Monday, March 1, 2010

Review: Superman #697

The 'Year Without Superman' is coming to a close over the next couple of months so the stories running in the super-titles need to be heading to their conclusions. I have felt that 'rush to finish' in Action Comics where the religious and relationship part of the story have dominated the book leaving the 'sleeper agent' storyline as almost an after thought.

I have not felt that sort of rush in Superman. As I have commented before, there have been so many small plotlines that have been started in this book that just have languished or been forgotten that I wonder how this can all be wrapped up. Remember Zatara? Prince Ra-Man? The hint of Mordru in a satellite? Atlas? Metallo? Evil Gorilla scientists? Mirabai and her magic world? Dr. Light and the Guardian? These haven't been advanced in a while. I am sure there are plot lines I have forgotten about so I can't even mention them there.

Superman #697 unfortunately doesn't do much for these lagging plot lines. The book concentrates on the Mon-El/Legion story and begins to hint about Mon-El's ultimate destiny. But it does so in a brief way. There are a large number of splash panels or double splash pages which basically limits how much story can be told. While the art (split duties by Bernard Chang and Javier Pina) is very good, I just want more story.

I also can't help but feel like a bit of a hypocrite when I review this book. When there are too many plots, I complain. When there is only one plot covered, I complain. I guess what I am trying to convey is that if the entire run was like this issue, concentrating on one underlying story, I probably would be happy. But when other plot lines are begun, I want there to be resolution. My guess is Superman returns as the star of this title with issue number 700. That means James Robinson has 3 issues to bring this book to some sort of closure.

Of course, some of the big picture hinted at here could be resolved in the War of the Supermen book too.

Last issue ended with the destruction of the Science Police Headquarters in Metropolis and the reveal that Control officer Rachel was Chameleon Boy.

Something stressed here is General Lane's overall xenophobia. He hates more than just Kryptonians. He has his troops surround Cham with the expectation that they'll capture him or worse.

Cham says he is not alone and one of the SciPo's camera drones turns into Quislet.

After Chameleon Boy tells Quislet to 'go easy' on the military, Quislet uses (I guess) the weapons system on his ship to blast away at the troops so the Legionnaires have time to escape.

I'll have to review Quislet's powers but I don't recall them working entirely like this. I thought he left his ship to enter something and animate it. Here it looks like the ship morphs as well. I also thought that Quislet could only stay in something he manipulated for a short period of time before the object disintegrated at a molecular level. Of course, we are talking about a my memories of comics from 2 decades ago. I'll follow up on this I promise.

I definitely don't remember him having unreal weapon systems on his ship.

While this was a great shot of Quislet holding the line for Cham, it was a huge 2 page spread. Could that space have been used better ... to tell more story?

Mon-El gives chase but before he can close in, he is shocked to see Superman flying at him.

It turns out that Superman is only an illusion, nicely depicted here in a panel that took up half a page.

With that Wilcox reveals herself to be Projectra and drops her SciPo disguise to become Sensor Girl. She made the distracting Superman illusion appear.

I know it has been said in other places but I don't like this new interpretation of Sensor Girl's outfit either. First off the tiara look seems a bit off. I prefer the white "Spiderman' eye holes as opposed to seeing her eyes. And the short sleeve, high gloves, plunging neck like just doesn't work.

While the broad shoulder of her original outfit may scream '80s, I also think that uniform had a military feel to it. Part of the evolution from Princess Projectra to Sensor Girl was that loss of innocence and that realization that the world is a hard place. After Karate Kid died in LSH, Projectra said she could 'see through the illusions of the world' and recognized the universe as an unforgiving place. The original costume gave that sort of vibe more than this one.

Tellus uses a mental blast to stun Mon-El more and the Legion Espionage Squad flies off.

The original Espionage Squad members include people who could actually pull off the spy stuff - Chameleon Boy for his disguise, Shrinking Violet and Invisible Kid for stealth. It is hard to imagine funny guy Matter Eater Lad or silly Quislet or even odd appearing Tellus doing anything quietly. Of course, this is again my placing the personalities of the 80s/90's Legion into this incarnation.

This first half of the book was drawn by Bernard Chang. As with last issue, his style is suited for the destroyed fiery battle scenes in the city.

The second half of the book is penciled by Javier Pina and covers the aftermath of the battle at the Science Police HQ as well as shows that Steel has recovered and is back.

Steel has fixed the Metropolis sewer problem so people are no longer short of water. There are multiple big panels showing John Henry fighting with super-villains and even teaming up with Mon-El. I was happy to get an update on how Steel was doing, especially since he is said to play a part in the upcoming crossover events.

And then we are treated to another scene of Mon-El and Billi Harper in a more private environment. There is a two page scene where Mon-El tells Billi about his interaction with the Legion. This includes a nice reveal that Quislet was the hover cam that told the Guardian that Mon-El was drowning a few issues back.

Still I question why this conversation was placed in such a titillating setting. It is not as if an amorous shower was necessary for the discussion. While maybe Robinson is trying to show that the two are getting close, it felt a bit gratuitous. This conversation could have happened in a living room or at a coffee shop. It didn't need to be in the shower with the two lathering each other up.

The issue ends with Conner showing up in Metropolis asking Mon-El to join him in Smallville. Mon-El again flashes back to his earlier conversation with Conner when he asked Con to go to the Fortress and prepare Mon's rocket.

There is a nice exchange about how the two are eager for Superman to return because they are feeling some pressure to fill Kal's shoes. But otherwise not much is said here. Even the big reason why Mon-El wants a readied space ship is only teased again.

It turns out that Superboy wants Mon-El to join him in Smallville so that Mon-El can finally meet the Legion.

Again, while nicely rendered, the Pina pages include a couple of splash pages and a couple of pages with only 2 panels. I am trying to balance the need to visually tell a great story and the need to have enough content to please me. I am glad that this Legion portion of the story was advanced in this issue with all the undercover Legionnaires shedding their disguises.

Still, this issue read quickly. I was hoping that more would happen here.

I think that I need to rearrange my expectations here. Much like with the World of New Krypton, I have to realize that the end here is not going to be with the final issue of Mon-El's run but more likely in the pages of Last Stand or Adventure or War of the Supermen. That said, my biggest pet peeve with this run has been the multiple plot lines left hanging. I just don't feel settled with this title.

Overall grade: C

1 comment:

TalOs said...

Hmm, this issue while beautifully rendered (both artists finished work prooves this for me at least) just felt like it was trying to introduce yet another sub plot (Kon out of no where now knowing as for why the Legion need Mon) with another LSH theme that Robinson has to now have Kon explain to Mon why he should listen to the Legion regardless of every other crazy scenario happening to be going on around them including Mon being needed elsewhere in the JLA.