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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #816

Action Comics #816

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 9, 2004

Cover date: August 2004

Writer: Chuck Austen
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Marc Campos

Superman vs Gog - Part 2: "Behold, I Am Against Thee"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Superboy slams into Gog, taking him away from Superman, who is impaled on Gog's staff.

Gog immediately starts pummeling Superboy.

"Ah. Oh, man. Ah. Whoa, that really hurts." Superman says.

Superman hits Gog with his own staff, knocking his helmet off.

Superman drops the staff as Gog flies into some garbage.

Superman and Superboy start assessing their own injuries, and Gog appears behind them, smashing through then and taking his staff back, his helmet back on.

They pour it on to Gog, who immediately teleports out to behind them again, where he again attacks.

Wonder Girl and Kid Flash look over the rubble of the fight between Superman, Superboy, and Gog, revealing that they have taken the people in the immediate area to safety.

Superman comes crashing out of a nearby building. The three holes from Gog's staff have a green residue on them. Superboy tumbles after him, and Gog comes flying past Kid Flash and Wonder Girl.

Wonder Girl hits Gog with her lasso just as he's about to stab Superman, frying him. The car explodes, and Gog disappears.

Superman is puzzled.

He explains to Kid Flash and Wonder Girl that they have to go and get the JLA, because the fight is too big for just him. He reveals that Gog has injected him with liquefied kryptonite, and that it's killing him, so they'd better hurry to get the JLA.

Superman tells them he's going to the abandoned military base nearby to find some weapons to use on Gog. In horror, Kid Flash realizes he means the base where they hid all of the people in danger.

Gog appears and tells them to save themselves, or be sure to bring a casket for each member of the JLA they bring with them.

Superboy shows up, telling Superman that they put the people in the abandoned base.

Gog lands, and Superman tells Superboy to get the people out of there, which he does as Gog causes a large explosion.

Superboy returns, finds Superman in the rubble, and Gog materializes behind him.

Superboy yells at Gog for taking Superman to the point of having no pulse. Gog disappears at the words, leaving Superboy in the dark.

2Story - 2: It's been a while since we've had a nice, wham, bam, slammo fight. And this was a good one. Superman and Gog, part two. I certainly enjoyed this more than the last issue, which was a bit of a big setup with a lot of logical flaws I didn't like, like the 110,000 Smallvillians thing. My city that I live in is the second largest in the state, and it has 150,000 people. Smallville, it's not so small any more, I guess. And if that's the DOWNTOWN of a city of 110,000 people, they need a new mayor.

I am torn about this issue, for the same reason I was torn by the first one. Superman is not Spider-Man.

I read an interview with Austen where he mentions that he's intentionally making Superman more like the 30s, 40s, glib, etcetera. Now, there's something to be said for that, I mean, it's a new creative direction, but why? I agree with Austen that you need to make it a clean break if you're going to completely change the direction of the character. That's okay. A break where suddenly Doomsday has a different past is not an okay break, though, but a break where the character is suddenly different, that's somewhat understandable.

What gets me is the fact that this is NOT the 30s and 40s Superman. See, that Superman, he hurt people, he beat the crap out of people he didn't really approve of, you know, just like Batman in the early days. He was also glib, but he used "chum" and other such words of the time... so that leads me to believe that Austen is trying to EMULATE the 30s and 40s Superman. But see, you know what the modern emulation of that hero is? Spider-Man. Yep. Why? Because then, Clark was a shlub, now Parker's a schlub. Then Clark was always in danger of having his identity exposed, now Clark is.

But see, the character of Superman EVOLVED, while Spider-Man didn't, which is why I stuck with Superman. You might remember, Johnnie Byrne (while guilty of a horrible JLA run right now) rewrote Superman to be more human and limited to combat writers increasingly whining about how hard it was to write powerful.

Here's a suggestion I've already made. If you want to dramatically change Superman, have the guts to change the continuity before you do it. I suppose Birthright is an effort to do that, but what the heck? Ultimate Superman is not a crime. Streamline him. Make him new. Here's the problem. They want the previous continuity's villains, but they don't want the previous continuity.

And then there's this: Austen directly addressed the Spider-Manesque issue, which means one of two things. Either A) When I called his writing like that of the writing for Spider-Man in the first week, he read my review, which totally rules, or B) The more likely. Many people have told him he's writing it like Spider-Man.

Conclusion? He's writing Superman like Spider-Man. There are two further reactions to that. A) He's taking Superman in a new, distinctive direction, or B) He's writing Superman like Spider-Man.

Occam's Razor, folks. Simplify. I say he's writing Superman like Spider-Man, and that's the end of it. I don't like that. I really don't. Superman is Superman. Spider-Man is Spider-Man. It's as simple as that. These last three issues would not have suffered, in fact, they would have benefited, from Superman acting like Superman. Instead we have him making robbers think he'll murder them, taking fights to Smallville, not paying attention to his secret identity, and, well, this issue, which I'll now dissect a little bit:

Gog attacks them from behind, which tells me that his teleporter is absolutely silent, otherwise how would he sneak up on two people with super-hearing. Again, say he did it once, which would be near impossible. How, then, did he sneak up behind them again? That really bugged me. It's like, this is SUPERMAN, don't you think he'd see it coming?

