Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #179

Superman #179

Scheduled to arrive in stores: February 6, 2002

Cover date: March 2002

Writer: Jeph Loeb and Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ariel Olivetti
Inker: Ariel Olivetti

"What Can One Icon Do?"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

In Dr. Foster's office, Superman talks about Lois, and how he misses her, using cryptic language to mask his true identity. Foster asks him if he ever thinks about other women, to which Superman gives a sharp "No". Even Wonder Woman. Even Lana.

They come to a general consensus that the rule of thumb is not what is done during their sessions, but the work that is done in between.

Superman, listening to radio bands, intercepts a cab robbery in progress. He stops the robber with his chest, who falls to the ground in a heap.

The cabbie positively identifies the man, but seems astonished to see Superman in Harlem. So does a new arrival to the scene, Muhammad X, a man with a tight fitting black suit and sunglasses, Matrix-style. He condemns Superman for even coming to Harlem, because he never did before, so why should he start now? Superman tells him about Cabwatch, a protection program made by Jason Diaz, but Muhammad X cuts him off.

There are no mad scientists here, he tells Superman. Meanwhile, the perp starts to run away. Muhammad taps him and makes him weigh twenty times more than he started.

Superman asks him about his powers, and tries to start over. Muhammad closes all avenues of communication and asks Superman to leave, in not-so-nice fashion.

In Venice, Lois has Clark turn around to see what is different about her. He notes her clothing. Then Lois brings her mother over, and Clark sees that they've both changed their hair.

They fumble over how Clark got to Venice, and Clark asks Lois to talk in private.

Up in the air, Clark, in Superman costume, tells Lois that he's sorry he didn't notice the hair. He tells her about Muhammad X, and how he feels frustrated, because he sets out to inspire people, but he doesn't know if a white role model is the proper inspiration for black people. Muhammad has made him question his place as a role model. He worries that he doesn't understand African Americans.

She suggests that he go talk to Steel and try to get another perspective. They kiss, and he drops Lois off. Lois' mother sees, and gives a slight, "Oh dear."

At Steelworks, Superman finds that Steel is off testing the Aegis, so he asks Courtney and Natasha who the super hero they look up to is. Natasha says Steel, and Courtney says Superman, after telling him not to get pig headed.

At the Watchtower, Superman asks Martian Manhunter about the whole affair. Speaking as a green man, he tells Superman that he isn't wrong for trying so hard. It just shows that he cares deeply about doing the right thing and that he deserves a chance to be a role model.

Back in Harlem, Muhammad tears up some bank robbers.

In the sky afterwards, Superman stops Muhammad and demands to talk with him. Superman tells him that he is an alien... not born on Earth. Muhammad tells him that he may be an alien, but he just happens to have blue eyes and white skin. Superman tells him that he cannot change the color of his skin, but he can try to be something far more difficult, a human being, and hopefully, he says, someday that's the only way we'll see each other. Muhammad, still bitter, says "that's how you sleep at night" as Superman flies off into the distance.

4Story - 4: Excellent story. Something that confronts a lot of issues that a lot of comics are afraid to. Especially big, popular, standards of the industry comics like Superman. Muhammad X is a bit of a stereotypical amalgamation for a name, but it works. It's nice. At least it's another black Superhero. That's something the whole comic industry lacks enough of, honestly. I cringe at the idea of presenting a black character for the sake of a black character, but given the development and style given to his treatment, Muhammad seems like more than that. The plight of Superman in this issue is one that I face daily, attending a rather liberal college, as a white guy. I grew up in Tacoma, Washington, where there is a fairly nice population of diverse people, so I've never really thought twice about how I relate to people of other colors than white, but up here in Bellingham, where a large portion of the people are white (something that makes me daily pine for Tacoma's diversity, believe you me), the ideas of color segregation, proper role models, and the minority plight are large, overdone, and touchy issues. It's hard to say anything without someone jumping at you, calling you names, treating you improperly. Why, in one class last quarter, I was called a racist. They did a presentation in class on how Disney is class deprecating because a larger portion of their villains are voiced by minorities, or minority "sounding" individuals. I suggested that perhaps, like Superman in this comic, the intentions and hopes of the creators should be considered before we start spouting racism. For this, a gentleman of color called me a racist and embarrassed me in front of a lot of people. This is me, here, someone who has never considered himself a racist, or even one with problems relating to minorities or members of other socio-economic status quos. Except, of course, the rich, because I've never really been there. My point here is that it is easy to feel Superman's pain, through our own experiences on both sides of the fence. Minorities get slammed with pleas of reverse discrimination all the time. Whites get called racist for things their parents' parents' parents did, and everyone out there is just looking for a reason to soapbox and get angry. We need to follow the moral, the idea behind this story... we need to regard each other as human beings and disregard silly games of designation in favor of better words. For this, this story is a five, all the way.

But I have to, lofty morals and a good story aside, knock a point for inconsistency. First off, Lois' mother looks surprised that she sees Superman and Lois kissing, though she confronted Lois with this issue two comics ago. And then there was a comic where it seemed like nothing was wrong. And then there was this one. Continuity is seriously in the gutter here. Also... Natasha. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Emil Hamilton KIDNAP HER two weeks ago? Whoops! Better talk a little more with the other writers, Jeph. Or at the very least, not assume that we, the readers, are so dense as to not notice these things.

Now, though this is harsh, I've gotta compliment Geoff and Jeph for doing a better job than the other teams with regards to this problem. Last week, Lois and her mother went to Vienna, which is at least somewhere within a week's travel of Venice, where they are this week. Also, the plot line of Lois' mother knowing the secret is at least not being ignored until the next issue of the first revelation, albeit in repetitive fashion. But that whole Natasha thing? C'mon, guys.

As for the whole "Luthor knows" thing... I think that it's just fine that it wasn't elaborated upon this week. Stretch it out, for all I care. My problems with continuity do not stem from anticipation, though I do lack instant gratification with plots that take years to fulfill... I will wait. My problems mainly lie in when one week, something happens, and the next week, it hasn't. At least this issue Lex isn't scampering about with no knowledge of Clark and Superman. But something has to be done to address continuity in these books.

And one more thing... Muhammad makes that guy 20 times his own weight, right? Well, say the goon is of average weight. 150 pounds. Times that by 20. That's 3000 pounds! And he did it while the goon was standing. Say you weigh three thousand pounds, you're standing, and you fall to the ground. Splat go the brains, the organs, the body. Goodbye goon. I think. I could be wrong here. Something I was considering.

4Art - 4: Really nice, well done work. I like the colors, idealistic, strong. Not as dark as a lot of issues of Superman have been of late. There is some darkness, but it is obviously toned down, and the cartoonish but real aspects are torqued. Well done. I knocked half a point because there are a LOT of splash pages. That might be Loeb, but still, it's not necessary sometimes. Splash pages are like huge plot twists. You do one every other page, it's gonna get distracting. Also, there were times when backgrounds were just neglected. That's another half a point. But the art, in general, was very well done, especially Muhammad X.

2Cover Art - 2: Not a bad cover, necessarily, for aesthetics, but Muhammad X's fist is just too darn big. Also, we've seen this cover before. Remember Bloodsport, maybe five, six years ago? Funny, since Bloodsport was an extreme racist, and the contents of this issue deal with racism. If this is intentional, I give the cover a 4. Somehow, I don't think it is, though, because a lot of the necessary parallels are missing. I still can't stand the logo with an S at the end of the Superman. And it's inconsistent. These logo changes need to get lined up and continuous, or it's going to get more annoying. Continuity. That's the word of the month around here.

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January 2002

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