Friday, March 18, 2016

Review: Superman #50

Superman #50, the finale of the 'ground-breaking' storyline The Truth, came out this week. And like an untrained runner finishing a marathon, this book wheezes its way to the end.

I have been critical of The Truth over the last year. The idea of an exposed, powerless, brooding Superman was never embraced. It was never written well enough to make me want to explore this version of Superman. Superman was aloof and angry. He pushed his friends away. He wrestled for money. He battered shackled villains. It wasn't Superman.

On top of the premise, the arc seemed to lose its way about 4 months ago. It was clear than an ending was looming closer than expected. So suddenly, diverse plots were woven together into something that made little sense. The characters changed motivations and personalities quickly. And other plots ended crazily. Suddenly Smallville being razed is forgotten. Suddenly Wrath, an avatar of ire, became a sympathetic character trying to find her family. Suddenly

As a result, the ending is Superman and Vandal Savage having a philosophical debate, contemplating if might makes right. I doubt that writer Gene Luen Yang had this as the final act when he pitched it to DC. He wanted this Superman to be the new baseline.

But Superman fans want him interacting with his supporting cast. They want him to be powerful but restrained, an inspiring figure of hope. And the character in this arc was none of those things. The monster in Doomed isn't that guy. The jerk walking across the country isn't that guy. The guy who left Earth to head up the military guild on a New Krypton isn't that guy. None of the recent mega-arcs have leaned on Superman's strengths. Instead, the creators are trying to make Superman into something he isn't. And maybe those creators aren't the right people to be on these books.

The art on this book is lovely. We have Howard Porter, Patrick Zircher, Adrian Syaf, and Jon Bogdanove bringing great images.

 In Superman/Wonder Woman, all of Vandal Savage's children are oversaturated with comet energy and explode (convenient). That means it is down to Superman vs. Vandal Savage and the robotic Puzzler.

But should it be? The whole point of Superman/Wonder Woman is that Superman doesn't fight alone. He fought with Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Stargirl. So did they just bow out?

Anyways, the now supremely powerful Savage decides that rather than use his now awesome powers to finally rid himself of the Superman he has been draining and trying to kill all along, that instead he'll debate Superman.

How could Superman with all his powers care about people?

I don't know. After months of this cat and mouse, after recent events where Superman has nearly derailed Savage's plans, why would Vandal do this? It makes no sense.

 To try to convince Superman that sometimes might makes right, Savage has the Puzzler immerse Superman in some virtual realities to show possible futures that could be if only Superman would embrace strength.

One such reality is a Krypton which survived. Remember we learned earliet that the comet which gave Savage his powers was supposed to crash into Krypton. It was knocked off course and headed past Earth instead.

Savage shows that if the comet had struck Krypton billions would have died. But someone would gain great powers from the comet, become the High Chief, and would use his powers to save the entire planet.

Patch Zircher kills it on these pages. They are just beautiful. I love this page because Lara and young Kal are lovely. But that first panel, looking down on Jor-El who seems to hang his head, is great. It hits home that Jor-El is feeling low that he was wrong about his predictions because he didn't have faith.

Krypton would be alive if someone embraced strength. Why wouldn't Superman embrace strength?


I still can't get past the last year where all Savage wanted was for Superman to lose his strength. Hordr_Root was going to drain him to death! And it is clear throughout The Truth that Savage hates Superman ... until now.

 Savage shows another reality where Superman does join Savage and heads a team of enforcers to protect the world. Not a bad team or splash by Syaf. Grodd, Captain Atom, Shazam and Black Adam, Giganta!

I might read that book!

 At last we get Savage's motivations.

He knows he needs a clan to help him rule. It was a lesson learned during his time on Demon Knights. (Demon Knights!!! I loved that book!) And so Savage wants Superman to be his clan leader.

A couple of things here that irk me.

One, I don't think that showing Superman his friends in chains forced to serve food is a good way to woo him.

Two, this completely undercuts the idea of bringing his kids together which has been the key to the most recent issues. In those issues, he brought his kids together to be guinea pigs, to expose them to radiation to see if they will survive. If he felt that a clan was crucial, why would he potentially kill his own loyal true blood clan??

Lastly, does Savage really think he can trust Superman? Even if Clark says 'sure I'll join you', can Savage believe it? I just think this whole plot is inane.

In yet another reality, Superman sees that if he refuses Savage, the Earth will be turned to ash.

Thank goodness Pa taught Clark that might doesn't make right. That gifts have limits. That people need to solve problems in ways other than their fists.

This is a wonderful flashback to some Pa Kent wisdom lushly drawn by Jon Bogdanove. Just a great page. 

