Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #174

Superman #174

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 5, 2001

Cover date: November 2001

2001 Shield No. 42

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Steve Lieber
Inker: Steve Lieber

"Every Blade of Grass"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Reviewer's chilled note: Just think... one hundred months ago, Superman died. Makes you feel old, doesn't it? (As much as fanboys can feel old, given our demographic age :)

Lois searches through the rubble of the Kent farm and comes up with what she's looking for: Martha Kent's diary. Clark, meanwhile, hovers about with the makings of a farm, fixing what was destroyed in Imperiex's volley.

Lois shows Clark her find, and he asks her to read to him while he works... his mother's words will make the effort easier.

Lois does, and a day and a half passes... the farm takes shape. Clark adds paint. Mortars a wall. Builds the frame.

Midway through the process, they are interrupted by a helicopter descending on the farm. A presidential helicopter. Luthor? No. Pete Ross.

Pete tells Clark that there are people everywhere who need food, shelter, and power. Lana asks Lois when Clark will return to work... both jobs. She says he hasn't said he won't...

Clark berates Pete for not making the government have a better system to track everyone and see if they are safe, and he demands that Pete tells Luthor to make a better one.

Pete and Lana leave, and Lois starts to tell Clark that he's needed elsewhere. Clark is having nothing to do with such conversation, when a truck pulls up, and a confused driver issues the message, "Beef bourguignon with ketchup."

Clark thanks him, then takes off for the shelter the message came from. Here he finds his mother, and they hug, reunited. Martha asks how Pa is. Clark says that he thought Pa was with her. Ma tells him that Pa was going to work on the tractor while she went to get groceries. She has him take her back to the farm, immediately, where she reunites with Lois, and they hug.

The next morning, the farm is finished. Ma compliments Clark, then Lois starts berating Clark about returning to his work. Perry called. Clark demands that Perry wait, that he will search every inch of the country until his father is found, alive.

Elsewhere, a man with a small beard growth, looking very much like a very angry Pa Kent gets into a truck with a gentleman he's hitched a ride with, asking to go anywhere. North is the driver's direction. Pa/the stranger says that north sounds as good as anyplace else.

Ma sews on a costume, talking with Clark about how he can go back out and fight and still remember those who have fallen in battle. She hands him the costume, and he admits that she may be right.

Martha wakes Lois, showing her their handiwork. Lois tells Clark that he's made the right choice. Clark flies into the sky as Superman, his costume's S now blackened in every aspect save the red S, much like the Siegel and Shuster early version...

4Story - 4: It's always nice to see a story that focuses on the characters rather than a brutal fight to the finish with a goon who will invariably end up chained up in Stryker's Island. It's also nice to see Clark tested in ways that make him question his idealism, only to have him bounce back and be the hero we all know him to be. This is what made Action Comics #775 so great, and it's what is really well done in this issue as well. There is less story spread out over more pages, but it works here... it really does, because this is a time when things should be going slow, after three months of non-stop action and horror.

I have several problems with things that I see in this issue, thus the knocked point... my main one being that Pa Kent, assuming that it is Pa Kent thumbing his way north, has foreshadowing of some cliches in the making. I hope my assumption is wrong, or that my assumption is right, and this foreshadow is an attempt to throw the reader on Loeb's part. I can only see, given the evidence that we have here, that Pa either has amnesia and doesn't know what he's doing or where he's going, or that he's for some reason he's bitter and angry with the world, Superman, or Ma, and needs time to vent. Both seem like bad options to me. If it's amnesia, well, sorry, but that's just cheesey. Grade B. How many people have to get knocked on the head and come back ten issues later before comics ignore this ploy. (See Marvel, and why I don't often read their books anymore). The other option, bitterness, would be a fair one if Pa wasn't the optimist's optimist, the man who gave Superman his optimism. I can only assume that he has more strength of character than even Superman, to rear him in such a fashion despite his great power and responsibilities.

There is a third option. Pa Kent is actually the Parasite, and Pa is in a cave somewhere outside of Metropolis. He will soon return and start divorcing Martha. (Just kidding). However, fanboy speculation aside, I truly believe given past record that Loeb is doing neither, and that this undercurrent will turn into something much greater than it seems right now. It's hard to say with so little to go on.

The point lost is for the direction this little story sends us. Consider the point back when the story, as so many have in recent memory, is explained much later in a format where I cannot rescind this criticism. I don't personally agree with the blackening of the S. It's interesting, it's stylish, and it's a nice homage to the past Supes, but it's... it's just not right. It's not Superman, even if he's more bitter, seen people die, lost faith. It doesn't honor anything to darken your demeanor, in my honest opinion. But I've been through the blue Superman. The red Superman. The dead Superman. The dead again Superman. The long hair. Everything. And it all grows on me, with time and the direction of the story. I read Kingdom Come having heard that it might be the reason behind the change in the S, and it was a good story, but it was definitely Elseworlds for a reason. Having read several Loeb interviews that seem to indicate that this was not the reason for changing the color, however, I think we can safely rule this out as a motivation (fear not Magog in the near future, boys and girls, so it would seem). (but then again, we got Harley...) (...hmmmmmm...)

As a final note, thank you to Jeph and company for not killing Ma and Pa. I think that it could have been done, and justified, and both well. It still, nonetheless, makes me happy for Superman to still have an anchor other than Lois. It makes him more human, less Super. I love that.

2Art - 2: Something about this art really bothered me, and made me cringe. That is, until Big Mac took over on the last page... I'm frustrated because I can't put my finger on it. I think it's because everything is very base, and very concrete. It seems like something that isn't complex. Simple has its good points, but for me it just felt like the black S in this issue... off, wrong somehow in a way that I can't explain but just feel. I usually feel inappropriate making assertions without presuppositions to back it up, but in this case, I'm just acting on emotion, as I cannot come up with a concrete reason for feeling the way I do. My apologies for this, but still. 2. That's just how I feel.

5Cover Art - 5: I saw this cover three months (or so) ago in the September Solictations, and my first thought with the crack in the picture is that Pa will soon be dead. It's a striking cover, with a stark image of failure and loss. I got the ole, "Oh no, Spidey's hanging up his costume again" vibe thing, then realized that this isn't Spider-Man, young quirky teenager we're talking about, but Supes. It makes the blood run cold. There's a little too much white in the background, but it frames the composition well enough that you can't really complain too much. Nice one.

Other recent reviews:

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic was on sale.

January 2001

February 2001 March 2001 April 2001 May 2001 June 2001 July 2001 August 2001 September 2001 October 2001 November 2001 December 2001 Annuals

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2001.