Adventures of Superman #14 came out last week and was a mixed bag. There are two stories in the issue, one that made me wince, one that made me laugh. This book is on its way out, a canceled digital first book, which usually was my source for classic Superman interpretations. So in many ways I am sad to see it go.
But maybe I can feel better about seeing this book go if it means that DC won't let creators like Max Landis tell his Superman story. Because Max Landis should, at least in my mind, be banned from touching DC characters and especially Superman! After all, Landis made a big splash by telling people that they don't care about Superman and shouldn't care about Superman. He made it a point to demean many many creators when he disparaged the whole Death/Funeral of a Friend/Return of Superman arc. And he did it in such a smug way, something that someone who made a mediocre movie about super-powered teens shouldn't have the right to do.
Anyways, preconceived notions are hard to remove. So I am sure I went into this issue with a jaundiced eye. I mean, if Landis doesn't think I should care about Superman why would I ever care about his Superman story?
After that bitter pill, at least I had the fun and irreverant Sugar and Spike team-up by Fabian Nicieza and Phil Hester to soothe.
Landis' story has The Joker on the roof of the Daily Planet, holding a detonation device, claiming that bombs of joker-venom gas are around the city. Superman arrives and the two settle into a philosophical debate about their realities. The Joker calls Superman boring and vague. Superman calls the Joker boring and a ruse, a shroud that writers can fling over any character archetype and have it be deemed interesting.
It is clear that Landis dislikes these characters. I have to assume that how the characters describe each other is how Landis views them. In essence, he is insulting prior creators' work.
Now the story isn't a complete failure. Jock's art is solid. And this page where Landis shows the many faces the Joker has worn is a nice walk through history - from Finger to Romero to Novick to Bolland to Nicholson to Timm to Capullo to Ledger - these are all the versions of the Joker. From killer to camp, from victim to cartoon to killer, the Joker has evolved.
Isn't character evolution a good thing?
And if the Joker is everything and nothing, Superman is something - boring, bland, vague.
The Joker doesn't care. Landis doesn't care.
Funny though ... I care. I am a fan of Superman. So why would DC let someone who doesn't understand the character write a story.
Hell, why would Warners let someone who doesn't understand the character write the screenplay?? Or direct the movie?? But I digress.
Because it isn't over. Landis has to be edgy. So why not let Superman threaten to kill the Joker.
And then have him say the metatextual insult that anyone could write, play, or be the Joker.
Ooooh ... Landis is fighting the establishment. Mocking and deconstructing two of DC's most well-known characters!!
Ooooohhh ... rebellious!
In the end, Superman grabs the bombs and the Joker.
But then there is this ending. Let's add some more nonsense to this story.
It turns out that somehow Batman could have stopped the Joker from heading to Metropolis. But he didn't!! He wanted to see how Superman would react. Because that is what Batman would do.
And Superman says another Joker visit will end in death. Oooohhh ... glowing red eyes! So violent!
That's right! Batman let the murderous sociopath head to a huge city ... as a test. Good thing the Joker simply didn't detonate the bombs.
Here is a plea to DC ... lose Max Landis' contact information. Stop prostituting yourself. Whatever money he brings in isn't worth the way he treats the characters or the back-door insults to your company.
I rolled my eyes so many times reading the Landis story that my vision was blurry for a bit.
When things normalized, I read the next story. And suddenly Superman was fun again.
Somehow Clark gets roped into babysitting Sugar and Spike. And these kids are a handful. There was a sort of Mort Meskin Jonny Quick feel to this page with the multiple images of Spike flying around the room. And the fact that Superman is the still figure shows the terror of this toddler!
Sugar and Spike's fathers are STAR Labs employees. And while working late,
their dimension-breaking device is stolen by the Atomic Skull. Clark has
no option but to bring the tots along for an adventure.
Superman briefly gets shunted to another dimension leaving Sugar and Spike at the mercy of the Skull. Or is it the other way around.
Spike turns the tables, bringing Superman back and jumbling the Skull in and out of reality.
That's right, toddlers can make both the hero's life and the villain's life miserable.
With the Skull caught, Supes brings the kids home and tucks them into bed.
It is a cute story and just what I needed after Landis' poison.
So a hit and a miss in this issue of Adventures of Superman. They can't all be perfect.
Overall grade: D+ (F for Landis/Jock, B for Nicieza/Hester)