Tag Archives: Superman: Truth

A Superman #45 Review – Fight Club and Finances

Superman #45, 2015TITLE: Superman #45
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLERS: Howard Porter. Cover by John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: October 28, 2015

***Need to catch up? Check out our reviews of issues #43 and #44.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Ugh. I so want this to get better, but it’s just not happening. As we’ve seen in previous installments of the Truth storyline, there are flashes of quality in Superman #45. But the direction the story takes is all flash and little substance.

With his identity exposed, and Clark Kent’s life destroyed, Superman follows the trail of the cyber criminal group Hordr to California. Once there, he finds himself broke. So when he stumbles on to a meta-human fight club of sorts, Clark is faced with a moral dilemma. Does he go against his moral code, or duke it out for some cash?

Let’s cover the good before we descend into the negative. Clark briefly runs into Lois Lane in this issue, and wants nothing to do with her. Seeing Clark this angry at Lois, and justifiably so, is a really interesting dynamic. Obviously there’s romantic tension lingering under the surface here. How long is Clark going to stay mad at Lois for this? And what can Lois do to regain his trust? This is one of the few areas of intrigue in this series right now.

Superman #45, Howard PorterGene Luen Yang’s spin on the meta-human fight club angle is that the fighters are “gods and goddesses from mythologies on the brink of extinction.” That take is a little overblown for my taste. The issue actually reminded of the “Grudge Match” episode of Justice League Unlimited, where Roulette lures Black Canary, Huntress, and Wonder Woman into her Meta-Brawl arena. Has Roulette even surfaced in the New 52verse? If you’re going to do a story like this, why not use a villain like her? The whole thing about gods and goddesses is convoluted, and actually slows the issue down because Yang has to explain the whole thing.

I have a hard time buying the idea that Superman, exposed identity or not, has trouble coming across money. If he were the only hero in this universe, then maybe I’d believe it. But he’s a Justice League member, he’s still got a lot of friends in Metropolis, and he’s friendly with the President of the United States. Chances are if Clark needs a loan, he can get one from somebody.

But for the sake of a story, let’s say Clark is indeed broke. Yang lets us know that Clark will not steal, as he was taught better by his adoptive father (who he refers to as “Pop” instead of “Pa” for some reason). So the prospect of earning money via a fight club is tempting. But I don’t buy the notion that he’d seriously consider participating. He’s Superman. His mission is to inspire people. It’s beneath him. If you want to put him in that scenario, have him take down the fight club.

Superman #45, 2015, Howard PorterPerhaps I simply hold Superman to a higher standard than some. Too high, maybe…

The whole Truth story is so far gone at this point that it’s barely even worth it to mention ways it might be improved. But you want to do a story about Superman and money? How about you have Clark break up the fight club. Then as the sun begins to set he faces the grim reality that he has no money, no food, and no place to stay. He is now homeless, and largely de-powered. Superman has never been in such a vulnerable position. Then, he comes across a kind and compassionate civilian who owns a small motel. Recognizing him as Superman, this person gives Clark a free room, and a bit of food. As we close the issue, Clark realizes the irony of his situation. He was sent to Earth to inspire humans to to good, to “save” them. Now, one of those very humans has saved him in his darkest hour. This would provide intriguing insight into Clark’s relationship with his adopted home world.

I wasn’t aware last issue was John Romita Jr’s final go-around as the interior artist for Superman. In his place is the more than capable Howard Porter, along with colorist Hi-Fi. Hi-Fi’s colors are much richer and more vibrant than what we’ve seen in recent issues. Porter’s Superman is also much more expressive than Romita’s was. It actually borders on comical at times. But Porter is a nice change of pace. Sadly, solicitations indicate he’s only going to be around for another issue.

Solicits also indicate we’re heading into a big crossover called The Savage Dawn, featuring Vandal Savage. I wish I could say I’ve got high hopes. If you want a mildly optimistic spin on this, I’ll say it’d be fairly hard for me to be more underwhelmed with Superman than I am now.

