Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #181

Superman #181

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 3, 2002

Cover date: June 2002

Writer: Jeph Loeb and Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Cam Smith

"The Mirror Crack'd"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Superman and Bizarro awaken, in switched bodies, and go to the mirror to check out their images before facing the day.

Bizarro, in Superman's body, hears Lois showering. Lois offers to have Bizarro wash her back. He panics and bolts, leaving a Bizarro outline in the glass.

Superman, in Bizarro's body, breaks out from the Graveyard of Solitude. He tries to fly, and ends up blasting through the atmosphere into the Watchtower, unable to control his powers.

Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, and Flash attempt to subdue Superman, until Manhunter reveals Superman to be in Bizarro's body. Manhunter then attempts to use Bizarro's mind to get how Bizarro came to be.

Mxyzptlk ferried some of Joker's creatures from Emperor Joker into a Magic Schoolbus and sent them to earth, Bizarro, Faora, and Ignition included, though Ignition insists that he is no creation of the Joker's. He only serves his master, Zod. When Ignition starts to speak of Zod, a block stops the mind-link, and they are separated.

At the Planet, Clark drinks from a cooler, spouting Bizarro speak and throwing Jimmy around. Lois argues with Perry about the story with Luthor she plans on breaking. Perry demands more evidence. Bizarro pulls Lois' hair, and Superman, in Bizarro's body, knocks on the window.

"Goodbye, Bizarro. Would you care to step inside?"

Superman and Bizarro, in opposite bodies, clash. Superman knocks Bizarro through the Earth and to China. He returns, and they fight amidst thunder, with heat vision and freeze vision. Their minds start to reverse back. Superman is hit by Bizarro in Bizarro's body, and he remembers, through Bizarro's body, his fight with Zod. Zod beats Bizarro mercilessly, but he manages to tear Zod's mask off, revealing in the shadows a face that from profile (in this reviewer's opinion) looks a lot like Superman's.

Lightning hits the two of them, and they switch back.

Superman asks what Zod looks like. Zod says, "Him look like you." That, given the wearing off mind switch, could be taken to mean either that he looks like Superman, or not like Superman. Superman is given no answers, and Bizarro tears off.

At the Planet, Clark shows off, having "slept off" Bizarro taking his body. Jimmy asks why Bizarro would dress up like Clark, unless...then Superman appears, really Martian Manhunter in disguise. Jimmy takes a photo of them together.

Meanwhile, Manchester Black in a dark streetlamp takes a bloody nose in exchange for his ploy, taking Superman and switching his body with Bizarro's.

4Story - 4: Five of five all the way, had it not been for the details. A great story, a wonderful set of dialogues, monologues, and enough intrigue to have me in the comic shop on the ship day all summer when this will obviously unwind.

Bizarro and Supes duking it out? Classic. Bizarro himself, classic. Manchester returning, great. Hints at what is to come, with Lois and the story, and Jimmy taking the photo? Wonderful. It's obvious we're being set up to think that evidence is being gathered that Clark Kent is or is not Superman, what with the picture. Also, evidence is being presented (though I don't know if it is intentionally) to point out that Clark IS Superman.

For instance (the details I spoke of): Manchester Black, in order to switch Clark with Bizarro, would have to know where Clark is, theoretically, right? Maybe Lex tipped him off. But who knows, given that we haven't seen Lex for THREE MONTHS. At-hem.

Bizarro also now knows that Clark is Superman. He's probably too dumb to do anything about it, but it's still a loose end.

Other flaws... Superman knows where Bizarro lives, but he doesn't go to take him out/imprison him. Ooops.

Superman can't control Bizarro, but he lands in the Watchtower? What are the chances? But it can be argued that he had some control, just not enough to stop himself, and figured the JLA would be the best place to hit.

A side issue: the lightning transferal of powers back. I ripped it apart in a recent Smallville review, because the lightning itself catalyzed both transferences. I say this is acceptable, and even a good plot device in this fight, because lightning could certainly break a psychic link. It's not used as a catalyst, per se. It works.

I loved this issue. It solved some problems, like Bizarro, and it brought up a possible twist, with maybe Zod being a Superman from an alternate Krypton, as people are suggesting. Who knows? But it's great, and fun to read. It's just little things that drag things down. Otherwise, a perfect issue.

5Art - 5: Ed McGuinness. Two splashes, but they make sense. Everything else is amazing. The Bizarro body imprint, drinking water from the cooler. I swear. I could feel what Clark's body was feeling drinking that. The Mac is amazing. I don't think I'll be able to give him anything less than a five for a good long while. I'm getting an Alex Ross-on here with this guy, where he can do no wrong, because he hasn't, for so long. Keep it up, Ed. Amazing.

4Cover Art - 4: Great, interesting, odd, and it happens in the issue! Hallelujah! There is no background, thus minus one, and the logo for this one still drives me nuts. But overall, pretty great.

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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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