Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Adventures Of Superman #12

I have, for the most part, enjoyed the Adventures of Superman digital first series. There have been any number of superior stories in this book which have had a more classic feel to the Man of Steel, right down to the red trunks. I was a bit let down when I heard recently that the series was being cancelled.

Adventures of Superman #12, unfortunately, is not one of the stronger entries in this book. Writer Peter Milligan, whose work I have loved on Shade The Changing Man and The Human Target, takes another look at how difficult it is to remain a pure hero in this jaded world. This isn't new material. Whether it is Magog in Kingdom Come or Manchester Black in 'What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way', or the Hyperclan in Morrison's JLA , this idea that the world can't deal with an inspirational hero is well trod soil. And those mentioned stories, amongst the many printed, are so superior, that I can't help but feel a writer better have a new wrinkle or be compared unfavorably.

Milligan indeed has a new wrinkle ... as you will see. But, in this instance that innovation makes this a worse story, at least for me. I come to this book to be inspired. To read about a Superman who is going to rise above, be a role model, and show us all that we can help each other.

Another part of the problem here is inherent in the 'out of continuity' nature of the book. Lois is portrayed here as a young new reporter, given bad assignments. That is fine. Except, there is also a feeling that Superman is more well-established. I have never seen that take on the history. Usually Lois is established when Superman arrives. Or both are up and coming together.

The art on the book is by Agustin Padilla and is very sharp. In particular, the quiet moments of Clark and Lois are very nicely rendered.

The story opens with The Toyman on a citywide kidnapping spree, grabbing the children of Metropolis with apparent impunity. In fact, he gloats a bit that Superman won't do anything to him. The city is in an uproar about it, including the media. Why won't Superman just get rid of the Toyman?

What is interesting here is the initial anti-Superman sentiment voiced by Lois. She seems dismayed that people are relying on Superman.

And then, as if on cue, a new tougher 'hero' arrives in Metropolis ... The Demolisher. He's masked, armed with sword and shield, and he isn't taking any prisoners. Flying into Toyman's hideout, he pulls a Rorschach, breaking the Toyman's fingers.

After this torture, the Demolisher flies off. Seconds later ... shocking ... Superman arrives. I don't know ... the upcoming 'surprise' wasn't very surprising to me.

We later see the Demolisher thrash Bruno Mannheim.

And, much like the Daily Planet poll in Kingdom Come showing that people preferred Magog, the people of Metropolis initially embrace the Demolisher. Their kids are safe. The Toyman is broken and caught. And Superman doesn't have the guts to do that dirty work.

Lois also seems to complain about his 'goody-goody' persona, the kind of guy who wouldn't risk kissing a woman he wants to.

At the very least, that is a good moment - my favorite of the story, as Lois seems to be showing Clark she is interested in him. I will always prefer a Clark-Lois relationship.

But even Superman begins questioning himself. Is he a relic in this cynical world? In Kingdome Come he retreats to his Fortress. In "What's so funny ...", he mirrors the Extremists and shows the world the error of their beliefs.

And I would want my Superman to do that. To shine his bright light on us, burn away the cynicism, and bring us through inspiration to a better place.

Here ... well ...

No big surprise ... it turns out that Superman *IS* The Demolisher.

Hearing all the 'bad things' about being Superman, his honor ... his nobility ... his ethics ... his 'being adorable' ... Clark decides to make a third identity, a harsh one for a harsh world.

Okay Peter Milligan ... you lost me. Because my Superman, raised by the Kents, knowing what is right and wrong ... he wouldn't do this.

And the dark path is a quick one, a slippery slope.

As the Demolisher, Superman actually has to step in and save Lois from being mugged. And he lays a beating down on the crooks, a vicious one that is so bad that Lois has to step in.

Embracing his bad boy persona, Clark lifts up his mask and plants a kiss on Lois' lips.

Because, we all have to bow to the belief that the bad boys are the popular ones, the ones that girls will swoon over, even kiss after they witness a frightening thrashing. I want to think that Lois would push him away.

The firsthand account of the Demolisher is enough to vault Lois to the front page for the first time, talking about the thug the Demolisher is. Swayed by the press ... WOW ... Metropolis reconsiders. Now they want Superman to come back and be the hero they deserve.

But, for some reason, Superman is still clinging to the Demolisher. Man, I was really hoping for a Red Kryptonite answer to this. But it isn't that magical. Clark is struggling about who he wants to be, who he wants the people of Metropolis to want. He even decides to blow up the station supplying Metropolis with power. In the resulting chaos people will want The Demolisher.

And get this ... he actually does it! He blows up the station!

Okay Peter Milligan ... you really lost me.

However, mere seconds after destroying the station, Clark (finally) realizes this isn't who he is. He fixes the station in seconds. He then fakes the death of the Demolisher. And resumes his Superman persona, now maybe with an understanding that there could be good in some super-villains.

I suppose that Superman seeing the best in people is a good thing. But this felt like another apologia for super-villains who are kidnapping children. And the best way to make villains relatable is make a Superman with a dark enough streak to almost split his personalities.

It vaguely reminded me of the old Untold Legend of the Batman mini-series where Batman's personality is so fractured that the 'Bruce Wayne' persona begins to attack the Batman part of him.

But anyways ... Superman crushing villains and demolishing the Metropolis Power Station??

I wasn't too keen on this story. It didn't help that I am pretty exhausted after a harsh work week. In a time when I needed something inspiring, I got this.


Anonymous said...

This was easily one of the worst Superman stories in recent years. Even worse than the Post Crisis Gangbuster days. Milligan absoslutely missed the core of Superman's character, failed to justify Superman's vigilante downturn and screwed the pooch on writing any kind of half decent Superman story. People claim Adventures of Superman is superior to the New 52 but this story is a pitfall in that argument. Any writer can come on and write the story they want to. And Millgan wrote one poor attempt of a Superman story. There's none of the morality, the inspiration or the example Superman sets to the world. Just another attempt to cash in on the number evil Superman stories. Disappointed doesn't come close to expressing how much I hated this disrespectful attempt at a Superman story.

Supertorresmo said...

Why this story didn't come out in the digital first? The digital Adventures of Superman was cancelled in number 51, this means that the printed version continues?

That's bad for me, I only read digital now...

Martin Gray said...

Sounds just hideous, most out of character for AoS. Did they even give a reason as to why Superman couldn't just foil the Toyman, as he has a billion times previously?

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I think the digital series is over. The print version will end when it is done printing the digital stories.

I didn't like this Superman and I don't know why he didn't simply stop Toyman earlier as Superman. Poor writing?