Images courtesy of dangermart.blogspot.com.

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A Superman #44 Review – Talking Truth

Superman #44 cover, John Romita Jr. TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 30, 2015

***Missed last issue? BOOM. We’ve got you covered.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman #44 is an okay issue which would have been much more compelling had it been released three or four months ago.

Before we get into the issue, let’s talk about this the Truth storyline as a whole. Readers of the Superman books know it’s run through not only this title, but Action Comics, Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Superman. It’s been touched on in other books, but those are the main four. Beginning in June, DC opted to use Superman to tell us how and why a de-powered Clark Kent’s identity was revealed to the world. All the while, stories of the de-powered, t-shirt wearing, “Tough Guy Superman” were already being told in the other three titles. As such, we saw this new Superman heavily effected by events we hadn’t seen yet. We could sympathize with what Clark was going through, and the stories were entertaining and compelling in their own right. But they lacked a certain depth because we couldn’t see the whole picture yet (We still can’t.).

Superman #44, alternate coverAt this point, it’s pretty safe to say this release strategy was a mistake, and it watered down something that could have been much more interesting otherwise. This is actually one of the few times I would have preferred a mass crossover. This issue marks the end of the Before Truth story, which has lasted four issues. As such it would have been simple to use all four Superman books to tell this story during the month of June. That way, the story has four straight weeks to build to a crescendo. In addition, not only do you have Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr. lending their talents to this pivotal story, but you have Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Ardian Syaf, and everyone else currently under the Man of Steel’s creative umbrella.

What a wasted opportunity…

With all that in mind, let’s get into Superman #44. Clark’s identity is public, and he’s not the only one in jeopardy. When The Daily Planet is targeted by supervillains, the Man of Steel must use what power he has left to defend his friends and colleagues. It’s a great premise, but the execution is surprisingly stupid.

Surprisingly, our hero starts this issue looking pretty stupid. Lois Lane has revealed to the world that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Yet when we open the issue, we see him strolling down the street as Clark, as if this were just an ordinary day. The Royal Flush Gang is able to identify and ambush him on sight! It’s not like Clark is incapable of being stealthy. He can fly and run at super-speed! At the very least, you’d think he’d pick a new disguise! But nope. Our main character, ladies and gentlemen. He’s sticking with an alter-ego that’s been discredited in front of the world.

Superman #44, Killer Croc, John Romita Jr.The villains who attack The Daily Planet are an odd assortment: Livewire, Atomic Skull, Killer Frost, Shockwave, and for no particular reason, Killer Croc. The choice to put Croc in there is a puzzling one. The question of why a Batman villain is put into such an important Superman story seemingly at random actually distracts from the scene. Furthermore, he’s rather redundant. He’s just another slab of muscle and mass for Superman to kick around.

About halfway through the issue, something interesting and mildly sensible finally happens: Clark finds out that a former Planet acquaintance of has taken Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and some of his other colleagues hostage. Due to the destruction caused by one of Superman’s enemies, this impromptu villain lost his wife and his livelihood. Now that Clark’s identity is exposed, he’s taking the fight to him. Now this is an interesting idea, and really should have taken up the first half of the issue. The stuff with the Royal Flush Gang, Killer Croc and the others feels like it’s there because they felt the need to fill a supervillain quota. But in the end, simply putting there so Clark can punch them comes off clumsy and forced.

