Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #176

Superman #176

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 7, 2001

Cover date: January 2002

2002 Shield No. 1

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Ian Churchill
Inker: Norm Rapmund

"A Little Help"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Over a running commentary, Superman battles Zod in an epic fight in space that culminates with a frustrated, desperate Superman using heat vision to burn Zod to his skull.

In Claire Foster's office, we see that the whole scene was an anxiety Superman is relating to a psychiatrist recommended to him.

Superman tells Foster that he is not crazy. She assures him that people who go to psychiatrists are not crazy.

She asks him how long he's been anxious. Superman tells her it's been since the war... he then relates to her the first time he met Aquaman, an affectionate moment with splashing and a shared sense of culture, while exploring Atlantis.

The doctor reassures him that Aquaman may not be dead. She notes that heroes don't really stay dead. Superman points out Barry Allen, then goes off to save a cat.

Superman relates to Foster how he is having troubles dealing with his parents being alive... he thought that they were dead, and now they're not, and Pa is acting strange, not recognizing Lana, seeming distant.

Foster asks Superman to tell her who takes care of him. He won't say Lois specifically, but he describes her, and a meeting they had recently, where Lois informed him that she was taking some time off to get to know her mother and travel the world. Superman supports the decision, and actually spends a few minutes with Lois talking about it. Superman describes his loneliness. Time runs out.

Martian Manhunter steps into the office soon after, and asks how it went. He's the one who recommended Foster.

5Story - 5: A great little step out of the usual action and adventure. I question Foster and her methods, but this has no detrimental effect on the story... it's just she isn't very helpful. She doodles while Superman is talking, mocks him for missing his friend by suggesting he might resurrect himself, and then cuts Superman off because time's up, just when he's starting to get somewhere. Not very nice. It's nice to see Superman thinking about the things that have happened to him, trying to deal with it in a rational manner. I don't know if it was intentional, but having this follow the issue where Batman tells Superman he has to deal with his memories, his internal demons, makes perfect sense.

Pa Kent is definitely a worrisome issue. It's fairly obvious that this is either:
A) Not Pa Kent.
B) A man with a serious memory block, or
C) Just a typical, senile old guy.
But certain things just don't add up. Like, the clues. First, he's angry, and off to "wherever". Then he doesn't even know who Lana is. What does this mean? It's intriguing, and I hope it's explained. This is what seems to be another set-up for a long-term storyline, something I feared would be absent from these new teams before I got a chance to wade into a year of their work. I congratulate them on keeping this up, and flog myself for not seeing it as it was happening. Like Emperor Joker. Like Aquaman.

5Art - 5: Who is this guy, and where has he been all of our run? Churchill is amazing... I know I've seen his work somewhere else, maybe even Superman once or twice, but I can't exactly recall where. But lordy! What an issue for art. I mean, I can't stand splashes, but here, they knock you across the room. Seriously! And they fit the story. They MAKE SENSE. I can't believe it. Loeb and Ian have pulled a miracle here. They made art and story that covered very little in terms of action, but consisted of almost pure action. I'm amazed. It's like watching Superman's thought process on the page. I will say, however, that the plain scenes, the scenes without any action, left plenty of action to be desired. But they are still, in current form, better than most artists when they do action shots. So five it stays.

5Cover Art - 5: It fits the story, it makes sense. It's not deceiving, it's eye catching, and the background, though lacking detail, conveys the mood appropriately enough to offset the lack of objects in it.

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

January 2002

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