 As crazy as Savage tries to turn Superman, it is crazier that Superman tries to turn The Puzzler. What is even more insane is that, with one sentence, Superman is able to make the Puzzler betray Vandal Savage. Now working on the side of right, Superman and the Puzzler push the Comet away from Earth, shattering it. Vandal floats out into space. Superman and Puzzler plummet to Earth.

This seemed like a bit too fast for Puzzler to turn. I suppose it could have been to show that Superman's hope is more persuasive than Vandal's strength argument. But it seemed like a rapid betrayal.

Moreover, where the heck are the rest of the heroes? Why isn't Diana trying to push the comet? Where are the JLA while Superman is wandering through VR?

In fact, where is Diana at all? Shouldn't she be fighting by Superman?

 Instead, the residue of The Truth is wiped away.

In a nice moment, Superman and Lois say they are sorry to each other. (Of course, why does she need to apologize?)

But again, is Diana off-screen with her arms folded while Superman hugs Lois? Wonder Woman's absence, especially given the crucial role she has played in this last act, is palpable.

Yang ends his run with Superman a hero again. The restaurateur won't let Superman me bothered. People aren't protesting. Jimmy is rehired. And Superman is back to being a hero.


I have been saying for the last 3 months that The Truth was rushing to the finish, forcing things together quickly to try to come to a conclusion. And this ending is certainly evident of that. I don't understand why Savage is doing what he is doing here. But I don't think the early pieces mesh nicely either.

In the end, Superman has his powers back. He is in costume. He is with his friends again. Everything old is new again. There are no lasting elements of The Truth other than the identity reveal. And heck, #Rebirth will take care of that, I'm sure.

So I'll end this review with a plea to DC Comics.

Please find creators who love Superman and put them as the creative team on the book. Superman has lasted 75 years because the elements that work work. So find creators who will embrace the mythos rather than reject it.

Overall grade: C-


Martin Gray said...

Great review, you are so right. This was a terribly rushed, inane ending to an awful period in Superman's life.

Let Superman be Superman.

Anonymous said...

Enough of what can we do to Superman! We should go back to what can Superman do for us!

Jay said...

At this point I'd say finding creators who can write Superman is actually a secondary priority. Which sounds crazy but think about it; we already had a guy who could write Superman in Greg Pak. He's few and far between but the point being his run got jacked up to. Why? Editor. THAT'S priority #1. Berganza needs to be replaced. If that does not happen then absolutely nothing is going to change. The only one who can ignore his crap is Morrison, and there aren't many writers out there who can both write Superman well and has the clout Morrison has. Get Berganza out, get a fresh editor in there, one who loves the character, has vision, but at the same time will let creators do their thing to an appropriate degree. After that, if your name is Dan Didio, Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, or Bob Harras stay. t he hell. away. THEN you get in the writing and art talent. If, you know, DC can dare spare any talent from their beloved Bat line.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

Jay, you are exactly right. There definitely needs to be a new editor. All this has happened under Berganza's watch.

Dave Mullen said...

I must disagree, the problem with Superman today is not Eddie Berganza any more than it is Matt Idelson - 'Truth' follows the exact same path as New Krypton after all, and both are commercial and critical failures that precede a massive overhaul/change in direction for the books and character.
But in more direct terms all of the criticisms you lay at the door of Superman and his editor (remember he joined with Superman #8 or 9) are perfectly applicable across most of the publishing line of DC - look to Wonder Woman as the ideal example and her treatment comes with exactly the same concerns as Superman. Alternately look to the sharp decline of Green Lantern since Geoff Johns departed. Look to Earth-2 which was the success story of the 2011 reboot but is now all but unreadable and very likely unsalvagable at this point. Has Green Arrow been any good since the magnificent but short run of Lemire and Sorrentino? Does The Flash excite you? Whatever happened to Bryan Hitch's JLA? Is anyone talking about Aquaman these days? Or The Teen Titans? And on and on and on...

The humble comicbook *editor* is not the problem as such, it is the management above. Choices such as Wonder Woman carrying a sword as her chief asset and being the violent God Of War are not writer decisions, they aren't even editorial decisions. Superman and Supergirl being reimagined as lost souls and festering on deep-rooted anger issues, psychological failures, is not the writers or editors choice either. Earth-2 being driven into the ground and damaged beyond repair is surely not a writers decision.
No, the problems in the company come down to a deeply flawed vision at the executive management level, strict guidelines and heavy interference make the writers jobs virtually untenable as they are not the ones actually making any real or palpable decisions regarding the characters and books direction. Instead they merely script. And sometimes not even that...