During the fight, Perry White takes a bullet, and we subsequently get to hear his side of things. Understandable, he’s rather perturbed. This scene only lasts a page, making it yet another lost opportunity in the Truth saga. This scene actually reminded me of something Marvel released in the wake of Spider-Man revealing his identity in Civil War. It was an editorial by J. Jonah Jameson, who’s called Spider-Man a menace for years, only to discover that he’s been on the Daily Bugle staff the whole time. Jameson apologizes to his readers, and vows to win back their trust. Perry obviously never had that kind of contempt for Clark. But this revelation makes Perry, and everyone at the Planet look like oblivious fools. There’s a real argument to be made that the paper’s credibility has been compromised. It’d be fascinating to see that angle explored. So naturally, I assume it’ll be left untouched…

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #6Toward the end of the issue, there’s an incredibly stupid moment where Clark cuts his hair with a diamond. You know, because he’s Superman and he’s got really strong tissue. This isn’t a new idea (as you’ll see on the left), but I’ve always rejected it, and others along the same line.

There’s still some potential left in the Superman: Truth story as a whole. But it’s been so mismanaged that at this point that it’s inescapably tarnished. At this point, those of us who are sticking around can only hope for better things ahead now that the backstory of Superman’s “outing” has been revealed.

Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.blogspot.com. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com.

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A Superman #43 Review – The Missing Puzzle Piece

Superman #43, coverTITLE: Superman #43
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 26, 2015

***WARNINGS: Spoilers lay ahead for Superman #43.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Two months after the Truth storyline began across all of the Superman titles, Superman #43 finally gives us the story’s inciting incident. At last, we see how and why Clark Kent’s secret identity was revealed to the world. Why they waited this long to show us the actual revelation is mind boggling to me.

Much of the drama in the past few issues of Superman has been watered down because, if you’ve been reading other Superman books, you already know what happens to Clark and the other characters. What’s more, it’s been a source of frustration in those other books, because we’ve lacked context for what’s going on. We knew from Divergence that Clark’s powers had been lessened, that his secret identity had somehow been exposed, and that Lois Lane was somehow responsibly for the latter. You can argue we didn’t need more context than that. But it certainly would have helped, given the enormity of both situations. Before you make something like this a mystery, it’s probably best to examine if that’s the best way to present it. In this case, it wasn’t.

Superman #43, Hordr, John Romita Jr. While Clark and the others may have escaped from Hordr last issue, the organization continues to plague our heroes, blackmailing Superman with the knowledge of his secret identity. They draw him out, strap him to a chair, and have him do his new solar flare thing in front of a bunch of “energy storage” robots. I can only assume this is how Clark lost his powers. They’ll explain it with comic book science or something.

Then, Lois apparently sends a compromising image of Clark to news outlets across the world, exposing his identity and taking Hordr’s advantage away from them. In the moment, this seems like an extremely rash decision. She’s just taken one of the biggest decisions of Superman’s life, and made it for him. Afterward, Clark is understandably furious with her.

They do plant a seed for it, however. Twice during the course of the issue, and once during the previous issue, they establish that Lois feels guilty over what her father and Lex Luthor did to Clark in Action Comics #2. If you’ll recall, they performed brutal experiments on him, including strapping him to an electric chair. They even use Rags Morales’ art from the issue. So when Lois sees Superman in a similar situation, it evidently strikes a chord, and prompts her to act. Was it the right choice? No. But given Lois’ emotional investments in both Superman and Clark Kent, it’s a decision that’s easier to understand.

Superman #43, John Romita Jr., Lois Lane revealIt’s a powerful moment, to be certain. But again, I’m left wishing we’d seen it before the Truth storyline started. There would have been so much more depth to it all, as opposed to just watching Superman walk around punching people…

While I’m sure he’s not complaining about getting to write such a notable Superman story, I can’t help but feel like this is a waste of Gene Luen Yang’s talent. Remember, this is the guy who wrote American Born Chinese (among numerous other works). Is he really a writer you want to merely plug into a giant crossover like this? Sure, he’s doing a fine job. But I can’t help but wonder what Yang would do with the chance to tell a Superman story all his own? I can’t help but think it’d be more fulfilling than what we’ve gotten from Truth thus far.

