Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Superman Doomed #1

Superman Doomed #1 came out yesterday, the opening chapter of the Doomed arc which will run through the super-books during the summer. It is a joint effort by the writers of the Superman books: Greg Pak, Charles Soule, and Scott Lobdell with artwork by Ken Lashley.

The issue could almost be called a prologue as we learn pretty quickly that the villain of this piece isn't going to be Doomsday but Superman himself. In a universe where Superman isn't beloved, turning him into a monster feels a little bit like piling on for me. The power of the original Death of Superman arc was that Superman's sacrifice effected everyone. He was the ultimate hero paying the ultimate price. In the New 52, even scientists snark at Superman. Turning him into a monster seems more like a natural progression.

Given that sentiment going in, I had little optimism for this storyline. And, happily, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with was has come so far. DC starts the ball rolling by releasing the first 3 parts this week, giving the arc some momentum. And, surprisingly, there is a fair amount of characterization in the books, showing the issues that spring from the Doomsday event. Moreover, I feel like this arc is going to clear the decks of some lingering subplots like Lois/Brainiac and Clarkcatropolis. Geoff Johns might have a clean slate when he comes on.

Lashley is a great artist pick for this opening issue. His style is just rough enough to give the blistering Doomsday plague waves and power of the resulting brawls a chaotic feel.

 Remember we last saw Doomsday killing the prancing honeymooners in Superman #30.

It turns out that Doomsday actually has manifested several new powers. One is something I am calling the 'plague wave'. Basically, waves of power are emanating from Doomsday, sucking the life out of anything that it hits. The energy even breaks down the substance of nonliving things. Doomsday is a walking incinerator. And any life energy these waves snuffs out strengthen him.

I don't know how the script chores break down but this scene sounded like Pak. Superman is basically able to save only one Air Force pilot that was in the vicinity of the island. But Clark doesn't dwell on the man he saved. Instead he is dismayed at all the people he couldn't.

It is a nice shot. We see pure death in the foreground, a blasted skeleton among the fire. And Superman is small, almost inconsequential, in the background. Nice art/words mix.

Unfortunately Doomsday isn't around. Looking for answers, he heads to talk to Shay Veritas. Veritas notes the changes in Doomsday. How this Doomsday might be the evolved form of the larval Doomsday Superman fought before. And his 'plague wave' will ultimately destroy everyone.

It leads to a crisis in Superman. Is Doomsday sentient? Is he alive? Can Superman kill it without feeling that he has compromised his ethics. Veritas cuts to the heart of the question. What will Superman become if he kills?

In this instance, the question isn't just a metaphor. I thought this was a nice foreshadow to the crux of this arc.

But is Doomsday a sentient being? And did I have as much angst about this question when Superman battered him to death decades ago?

 Meanwhile, Smallville remains comatose. And both Lois and Lana are trying to get in to figure out why.

Look, it is the first time the two women in Superman's life (at least his past lives) finally meet. Lana actually looks like she is going to fight the army soldier guarding the entrance to Smallville to get in. Luckily Lois comes by and uses her 'jedi mind tricks' to talk her way in. We know that's probably Brainiac power.

I like Lana being an adventure scientist, even here hanging off Lois' moving car to sneak in. But going for a weapon to beat up a sentry? It seems just a bit much.

Clark seems resigned to the fact that he probably will need to kill Doomsday. But he continues to mull over this decision knowing it is a dramatic turn in his life. Looking for more advice, he talks to Perry White, cloaking his problem as more of an ethical conundrum in journalism.

White seems like the perfect sounding board - a man of integrity who has been doing his job for a long time. And Perry says that every so often, for the good of all, ethics need to be bent. And those breaches hurt when you do it, when you cross that internal line. But the fact that Clark is already weighed down by the decision, the fact that he is pained by it, is a good sign that things won't change that much.

I don't know if I want this to be a carte blanche for Clark to do anything. But I thought this was a good speech.

 Doomsday shows up again in Africa, sucking up the life of herds of animals, getting stronger and stronger. His rampage gets the attention of Steel (who just happens to be visiting the area - a bit of a stretch), Wonder Woman, and eventually Superman.

The plague wave seems to wither Steel and Diana. But Diana is fierce, running her sword through Doomsday's chest. But it isn't enough. And when Superman and Diana turn to face Doomsday together, Doomsday shows his newest power. He teleports away.

I like that we see Superman and Wonder Woman fighting this thing together. This scene works well, showing how powerful Doomsday has become and making it clear that he is threat that needs to be put down.

 Limping away with the post-Forever Evil Justice League, Superman gets a hard lesson from ... of all people ... Lex Luthor. Doomsday is gathering energy. He doesn't have enough yet to go toe-to-toe with Superman so he keeps blipping around. Maybe the best thing for Superman to do is leave and hopefully lure Doomsday away with him.

It is sound advice I suppose. But the flip side is without Superman around, Doomsday might simply tromp around the world killing everything.

