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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #180

Superman #180

Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 6, 2002

Cover date: April 2002

Writer: Jeph Loeb and Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ian Churchill
Inker: Norm Rapmund

"The House Of Dracula"

Reviewed by: Nick Newman (

Outside of Castle Rominoff, somewhere in Europe, a great door parts to reveal the dead white face of Count Rominoff. Opening the door further, the Count invites Lois, Jimmy, and Clark into his home. As the three reporters stare in awe at the interior of the grand castle, Lois thinks to herself about how close they are to Pokolistan, and to General Zod. The count invites his weary guests to retire to their rooms, as they must be tired. Another woman, Elizabeth, descends the stairs to show Jimmy to his room as the Count accompanies Clark and Lois to their room.

As he leads them, Rominoff commends Lois on her exceptional writing, pausing briefly to comment on Clark's slowly-improving writing talent. Bending to kiss Lois' hand, the Count agrees to begin his interview in the morning, and then leaves the Kent's to retire for the evening. Inside of their room, Lois throws herself gratefully onto the bed and remarks on the Count's charm, but Clark is not so willing to let up his guard.

That night, Lois is awakened by a disembodied voice calling to her. Rising out of bed, she moves to the window and opens it. Stepping out, Lois descends from the window, walking on steps of fog. Back in the bedroom, Clark wakes up to find Lois missing. Outside, Lois slowly walks through the mud, following the beckoning voice. A low growl echoes from out of the shadows and suddenly Lois finds herself surrounded by werewolves. Snapped out of her trance, Lois screams as one of the creatures jumps in for the kill, only to be intercepted at the last second by Superman.

Yelling at Lois to run, Kal takes the first animal out of commission as another slashes at his arm, cutting straight through his protective aura and into his costume. Clearly there is magic at work here. One of the wolves pounces on his back as Superman cries out in pain. The wolves cry out to the moon as the Last Son of Krypton falls to the earth.

Not far away, Lois is suddenly stopped by the appearance of the Count, eyes glowing and fangs exposed. Instantly in his trance, Lois doesn't resist as the Count draws closer and prepares to sink his teeth into her neck. But before he can harm Lois, Superman comes streaking down out of the sky. Battered and bloody, and with his uniform in tatters, Superman screams at the Count. Catching Lois as she falls, Superman watches the Count vanish in a wisp of fog.

Flying his wife back up to their suite, Lois suddenly fights back against Superman. He tries to talk her out of her trance, when suddenly she cries out that she went away because he chose to save Wonder Woman instead of her father during the war. Clark is shocked by this, but cannot ask a thing before Lois collapses in his arms.

In the morning, Lois wakes up to find Clark standing above her. He tells her that they need to talk about what she said the night before, but Lois doesn't have any recollection of anything happening. Clark pulls the blankets away to show her the mud caked onto her feet, but instead finds them clean of any soil.

Meeting with the Count in his wine cellar, Jimmy and Clark hang behind as Lois conducts her interview. Rominoff tells Lois that Zod has no respect for his people or his border. Their soldiers have been able to fight them off so far, but the Count wants Superman to be made aware of what is happening in his country. Behind them, Clark lifts a glass of wine from the wall and reads the label: "Greenwalt, Mr. David -- 1949-1999". Before Clark can ponder what it means, the Count ends the interview, and invites them to finish it over dinner, at nightfall.

Jimmy prepares himself for the dinner when suddenly Elizabeth appears behind him. Before he can think about the fact that she didn't show up in the mirror, she moves around behind him and her face transforms into a demonic visage. Pulling near to his neck, she prepares to sink her fangs into his flesh.

In Lois and Clark's room, the two ready themselves for the meal, as they argue about the Count. Lois refuses to believe that Clark had anything but a bad dream the night before. As she walks off, Clark tells her that the wine in the bottle isn't wine at all. The wine cellar is full of bottles of human blood.

Walking into the dining hall, Lois nears the table when a drop of red liquid falls onto her arm. Looking upward, Lois is shocked to find Count Rominoff hanging from the ceiling. The Count insists that for the night, she call him by his family name: Count Dracula.

Crashing through a wall, Superman soars into the room. Shards from his rapid entry fly careening across the room, one of the wooden shards impaling the Count in his shoulder. The Count tells them that the world will know of their plight, and then calls to Superman. Instantly hypnotized by the Count's powerful magic, Clark begins to move toward the Count. Lois tries to stop him, but Clark flings her aside, telling her that when he needed her most, she ran away and left him.

Drawing up behind Superman, Dracula bares his fangs bites down into his neck. As his fangs penetrate his skin and his blood begins to flow, Dracula is suddenly hurled backward as brilliant rays erupt from his mouth. Pulling away, Dracula falls to the ground hissing and holding his mouth as the energy begins to consume him. Dracula forgot one thing; Superman is a living solar battery, and every one of his cells is carrying the power of daylight. Dracula makes one last attempt to dive at Superman, but he falls short. His glowing corpse falls to the ground, before dissolving into mist.

