Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Superman #5

Superman #5 came out last week, the latest chapter in the Eradicator storyline which straddles science fiction and metaphysical plot elements. The new Eradicator is a warehouse not only for Kryptonian culture but also Kryptonian life forces (or souls). And that element is troubling me as a reader.

I can't think of many super-hero stories which are able to easily meld religion and science fiction. (Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Peter David's Supergirl come to mind as good examples.) A story has to be pretty stellar for it to work for me and so I am mulling over this new Eradicator in my mind. Does his new function work for me?

If I am able to move past that plot point, story tellers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason continue to give us a wonderful Superman family. Clark is trying his best to protect the world and his wife and son. Jon is being asked to grow up pretty quickly in terms of using his powers and being a hero. And Lois continues to show why she is one of the strongest characters in the DCU. My one quibble is that, like Action Comics, this issue is almost completely a brawl with just a smidge of plot progression. I don't mind action ... but I want more.

The art on the issue is done by Doug Mahnke. I love Mahnke's style and he brings a sort of otherworldly feel to the Eradicator and the souls within. There does seem to be some softening of his work in places which jibes better with the Gleason style in earlier issues.

On to the book!

Last issue ended with Superman taking Lois and Jon to the moon. At the time, I questioned why. Here we learn that Batman has a batcave on the moon. Superman learned about it by spying on the Dark Knight (interesting). Wanting to take the fight away from Earth, he thought this would be a fine place to hole up.

Given the threat level of the Eradicator, Jon wonders why Superman hasn't called in the whole league. Clark responds that it is a family matter, a Kryptonian matter, and that others shouldn't get involved.

I really am trying to wrap my head around this. I like the sentiment, a sort of 'family business' Godfather take on the Eradicator. Also, the Eradicator only wants to deal with Clark and Jon. Why bring the League into a battle where they have no stake?

But it also reads a bit like hubris. I am sure Superman would want to help his friends if they needed it.

Later in this scene Lois tells Clark he needs to train Jon quickly so Jon can be a hero and battle. This seems a little rushed given that she has hidden his abilities all his life and didn't want him involved just issues ago.

Superman and the Eradicator fight in the cave and trade blows.

But then the Eradicator uses his 'life suck' power to basically swallow Superman, just like he swallowed Krypto! This really is starting to feel like Perfect Cell or even Majin Bu! (Sorry to wave by DBZ flag.)

But there is something bizarrely fascinating about the line 'Your home is you.' I keep ruminating over this line. Like it should be on a motivational poster.

Nice panel art by Mahnke and brilliant colors here by Wil Quintana.

With Superman suddenly ingested, Jon is basically alone to face the Eradicator. I still don't know if the Eradicator wants to kill Jon or gene-cleanse him. But it definitely is an attack. Jon has no choice but to basically run and hide in the cave.

I suppose the moment of the book is the above panel. Lois isn't going to let her child get killed without putting up a fight. Nosing around the cave, she discovers a 'Hellbat Suit'. Donning it, she engages ...

Okay, there is a lot to just roll with here. Lois knows how to pilot a battle suit? Batman doesn't have an encrypted start up? It fits?

Anyways, quibbles. How great is this panel with Lois yelling 'Get your hands off my son!' And she gets in some shots, tossing the Eradicator around a bit.

Meanwhile, within the Eradicator, Superman communes with the souls of Krypton. Okay, odd for me to say that Eradicator houses the souls of the lost planet. But there it is.

Within this realm, Superman pleads with the souls to give him their power and life energies. If they help him, Superman will free them once and for all. Sure enough, the begin to infuse Kal with their energies while simultaneously weakening the Eradicator.

Okay, I can't be the only one who thought of Aragorn convincing the Armies of the Dead to join his fight against Sauron, fulfilling a pact and freeing the ghosts. Here is the link:

Honestly, how could Tomasi and Gleason refrain from having Superman yell 'What say you!'

Powered by the souls, Superman is able to force himself to be vomited by the Eradicator.

On to round two!

Again, I can't help but think of Dragon Ball Z once again, when Cell vomits up Android 18.

Look, I have a lot of love for DBZ despite the unbelievably immature and formulaic plots. Call it nostalgia.

So more fighting for the majority of the issue. We didn't learn too much more about the Eradicator. But the Lois moments, Jon sort of stepping up a bit, and Superman talking to the souls elevated this book a little. Still, this seemed like a pause rather than a progression.

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

I liked this lots more than you, it seems; yeah, there was lots of fighting, but lots of character moments along the way.

Which isn't to say I wouldn't kill to see a couple of page of Daily Planet staffers.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree with Martin. I think Tomasi and Gleason earned themselves this combat heavy issue because of the dues they payed with their issue leading up to this.

I actually think the action in this book is leagues above Action Comic's action (heh). It's less of the basic brawl that Action is, and more of a riff on survival horror. Tell me you didn't get Terminator and Alien vibes while reading this issue after Superman was taken out? Lois basically turns into Sarah Connor and Ripley. Funny enough that would make Jon, John Connor. I mean Eradicator was after all based off Terminator in part. The art and Tomasi and Gleason's willingness to let the art speak for itself is what sells everything so well. The fear and desperation in Lois' eyes as she sees that her baby is about to be killed. The horror in Jon's eyes as he feels that there's no one left to save him. It's all there in force, in my opinion.

As for the Lois being able to use the HellBat? The way I see it is, this book is built on pure fun and increasingly high concepts. Sometimes I'm more than fine letting it throw an idea so cool at me that I have to just go with it. It actually reminds me of Morrison's Action Comics (one of my all time favorite runs). There are quite a few handwave moments in that book that you sort of just go with because Morrison is ready to throw another great idea your way at the next turn of the page. Sometimes I feel like if the story is good/fun enough you sorta just say "screw it" and let it take you.

I feel the same way when it comes to the souls in Eradicator. I don't find it hard to grasp really. You can just look at it as life force that the Kryptonians somehow found a way to quantify and extract. Krypton's scientific achievements haven't been so strictly defined that we can say they couldn't have done this.

All in all this is probably one of my favorite issue of the whole Rebirth movement.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments.

The comparisons to Aliens and Terminator is a great one.

It's funny, after hearing the praise and reading other reviews, I think the 'soul' concept just soured me so much that I started to nit pick more. I can buy that an has a base on the moon but not that Lois can pilot a suit?

I guess I just need to move on about the Guff aspect of the Eradicator.

And I need to say, still way way way better than much of the New 52 stuff, especially the recent past.