Friday, September 8, 2017

Review: Superman #30

Superman #30 came out this week and finished the side story of Superman battling Sinestro and Parallax. It is something of a free-for-all with all of the combatants fighting each other. This had the feel of a rest issue or an inventory story, a nice pause from the underlying plots that have been bubbling in the super-books while showcasing who Superman really is.

Writer Keith Champagne does a very good job of having Superman rise above and inspire. And this is especially powerful given he is surrounded by those who use fear as a weapon and fighting on the dead planet of Qward. If the Man of Steel can be a symbol of hope in those surroundings, he truly is a hero.

Champagne also gives us a great moment where we get to see Superman's fears. Despite his powers, Superman still can be afraid. And that sort of insight humanizes him, makes him the relateable aspirational figure he is. And his fears are fascinating.

The art is done by a trio of pencillers - Ed Benes, Tyler Kirkham, and Philip Tan. The styles are relatively similar so the issue unfolded well. There is a lot of wild, ring-slinging action that is sharp. And the colors by Ribeiro, Morey, and Gho sparkle as they lay out a dazzling array of yellows and gold.

On to the story.

Last issue ended with Parallax possessing Superman and facing off against Sinestro.

There is no love lost between these two. Sinestro wants to control Parallax as an energy source. Parallax wants to kill Sinestro for capturing him and exploiting him. Despite both using fear as a weapon, they are at odds.

I do like how Sinestro thinks Parallax's prattling is as insufferable as Hal's. It almost seems like Sinestro is obsessed with Hal a bit.

And nice art here, showing that Superman is completely under the control of Parallax. Even the little peeks of Sinestro's body in breaches in the yellow energy armor shows that this has been a brawl.

 But Sinestro has a plan. He teleports the two of them to Qward. Here, with backup from the Weaponeers of Qward, Sinestro hopes to batter Parallax back into his ring (or maybe power battery).

Maybe a bit too easily, Sinestro is able to confine Superman in a yellow-energy Lovecraftian monster. Subdued, Parallax actually leaves Superman's body to possess someone else.

Once again, Hal's opinion of someone comes into play. Superman calls Sinestro a piece of work, just as Hal described.

Again, nice art here (I think this is Kirkham). That monster entangling Superman is horrific.

Sinestro isn't convinced that Parallax isn't hiding inside Superman. In an effort to root out the fear demon, Sinestro uses his ring to reveal Superman's fears.

This is a great double page spread (thanks Mart Gray for the image) with art by Philip Tan (I think).

Most of the fear is his failing to save people. But the second page are just gut-wrenching. He worried about Lois dying of some cancer he can't cure. He worries about losing control and becoming some sort of Doomsday being.

The failure to save people is very much real for a hero like Superman. But these personal ones are much more frightening to me and again humanize Superman.

And we get one more. We see Superman is afraid that somehow Jon will become evil. He worries he won't be a good enough father. And seeing this ragged Jon, the bodies of dead Titans around him, is an apt fear for Superman to have.

This is a great peek into Clark's mind and was, for me, spot on for what he'd be afraid of.

But it is true that Parallax isn't in there. In fact Parallax starts flitting through all those around Sinestro, using these people to attack Sinestro. Of course, we get to see a possessed Lyssa Drak in the Benes' pages, super pouty and cheesecake-y.

And Sinestro could not care less for his troops. They're cannon fodder. And if Parallax is inside one, Sinestro will vaporize them.

Thankfully, Superman is there to save a Weaponeer from suffering Sinestro's wrath. The Weaponeer hasn't seen compassion before. Again, a moment of good in a place of evil. A seed as it were.

(Can I say that I have a weird affection for the Weaponeers? The Hawkman like helmets, the quiver of lightning bolts ... it all works.)

 Finally Parallax reveals himself and actually fights Sinestro face to face.

While they fight, Superman eventually frees himself and joins the fray. Kal swipes Sinestro's ring and dives into Parallax. Time to end this.

In an odd and wonderful moment, Superman actually tries to reason with Parallax. Maybe Parallax himself is afraid of something. Maybe Parallax needs to know that joy, love, and hope can help someone conquer fear.

And Superman's hope defeats Parallax who retreats into Sinestro's ring like a spirit in a Ghostbuster trap.

This actually felt a bit like a Supergirl moment. That 'hope, help, and compassion for all' mentality ... that 'let's talk first and only fight as a last resort' ... I almost wish this was a Supergirl story. But it works with Kal as well. 

Just like that the situation has been defused. Sinestro is ringless and powerless. Superman says he'll drop the ring off on Mogo. Now he just needs to get home.