I also wonder, if Doomsday is interested in gaining energy, why isn't he going around killing lesser super-heroes and villains gathering their energy? I wondered if this could be a sort of Dragon Ball Z 'Cell' story.

 Amazingly, Superman agrees with Luthor. He will leave ... but he will take Doomsday with him.

Now that does make sense. The main thing is to limit death and taking the fight somewhere else makes perfect sense. If only the Superman in the Man of Steel movie knew that.

Knowing he might die, Superman begins to settle up some business. I liked this moment when he gives Bruce a key to the fortress but lets him know that Diana has one too. I have never understood the Clark/Diana romance. But that was a nice moment.

 As I have said, I don't understand this romance. This is supposed to be an endearing moment I suppose. And I suppose that people who like this relationship think this is great.

For me this cemented just how disconnected these two are, just how much Diana doesn't understand this man. Behead it and bring me its head? Who would say that to Superman? We see how the idea of killing Doomsday is weighing on Clark already. Shouldn't she know that he isn't a killer ... a beheader? She simply doesn't get him.

And Clark saying it is romantic?? Really?

I just don't get this relationship.

Superman does indeed grab Doomsday and whisk him to Venus where he thrashes the monster. It seems like the fight is over, so Superman limps back to Earth.

Ah ... but remember ... Doomsday can teleport. Doomsday also returns to Earth leaving Superman no choice. He rips Doomsday apart. Again, the rougher art by Lashley works here, throughout this battle, making it feel frenetic and chaotic.

So ... Superman is a killer.

Well ....

This didn't irk me as much as the Zod death did at the end of Man of Steel. For me, this Doomsday is like a germ, a virus. I don't think Superman would have a hard time fighting a virulent strain of the flu to save people. Killing this Doomsday is like eradicating smallpox in my mind. So maybe he isn't a neck-snapping killer. At least in my mind.

Or am I simply trying to convince myself that Superman is still Superman, even in The New 52.

So, overall, I thought this was a decent opening chapter. For me the best part was seeing Superman mulling over the decision of dispatching Doomsday. There is that core that life is precious. And the best moment was Perry's nuanced speech. How far can a good person be pushed and remain a good person.

Doomsday is already dead, in the prologue! So on to the next chapters.

And as I said, this was better than anticipated.

Overall grade: B


Green said...

Hi, Anj!
"For me this cemented just how disconnected these two are, just how much Diana doesn't understand this man. Behead it and bring me its head? Who would say that to Superman? We see how the idea of killing Doomsday is weighing on Clark already. Shouldn't she know that he isn't a killer ... a beheader? She simply doesn't get him."

well for me it's out of character of WW. Azzarello WW would never say that, she always choose the pacific way first, she is not a brute warrior. Even Tomasi got WW better, she help sets free the monster.
superman and WW are too alike so they put this weird spin on WW to her be more warrior generic girl.
I asked Pak and he said it was because the situation was different from Azzarello *roll eyes*

Martin Gray said...

Great review, I'm also pleasantly surprised by how much I've enjoyed the first three parts. That said, the sooner DC remembers who Diana was created to be, the better.

Anonymous said...

The line about "bring me it's head" is also extremely OOC for her. Honestly, yet again, it sounds like something that LOIS would say as a clear joke and Clark would know she was joking. But here it's played straight and so it reinforces this kill happy, violent warrior image they keep pushing.

Also, though I understand WW holds her own here it's still WW sending her man off to fight this big bad while she stays behjnd. It's his story. Not hers. It's just such a fundamental misuse of WW that it makes me so sad. Yes, she's strong and fighting bad guys but her whole life revolves around a man now....Shades

Anj said...

Thanks for comments, especially about Diana. As I have said many times, I like the Azzarello book but in my mind it is a prolonged Elseworlds and not canon.

And WW in mainstream New 52 (like Justice League) has seemed stabby. This felt consistent with that character.

But I will agree ... that is not the WW I want. She is all warrior now, less ambassador of peace and love. And that is wrong.

Jay said...

Superman did the right thing, definitely. This is nothing like killing Zod. The way they set up Doomsday's metamorphosis with him esseintially killing just by being in the general proximity of a living being, there is exactly one place known that could hold him. The Phantom Zone. And that's not holding him. In fact its currently helping him as he's using it to jaunt from place to place. So Superman has zero options left, and he knows it immediately. He's not a killer, he's a savior yet again, and at great personal cost.

Jay said...

Also, Wonder Woman has not changed so that they could facilitate a relationship with Superman because they were too alike before. Fact of the matter is DC has leaned towards a more warrior-focused Diana for years now, well before the reboot. I understand why some don't like it, but its been her direction for quite a while. Personally I don't mind it at all as long as they get the compassionate side of her down as well, and Azz, Soule, and Pak can all do that. But her warrior attributes are the forefront now, and they have been for a pretty good while now. Hell this was starting at least as far back as Rucka's run.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

Still I think it is a shame that the warrior aspect of Wonder Woman has become so prominent. She is so much more complex than that. To see her reduced to one aspect seems lazy.