Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Review: Superman #693

Superman #693, written by James Robinson and illustrated by Fernando Dagnino, came out last week and the whole issue was devoted to Mon-El's plight as a captive of General Lane.

In some ways it was again gratifying to see an issue that didn't seem to jump around to all the subplots that Robinson was has been introducing. This was an issue about Mon-El and his story.

And the story itself was pretty good, showcasing the resilience of Mon-El, both physically and mentally.

As usual though, there are some parts of this issue that I am scratching my head about.

It is important to remember that the 'death of Mon-El' was a rallying cry for General Lane, another way to swing public sentiment against New Krypton and in particular the Metropolis Three.

The issue starts with Mon-El in a sort of sensory deprivation tank. While Agent Assassin attempts to pry into his mind, General Lane gloats over his capture. It is a nice set of panels, drawn from Mon-El's perspective. I thought that was a nice touch.

But there is another thing to point out here. All along I have felt that there is an undercurrent of malice between General Lane and Mirabai. For now it seems General Lane is commanding her. But I still get the sense that Mirabai is playing him as much as he thinks he is using her. Look at how they both say 'You're welcome' to each other. Things aren't 100% rosy between them ... I'm sure of it.

When the tank can't break Mon-El's resolve, Lane places the Daxamite in a prison chair beneath a red sun lamp and decides to talk to him.

It seems that Lane wants to convince Mon-El to join Project 7734. Now that is an interesting turn of events. Certainly Mon-El would be a powerful ally. In an attempt to turn Mon, Lane shows him everything that Project 7734 is up to. We see shots of the Human Defense Corps, Luthor battle suits, GI Robot, and alien experimentation. It looks like a fairly formidable army.

In fact, Lane tells Mon-El to follow him or be opened up on the operating table bu Dr. Calomar, yet another rogue scientist from Gorilla City.

While I understand that the red tint of these panels is emanating from the red sun lamps, it certainly adds a feeling of malevolence to the discussion.

But there is more to show Mon-El than just the troops of Project 7734. We see that Natasha Irons (still acting as Jenny Blake) and Major Force are also taking orders from the General (although in Irons case it is as a double agent).

Finally we see Lane's 'core team', the heavy hitters ... Metallo, Atlas, Parasite, and Mirabai.

Incredibly, Lane thinks that showing Mon-El that these would be his teammated would be a selling point for the hero. Lane does say that he thinks Mon-El truly wants to protect Earth and that means standing against General Zod. But showing this scum to Mon-El would not be a way to convince him.

As expected, the move backfires. Mon-El calls the core team what they are: a psychopath, a killer, a bully, and a trickster.

Showing some great courage, Mon-El says he chooses to be dissected rather than join Lane. Instead of granting him that wish, Lane decides to let Atlas treat Mon-El like a punching bag. He is beaten for two weeks.

I thought this was a very good scene, really letting the reader see how heroic Mon-El is, especially in the panel above, showing the shackled but defiant Mon-El.

Just when things look lost, just when Calomar starts talking about a 'strenuous battery of tests' he is going to run, Mon-El is handed a life line.

Turns out the Parasite hasn't bought into everything that General Lane is selling. He was captured and brought to Mirabai's world just like Mon-El was. But the Parasite didn't have the fortitude that Mon-El does. He joined Project 7734.

He joined, that is, until he can get away. And surprisingly he has a plan. The Parasite did a little drain of a technician and has absorbed the code for the portal home. But he needs Mon-El's help to get there.

With no other choice, Mon-El agrees.

The two fight there way through the ranks and get to the portal.

While uneasy allies, their differences are apparent. Mon-El just wants to get to the door. The Parasite doesn't mind leaving a few bodies in his wake. The fact that Mon-El jeopardizes his own escape to save some Project 7734 lackey again shows that he is a true hero.

Mon-El is able to escape, crossing over back to Earth, only to stumble upon the wreckage pf Project 7734. The exit point is the site of Brainiac and Luthor's escape and we saw how violent and destructive that was in Adventure Comics.

There is some nice dialogue between Mon-El and Lane here.

First off, I know foreshadowing when I see it. So when Lane says he knows that Mon-El will take his orders eventually I believe it. Whenever the Earth/New Krypton war happens, Lane will be on Earth's side and so will Mon.

But I find it odd that Lane simply let's Mon-El go. Sure there isn't anything the General can do about it. He is there alone. But he doesn't even give a threatening speech to Mon-El. He tells the Daxamite to go to the Daily Planet.

It just doesn't feel right. Lane has to know that the public sentiment he has so carefully orchestrated could backfire when Mon-El tells all he knows. He has to understand that all his secret plans could be laid before the public. Even if it is empty threat, wouldn't he warn Mon-El to stay quiet ... or else?

Much like Lane's releasing of the Metropolis Three, this quiet acceptance of Mon-El's release is perplexing.

Mon-El vows to show General Lane just what it means to be named Superman's successor. My guess is part of that is for him to don the new outfit with Superman's shield on it.

Regardless, it is a good thing that Mon is heading back to Metropolis because the Science Police look like they will have their hands full with Bizarro.

Overall I thought this was one of the better recent issues of Superman. It did not have that choppy sloppy feeling other issues that dealt more with the ancillary characters in the title. And while I have never claimed to be a big Mon-El fan, this issue did a good job of showing just why Superman would ask him to protect Metropolis.

I also think that Fernando Dagnino's art was one of his best efforts here as well. I think each issue of the Super-family he has done has been better than the last. In particular, I really liked his Parasite.

Overall grade: B+/B

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