idea, but again it's superfluous in the end result. Lois versus Morgan Edge was another nice subplot, but again it's clearly not going to go anywhere.

It was a let down of an issue for me but nontheless I've fully enjoyed Dan Jurgens return for the most part, the art seemed a little rushed in places from the superb quality of previous issues but given the instability going on behind the scenes I don't see this book getting better than this really.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comment. I have always thought I was an 'easy grader' where the review is sometimes harsher than the grade.

The 'much ado about nothing' comment is right on the money. I am looking for stability on this title. And frankly, I want to feel settled in to this new Superman. We aren't there yet.

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, I'd give this a solid B. Now we pretty much know Dan, Keith and George have been treading water, I appreciate that we got such a decent story here. I really hope DC allow this book to be one of two 'A' Superman books soon.