In a nice ending, he asks the Weaponeer he saved to do the right thing and use his bolt to teleport Superman home rather than attack. It is time for these Weaponeers to stop listening to Sinestro and do the right thing.

The next scene is Superman in Metropolis. The Weaponeer was inspired. Perfect.

And we see Superman chatting with Lois while watching Jon sleep. Those fears are real.

This was a nice break from the Mr. Oz, history lessons, and Hamilton hijinx. It showed us who Superman is, even in the direst of situations, and gave us a glimpse inside. And the art was solid. All around a solid effort from Champagne and company!

Overall grade: B+


Mela said...

"We see Superman is afraid that somehow Jon will become evil."

If I could roll my eyes forever in a mix of anger & weariness, I would. It's becoming clear that this is 100% the plot trajectory editorial wants for Jon; between the first two years, the awful & ugly "Black Son" torture-fest, and October's solicits being "Oh no, Jon's being controlled by a villain again!", I am just exhausted.

I like Jon. I like having a bright kid Superboy. But this is still Didio's DC, and the writer has made it clear that Jon is just a plot point that only exists to be subject to bad things so his father can angst. And the end result will probably be "mercy killed after turning into a villain for good", which is a disgusting waste to me. I don't know how to you can maintain your faith in this book. No matter how good it is, this plot thread is just so ugly & so persistent in its ugliness that I can't stand it. After a while it passes "bad stuff has to happen because of Jon's character development" into "bad stuff has to happen because we can't think of any other way to develop this character". It's one thing to triumph over adversity, but only the rump-pull of the "Black Son" arc came close to that for Jon; even then, it felt half-done, and most of the time, he's just a prop. As someone who likes him, it's very annoying & frustrating that this is all anyone can think to do with him.

I know a bunch of gross dudes who think this is a good plot and the only way to make Jon grow as a character is through "struggle" while failing to realize (a) no matter how much the writers think so, it's not his story and (b) there are other, healthier ways to grow a character that don't involve pain & suffering and are still narratively engaging. But I forgot, this is comics, so everything must be violent & macho & awful.

Sorry to blow up your comments with this, but I WANT to like this title. I WANT to like this because I love Super Sons & keep thinking about how good a new Legion title built around Jon could be. But coming from that book to this, where the character you like is treated shabbily & constantly on the brink of turning into a monster so his dad can angst, is beyond frustrating. And so is the constant defense of it.

Martin Gray said...

Nice review, sir, and yes, these two issues have been a fun-packed insight into what makes Superman great. It was good to hear that all the kids were returned home by Superman - that's yet more people inspired by our guy.

I'm trying to remember when Superman previously faced the Weaponers of Qward, Am I imagining a DC Comics Presents cover? Hang on...

... ah yes, a Red Tornado team-up in #7. I think I need to go and read that!

Anonymous said...

"As someone who likes him, it's very annoying & frustrating that this is all anyone can think to do with him."

This is DC in a nutshell. They brought back Kara Zor-El, Helena Wayne, Wally West... and then they didn't know what to do with the characters. And DC seldom knows what kind of storylines to do with Supergirl other than "bad romance". Say what you will about Geoff Johns, but he HAD a plan when he brought Hal Jordan back, and his run became an instant classic.

I find most of your criticism is spot-on. When I heard about the incoming storyline, I thought "What? Someone is manipulating Jon into evil AGAIN?"

And this leads into another pet peeve of mine. Clark's flashback. He fears to lose his most precious people. He thinks of Lois, Jon... and Kara? Where is she?

Look, I get she's a supporting character in the Superman's books. I get this. I don't need she makes an appearance or is mentioned every issue. But when Clark is thinking of his family, I definitely expect that she is mentioned. She should be an important character, but right now she is non-existent in the Superman's books. She's being done irrelevant right when she should have more exposure.

Leaving that aside, it's been an entertaining issue. I like when writers pit Superman against a different villain instead of writing the zillionth version of his origin.

But the "Oh, God, what if Jon goes evil?" and "Kara? Who is Kara?" issues bring down this issue for me.

The next week, Oz. Superman may conquered fear in this issue, but I'm scared.

Anonymous said...

This was a solid issue, a big improvement over the last couple of issues. I liked the interactions between Superman and Sinestro, they don't usually get to play off one another so it made for a nice change of pace. Superman's fears were well illustrated on both a grand and personal scale. And best of all, Superman's courage, hope and ability to inspire were key in saving the day, and that's what Superman is supposed to be about. Wish there was more of a Superman vs Sinestro fight and the art jumped around at times.