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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #818

Action Comics #818

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 11, 2004

Cover date: October 2004

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

"Enemies as Numerous as Grains of Sand"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Weapons Master unloads into Superman's chest, hurting him badly.

He then fires at Wonder Woman, who sends the bullets back with her bracelets and stuns him. He pretends to give up and then slams an energy sword into Superman's upper arm.

Superman grabs his hand and seemingly breaks it, telling him that if he can't use his hand correctly, he can't use it at all.

Weapons Master's boot jets malfunction, and they go flying into a pier.

"Kill the boot jets and hold still you whiny little baby." Superman tells him.

Under the water, Weapons Master continues trying to shoot Superman, pulling out a breather and a gun, which he fires point-blank into Superman's eye.

Weapons Master recoils, his eye shut by the damage, and Superman returns with similar damage to a mirror image aspect of his face.

Superman keeps the breather from Weapons Master, who soon passes out from a lack of air. Superman starts taking him up to the surface, but he passes out.

Wonder Woman watches the water waiting for Superman to come up, but he doesn't. A woman in a flame suit descends, and Wonder Woman smacks her across the water.

The Natasha Irons Steel appears and smashes the villains around, growing huge in stature.

Black Lightning shuts a villain with a pyrotechnic device down, but gouts of flames continue to pour from him.

Superboy steps in front of him, stopping the flames.

Another villain throws a gas truck at them, and Superboy stops it but it still explodes.

Wonder Woman sees the explosion and returns to the main street.

The SCU arrives, and Lupe tells them that she can take care of it.

A villain comes up to Lupe and warns her that she'd better have more than bullets in her gun. Lupe says that she does, and prepares to fire, but Superman arrives.

Superman tells them that he's weak, so he sees why they think it's time to attack him, but he can't control himself as well as he usually can, so he warns them that if they persist, they will likely be killed. He gets cut off at the "if they persist" point, but this is the obvious implication.

One of them says he is bluffing, so Superman punches him way into the air, and he comes falling a long way down, impaling himself in the concrete.

They all run away, and Superman passes out, telling them to track the villains down.

Wonder Woman and Superboy watch over him as he heals, and Superboy asks Wonder Woman if she loves him. She says as a friend, yes. Wonder Woman then tries to figure out who will watch over Superman as he heals, who could, and Lana Lang arrives with little Clark to care for him.

1Story - 1: Okay. I have a full page of notes beneath me. A page of notes. A note, a single note, is a little jotting that reminds me of a full paragraph I will care to extrapolate upon when I get to the review portion of the book, a little reminder.

For instance, the first one is, "Who is Weapons Master?"

Why do I mention this? Because it's rare for me to have half a page, much less a full page of notes. And the reason I take notes, typically, is because something is extrememely inconsistent, annoying, or doesn't fit very well. So perhaps, if you don't want a long read, I'll just tell you there's a whole page of notes and let you skit.

But then, if not, I'll now elaborate.

First, who the heck is Weapons Master? I should know, and I know I'll get patronizing emails for not knowing, or not going out and researching, but here's my approach to reviews. I read it like YOU would read it, and if I don't know who Weapons Master is, having read comics for most of my life, chances are most of us need a little blurb or an explanation explaining his powers, who he is, why he's a threat to Superman, etcetera. It's simple to put that in. It wasn't here. Why Weapons Master, of all people, and who is he? That's flawed in this story.

Superman, at the end of last issue, suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. In this issue, that just, well, hasn't happened? What kind of CRAP is that? Pardon my language, but this is ridiculous. We even have a scene at the beginning of this issue where Weapons Master shoots him in the chest again, and you can even, clearly, in the scene with the big spread at the beginning with Wonder Woman, see the bullets going THROUGH Superman, meaning, out his back, and he's not down?

Look, I know Superman is invulnerable, but he doesn't have a HEALING FACTOR. You shoot Superman in such a way (because of, say, temporary vulnerability) such that a bullet goes THROUGH HIS CHEST, INTO HIS LUNGS OR HEART, AND OUT OF HIS BACK, he is DEAD.


No healing. Dead. Remember Bloodshot? One bullet to the shoulder almost took him out.

Absolutely ridiculous. I can suspend disbelief, but if Superman sneezes and the world splits apart, that's too much to suspend.

The dialogue from Austen CONTINUES to be absolutely atrocious in an attempt to be distinctive. For instance, "Guns don't kill people. I KILL PEOPLE!". That was original, once. It isn't now. Now it's something a B Movie villain in a B Movie battle scene would say, and it just tore any respect I might have had for Weapons Master, if I had any clue of who he was, away.

Superman breaks Weapons Master's hand. Or at least, it looks pretty darned much like he did. He doesn't say, "I broke your hand!" But he does say (with another example of tragic Spider-Superman dialogue), "If you can't use your hand correctly, you can't use it at all" accompanied with snaps.

Superman shouldn't be breaking the hands of villains. It's out of character, even if he's really ticked. He resorts to killing in self-defense, as would anyone, with people like Doomsday, the Cyborg, Imperiex, and etcetera, even Zod. But he tries to do the least amount of harm. And are you telling me that with Wonder Woman right there, he couldn't stop the man without breaking his hand? Or attempting to drown him? I'll get to that in a minute.

But what about Wonder Woman? Tell me, what does she do in this issue, even though she's comparatively as strong as Superman? She stands around and has big breasts. She basically blocks some of Weapons Master's fire, but makes NO MOVE to help Superman in this issue, period. She went and looked over the water and called to him, but that's IT.

Tell me, what Superhero's dialogue is this:

"Kill the boot jets and hold still you whiny little baby."

