Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: Superman #24

Superman #24 came out last week, the second part in a brief 2  part story where Superman seeks mystical aid from Dr. Fate. Last issue we saw that Superman was reeling from all the personal upheaval in his life. It had left him feeling somewhat off kilter. Wondering if it was some magical attack, he asked for a check-up by Fate. 

Then a fight broke out. 

And then, this issue, the fight was over. Just like that, this 2 issue story is done.

One thing that I have discovered from my time reviewing comics on this site is that I am seldom satisfied and I often am contrary to myself.  I have oft bemoaned the fact that comics are 'written for the trade', stories stretched out over too many issues to pad an idea.

So here is a slick 2 parter and I think it was over too quickly. Writer Brian Michael Bendis sets up Xanadoth as an omega level magical baddie, someone so powerful the Lords of Order AND Chaos teamed up to defeat. And in the span of two pages, somehow, he is dispatched. Maybe just a bit too quickly for my taste.

That doesn't mean that the subplot in this 2 parter isn't fantastic. In fact, the idea that Superman is reeling a bit from the chaos in his life makes perfect sense. I think of him as just a guy trying to do his job and do it well. Certainly this year has been the most chaotic in my own life and I have felt a bit frazzled. So seeing my hero having to deal with 'stuff' humanizes him, makes me empathize.

And, no surprise, the art by John Timms and Kevin Maguire is great. In particular, seeing John Timms take on Supergirl makes me want to see more. But the mystical battle scenes by Maguire are top notch.

On to the book.

As always I like the 'recap pages' in these books which always include some solid art.

If you needed a reminder about how big and bad Xanadoth is, you got it.

We start with a flashback at the DEO where Director Bones recruits Veronica Bissette to be the agent to investigate mystical threats. While the DEO is supposed to fight extraterrestrial threats, Bones extends that to extra-dimensional and throws magical threats into that bucket. It explains why Bissette was going after these Xanadoth artifacts for the DEO to begin with. 

But the big win for me on these pages was seeing Kara in action for the DEO. Here in their headquarters while Bones and Bissette chat, we see Supergirl hog-tie and then knock out some odd looking purple alien.

Supergirl ... acting like a hero ??? It is so unusual these days! Made me smile.

And Bendis uses this scene to remind us that magic is as powerful as Kryptonite against the Els.

I love the art here too. John Timms really gives us the action here. You feel Supergirl straining against that rope to keep this thing at bay.

 Xanadoth is trying to gather artifacts to increase their power. The next item on the list, Fate's helmet.

There was a couple of things I liked about this initial part of the fight. 

One, I love how he flies to grab the Helmet before it can get into Xanadoth's hands. Nice speed effects there by Maguire.

Plus, there is something endearing about Superman just asking for Xanadoth to surrender ... please. I had to chuckle a bit. 

Xanadoth is sort of perplexed by Superman. They don't know who Superman is or even how our hero can do what he does. So he calls upon Bissette, the body they possess has knowledge. 

Nice simple effect of the eyes showing Xanadoth bringing Bissette up in consciousness. And even better that Bissette clearly isn't evil and isn't enjoying being possessed. She is a DEO agent, a good guy.

Meanwhile, Nabu wants Khalid to take off. Nabu is pretty scared of Xanadoth,

And sounds like he should be. We get a nice origin page where we learn who Xanadoth is and how they were banished by a combined Order/Chaos attack.

I like the page set up here with the Fate helmet huge in the background, 

And Xanadoth also thinks they are pretty much in control of the situation. They sort of calmly and smugly talk to our heroes about how they are going to ultimately get the helmet and be victorious, so maybe our heroes should just give it up.

For me, this panel is how great comics are. While Fate and Xanadoth sort of politely talk about their attack, Superman is being rolled over by demons in the foreground. Only in comics can a demonic brawl be in the same panel as mystical demure conversation. 

Xanadoth's chaos wake is strong enough to be seeping onto Earth. People start to revert to their baser instincts. This fight needs to end

And then, a sort of deus ex machina.

Fate says he simply needs his JL Dark comrades to be let into this space to defeat Xanadoth. If Superman can physically hold Xanadoth, Fate can get them in.

And in the space of a couple of pages, the fight is over. Superman gets a Fate upgrade. Fate lets Zatanna in. Zatanna and Fate cast out Xanadoth and just like that it is over.

Okay, maybe not completely over. We see that some residue of Xanadoth remains in Bissette. Perhaps the story will continue into the next issue. But I don't think it does. Xanadoth blusters and is defeated so quickly that I don't know if I completely understand what they are or what they wanted to do or even why they necessarily needed the Fate helmet. (Am I allowed to complain that a story is too short?)

But the Xanadoth story was just action sauce for me. The real story was Superman realizing he needs to deal with all the things happening to him. It has to be effecting him. And he should talk to someone about it. So why not Khalid. Superman wants to talk more ... and as soon as tomorrow. 

I understand these are superhero comics so we need extradimensional punches and magical threats. I wish we got a single issue of Superman just talking to Dr. Fate about his problems without the villainous plot. And the Xanadoth threat comes and goes so quickly, I felt shortchanged by it, even if I thought of it more like the subplot!

I know ... Xanadoth isn't gone. Maybe this was an amuse bouche to whet my appetite for more. 

Overall grade: B-


Martin Gray said...

I get what you mean about this story feeling like it needed more room, but I doubt an extra issue would have left you happier - endings are Brian Bendis’ Kryptonite, he’s just not great at them. He enjoys the ‘getting there’ of talk and fun more than the destination.

Kicking myself! I took a screen grab of the page seven panel with the speed effects and forgot to mention it in my review. Nice one for noting it.

Anonymous said...

Supergirl didn't have that costume when she worked for the DEO, but Timms does a great job regardless. I'll take it any day, and would like to see Timms have more chances at her.

That's an amusing trio of panels, with all that chaos happening while DEO technicians, Bones and Bissette are just wandering around like nothing special is going on.

But I thought almost everything about the issue was meant to be funny. This is easy to read as a brief comic-relief episode, and perhaps that's why it was resolved so quickly. It just couldn't be taken very seriously.

I also wondered if it was a poke at the overwrought writing going on over in the Snyder and Tynion wing. Xanadoth, an ancient being above most others, is dealt with in 22 pages, while Perpetua is apparently going to take 22 years. And in Justice League Dark, The Lords of Order and Chaos took up a large part of a year. And then we have the 25 issue Joker War, and the 25 issue Death Metal, events.

I wonder if Bendis has entirely given up trying to find clever ways of recapping, as he gave us a straight omniscient narrator Marvel-style plot summary - but at least it's still on top of good art. Regardless of how he does it, I like recaps for a great many reasons and hope he is never forced to stop.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan,

I am happy to see supergirl again, i'am sure she uses the lasso catching techniques learned by wonder woman.

Thanks you for you review Anj. You made me forget the new idea that comic that i discovered juste after reading this chapter ... great demoniac pets !

My hope has taken a hell of a beating but i continue to hope for a christmas comic special with great stories.