Friday, October 2, 2015

Review: Superman #44

Superman #44 came out this week and closed the opening arc of 'The Truth', catching this book up temporally with what has been happening in the other titles. I haven't been a fan of this overall arc as those who have read my prior reviews know. This has been something of a mess with inconsistent characterization all around.

I am a bit of two minds when it comes to this issue. I think that this has been Yang's best issue of the run and does a fine job of showing just what the fallout of this major reveal would be. This would be a game changer and while I think the stories in Action, Superman/Wonder Woman, and Batman/Superman have shown that, there is something about this issue that made it hit home. Maybe because we are still in the transition time when Clark is still trying to live as Clark. And we really see how this reveal effects just about everyone from friends, to villains, to the average person living in Metropolis.

That said, we are still stuck with some wonky characterization and further devolution of Superman into something that is moving further and further away from the character I have loved. It truly feels like we have been in a decade rut with Superman with just a few arcs here and there rising to greatness.

John Romita Jr is on art here and is ... well ... John Romita Jr. There are a couple of panels that I actually mulled over and thought were very good. But overall, I think his work is rushed and unpolished.

The issue starts with Clark walking home and being attacked by a new version of the Royal Flush Gang. They know he is Superman after all.

Alas, they are still the Royal Flush Gang (or some reasonable facsimile of them). Superman takes them out in short order.

During the squabble, '10' sees the writing on the wall and surrenders. But before being taken in she thrashes King for his behavior towards Ace.

She gives a line which will set the tone for the issue. Violence is the only way that people can protect their own. Without Superman's level of super-powers, it is the solution.

Now you would think that Clark Kent would shake his head disapprovingly. Or tell her that maybe if she wasn't in a supervillain gang, she wouldn't be in this predicament. Instead he sort of looks on, takes it in, and as we'll see, agrees with her.

Unfortunately, Clark has to keep running because he hears about a hostage situation at the Planet.

Safely away from the action, Lois is talking with her father, General Lane.

In a sequence I did like, Sam thinks that Lois has revealed Clark's truth as a way for Superman to be besmirched, hunted, captured. He is proud of her for what he thinks is a betrayal of sorts. And the General isn't too quick to run to Superman or his friends aid. He seems almost smugly satisfied to let things get messy for the man of steel.

Lois' expression of surprise is great here, one of the panels where I thought Romita succeeded. No one seems to understand that she revealed this secret for the right reasons ... to save her friend.

The Planet staff has been captured by Livewire, Killer Croc, Atomic Skull, Killer Frost, and Shockwave. Sort of a motley crew.

After some snarky banter with Livewire regarding Steve Lombard (again, a bit out of character for Clark), he proceeds to pound his way through the group. Even slightly depowered, this group can't hold back Clark.

Clark finds the rest of the staff being held at gunpoint by a crazed Planet employee.

This employee's wife died in a Titano attack on the city. Now the man thinks that his wife was singled out because he worked with Clark. This reveal is effecting even those remotely affiliated with Clark/Superman. It has caused this man to crack.

So while I might not like this direction, I have to say that this look at just how massive this reveal is, how it's ripples endlessly. We saw this more positively in Lee Lambert and the tents around Clark's apartment. Here we see a very personal negative response.

In that skirmish, Perry is shot.

There is a lot I don't like about The Truth. Perry's attitude is one of the things I like the least.

Could you ever imagine Perry slapping the glasses off of Clark? 

If part of this arc is to show extreme reactions to this incredible revelation then Yang is bringing it. But this seems off.

And this is one of my overall problems with Superman comics these days. Clark isn't acting like Clark. Perry isn't acting like Perry. Lana isn't acting like Lana. People aren't recognizable.

I am not saying that characters need to be frozen, immutable. But they need to act in a way that makes sense for who they are.

With this ugly situation behind him, Clark broadcasts a movie from the rooftops. If anyone tries to hurt his friends, he will hurt them 1000 fold.

How horrible.

Not 'you will be stopped'. Not 'my friends and I are ever-vigilant and will capture you'.

I will hurt you 1000-fold.

It is so dark that even Luthor, watching the feed, smiles. He knows that suddenly Superman isn't the symbol he once was.


Oddly enough, the one character who has been portrayed well in this story is Lois, even though she got a lot of the internet hate regarding this arc.

She calls Clark out for this bloody justice he is threatening. 'That isn't how Superman is supposed to work.' At least somebody recognizes it!

Instead, Clark lashes out at her and blames her for this. There is no acknowledgment of the Quarmers draining him, of the dead body in Hordr's lair, of how she saved his life.

