Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: Superman #48

Superman #48 came out this week, the next chapter in The Truth.

I have been complaining about The Truth almost since its inception. This isn't the sort of Superman I necessarily want to read. And with this mega-arc working through 4 titles, each with a different timeline and sometimes a very different Superman, it has been hard to embrace this vision. Outside of a depowered Superman, even outside Clark being exposed, it is more the characterization that has bugged me. The overly angry Superman in Superman/Wonder Woman. The sometimes stupid Superman in this title. The one quick to jump into a fight and endanger others in Batman/Superman. The whole thing has been something of a mess.

Now, with the end of The Truth coming up, somehow the four books have to intertwine and bring this thing to an end. I should be happy that we might be coming up on a Rebirth of Superman in his books. But, much like when World of New Krypton sprinted to its ending, I think I am going to be just as unhappy with the ending.

And so I read this issue and felt this was a giant step forward towards wrapping this up. But such rapid and ill-defined plot progression felt forced and therefore unsatisfying.

The art on the book is split between Howard Porter and Adrian Syaf. They each have a distinct style which makes the book feel a little disjointed as well. I prefer Porter's art and wish he had done the whole issue. It isn't that Syaf's stuff isn't good. I just think Porter has really done wonderful work here.

The book starts with Superman stopping a criminal named Kingslayer from blowing up a political debate. Steve Trevor is also on hand to try to protect the proceedings. I like seeing Superman helping Trevor and working as a hero.

But this is the beginning of where the four distinct times of the books come crashing together. Superman says that he has been made mortal by the Olympian gods.That means this is after last week's Superman/Wonder Woman. We don't know how long has passed from last month's Superman issue. Days? Weeks?

I've never heard of Kingslayer before. He seems delightfully goofy.

Kingslayer has been apprehended and placed in what sounds like a technological version of Wonder Girl's old pain lasso. Trevor begins to torture the villain for information.

Superman takes the high road, as he should, telling Trevor to stop.

But remember, this is the same Superman that we have seen batter and bash a tied up Parasite just a couple of months ago. How can he take the high road when he was doing the same thing?

That is the problem of The Truth.

One of the political candidates is J. Wilbur Wolfingham, a charlatan and con man from old DC Comics. After bad mouthing Superman in the opening scene, he tells everyone to listen to the Man of Steel and calm down. Because he's 'still Superman'.

But remember early in the series when everyone hated Superman. Where his friends cast him out? Where he was being shunned, even on the run from police? Where did all that hatred go?

Meanwhile, we meet another member of Vandal Savage's children. This one is a the Puzzler.

Working with Hordr_Root, Puzzler's human consciousness is downloaded into a robot. Then, much like with Hordr_Root's origin, the human body is killer. Only the data model, inside an attack mecha survives.

This origin is so similar to Hordr's and this character is so banal, I don't know if we needed him introduced. If the ending is so close, do we need another villain?

Now things get even more rushed.

Superman says a layer of his cells have been mutated blocking his ability to absorb solar energy. Unless I have blanked, I am pretty sure this is the first time that we have heard this. So suddenly we have an answer. But to drop it as one line in the middle of this book and not have it be more of a reveal feels off.

Even crazier, Superman has figured out that Kryptonite will kill those cells and therefore cure him. That also is one line dropped in the middle of this issue. Shouldn't that have been a bigger deal? Maybe an end of an issue bombshell? Clark has sought out Trevor because he knows ARGUS has Kryptonite.

Also, we learn this takes place after the Superman Annual. Vandal Savage has brought the Stormwatch satellite into orbit. The JLA is trapped. Wonder Woman is free. So Superman is doing this side mission while his friends are being drained? And what is Savage doing during all this? Just sitting back?

The time line is so crazy. I don't know what has happened when any more.

There are two good moments in the book worth reviewing.

One is Trevor saying that he was sad when Diana broke it off with him. He was sad that she went with Superman. But it is hard not to imagine the two together. They 'seem' perfect together.

Maybe Trevor is the voice of DC's leadership? Or maybe he is supposed to be saying that while they might appear perfect, they aren't. Seeing Steve voice his feelings was appreciated.

Superman does expose himself to Kryptonite and does feel the effects.

Wracked with pain, he says 'tell her ... that my last thoughts were with her'. He doesn't say Diana. So in my mind, he is talking about Lois.

Maybe when this is over, he'll tell Lois about this moment. But I doubt it. I bet Yang let's that moment stay like this ... vague.

Of course, the Puzzler, now the Puzzlr, shows up to try to kill Superman.

I have no idea what his powers are. But it seems like he shoots puzzle pieces at technology which allows him to get control. It's crazy. But visually he and the flying puzzle pieces are pretty grabbing. Porter has always drawn mecha like this well, starting (for me) with Armek of the Hyperclan. I had to include this splash of the robot towering over a withered and green-tinged Superman. Beautiful.

Superman is pulled out of this sure death situation by Trevor. But the K-treatment seems to be working. Superman feels hungry and somehow that means he is being cured. So Clark jumps into a huge vault stuffed with Kryptonite.

Okay, this issue was hard for me to wrap my head around. This Superman acted like Superman should, fighting crime, stopping senseless violence, thinking of Lois, using his head, trying to be a hero. Unfortunately, it feels almost incongruous from what we have seen before in The Truth.

Worse than that, the understanding of his condition and the K-cure seem to have come out of nowhere. This was dropped in our laps, never hinted at in any other place.

I have said it in other reviews and I'll say it here. I am ready for this mega-arc to be over. And, given some snippets I've seen, I am interested in seeing Yang on a more classic Superman. Thankfully we'll get there soon.

Overall grade: C


Martin Gray said...

Yep, yes, yeah, uh-huh.

Couldn't agree more. This issue has 'quicker than planned wrap-up' all over it.

Anonymous said...

Obvious Donald Trump/Republican extrmist parody was a little on the nose even by today's comic standards. Still, this wasn't the worst of the Truth comics but it did feel too rushed and too quickly resolved a solution to Superman's powers problem. This all sounded like an idea Pak would come up with and Yang confirmed in a DC All Access interview it was. I'm just too tired and weary of Truth at this point, I want to enjoy more Superman stories than a series about the past Pre Flashpoint Superman but the current Superman is not doing anything for me. Guess the Twitter conversation about what Superman should be that you and Mart were tweeting about on is more relevant than ever.


Jay said...

I appreciate a desire to see the ambiguity in things, but its a real stretch here in regards to Clark's final words to Steve. He's talking about Diana. The entire dynamic of their relationship in this issue is dealing with their mutual Diana issues and getting over their awkwardness together because of it. She's the lynchpin of their narrative. These lines are the cementation of that. Clark still loves her. Steve knows he still loves her and is accepting of that and is now in a place where he can support him and not be jealous of him anymore.

It'd be a mega-fail from a basic storytelling structure to ass-pull it and say Clark's talking about Lois here. If Yang were to do that I'd lose any faith in his writing abilities.