Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Superman #30

In a couple of months Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. will be taking over the Superman title. That means that the Scott Lobdell era on the character is coming to a close. And it seems to be ending with a whimper than a bang.

Maybe that is being kind.

Because this isn't a whimper. It is just a lousy comic.

Lobdell must know that he is working on borrowed time because he tries to shove as many subplots into this issue as he can. But do all of these things need the time that is devoted to them? For me the answer was no. And do I wish some of these subplots just disappeared? Yes, I do.

Also, since we get a ton of subplots, the transition from one scene to the other is so jarring that there is no flow to the book at all. Things happen in a strange way to move a scene along. And there is little characterization here.

The internal art is by Ed Benes and his style is well known. But this is a 20 page comic that has 6 single splash pages. There are several 2 page spreads where the upper half of both pages are one big panel. Almost none of these moments require 'big art' to tell the story. If Lobdell had so much to cover, he could have tightened up the art for more description and depth to the scenes he wants to cover.

And while I don't bother assuming that covers have anything to do with content, Andy Kubert's cover showing a Superman thrashed in Smallville isn't even approached inside.

If there was any scene that truly frustrated me about this issue it is the opening one. We have 4 pages ... 4 pages! ... that's 20% of this book ...delving into the back story of a couple on their honeymoon. How they met. Their jobs. There struggles in staying together. Their undying love. How happy they are.

Then they are killed by Doomsday.

That is a lot of time spent on people we will never see again. The point of view of the average human in a world with metas has been a well-worn device to talk about how life is precious and tenuous. But 4 pages? And that is more backstory than we have seen for almost any of the true supporting characters of the book. The whole book includes the presence of an omniscient narrator who has some cringe-worthy, ham-fisted, sometimes inscrutable lines.

And, I may be off but Alistair looks sort of like Scott Lobdell.

Okay, 20% down. Two civilians dead.

We jump to Smallville. We have a page with 2 panels. The Welcome to Smallville sign. And police in riot gear searching the library. It seems that Smallville, as a town, has fallen into a coma. Sam Lane has been called in to help the military figure out what has happened.

We have a splash of Superman landing in the town, complete with some inscrutable text.

But I like this moment. Superman wants to know what is happening and the Colonel in charge storms off. I suppose her line is supposed to be a 'burn' ... but wouldn't she want Superman's help? And I would need to count off how many words the sentence is before I said it. Has she used that before? Is that her go-to exit line?

And it contributes to the 'world/military dislikes Superman' attitude that has been in this book. Amazingly Lane asks for Superman's help. But Clark can't get figure it out.

Lane wonders if new crop circles are a key. Turns out they spell out Doom in Kryptonian. As he flies around Superman sees something hiding in a silo. He heads to investigate only to have his powers leave him suddenly. It turns out the person making the crop circles, the guy brooding in a silo, is Lobdell's Eradicator, the living entity of Krypton's death. It was sent here in Krypton Returns. And yes, the picture of the Eradicator, sitting on hay bales, is a splash.

So ... green Kryptonite doesn't take away Superman's powers.

But moreover, why would the Eradicator sit in the silo for the time he has? Why did he write the circles? Didn't he want to kill all Kryptonians to complete his mission?

Turns out ... somehow ... the Eradicator has looked into the future and seen that the Earth will be destroyed by Superman! How does he know this? Is prognostication one of his powers? We don't find out.

After telling Superman this, The Eradicator tosses Kal into space and disappears. Was this a way to remind us (unfortunately) that this Eradicator exists? Because I don't know if it added anything.

And I don't know if I understand the Eradicator as a character at all. What are his motivations? Why did he stick around Smallville? Couldn't some of the page space used in large panels been used to fill us in more?

Cut to Metropolis where Lois is mind-locking people around her with her retained Brainiac powers.

Remember when the Parasite drained Lois of her powers and memories that Clark is Superman? I guess he somehow drained just the memories. Because Lois is again approaching 12th level intellect/psionic. Shouldn't she pick up that Clark is Superman again?

Remember when everyone else with Brainiac powers became hideous creatures with huge heads? I guess it doesn't effect Lois that way?

