Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: Superman #692

Superman #692 was released last week and seemed to be a sort of rest issue as we pick up on the many plot threads that James Robinson is weaving in this book. In fact, he even added a few more story lines in this issue.

If I have had a complaint about Robinson's run is that he is juggling so many plot lines right now that it is difficult to see if there is a grand plan, a method to his madness. As I have posted in the past, I find myself wondering why pages are being dedicated to certain plots and characters that seem minor to the overall arc when maybe they could be better spent on a bigger theme.

That said, I didn't mind those moments this issue. After Codename:Patriot, we needed an issue to catch up with everything that is going on. More importantly, I thought it was good pacing to see the responses to the 'Metropolis 3' attack on the city and the presumed death of Mon-El.

Still ... another plot line? I don't know if I can keep up with them all.

The issue opens with a group of super-heroes trying to fix the destroyed Metropolis sewers so that water can again flow in the city. Unfortunately, as Dr. Light tells us, the bomb used to destroy the water system including nanotech which undoes any repairs performed on the pipes. And that tech is clearly from John Henry Irons' Ironworks factory.

Irons is alive but in a coma. Again, I wonder why Lane or Atlas would leave Irons alive when they could have easily dispatched him. It makes even less sense if they were going to implicate the Metropolis 3 for the attack on him. Why not implicate them in his murder? Maybe I am more ruthless than General Lane?

The effect of the lack of water is shown in some detail as we listen in to another episode of The Edge of Reason. There isn't enough water for hygiene. There is barely enough for survival.

The haggard appearing Edge then goes into pure propaganda mode, talking about General Lane as a normal man who will save the world from the super-human Kryptonians. Throughout this rant, Lane is shown in incredibly patriotic images while Supergirl and Thara are shown thrashing hte military.

I find it interesting that Lane's influence can reach into a private sector celebrity like Morgan Edge. I hope we learn if there is some back story between the two.

Meanwhile, Mirabai is shown interrogating Zatara.

The more I read, the more I am worried that Mirabai isn't going to always be a good little soldier for General Lane. I wonder if she has her own agenda and working for Lane is just serving a purpose. I mean now she calls herself 'Mirabai the Forlorn' as she playfully twirls a rather nasty looking axe. Her powers seem to have no limit. Even here she has magically silenced Zatara as she questions him telepathically.

Mirabai begins her discussion by telling Zatara that the Mark Merlin he met was actually the Parasite in a false form trying to worm near the magical power source of General Lane's satellite. I think this is a lie. I think that that truly was Merlin.

More interesting is her revelation about who is the power source of the satellite. It is not Prince Ra-Man. In fact it is someone people won't know 'in a thousand years'. That reference to 'a thousand' and all the Legion members running around this comic make me think the source is a magical character from LSH.

You may remember that when Mirabai was underground in the sewer system with Reactron and Metallo she talked about how those close quarters were unnerving to her. Back then I wondered if her claustrophobia meant she was somehow related to Mordru. Now she drops this nugget of information. I know I am not the first on the 'net to say it but I think Mordru is the power source.

The scene ends coldly with Mirabai casting a sleep spell on Zatara and telling him that when he awakes he will serve her in her court. Mirabai may very well be the big bad in this story arc.

Back in Metropolis, The Guardian reveals that Johnathan Kent was in fact Mon-El and that the troops should all raise a glass in his honor.

Jamie Harper looks astonished that Mon was her partner.

I am more astonished at The Guardian. Mon-El is invulnerable. There was no body found. Heroes get resurrected every other day. I am surprised that Harper would reveal the secret identity this early. It seemed a bit incongruous.

In what I thought was a good character development scene, Guardian then tells Jamie how proud he is of her and all her accomplishments. It is a nice moment between a clone and his (?) descendant.

Robinson does a good job of keeping the development of his characters moving forward, of creating three dimensional players out of even the most bit player. I still wonder though if this cast is too large.

And here is yet another character driven scene. Harper's lieutenant Officer Wilcox talks about how she is recently widowed and that her heart is cold right now.

When I first read this scene I wondered why Robinson was giving us more back story on another small cast member. I mean ... am I supposed to care about a Science Police squad leader, the equivalent of a red shirted landing party member in Star Trek?

