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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Adventures of Superman #604

Adventures of Superman #604

Scheduled to arrive in stores: May 8, 2002

Cover date: July 2002

Writer: Joe Casey
Penciller: Carlos Meglia, Sanford Greene, and Paco Herrera
Inker: Carlos Meglia, Walden Wong, and Carlos Cuevas

"Mirror Mirror - Part 2"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

Trapped in a tesseract and recuperating, the Super-Baby cries to itself, while outside, in the Fortress, a just arrived Ultraman attacks Superman.

Ultraman, the evil Superman Doppleganger from another dimension, tells Superman that they both know there isn't much time... if the hero and the villain are in the same reality after 24 hours, one will be sent back to the other's dimension.

Ultraman knocks Superman into the containment field and releases the Super-Baby. Fortunately, the Super-Baby is still contained in a smaller bubble.

Superman tells Ultraman that he remembers who he is, and rises from the rubble.

Above the Daily Planet, Dan Turpin attempts to take control of the situation. Green and purple Lexcorp robots (or DEO agents? It's never really explained) prevent him from locking the place down.

Superman hits Ultraman back, knocking him through some crystals... the same crystals that allow him to enter and leave the Fortress. He fears that they may all be trapped.

Ultraman goes for the baby, intending to destroy it, and Superman realizes, at the last minute, as Ultraman reaches into the containment field. He reaches in with him, and stops him from getting to the baby.

Superman knocks Ultraman out of the containment field, and takes the baby. Ultraman uses his heat vision on them, saying that they can both burn. Superman shields the baby with his own body.

Kelex comes in and orders Ned, the Super-Robot, to protect Superman. Strike that. He says, quote, "Initiating smackdown procedures. Protect home turf. ... Opponent registers off the hook. Amp up personal reserves, homey. Prepare to bring it on."

Superman mentally thanks Ned, who attacks.

Ultraman rips Ned's arm off.

Superman thinks of how to help the baby while all this is happening.

He starts thanking goodness that Ultraman is the only one present, when Owlman and Superwoman, the other Earth equivalent of Wonder Woman and Batman, except evil, arrive.

Superwoman snares the baby with her lasso and pulls it to Owlman, who holds it hostage with a razorang.

Ultraman smashes Ned into Superman, demanding the baby.

Ultraman explains that he found a membrane between the anti-Phantom Zone and the Phantom Zone, and crossed over, in an attempt to trace an anomalous signature (likely the Super-Baby).

Superman tells them that this is only a baby. At this point, the baby reboots as Brainiac.

2Story - 2: Pre-warning: I did not read the JLA issues or specials that introduced the characters involved in this issue (I've learned to fear things like Earth 2. They lead to continuity killing CRISISes).

Nice if you're just looking for a popcorny story without much character, and a pretty decent guest shot. But I wasn't. I was looking for a Superman continuity comic with the Superman I've come to know and love. Eh. We can't all be pleased.

I like the ideas of Earth 2. I like the idea of a Super-baby. I like the idea of Superman battling someone as powerful as himself. That's why we have Bizarro and Doomsday. Perhaps even, some would argue, the Cyborg.

However, I think this kind of stuff belongs in 'take it or leave it' one-shots, not mainline continuity. Granted, we've been needing some of the stuff established in other comics to filter in, and it has boosted continuity at times (Aquaman, though originally I was apprehensive, is an excellent example). I wonder, perhaps, if the reason that I'm not enjoying this as much as I would is the handling of the characters. I mean, Ultraman and Superman would be fairly evenly matched. Why are they trying to beat each other senseless instead of using their formidable brains? Or maybe Superman's the only one with a formidable brain. Still. He uses his fists, when I'm sure there are a million things in the Fortress to be used, a million strategies he knows that Ultraman doesn't, and then, there's the simple advantage that good has over evil, unless, of course, good nullifies this with a fist. Insert political commentary here.

This whole thing plays like a guest shot. Large, overdone, pseudo (but not really) impressive entrances, large blows knocking characters all over the place for aesthetic, and characters we've wanted to see, but not necessarily like this. It reminds me of many, many single shot Superman, add a slash, then villain pieces I've read, like Superman/Bugs Bunny, Superman/Gen 13, Superman/Batman, etc, etc, etc. It is not mainline continuity stuff.

This is Superman. SUPERMAN. Not the Incredible Hulk. I don't like brainless destruction. It's a waste of time. Believe it or not, I do read a comic book to approach something deeper. I know. It's rare. But it's a turn that the entire industry took, oh, in 1985, and has been receding from ever since, some say for the better, I say for the worse. Maybe we are entering (ugh) an obsidian age.

And for the love of Krypton, for the House of El, for the sake of sanity, SOMEONE PLEASE FIX KELEX. Dig? Word. Yo.