Not Superman's, I'll tell you that. Superman doesn't have to resort to calling names, he's an example of a GOOD person. Sure, breaking someone's hands is a better level of a more quantitative way to say, "Superman wouldn't do that." But Superman, to my mind, doesn't relish in poking fun at people, even bad people, in pain or in trouble or even being evil. He's serious about violence as a last option, and doesn't joyfully engage in it. In fact, the Superman I know would be happy to throw no more punches, ever.

To say NOTHING of the fact that the dialogue has a horrible typo. GREAT.

See if you can figure it out. Yes, that's right, there should be a comma after "still", because there is an obvious pause.

Absolutely unacceptable, to my mind. This is Superman, not an email or even a piece written by an internet critic like me. There should be no errors of such a simple nature.

Now we move on to the curious scene with Superman and Weapons Master underwater. There are two ways to interpret it, because the storytelling is not really well done. Superman battles Weapons Master to a standstill by running him out of the air, and then he either:

A) Passes out from a lack of air.


B) Passes out from his injuries.

Either way, there are a number of ramifications and problems that are not dealt with. Firstly, if it's because he doesn't have enough air, there is something seriously screwy with continuity, considering Superman can go into space without air tanks, but now somehow needs air underwater, so I'll discard that, even though it seems like what MUST have happened, considering that if you look at Superman after he passes out, he has no real major wounds open and leaking except the eye.

Now assume that he passes out because his injuries are too extreme.

How the heck is he suddenly fine just a few seconds later? If you pass out from injuries, you're likely in shock. It's more plausible than the latter, but it's still rather convenient.

I also don't like the idea, and find it out of character, that Superman would take Weapons Master underwater and drown him into unconsciousness to put him out of commission. I mean, with Wonder Woman RIGHT THERE, don't you think Superman might have let her help him? I mean, he puts himself before others, but don't you think Wonder Woman could have done something? Why didn't she take a single step to help Superman, and why didn't Superman ask for any help? FAR out of character.

The scene where Wonder Woman skips the woman in the flame suit over the water was funny, but why waste a whole page on a gag when there's already so little character substance in Austen's run?

All right. What's wrong with THIS situation:

You're Wonder Woman. Superman and Weapons Master have just submerged under water and are NOT coming up. There's an explosion in the background, but it's where a number of heroes you KNOW to be competent, Steel, Superboy, and Black Lightning, are doing battle. Do you,

A) Save Superman and kick the snot out of Weapons Master?


B) Leave Superman, who's near death, to drown, go to the explosion and say, "What's going on?", and do nothing more until the battle is over.

Austen chose B.

The SCU show up and try to wrest authority from five of the most powerful superheroes in the DCU. Why? For a cameo, I'm guessing! Still, it's good to see Lupe, and she was at very least on character.

So this issue, well, it was, for lack of a better way to put it, one very pretty giant suckfest. The art, as you'll see in my rating, it's really nice, but it's not the basis of an ongoing and intriguing Superman.

Here's what I see in Austen's run so far. Unlike "Superman: Metropolis", which was a thoughtful exposition into character in the Superman mythos with decent action, "Action Comics" has been the same story four times with one intermission for recovery.

First, Superman kicks the snot out of Darkseid.

Second, Superman kicks the snot out of Gog, with the cliffhanger where Gog does something that should have killed him. Lots of guest stars.

Third, Superman recovers instantly, kicks the snot out of Gog, and then has him disappear/run away, having done something that should have killed him. Lots of guest stars.

Then we take a break, visit in the hospital with Wonder Woman, who does absolutely nothing, and Superman sits up, and Weapons Master does something that should have killed Superman. Hey, that's original! Lots of guest stars.

Then we have this issue, where Superman recovers instantly from something that should have killed him, beats the snot out of Weapons Master, Wonder Woman again does absolutely nothing, and we end with the curious cliffhanger, involving, you guessed it! A GUEST STAR!

There is one good thing. Superman asks someone to jail the people he's just beat up. He doesn't do that much any more, and it was a nice touch.

The problem is exactly as Nick put it with the last issue. It's Austen's character in Superman's pants, and it's not even an interesting character. It's a cruel bully with bad dialogue who is continuously kicking everyone's butt and dying at the same time, only without really dying. We need some motion forward. Maybe Lana will provide this. I hope so, because honestly, Azzarello is cryptic and his dialogue is hard to decipher, and I may not even agree with his direction, but at least he HAS one. Austen is just, well, Action. And yeah, I get that that's the title. But it does not a good comic make.

This is the worst Superman book right now, and despite a promising start and an interesting shake-up principle, it is just not delivering. Why? Because

A) It's not Superman. It's Spider-Man dialogue with some bully.

B) The stories are contrived and repetitive.

C) There is no overarching threat or conclusion.

D) Good art alone does not a great comic make. Talk to Az about that.

5Art - 5: Ivan, however, is doing more than he is being paid for, I'd imagine. He's got a strong vision for every character, he draws action on a par with Lee, and his distinctive touch in every way belongs straight in "Action Comics". Please, do not axe this man, and keep him on as long as we can. He's amazing.

And if Wonder Woman is just gonna be there for her figure, hey, I'd rather she's drawn by Reis, know what I mean?

4Cover Art - 4: Yeah, it's not a scene that happened in the issue, because Superman's missing his S, but it is a very good symbolic representation, and symbolic representations are kosher by me. It's very detailed, very well done. It's close to a five, but it's just got a bit of a common aspect to it, it's nothing extraordinarily memorable, I guess.

Also, how did Superman get his S back on the cover?

Oh, I know!

That Super-sewing power.

And the Force. That explains everything.

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