Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: Adventures Of Superman #3

Adventures of Superman #3 came out in print form yesterday and stood out as the best book of the week for me. In a time when Superman as a character seems on shaky ground, this comic has been a rock of Gibraltar, a place where I can go to get a more classic take on the Man of Steel.

Unlike the prior issues which have been more of an anthology, this issue features one story 'Faster than a bullet' by writer Matt Kindt and artist Stephen Segovia. It is a wonderful story, both fast paced and perfectly slow, both big in action and simmering in characterization.

And it is able to do all of those things by running two stories simultaneously. The top portions of each page is a classic red-trunked Superman story, a busy day for him rushing from one interstellar crisis to another, barely able to breathe and needing to get back Earth in time to pick up his life as Clark. At the same time the bottom part of each page is a Lois Lane story, a conversation she is having with Lex Luthor as he unveils his plans of running for President. Both are heroes in their own way.

Perhaps best of all, despite the differences in those two stories, Kindt does a great job of riffing one off the other, linking their beats and showing the similarities between the two. Superman fighting monsters, stopping wars, and escaping with his life is all mirrored in Lois' intellectual battle with Lex. It is beautiful, the way comics should work, and made all the more fantastic by Segovia's art.

The issue starts with Superman waking up before his alarm clock, hearing an inordinate number of cries for help both on Earth and in space, prioritizing what he needs to do, and heading off to work.

Right off the bat we see how Kindt is going to play one story off the other. Superman heads into space to help Green Lantern Laira deal with an interplanetary crisis. Off he zooms to the other end of the universe.

And that feeling is linked to Lois meeting Lex early in the morning at a very public coffee shop. Immediately Lois wonders why Lex would meet there, a concern that is valid later on. But as she walks into this shop, seeing Lex sitting there, she feels like she is in a different solar system where Lex is another world.

Sometimes the comparisons are subtle. Superman is on an alien world battling some giant monster and dealing with the organic threats it carries. One way he deals with some alien spores is immerse himself in acid, a dip which sterilizes him but  also hurts.

And below, Lex simply tells Lois she is in over her head.

Sometimes the linking is more obvious.

It turns out the beast Superman is fighting is a giant interstellar worm. With his xray vision Superman i able to do a little neurosurgery. Afterwards, the worm is calm and so Superman can move on to the next threat.

And below Lois talks of seeing into Lex's head, seeing the squirming worms of schemes as he says he is running for office. Lois is so fantastic here. I love the look on her face in this panel, a mix of incredulous and disdain. On the next page, she says she has to suppress an eye-roll. That is some strength and courage!

As a huge fan of Frank Herbert's Dune series, I love that Superman talks of the worm most likely being worshiped somewhere.

Next stop on the hit parade for Superman is another alien planet, embroiled in a world war.

He zips through skies littered with mega-powerful missiles. He had hoped to get here before this cataclysmic exchange of weapons.

And in Metropolis, Lex drops his own bomb. Not only is he going to run for President, he wants Lois to run his publicity!

 Luckily, Superman is able to pour on the speed and stop any of the missiles from striking, stopping genocide.

Superman knows that war is always over land or resources. After super-speed learning the language, he understands that an energy crystal is the basis of this war. And so he provides each nation with their own supply.

In the mean time, during this entire scene of war, Lois gives a wonderful soliloquy, castigating Lex and his approach to humanity, how he destroys people, how he created sinkholes to up the price of land he owns. It is incredible to see her stand up to him in this way, a classic interpretation of Lois.

As I said above, the Superman story zips along incredibly while Lois' story delicious heats up slowly.

As he tries to go home, Superman is boom tubed to Apokolips, sent into a super-prison where we see Mister Miracle and Infinity Man trapped. The room is dripping with Kryptonite, the perfect trap.

And Lois is also being trapped. She can see Lex bringing her around so he can spring it on her. Dealing with Lex is as deadly a prison as this one run by Desaad.

I have talked all about Kindt and how he uses the Superman story to send a vibe to Lois' story. But it also flows the other way. Here Lex says he is going to run for President. The next panel, in Superman's story, is simply the word Apokolips with a shot of that Hell. A world run by Lex would be similar.

And if Lois doesn't help Lex he will have her family and friends killed. Worse yet, Luthor has rigged the back door of the coffee shop with a bomb. Should Lois get up and leave, she will die in the explosion. No wonder he wanted this public place.

While on Apokolips, the Infinity Man tells Superman he needs to get back to Earth and stop a single death that, should it happen, will ultimately lead to a global catastrophe. A quick escape later, Superman is flying at top speed back to Earth to stop this murder. It does seem a little like luck that Superman even ran into the Infinity Man to hear this prophecy. For the first time, I see a little darkness ... a little fatigue ... on Superman's face. He talks how this one crucial life might have been otherwise lost in the 'sea of pain and death' he is exposed to. He isn't always bright and sunny and optimistic. This world ... this universe ... can wear him down.

On a smaller scale, Lois is also sick of Lex, nauseated by the whole thing and needing to get away.

Superman's life writ large is Lois' life as a hero, just on a smaller level.

Is this police officer that crucial person? It is never said. But Superman talks of how he can only do so much, try to do his best, and realize he can't do everything.

Again, nice little segue here. Superman blocking the killer's bullets. And Lois telling Lex he can't always dodge the bullets he sets up. 

Finally back on Earth, Superman strips the bomb off the coffee shop door, races home and changes into Clark, and makes it back in time to meet Lois.

After his busy morning, his only dream is to have a nice slow walk with her. A perfect ending for this story. There is high action with Superman. There was high suspense with Lois. Both stories mirror each other, resonate. And then we get a chance for both to breathe, enjoying each others' company.

So nothing but praise here. The juxtaposition between the two stories made them flow and glow. Solid art and great transitions made this something great.

Overall grade: A

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