Clark decides that to wallow in anger and bitterness is the better path. He says what Ten said earlier. Over the top violence is how he will protect his own.


The issue ends with a 'big reveal'. Hordr Root is the son of someone with a history with Superman. His father has forsaken him. And Hordr will prove to his father that he can live up to the family name and remake the world

Let the guesses start!

I initially was thinking he is Vandal Savage's son. Savage would certainly not know of all his offspring. And remaking the world could be some time-travel story. Maybe that is how the undo this whole mess, change history?

Then I thought Hordr would be the perfect son of Hank Henshaw's Cyborg Superman. Loading himself into computers and masks, hating Superman, hating his father. Then I remembered that Zor-El is the current Cyborg Superman. If this arc changes that I will be happy!

And I thought that this was the sharpest written issue by Yang, moving along nicely with good transitions.

All of this said, I am sort of sick of this 'new' depowered angry Superman. I am sick of the bloodied knuckles, snap judgments, and alienation. I want my Superman to rise above things, to solve the problems in the best way. Not slowly descend morally to the point that Luthor is pleased.

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

Yes indeed, Superman is lost to us right now. DC might argue that 'it's always darkest...' but Superman isn't a character who needs to learn that violence isn't the answer. He's Superman, the concept of vengeance is alien to his very nature. It's like that execution business with John Byrne - just wrong.

Skags the Clown said...

John Byrne's decision to have Superman execute the three Kryptonian super-villians certainly didn’t feel right, but, as departures from the norm go, it was momentous for its time. It led to some rather remarkable story lines in which we saw Kal-El suffer a mental breakdown, due to his guilt over his actions, his leading of a double-life as Gangbuster, his self-exile into outer space (Consider all the wonderful tangents that sprang from that sojurn), his triumphant return and his reaffirmed commitment to not taking a life. It all meant something; it made sense. Each part led logically to the next and, if memory serves, all of it was very well written. Superman broke his own rule, but he remained Superman.
But this hodge-podge? Who knows what to make of it? Resolving it may very well require a time travel deus ex machina.

Godzylla said...

They haven't quite brought us full circle. Why was he in Alaska at the beginning of the "Truth" arc in Action? What happened to his costume, leaving him with only precious scraps of his cape? As I mentioned in Martin's review, this was my least favorite issue of Yang's run so far. Still not as bad as the Superman/Wonder Woman book or even Batman/Superman, but with the bar set so low, it's no wonder that Action is the current jewel in the Superman line (but imagine how truly good it could be if Pak weren't hampered by editorial...).


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.
I just can't believe that this is how DC wants to portray Superman.

Anonymous said...

Does DC stand for dark comics now? Sad I have to go to Harley Quinn for more light hearted reading.

Anonymous said...

Sadly DC does seem to stand for Dark Comics nowadays. It used to be that Marvel was the darker and more realistic company whereas DC had heroes that stood for greater ideals and were examples of what to strive for. Sadly, that seems to have been stamped out over the New 52 years of DC's history.

This issue really highlighted where DC are going wrong in their direction and treatment of Superman. Clark being feared by the general public, Lois receiving congratulations from her father for what she's done (kind of like a Judas receives 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus moment), Perry snapping and lashing out at Clark and worst of all, Superman succumbing to threatening and vengeful tactics as 'protection' for his friends. That is not how Superman is supposed or what the character is supposed to represent. Yet here we are with an aggressive and darker Superman and DC think this is going to sell. What is wrong with them?


Jay said...

I have absolutely zero problem with Superman threatening people who might think to target his loved ones. He's always been fiercely protective of those he's closest to regardless of the incarnation. Even in his "boyscout" years he would lose it REAL fast when stuff like that happened. This is not out-of-character. The problem with the scene was trying to make it seem like it was. This is not a guy looking for trouble, he's just announcing not to make any for the people he loves. You do that then you're in trouble. Completely rational and understandable. And not at all dark. But again, they want me to believe its dark, which I still think it sgoing to end up in large part due to Wrath's influence this whole time, so that's why it falls flat for me on a personal level.

Anonymous said...

They seem to have dialed Superman back to a rather ill tempered version of Philip Wylie's "Hugo Danner" superhuman from his novel "Gladiator"...But then storylines like this are all about short term "sugar high" sales bumps....the whole industry seems addicted to this type of storytelling. To me it indicates the creatives are all running scared and think floppies are positioned for extinction...."one false move" and it's all over....