Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Superman #25

Superman #25 came out this week, the finale of the Black Dawn. This arc is truly the culmination of the first year of this book. As we have come to learn, all the mysteries of the town of Hamilton have converged into this plot. Manchester Black has been manipulating events from behind the scenes, hoping to woo Jon Kent into the fold of pro-active, amoral anti-heroes. Oh, by the way, Black's return to Earth came with him opening up an unstable gate to a dimension of monsters.With all that going on, there is plenty of super-powered action.

But really this whole arc has boiled down to the concepts of hope and goodness. Can Jon shake off the darkness and embrace his father's ways? Can he realize that killing those who stand against him only makes him as big a villain? Can he get past the fact that Lois was maimed while Superman was nearby, unable to protect her?

I think we all know the answer.

But we have to get there and this book moves along at a quick pace getting us to the ultimate conclusion and still giving us time to have special wrap-up moments for all the major players. Writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have to bring an ending to a battle of near omnipotent gods and that is no easy task. The way Manchester Black is (spoilers) defeated seemed to come out of nowhere but when dealing with such power levels, you have to roll with it. And one of the biggest Lois moments of the year is thankfully swept under the rug in a similar way. But if you can get past how Black is defeated, the issue crackles.

The art is a mix of Doug Mahnke and Patrick Gleason with inks by 6 different people! As a result, the art seems uneven. We get the crisp usual fare of Mahnke.. But we don't seem to get any of the heavy lined Gleason art I am used to. The styles on his pages change just slightly enough to jar me a bit.

On to the book!

The issue opens with Dark Superboy fighting Superman while Batman, Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein all skirmish with the Elite.

But this is a hyper-vigilant and excessively angry Jon. His eyes dripping black and his costume darkened, he is young acolyte of Black, pounding his way through the scenery.

Despite that, we still see that Jon has a sort of special relationship with Kathy. When he sees that she might be in danger, he flies in screaming 'don't touch her!'. This friendship has been one of my favorite parts of this book.

And I love the last panel. You feel the impact of Jon landing.

But the primary emotion is anger towards his father. Jon thinks Superman failed by letting Lois's right leg be severed. He batters Superman who simply won't fight back.

And by giving us small narrow panels, it adds a feel of speed to this fight. You feel that Jon is just rapid firing punches. And that look of blackness leaking from his eyes is outright creepy.

And then Omni-Bat comes in to tell Superman that Jon is still in there, still listening. Batman has read Jon's body language and can tell that only the father-son relationship can save the day.

Meanwhile, we see just how awful Black is. He asks Jon to bring Superman's cape to him so he can use it to wipe after defecation.

There are few characters I truly truly dislike. The crass, smug Black is one of them. Ick.

But truly, this is Jon's story. I have been really intrigued by his response to everything that has been happening around him.

He still wants to be a hero. But I don't think he wants to be the murdering type like Black. He just feels he needs to be better than his father. That injury to Lois has cut deep (no pun intended).

So when the evil tree that Black has sprouted over the town collapses, threatening to crush Hamilton, Jon says it is his job to save the day.

You can just see so much in Jon in those two small panels. His saying he is strong means he has felt weak before. This feels like self-affirmation. And then that 'my job' line shows that he has lost faith in his father.

In the end though, Superman knows he needs to take down his son. He barrels into Jon, jarring the Quantum Reactor, the cause of the interdimensional rift. This results in quantum energy spewing out, giving us a couple of future visions to mull over.

The easy one is the cube shaped Bizarro World. Hope we get there soon!

We see an older Batman, probably the adult Damien Batman (no mistaking the bat shaped high collar).

But the most intriguing is the vision of (I think) an older Jon and presumably and older Kathy. What does that mean? Will we see this in some story?

Okay, here is where things happen very quickly.

Seeing all these visions, Jon turns on Black. He attacks Manchester, battering him. Jon seems to have lost all control. It felt like he would be willing to beat Black to death. But before he can land the killing blow, Lois arrives.