I also found it awkward the way that Wonder Girl's lasso got around Gog. Let's just blame that on the artist, but it's also part of the writing, showing the lasso getting around Gog. Look at it, it's just weird.

To Austen's credit, he improves on those that came before him in a previously particularly annoying arena. When Superman realizes that he's in over his head, he CALLS THE JLA! He acts smart, like Superman. Go Supes. Go Austen.

And then... well, we have an episode of Smallville. What do I mean by that? Liquefied Kryptonite. First Loeb brings it in with the Venom derivative, then Gog.

I flunked chemistry. I had fun doing it. But I do recall that something which is a solid at one temperature can't be a liquid at the same temperature unless it's in flux, heated, etcetera. Something like that. But even beyond that, if you COULD make liquid kryptonite, why would you when you can just put Kryptonite on Superman and kill him. This is twice now we've come closer to the Kryptonite fuelled madness that drags Smallville down. Why? Why not just have a piece of Kryptonite in Gog's staff? That way he would be able to stab Superman, and we wouldn't have to deal with the flaw of liquid K?

And where does the liquid K lead? Apparently, to the operating table at STAR Labs. As I recall, this exact same plot (other heroes protecting Superman while he heals from a K infection) has happened twice already in the last ten years. There's the one where Lois is lost and Superman's poisoned increasingly, and then there was another, I forget the circumstances... maybe it's hooey. Point being, we've seen this plot before. This is another example of an editorial decision and a writing decision that reflects a lack of attention or a lack of care to continuity, just as in the first issue I reviewed with Doomsday, and that kind of thing bothers me.

Then there are other issues of character.

You're Superman, right? Just picture it. And you're fighting some guy called Gog. What's the first thing you do when he gives you a break?

That's right! Go to the abandoned military base and go look for GUNS or munitions!

What? Oh, that's NOT what you do?

Well, you could have fooled me.

Tell me how Kryptonite in Superman's bloodstream is not killing him? Talk about making Superman too powerful, then why let your writers allow him to be near Kryptonite and still fly, still fight, still do anything? Kryptonite has lost its inherent threat value because the writers have muddled it. One second, it kills him in a few minutes, the next, it's a minor annoyance. WHY CAN SUPERMAN FLY WHEN HE HAS KRYPTONITE IN HIS BLOOD? That's a little weird.

And look, folks. When Gog emerges toward Superman (just before Wonder Girl uses her lasso) there's an actual "thwip". I kid you not. I mean, it's a flipping sound, but...

I'm just saying...

And when Superman is on his odd little quest for weapons, why didn't he hear the people in the abandoned military base? Wouldn't his senses be attuned, since Gog's on the loose and has already almost killed him? I don't get it.

And get this logic: A military base has been abandoned, but Superman assumes he might be able to find weaponry in it. Why? Well, because it's a military base!

You know what would happen if someone could find unused military material on an abandoned military base? BIIIIIIIIG trouble for someone in Washington. That's why it doesn't happen, and why Superman's move was illogical.

And then there's Gog. It's Gog, a character Superman once battled back in "The Kingdom". How come he doesn't recognize him?

So how do you rate an issue like this? If you look BEYOND all of the retarded inconsistencies, if you look beyond Superman's soul being taken over by Peter Parker, the fight was pretty darned cool. The way I rate it, then, is based on how this would have looked if Austen had gotten a really crummy artist and this thing had looked like crap... by the WRITING. And by the writing, I have to say, there are a lot of inconsistencies, a lot of little flaws, and things that in their essence tear apart what Superman has been for the last fifteen years. Because Austen just wants to, apparently. Character? Well, there's a little bond between Superman and Superboy. And Gog, he's certainly cruel sounding. But all in all, I can't lie. This is fairly off written, much as I love Austen for Superman: Metropolis.

There's something to be said for the first knock-down drag-out in a while, but you have to have a pretty good intro and outro (meaning reasoning and character) to garner my praise, and this just doesn't have it.

5Art - 5: The art, on the other hand, is fantastic! I don't think I've seen Superman this active in a long time. He's very vivid, more human looking. Clark and Reis have a very real style, and I like them both for it. Birthright? Dark. Superman/Batman? Cartoonish, but still great. Still, this style is just what I like.

Look at the splashes... I'm very critical of splashes, but they're kicking it out with this one.

4Cover Art - 4: One heck of a cover, let me tell you. It's the image from the last issue, essentially, but it's symbolic to this issue, it happened in this issue, it's got that great logo, the cool Superman with the chains... I only took a point for the lack of a background (which is debatable given how it would affect the lighting) and the words on the cover, which is cheese.

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