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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #795

Action Comics #795

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 25, 2002

Cover date: November 2002

Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Duncan Roeleau
Inker: Marlo Alquiza

"The Thirteenth Hour" (Ending Battle - Part 4 of 8)

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey (

In the White House, Secret Service agents scramble to locate and ascertain the condition of Pete Ross, as Lex Luthor has disappeared. In the event that he doesn't return shortly, Ross will be sworn in as President.

In a large room on a large island, Lex Luthor lights a cigar and waits gleefully for the Man of Steel. Superman arrives almost on cue. Luthor introduces Superman to his "Island of Solitude", and then promptly tells Superman that he will have it destroyed before he can return later to confiscate or gather evidence against him.

Superman asks Luthor if he knows the secret of his identity.

Luthor replies in the affirmative, but insists that he is not behind the attacks. Luthor says that he is not using the knowledge of Superman's secret identity against him because he loves Lois, and also because he feels that things are changing in the way that Superman and Lex Luthor relate. Almost like the next year will bring a change (Luthor's words).

An explosion rocks the chamber, and Luthor is knocked off of his feet. Superman protects him, knocking debris aside. Luthor chides Superman for having saved his life.

The Elite have arrived.

When Hat sees Superman, he takes off screaming. Menagerie attacks, all the while saying that she isn't the one behind her actions. Her compatriot, Coldcast, tells her that Superman can't help them, and attacks.

Menagerie collapses with a stroke, at Manchester's telepathic command. Manchester himself is not on hand.

Superman follows Hat as Coldcast collapses, and Hat leads Supeman to Bunny, a living ship over the ocean. It's an intergalactic prison, and as Superman roams through it he realizes it is also the home of the consciousness of the Cyborg.

Cyborg has been promised Superman's life if he kills him. Cyborg makes Bunny larger and larger, trapping Superman in an infinite loop.

Superman then flies around, bashing into everything on the ship, and the ship breaks down, trapping Cyborg in a prison.

Superman breaks out the old monologue and tells Manchester Black that he is coming for him.

3Story - 3: Okay. I have to be hard about this here. I have two minds on this issue.

First, seeing Lex Luthor finally acting like Lex Luthor was enough to renew my faith in Superman, make me believe a man can lie, put me into a villain induced sis-boom-bah for badness. I was smoking that cigar with old Lex, and I hate smoking. I was gloating there, with him, looking Superman in the eye and laughing with people coming to kill me.

It was a great scene, and probably one of the best drawn things in a while from Rouleau, as far as I'm concerned. I loved it. It made me tingle, frankly. The whole scene was well written, the whole tension was great, and to be honest, if I had liked where it went, I would have given this issue a five just for that scene.

But then, there's the truth, put up against this great, powerful scene.

1) Luthor is a bad guy. He's the mental villain, yes, and there's something to be said for playing mind games with Superman, but he's also full of petty vengeance, which leads us to 2).

2) Lex Luthor, as I've said before, upon learning of the secret identity of Superman, would plan, plot, perhaps even string out any possible revenge he might take on his arch-nemesis for some time, but eventually, yes friends, even before now, when we've waited almost a year, he would take Superman, pull him up by the cape, and kick him squarely, metaphorically, literally, and in every sense in the word, so hard that super-strength could not pull Lex's foot out of Superman's butt. Note that this does not mean he will become Superman's friend friend, even if things change. This means that Lex Luthor hates Superman, always has, always will, no matter what Superman does to redeem himself. This is an arch-nemesis. Joker cannot, will never, has never, should not, will not, pal around with Batman, even though, insanity aside, he is Batman's brain-villain. Luthor would not concede for Lois' love. He would not concede friendship for infinite power. He would not concede a dollar bill for anything less than the total annihilation of what Superman is and what he represents, including Lois Lane, no matter how much he loves her. I will point out that he loves/loved Lena very much. Which leads to 3.