Remember when Lois was a valued part of the Superman mythos?

Anyways, she is now a herald for the Collector of Worlds. If any page deserved a splash, it was this one.

And, of course, we get more over the top bombast from the omniscient narrator.

Meanwhile, Superman has gone to his fortress to try to find Doomsday with Cyborg's help. On this page, we have a half panel outside shot of the Fortress.

Clark feigns illness so he, again, won't be doing any work for Clarkcatropolis.

I don't know what to think about Clark telling Cat that she often acts 'vacuous and self-centered'. Even if he says it is a schtick, it sounds like an insult.

Despite being in the Fortress, Superman doesn't hear the people in Kandor awaken and bang on the glass.

See how their fists make a 'doom' sign!! Okay, okay ... not subtle.

And the book ends with another splash page! This one showing the tropical island from the first scene, smashed apart.

I suppose that the Smallville and Kandor plots are linked.

I just think this was something of a jumbled mess, jumping from subplot to subplot with no transitions or linking of any kind. Some scenes, like the opening one, are simply too long. That story hook of innocents dying could have been done in one page. Other scenes, like crop circles and the Eradicator, are meaningless, not adding much to the story ... or at least adding in a way that is comprehensible. Add to that a Superman that is disliked by the Army even in the face of a disaster and a Clark that insults his friends. It is rough.

In fact, the only subplot worth checking out is the Lois subplot. But to chew on that, I have to simply forget pieces of that subplot that have been lingering for a while now. I can't forget that the 'Twenty' died as misshapen beings. I can't figure out how Lois doesn't know Clark is Superman. And her current situation makes the Parasite issue (remember when Superman risked Lois' life to protect his interests?) even worse than when I read it!

Overall grade: D


Dave Mullen said...

Good analysis, I agree with every single point. This issue was so poor that for the first time I couldn't be bothered reviewing it. I have enjoyed Scott Lobdells work on the title but with these last two issues I see a complete collapse in quality. Undoubtedly the news of his leaving is partly due to this but in his defence I do think that he is a writer who is from the oldschool, he cut his teeth in the early 90s and the days of newsstand distribution and mass audiences, this was an environment that allowed for long-distance plotting of the kind he has applied to Superman - Helspont's schemes, Brainiac and The Twenty, H'el and Jor-el, Clarkcatropolis... with the news of his departure he is now in the position of having to address these varied subplots and with the Doomsday storyline shoved in at the last minute it's all too much. On top of that the loss of Kenneth Rocafort was a serious blow, he has had a succession of artists filling in and this issue Ed Benes' art was decidedly underwhelming and swamped by some incredibly dark colour tones. DC seem to have a death wish when it comes to assigning artists like this - remember Legion of Super-Heroes?

The one scene this issue that particularly grated for me was the Superman's arrival in Smallville and Colonel's extraordinary response.
Coming on top of General Lane's attack on Superman in Unchained, and the nonsensical motivations of Harrow over in Action, this latest jab at Superman's authority was too much. I do wonder if writers think about what it is they are writing, with hundreds of thousands of people in a sudden coma and possibly dead soon this Colonel's response to an arriving Superman (SUPERMAN!) is... this?
In every way it was Utterly unbelievable.

I found this scene too much, DC need to come to terms with the fact that they have fostered a very disagreeable paradigm with this and are repeatedly driving the message that there is a permanent wedge between Superman and the US army. They are selling the US army as evil reactionaries. This is Superman we are reading, not the Hulk.
What message is this sending out?

ealperin said...

Wow. Just... WOW. I am SO glad that I didn't pick this book up.

Jay said...

The Doomed storyline wasn't shoved in at the last minute. Its been planned for eight months, with Lobdell a contributer. All these plot threads lingering and having to be tackled quickly is not the crossover's fault.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I agree Jay that Doomed has been around for a while. But that means that Lobdell could have been wrapping things up more organically than this issue.

I don't know if the Starfire issues 'needed' to happen. Maybe those issues could have been used to move these things along more easily.

Jay said...

Oh I'm with you, that's basically what I was saying, that the blame for these dangling plot threads really only falls to Lobdell himself. Essentially it would seem he bit off more than he could chew.