Superman suddenly blinks and awakens from his trance, without an inkling of what just happened. Jimmy's frantic cries suddenly ring from the stairs as the photographer comes tearing down them, terrified of Elizabeth. Clark, quickly changed from Superman, and Lois try to convince Jimmy that he imagined it all, and then Clark tells them that it is time to head home. On the plane ride home, Clark expresses his concern that Dracula may have been the only thing keeping Zod from expanding his borders even further. Lois dismisses his fears, because she is sure that even Zod isn't a match for whatever Creature Commandos they might have down there. Down amidst the fog, a group of monsters stand in the moonlight, ready to fight off anything that may come their way.

4Story - 4: This was another great story that was just a lot of fun. I've heard some people complaining about many of Loeb's issues not having a point. If they mean that each issue doesn't impact continuity, then they are correct. Is this a bad thing? Not in my opinion. These issues remind me of the silver age, when each issue was self-contained and just a fun read. Don't get me wrong I love my continuity, and you will actually hear me gripe about it in a minute, but these issues are just fun.

One, it's great to see Clark, Lois, and Jimmy out and about together. The three of them have a great group dynamic that isn't used nearly often enough. Second, this was a terrifically original story. Now I do realize that pretty much every single comic character (Batman and X-men are the first two that come to mind) has had some encounter with Dracula, but other than the Vampire storyline back in 1992 with Jimmy and Robin, and then the storyline in 1995 with Babe (if you don't remember it, then you are probably lucky), I don't remember Superman ever meeting the Count. Three, it is nice to see the writer occasionally acknowledge that there is a ton of magic in the DCU, all of which Superman is completely vulnerable. It's nice to see our hero humbled by someone that isn't just another super-strong hulk that can punch.

My favorite part of the issue though, was the creativity of the ending. Having the daylight energy in Superman kill Dracula was great, and probably surprised all of us. I give very high points for that one. But then there is the one low point. The shear lack of continuity between the books is simply annoying. The issue opens with Lois thinking to herself that she returned home because she missed the Planet and her apartment and such. I can see her lying to Clark, but why in the world would she lie to herself when she already admitted to herself in last week's Action that she left because she hated Clark and returned because she needed him. Second, she tells Clark that she blames him for her father's death, and he is shocked? Didn't this just happen, in their apartment, about a week ago? This is just sloppy, and annoying to a dedicated reader. I know why Lois left, and I know why she returned. I know this because I already read it a week ago when it was in Action. I don't normally play continuity police, but if the issues are going to flow, there needs to be better coordination than this. Now, I would understand recapping past events by doing them a second time if there were many people that just read one of the books, but judging from the rather close sales ratings of all four books, it looks like the majority of people are buying all four. Plus, if you don't read all four, you are just going to miss some of the story. Multiple books have been part of the Superman universe for well over a decade now. If you want to get the whole story, you are just stuck buying four books, that's just the way it works. So an otherwise great story is taken down a notch because this really bugged me.

Overall though, a really great issue, with one oversight that really detracted from it. As one more plus, it was nice seeing Clark respond to Lois' leaving while he was in the trance. Clark is too good to tell her how he really felt about her leaving, and this was probably the only time he'll even be honest about it. Good stuff.

5Art - 5: Normally I knock Churchill's art down a little because of the 'sketchy-ness' of it. Check out the cover of Superman #153 for an idea of what I mean. There is normally an overabundance of lines drawn all over our hero that I feel really don't belong on him. However, this was the perfect issue for Ian. McGuinness, while I love his work, could not have pulled off this setting. Churchill did it perfectly. The Count looks fantastic, as did the werewolves and everything else in the castle. Plus, it is really nice to see a realistic Lois and Clark every now and then. Don't get me wrong, the cartoon style definitely has its place, but sometimes I really miss the realistic Superman of Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding. If you've never seen their work, go pick up Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey and check it out. The only time Superman looked sketchy in this issue, was after getting torn apart by the wolves, which was the perfect part for it. Churchill was the perfect artist for this issue, and he gets the highest rating I can give him.

5Cover Art - 5: And the cover is terrific too. I know I just said that McGuinness couldn't pull off this issue, and I meant what I said, but the cover is a completely different matter entirely. A cover is meant to symbolically sum up an issue, as well as attract attention. That's how they get sold. One, the concept is great. Not too detailed and yet anyone could instantly tell you that the issue is about Superman and a vampire. Plus, McGuinness has always been great at facial covers like this. His bold style really creates a great effect. I can only imagine how much better the "full-coverage" event back in the end of 1997 would have been if Ed had been doing them.

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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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