3) To get at Superman, Lex Luthor has killed innumerable people. He has destroyed innumerable lives. He has battled for and won the Presidency of the United States. HE SACRIFICED LENA for power, power to make him stronger, stronger to defeat his ARCH-NEMESIS, not because he is a man driven by an insane need for recognition. He killed Lena. He would kill Lois. He might even kill himself, just to get at Superman. This is the nature of the man, the villain, the character. The ongoing story. Superman is continually assaulted by all of the brute force that can be dragged about 22 pages, but when the wit comes to the wherewithal, who is Superman's equal but Lex Luthor? And who, given any opportunity at all, would tear Superman apart?

Lex Luthor.

So you can see why I'm a little skeptical that he would pretend and/or mean that he isn't going after Superman at all, even though he knows his secret identity.

And frankly, it's so wrong that I'm even mad. Mad enough to be torn from such a well-written scene, potentially such a meaningful book. The return of Cyborg, the return of the Elite, AND the resolution of the Lex Knows storyline! Heck, there's no way this should have gone bust! But it did.

Everything from that opening scene just fell to Hades in a matchbook on a can of gasoline, friends.

The Elite show up, but no one throws down. They puss out, and run away, and Superman consoles these mass murderers and leaves without bothering to contain them in any way. Whoops. Big editing error. But we can't have Superman preserving the peace when there's vengeance, his prime motivator, in his heart. Oh, wait, was that Luthor? We're so confused!

And then, Bunny, the techno-ship, which I've never heard of (maybe I'm not a good fanboy. I read almost all DC and I blow about 20 a week, but I have no idea what Bunny is), and inside of Bunny, look, what could be good, CYBORG! Hell, yes! Finally! Bring it on, a worthy opponent, and this time armed with an infinitely replicating prison of doom for Superman! How the heck can he get out of that?

Half a page of Superman's unexplained bashing against walls, suddenly more powerful than usual and cocky than usual. That's how. Aw. And why can't Manchester Black just pop an aneurysm in old Supesy? Or at least cause him some mental pain...

So, what, Menagerie is dead, Coldcast is dead, Hat is dead, Cyborg is dead? All of this is left a little too open. And they're all still free, for all we know. Cyborg is out of commission, but as has become his seeming standard, Superman just prepares to leave him floating in the ocean for Manchester without securing him. Look, Superman. Pick up your cell phone, your telepathic link with the JLA, super-shout, anything! There are a million heroes in the DCU who know you're the king, and will be more than willing to put the smack on a knocked-out Cyborg while you go out to pop a mean-on into old Manchester's hoo-ha. And it would make continuous, story-line sense. And good editing.

Wait a second. Wait just one second. Hat is in Bunny, right, as odd as that phrase sounds? And Hat addresses Superman as Clark Kent. Whoops? I guess we must just assume that Cyborg couldn't hear that, or didn't make a connection. Sloppy editing again.

So we have what should have been great, and it comes to this. Still, the series itself has been fairly exciting so far, and extremely well written, despite flaws that should have been caught, and bad character directions. I would say the writing is a 5. Well written. But the actual content, that's a 1. So I settled for the middle, but there's two grades, when it comes down to it. And I'm just wiped at the whole resolution to potentially the greatest threat Superman could have ever faced, what we now have:

Family friendly Lex Luthor.

5Art - 5: Now the art, on the other hand, was great. Cyborg was a little exaggerated, but he's an exaggerating kind of character. He assumes mass, attacks, and goes whole hog. I wish I had been able to see him in human form, but what I saw was amazing in its own way.

And the Lex scene. Well drawn. Amazingly well drawn. I enjoyed the art in that scenario the best. Superman is on, Lex is on, and the Elite was on. Great stuff.

1Cover Art - 1: What more can be said of the covers for the last few months?

Nothing. There's nothing more I can say that hasn't been said and echoed by others all over the place.

Blah blah blah no backgrounds, blah blah blah Superman looks odd, like he's passing gas, using the bathroom, taking downers, contorted, blah blah blah no backgrounds, odd, representational symbolism.

I will say that the pose and cover is not something that didn't happen in the book, which is a welcome change, but this is kind of negated by spoling that the Elite were behind everything. I won't say that wasn't obvious; I will say I had hopes that it was Lex. Hopes that were shattered by said cover.


Oh yeah. Blah blah blah, horrible new logos.

Blah blah blah.

And no triangles. We were promised triangles.


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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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