Well ... it turns out that yes I should care.

Wilcox is later shown in her apartment talking on the phone to someone. As she hangs up she picks up a picture of Princess Projectra and Karate Kid and says 'Val' sadly.

The next panel we see her crying, a Sensor Girl costume in the background. Wilcox is Princess Projectra somehow active in the past! Wow! I didn't see that one coming.

Of course, Projectra became Sensor Girl after Karate Kid (her husband) got killed in combat with Nemesis Kid way back in the Levitz/Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes in the mid 80's. For a while, the Sensor Girl mystery was a hot topic as many thought she was Supergirl, brought back in a clever way by Paul Levitz.

Now I am very interested in why all these Legionnaires are hanging out in the past and what part they play in this arc. And I like Sensor Girl so I am intrigued to see what Robinson is going to do with her. But now I have another big plot line added to this already complex tangle of threads. Is it too much? Will Robinson be able to bring all these subplots together into a grand finale?

The issue ends on a high note as we see General Lane walking through Project 7734. We see some of the different areas within the headquarters and some of the metahumans and creatures he is assembling. We are shown a genetics division. We see the Creature Commandos. And we see this robotic are.

GI Robot? A Manhunter? The original Robotman? Mekanique, the time travelling robot from the early JSA adventures? This is like a wonderful buffet to a DC fanatic like me.

It is clear Robinson also likes the dusty corners of the DCU. When you add these characters to Sensor Girl, Prince Ra-Man, Atlas, etc ... you see that no character cannot be reclaimed and refitted for his story ... for the current continuity.

The last shot is of an angry Mon-El, alive and in captivity in the bowels of Project 7734.

Overall, I actually liked this issue a lot. The more character driven scenes are written well and move the individual stories of these characters forward. No one is a two-dimensional character here; everyone feels fleshed out.

And while no major step forward in the World Against Superman storyline was made, enough bay steps were taken to make me feel that this wasn't a glorified rest issue.

I have to add that I have mixed feelings about the Sensor Girl reveal. I am glad she is back but I wonder if we have room for a new major character in this book.

Fernando Dagnino's art is solid here. I think he enjoys drawing Mirabai; that scene seemed to crackle a bit more than the rest of the book.

So I think the book isn't treading water in terms of plot progression. But it isn't doing the free style either. It feels more like a doggy paddle.

Overall grade: B/B+


Saranga said...

I dropped this book just before this issue came out because I felt it wasn't justifying it's cover price. I haven't enjoyed it for a good few months, and reading your review I suspect it's moving away from my taste - i don't care for the LoSH.

However, your review is, as ever, solid and I shall continue reading them and use them as a guage for picking the book up again at a later date.

Anonymous said...

I believe the blocky robot is Gernsback/Elektro, the All Star's butler.

And the genetic experiments are the original Outsiders, from First Issue Special.

dr chad said...

Anj, I was right there with you. I'm always thrilled to see Legion of Super-Heroes characters popping up all the time (i.e. Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl from the Levitz run), Robinson is clearly flexing his DC history muscles by revisiting some dusty corners of the DCU, as you put it. Can't say that's all bad, really. In fact, it's one of the ingredients in the recipe for a good run on a comic in 2009. That said, glad I'm not the only one having trouble juggling all the plot lines. The one thing that helps is that they span several DC comics so the story gets updated almost weekly instead of monthly, keeping them fresh in our heads. As always, great review. I learned a thing or two.


Anj said...

However, your review is, as ever, solid and I shall continue reading them and use them as a guage for picking the book up again at a later date.

Thanks so much for the kind words.

Superman has always lagged a but behind the other super-titles. If I was going to drop one, it would be this.

Anj said...

And the genetic experiments are the original Outsiders, from First Issue Special.

Thanks for the post.

RObinson has really mined that title for a lot of characters!

Marc Burkhardt said...

Nice to see that Robotman still has his pet dog alongside him!

Gene said...

Anj said:
"I find it interesting that Lane's influence can reach into a private sector celebrity like Morgan Edge. I hope we learn if there is some back story between the two."

I'm starting to wonder who General Lane reports to. An active duty general simply doesn't run a project by himself without answering to someone. I would like to see the title explore that angle more.