Superman #43, John Romita Jr., Lois Lane faceAs for Romita Jr., at times there’s an odd disconnect between his pencils and Yang’s dialogue. The panel at right is a perfect example. Now that Lois knows Clark is Superman, she’s getting to ask him all kinds of important questions. Does he have a master plan in mind? What would humanity do if he ever went rogue? These are questions that potentially effect the entire world. And yet, look at Lois’ face. What does that face say? She’s almost grilling him on the nature of his mission, and the checks and balances that could be in place to prevent him from running roughshod over the planet. But in this panel, she almost looks like a shrinking violet. Lois Lane is many things, but a shrinking violet isn’t one of them.

There are a few little moments like that scattered about the issue. Romita also seems to have a thing about drawing hands. Look at Clark’s left hand in the second-to-last panel of the issue. Little things like this start to take a toll as the issue goes on.

At the very least, the cat is finally out of the bag as far as how Superman got outed. Hopefully now that the exposition is out of the way, Truth can expand a little more. If there was ever a concept that deserved a chance to stretch it’s legs, it’s that of an “outed” Superman. The delayed revelation definitely created some awkwardness. But all isn’t lost quite yet.

Images 1 and 2 from comicvine.com. Image 3 from supermanhomepage.com.

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Superman Against Police Brutality – An Action Comics #42 Review

Action Comics #42 coverTITLE: Action Comics #42
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 1, 2015

Miss last issue? Check out Action Comics #41.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman vs. The Cops. Yeesh. Well, it’s timely. You can’t fault them for not being relevant…

Indeed, in the year that the town of Ferguson became synonymous with racial prejudice and police brutality, and headlines continue to pop up about cops going too far, Superman finds himself standing between the police and innocent people. While I’m still not a big fan of the de-powered “Tough Guy Superman” approach, this is very much in line with what a Superman comic should be. The Man of Steel taking on issues that effect real people.

As Superman, whose identity has been exposed to the world, battles a monster made of “solidified shadow,” the Metropolis police descend on the citizens assembled in “Kentville.” Now the question is, can Superman protect these people? And what will he have to do to accomplish that?

Action Comics #42, chainsGreg Pak and Aaron Kuder return Superman to his roots here as a champion for the oppressed and defenseless. As we see police in riot gear attempt to tear gas civilians, our hero is set up in a somewhat contrived, yet visually arresting scenario. He wraps himself in a giant chain and creates a barrier between the police and the citizens. He then takes repeated shots to the face from gimmicked up S.W.A.T. team guys. It’s hokey, but it creates the sense of drama and sacrifice they’re going for. And of course, the chain harkens back to the tried-and-true image of Superman snapping the chains off his body.

To be fair, the police aren’t completely demonized here. We see reluctance among the cops, and some of them acknowledge how Superman has saved them in the past. But the bad apples spoil the bunch. We also see the civilians debating whether they should fight back, so the hostility isn’t entirely one-sided. But it’s fairly obvious what this issue is meant to be. The police are the bad guys. One can definitely argue whether this is in good taste, but I think much depends on how the in-story conflict is resolved. We end on a rather dramatic image, so we’ll obviously be seeing more of this next month.

Action Comics #42, splashAs far as Clark Kent himself is concerned, the man we see here is more likeable than the one we saw last issue. While issue #41 saw him using mild profanity, and at one point talking like he was in a gritty noir comic, he feels more like Clark here. He still has more of a cynical edge to him. But he doesn’t feel as darkened here. At one point they actually have him hogtie the big monster he’s fighting, i.e. “farm boy.” That’s a little on the nose, but I prefer that to what we saw last issue. Action Comics #41 felt like we were reading the exploits of a different character. This issue feels like a Superman comic. That’s a very welcome change. If it’s not Superman, this whole Truth thing doesn’t even matter, does it?

Pak and Kuder will have me back for next month. For my money, culturally relevant Superman beats sci-fi monster battling Superman any day. Tough Guy Superman? That’s another story. But the intrigue of how they’ll follow this issue is too much to resist.