Little things also add up to much the same picture. This containment field which barely holds the baby is suddenly big enough to hold Ultraman AND Superman? And once within, both can exit and enter at their leisure? I mean, it's a containment field. Shouldn't they have been stuck? Also, if they're trapped in the Fortress, shouldn't Superman be a bit more concerned then he seems, stopping to chat up the morality of killing a baby but not of the futility of a potential escape? What else... ah. I see that somehow Lexcorp robots, perhaps some version of Team Luthor (IT WOULD HELP IF THE WRITER WOULD PLEASE CLUE US IN HERE), can suddenly take an investigation from the SCU. This leads me to wonder, is this DEO? If so, why are they involved with this? Wouldn't Lexcorp supplying the DEO make up a substantial government conflict of interest between Lex and the United States? Regardless, the situation disappeared, and Superman did as well. No one knows about the Fortress save Emil and Steel, so how are the DEO to know that anything was wrong? And if they're just Team Luthor goons, than the gravity of the mistake is even worse, for obvious reasons. Eddie Berganza, most of us love where you're going, but these little details are horrible, and easily spotted. If I dug, I could probably come up with worse. This is just surface stuff for a trained eye. A fan eye.

And hey. Super-Baby. Evil Super-Doppleganger. Superboy. Steel. Supergirl. Super-Dog. Superman. What's next? Beppo, Zippy, and everyone else that caused CRISIS!? Has everyone forgotten where this stuff leads? Simplify it, or suffer the fans. Ultraman and Bizarro are essentially the same character. Really. The only difference is intelligence.

Re-imagining something that has come before is easy. I admit it. And comfortable. That's why Hollywood is full of sequels, prequels, and remakes. But it's boring, and it pans out real quick. And most importantly, even if it doesn't pan out, it's not very original, and it deadens the imagination. Let's see something like Dominus. I mean, heck. The story turned out to flop, and most people, myself included, tired of it and hated it quickly. But for every Dominus, there's a Tribunal, a Doomsday, a Parasite, an Imperiex (OH SO RECENTLY!), a Brainiac, and so on. Why take this rehash junk and waste time with it waiting for summer and a crossover to come along?

I think the letter in the letter column put it best: "Continuity, gone. Many people saw it as something bad and wanted it gone. It is now, and... it is a sad, sad day for the Superman titles." This from an anonymous guy on the internet who left only an email address.

But I understand the need to be responsible for what you say, so I, Neal Bailey,, 360-671-3696 (America), submit that while this anonymous man is a bit zealous, he is hitting on something immensely important reflected in this book. Resting on the laurels of an admittedly fantastic number of books (Emperor Joker, Imperiex, Parasite, The Search for Lois, New Krypton, Bizarro), we are falling into a rut that those amazing stories set us up for by disregarding/eliminating continuity. We have a number of fizzling, silly, stupid, wasteful stories waiting for the next big kick. I'm guessing it has to do with Krypton again and a certain secret. But now, we're forced to sit through boring stuff. Satanus taking the soul of the city (give me a break), Emil Hamilton going to the dark side (a good idea, but not really brought to believability by the story), Gunshin and Byakko (God bless me, and the writers too, for sneezing that one out.), Last Laugh (The only laughter came from the DC staff, while quietly muttering, "Suckers". THEY DIDN'T EVEN KILL THE CLOWN.), and now Ultraman. I will make a stipulation on the Last Laugh criticism. The Green Lantern Superman issue was great. And I will state, biasing openly, that Jeph Loeb's pieces, while sometimes tangential (Muhammad X, Uncle Sam), still manage to maintain a point for each story, and a sense of some kind of built continuity.

I await with interest what will happen when he leaves. Don't we all?

1Art - 1: I suppose that this has kind of an arty feel. The kind of feel that, as I mentioned above, you get in specials. But that's why it's confined to specials. And what's with the box, huh? Take important stuff, put it in the background, and then box it, to make it seem more in the foreground? Call me simple, but isn't it easier to just make it in the foreground in the first place? And the weird heads, the weird mouths, the odd proportions... it's just not what I like. You want to go cartoonish? Head the way of MC2. Otherwise, this disjointed stuff just doesn't float the pulp.

4Cover Art - 4: I tried to contort myself into that position Superman is in on the cover, and I couldn't. Try it. It hurts. Still, the cover looks cool, there's a BACKGROUND (Oh, praise Kismet), and the scene depicted ACTUALLY OCCURRED IN THE ISSUE! YAY! This makes the whole issue worthwhile, all other criticisms aside. Ultraman Vs. Superman. That's exactly what we got. No false adverts, no misleading propoganda. I love it. Minus one for the horrible, abhorrent new logo. I spit on it twice. But at least this one's still all the way on the cover. I guess.

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