Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: Adventures Of Superman #7

Adventures of Superman #7 came out last week and had two interesting stories by two excellent creative teams. This comic has routinely floored me with its more classic interpretation of Superman. My guess is many comic creators have a Superman story inside them they always wanted to tell and this title is the perfect landing place for them. (On a side note, I would bet that many creators also have a John Constantine story inside them. I would love an anthology comic like this for him!)

This issue was the first that didn't seem to necessarily lock on to a classic Superman trait (hometown lessons from Pa, devotion to Truth and Justice, etc.). The first story 'Saved' is by writer/artist David Lapham and was the first tale here that didn't feel like Superman comfort food. I am still trying to wrap my mind around it, deciding if I love it or just like it. Of course, the very fact that I am still thinking about it in this way means I have to like it. You can't make me scratch a mental itch this long without it being a good story.

The second story 'Space,Actually' is done by the creative team of Image's Revival comic - writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton. This is also a great story on multiple levels. But I also wondered if it wasn't something of a riff on Supergirl as well.

'Saved' starts with an unnamed man out on a skyscraper ledge. He is looking down at a battle between Superman and Metallo. And he speaks of how the end of days is coming for man. And the only person who can save mankind from their sins is ... Superman.

It is a great hook to the story putting the emphasis of the opening on this person rather than Superman. And Lapham does a great job constructing the scene, moving from close-ups to side shots, to that dizzying above image.

But there is something sort of unsettling about his words, those of a zealot who is focusing his faith on Superman.

We then head below and see the Superman battle up close. For a while our focus is on the action, and that feels much more comfortable.

But still, the man's words carry throughout the fight. We hear him talk about how Superman will bring about change to the faithful, moving them beyond the narcissism of man. I love how Lapham has Metallo call Superman 'savior', blurring the religious overtones of both aspects of the story.

Of course Superman defeats Metallo.

Immediately afterwards, the man jumps from the ledge and is 'saved' by Superman. Interesting ... physically saved? Spiritually saved? Or both?

Let me add that Lapham draws one of the more horrific Metallo's I have seen, the flesh sloughing off the robot body. Slick!

As he travels from adventure to adventure, the same man is there, pitching himself off buildings and being saved. Finally Superman confronts the man's family, asking them if they should seek professional help for their son.

It turns out the family is part of a growing Superman cult. And now a 'flash mob' suicide has been planned, a way for all of them to be saved. At a predetermined time, the 900 members will all throw themselves off buildings so Superman can save them all.

We have seen 'Superman cults' in comics before but usually as face-painted, cloaked, violent mobs. So this is even more disturbing. People who will so casually try to kill themselves in Superman's name. Superman's shocked expression is perfect.

It turns out that a little girl's Superman blog has been co-opted and corrupted by her parents into a sort of 'Church of Superman'. While they reaped some financial benefit from the congregation, the community took on an energy of its own. Despite these charlatans' protests, the suicide pact moved forwards.

I loved this scene.

First off, the little girl's Superman blog had thousands of followers! Thousands!! What was she doing that I'm not doing.

Second, I love the protest by the women. Clearly she did everything she could do to stop these people. She 'even emailed everybody'! Thanks for the effort! I thought that said so much! Doing the right thing is hard. Harder than mass emailing!

Lastly it showed how cynical and greedy our society is that these parents would corrupt something as pure as a little girl's fan site for her hero.

Okay, now here is the part that I am ruminating over.

Superman figures the only way that he can convince these people not to jump is to show he isn't a god. So he has Dr. Hamilton create a Metallo-looking automaton with a shard of Kryptonite. Superman let's himself get bruised and battered to show he is 'just a man'. Shaken from their faith, the people retreat from the ledges. And when it is over, Superman is happy that there was no loss of life.

In the old days, he would just give a big speech and everyone would nod. Here he gives a big speech before the sham fight but it doesn't work.

But the way to save the day is for Superman to be defeated. I suppose there is a 'he who humbles himself will be exalted' sort of logic here. The only solution in our cynical times is to rob people of their heroes and faith?

And yet, everyone was saved. And they shouldn't be worshiping Superman as it is.

Hmmmm ...

What did you guys think??

The second story is an interesting use of parallel storylines.

In one storyline, Superman is battling his friends who have been brainwashed by Darkseid.

The other story is the difficult life of an awkward little orphan girl in Russia named Tonya.

She is quiet, a dreamer, and often bullied.

But there is something sort of Silver Age Kara-like about her. Blond, blue-eyed, in an orphanage. She watches as other girls are picked by parents and taken away to loving homes while she suffers.

It is clear she just wants to escape.

The Superman story is fast and fun. He defeats his friends and learns that Darkseid has spores from a Apokoliptian plant that will enslave Earth. He fires a spore missile to Earth and releases his omega beams to stop Superman from interfering.

We don't even necessarily see how this all plays out. We simply see Superman talking to the league again, the day saved.

From space he spies Tonya trying to escape the doldrums of her life by climbing an old tree in the orphanage yard, hoping it will take her into space ... away from it all.

She slips and falls ... only to be caught by Superman.

There is something great about these two stories. One is a huge action world-threatening plot. The other is a small tale of one girl trying to reach beyond the limits of her world and struggling.

And then this wonderful ending. He gives her his cape. He tells her he was an orphan too. She can get beyond these walls.

There is a definite Byrne feel to that last panel. And the girl holding the cape adds to the Supergirl feel.

But this is one of those slice of life Superman stories that shows that he cares about the big and the small. Here it isn't the trite saving a kitten from a tree. It is saving a girl from a tree. But it shows that after saving the world he can also inspire people on an individual level.

And the artwork here is wonderful, slick and polished.

So two very good stories about Superman. One I am on the fence on ... but that ending fascinates me. The other good old fashioned pure Man of Steel.

I continue to love this book.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

You mentioned Superman's words not being enough, and I think it's worth observing:

1. They WERE working, until one man tried to jump and Superman saved him, reinforcing his power and "savior" status.
2. These people were clearly heavily psychologically imbalanced, to the point where Superman can hardly be blamed for not getting through to them with a single speech, especially with all the others backing up their misplaced faith.

Anj said...

I agree with all you say! I suppose I didn't spell out point 1 in the review.

It is more that in more classic Superman, the one speech is enough.

This 'second' ending with the beatdown is quite innovative for me so I keep chewing on it.

M-Tails-P said...

We don't even necessarily see how this all plays out. We simply see Superman talking to the league again, the day saved.

Actually, we do. Superman dodges the beam, and the Omega Beam hits the missile instead, destroying it. Darkseid escapes off screen using a boom tube afterwards.