Monday, January 12, 2015

Back Issue Review: Action Comics #651

With a new Maxima gracing the pages of Supergirl, I have been going back through my long boxes and rereading some of Maxima's appearances in the pre-New 52 universe. She is a relatively complicated character, starting out with the basest of motivations and slowly becoming a hero and planetary protector (albeit with a couple of lapses back to super-villainy). And so I thought I should review the first appearance of the real Maxima in the post-Crisis world.

Action Comics #651 brought Maxima to Earth and showcased her tremendous psionic powers and her somewhat petulant personality. With a creative team of Roger Stern, George Perez, Kerry Gammill, and Brett Breeding, the book is beautiful. And this issue not only introduces us to Maxima but also continued 'The Day of the Krypton Man' arc in which the Eradicator continues his mental manipulation of Clark.

Maxima was something of a mainstay to the Superman universe and always interesting. I am very glad that K. Perkins and Mike Johnson are bringing her back.

"Not of this Earth" starts with Clark beginning his life as editor of Newstime magazine. In the span of 3 panels we see him go from a back-slapping team player to something of a dictator, brusque with some co-workers and firing others. One of the Newstime employees thinks what we are thinking ... "hard to believe this is the same Clark Kent who wrote for the Daily Planet."

And then Clark thinks something very un-Clark. "If fear yields the results I desire ... so be it."

Is this the result of harsh big business? Or is it something more?

To be honest, I had completely forgotten this blip in Clark's career. He just sort of needs to be at the Daily Planet.

One of the things on Clark's mind is Earth's reaction to aliens, especially given the Invasion megaevent that had just happened.

In thinking of the aliens he has come across, he recalls Sazu and Maxima (from Action Comics #645). So technically this isn't the first time we have seen Maxima. But as we learn in this flashback, that Maxima was a simulacrum, destroyed by Sazu (who was acting more like a handmaiden).

As for the real Maxima, she is streaking her way to Earth. She feels betrayed by Sazu and she does want to meet Superman. And that means sending her true self to our 'backwater world'.

I sort of love the design of Maxima here. The boots being different lengths but diagnonally forming one line, the gold neck piece which extends to the torso, the pleated gauzy cape, even the little seen battle mask. It all works for  me, visually engaging.

First stop on Earth? To punish Sazu (who has been captured and psionically weakened by S.T.A.R. labs).

The Maxima drone was supposed to create a mental link between Superman and the real Maxima. When the simulacrum was destroyed, the link was as well.

Sazu has her reasons for doing so. She found Superman lacking. But Maxima isn't listening. She sends Sazu back to her home planet for further discipline.

But right off the bat, we see that Maxima is something of a hot head, and certainly powerful.

The arrival of Maxima and Sazu's deportment is noted by Superman across town who goes to investigate.

Despite wanting to meet Maxima, she isn't going to take his orders. She is in charge. She then literally flies circles around him, leading him on a merry chase that has just a hint of foreplay to it. "Can you catch me Superman ... do try ... I have waited so long for this ... don't disappoint me!"

Everything about Maxima is bold and unrestrained. And powerful. She is able to stand up to Superman physically.

But then the chase is over. She creates a bubble of air underwater to discuss her plans with Superman.

It is an interesting panel. She is definitely vamping here. Her hair tousled and in her face, innocently running a finger across her chest, the see-through cape seeming more like lingerie, the comment about only being adversaries for 'mutual amusement' (a little rough and tumble I suppose) ... it is all very seductive.

And yet, here she is in the muck of the Metropolis river, surrounded by trash.

Odd. Not exactly a sensual environment.

And so we finally hear a bit of Maxima's origins.

She is of an imperial bloodline from the planet Almerac, a 'hearty star-spanning people'.

Her bloodline has been carefully controlled, her ancestors picking the people of the strongest genetic stock, the greatest warriors, to hone the power of Maxima's lineage.

And now is the time for Maxima to continue the power of her people.

While lounging on her planet in some unmentionables, she spies Superman when he was fighting in Mongul's arena. And Maxima was impressed by Superman's ... ahem .... prowess.

You get the sense that everything about Maxima is based on emotion. And also that she lives her life on the extremes.

And then it becomes clear.

Maxima wants to get busy!

She wants to mate with Superman so that the power of their bloodlines will merge. She has actually already done a genetic scan to show they are compatible. Their children would be unstoppable.

Remember how odd Clark sounded in the beginning of the book. We hear that again when he says 'continuing the Kryptonian line is intriguing'.

But then the real Clark shines through. He will not father despots.

Maxima does not like to be spurned ... not at all. What was a seduction scene becomes a battleground. Superman and Maxima end up fighting until it seems that Maxima has been killed.

It turns out she psionically shut herself down to lure Superman in. And when close enough to be in her clutches, she invades his mind.

Initially it looks like Maxima's world. She is dressed in strips of cloth and Superman has very little on himself. It is clear that Maxima would be in charge, Superman would be her consort. And life would be ... physical.

Finally we see why Superman has been acting so cold. He rejects Maxima's advances ... he rejects all emotion and physical attraction. He is acting completely emotionless ... completely rational. The Eradicator is a stronger power in Kal's mind, making him the cold Kryptonian of Jor-El's time.

And this 'true son of Krypton' is not only able to resist Maxima's love; he quickly dispatches her.

Before anyone else can see this transformation, this Kryptonian housecoat becomes his classic S-shield suit again.

Maxima might be misguided. But this Superman might become a threat.

As for Maxima, she is imprisoned right where Suza was. With her psionic powers dampened, she is caged.

And I don't think someone like Maxima would tolerate this ... at all.

As I said, Maxima ends up working for Brainiac, joins the Justice League, tries to woo Superman again, becomes part of the Superman Revenge Squad, leads her planet away from Imperiax, etc. etc. She proves to be a strong female in the Superman mythos both as an ally and enemy. She is complex and I like complex comic characters. I wouldn't mind doing more Maxima coverage ... thoughts?

The current Maxima in the Supergirl book is being driven by the same familial push to mate with someone. But I wonder about that Maxima ...

Overall grade: A

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