Image 1 from nothingbutcomics.net. Image 2 from kotaku.com.

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An Action Comics #41 Review – The Supercycle?

Action Comics #41 coverTITLE: Action Comics #41
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: June 3, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For better or worse, the glasses are off, folks.

Action Comics #41 is the first issue to be published as part of the Truth storyline. Thanks to an expose written by Lois Lane in The Daily Planet, the world now knows Clark Kent is Superman. When we open the issue, an injured Clark is walking back from a fight of some kind, with fewer powers than he’s ever had. He has some of his strength, he can leap great distances, and has some of his speed. The world’s most powerful man is now a marked man, and he’s more vulnerable than he’s ever been. In his new exposed state, Superman will find both unexpected friends and enemies.

The Truth storyline as a whole seems to be an attempt to not only “humanize” Superman more, but to darken him up. Both have been tried before, with varying degrees of success. In Superman #40, John Romita Jr. seemed to be trying to de-humanize Superman in order to make this transformation more meaningful. Apparently, New 52 Superman couldn’t taste food or get hungry. In a bizarre scene, Romita even had him get drunk with the Justice League.

Action Comics #41, page 2There are some more groaners in this issue, as Clark uses a little bit of salty language. Nothing too harsh. Stuff like “Can’t even really feel my damn fingers right now.” Some might say this is too boy scoutish, but I’m not a fan of Superman swearing. At least not unless he’s got a really good reason. Then a few pages later he gets into a fight with some thugs at a gas station and rides off on a motorcycle (the Supercycle?). Parts of this issue almost feel like a noir comic.

Superman is wearing a t-shirt and jeans now, much like he was drawn in 2011’s Action Comics #1. The cape is gone, reduced to rags that he has wrapped around his knuckles. His shirt features the famous “S” symbol as red and black, instead of the classic red and gold. Again, a darkening of the character. His hair has also been cut, which is actually an improvement in my book. One can argue his appearance is a little on the nose in terms of the “Superman is just like you!” agenda. But then again, does a hero like Superman really need a costume if his identity is public?

None of this stuff is outright offensive, and I do like the concept of the Truth story. But the impression I get from this issue is that they’re trying to play Superman off as a bad ass. And that’s really not what Superman is about. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: He’s an idealist. Truth, justice, peace, etc. If you want to see how the public reacts when they see who this iconic figure is in day-to-day life, that’s one thing. And putting him in a t-shirt and jeans does make him seem like more of a man of the people. But there’s a grittiness at play here that doesn’t feel true to Superman.

Action Comics #41, hungryDC has been trying to shoehorn more dark elements into the Superman mythos for years. For my money, that’s always been a product of writers not knowing what to do with the character. Point blank: Superman can be a hard character to write. But it can be done. Hell, Geoff Johns just had a great little run with Superman. It just seems to be a matter of knowing where the intrigue lies, and how to create drama with him.

This issue also suffers from timing problems. Divergence and preview materials notwithstanding, we don’t know what’s happened to Superman leading up to this issue. He’s apparently been locked out of the Fortress of Solitude and stripped of his costume, but we won’t see that until Superman #41 on June 24. The issue also references something that happens next month in Superman #42. In essence, we’re coming into this issue missing a lot of important information.

Still, the central story in this issue, Clark returning to Metropolis, is interesting. Certain people are on his side, and certain people aren’t. The public’s reaction to Clark being outed, which I suspect is a major part of what we’ll see in Action going forward, is compelling.

I’ll give this issue credit. Despite the groan factor of Superman riding a motorcycle, and talking like a gritty detective, it’s got me interested in what the other ramifications of Clark’s “outing” will be. I’ll be glancing at Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman for the first time in months. Truth has the potential to bring a lot of new eyes to the Superman books. But if they go too far in the wrong direction, they’ll send those eyes rolling somewhere else.

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from adventuresinpoortaste.com.

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