That's the Lois that was in the hospital. The Lois who lost her leg. The Lois who had the bloody stump cauterized by Superman's heat vision.

Except she is whole.

Everyone only saw her leg get severed because that is what Black wanted.

Okay, I guess I'll roll with it. But Lois felt pain. Superman did burn the stump. Doctors did examine her. I guess none of those things really happened.

And then Kathy arrives, grabbing the hands of Black and Jon.

And somehow, this telepathic link creates a massive feedback loop. It shatters Black's mind. All the pent up energy fires outwards in energy bolts, one of which courses through Bessie the prize cow.

In some ways, that was very reminiscent of the energy flying out of the New 52 Superman when he died.

Black ends up mindless. No neural activity. Okay, I guess I'll roll with that too.

So there is nothing left but the wrap-up.

The Elite realize they were duped by Black. They will resume their Earth identities and stay in Hamilton, protecting it from the interdimensional tear.

I loved this three panel sequence, mostly because of the coloring that occurs. Superman isn't so sure that he trusts these aliens. They brought about this insanity. Superman's face is cloaked in shadow, mirroring this darker tone.

Then Jon simply says Dad.

Suddenly we have the more optimistic Superman, no longer in shadows, instead in the light, saying that he will extend his hand. It is a new day.

That is brilliant.

And we see that same forgiveness writ small in the Jon/Kathy relationship. Jon forgives Kathy for everything that has gone on. New kids need to stick together.

The two hold hands and Jon suddenly flies!

I know the move to Metropolis is happening. But I hope Kathy sticks around (and becomes Halo).

And I liked that we are bright again. I don't want Jon to be sulking as he remembers his thoughts when 'Dark'.

We also see how Lois and Clark are still madly in love and a team.

As for Black, his mind has been transplanted into Bessie (or perhaps some other cow). He is suddenly one of the herd, subject to being tipped by the local punks. Perfect.

In the end, I think the defeat of Black and the cure of Lois came about a bit abruptly. But I have decided to concentrate instead on the emotional impact of the story. This, like many stories with Black, is really about decency overcoming evil. And that worked for me. Seeing Jon have to work through all the conflicting feelings showed how he is a product of his parents, a seeker of justice not a punishing god.

The Hamilton chapter of the family is over. On to Metropolis.

Overall grade: B+/B


Anonymous said...

"And then Omni-Bat comes in"


I always find funny that the same people who dislike Superman for being "overpowered" love Batman being an all-knowing, unbeatable hero.

Well, this issue concludes the first year of the fourth "Superman" volume. It isn't a bad ending, but I'm ready to leave Hamilton and their mysteries behind.

"Everyone only saw her leg get severed because that is what Black wanted."


"I loved this three panel sequence, mostly because of the coloring that occurs."

It really works. At the beginning, Superman is justifiedly angry. Then Jon speaks up, and he reminds himself he has to show his son there's a better way.

"But the most intriguing is the vision of (I think) an older Jon and presumably and older Kathy. What does that mean? Will we see this in some story?"

That vision is... weird. I wonder what it'll mean. Will we find out some day?

"As for Black, his mind has been transplanted into Bessie (or perhaps some other cow). He is suddenly one of the herd, subject to being tipped by the local punks. Perfect."

Bleh. It means he can return in the future.

"The Hamilton chapter of the family is over. On to Metropolis."

And I hope we finally see the whole family.

Martin Gray said...

I'd love the 'whole family', come on DC, just reveal that Jonathan and Martha are undead.

(Hmm, maybe I could have phrased that better...)

Anyway Anj, nice review, your qualms are fair, while your forgiveness shows a generous heart. And how gorgeous is that Jorge Jimenez cover?

Superb call on the colouring of those three panels.

I think it was Pat Gleason on Twitter who was teasing that they've already come up with a super-name for Kathy.