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Adventures of Superman #630

Adventures of Superman #630

Scheduled to arrive in stores: July 21, 2004

Cover date: September 2004

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Matthew Clark
Inker: Nelson

Battery - Part Four: "Villain Interruptus"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

The SCU has arrived in force at a STAR Labs hostage crisis. The perpetrators are Xlim, the Replikon from last issue, and a man calling himself Ruin.

There are 26 hostages, high school students, and Ruin wants to talk to Superman in 16 minutes or he will start killing hostages.

Superman arrives and offers help. While talking to Lupe he dashes off and saves hostages, angering Lupe.

She tells him she doesn't want him drained like he was fighting Xlim before, and Superman says that the potential for personal harm never stopped him before, and he heads off to stop Ruin.

Superman steps in and tries to talk to Ruin, who simply fires a beam at Superman.

Time stops, startling Superman, the only one left still moving.

He waves his hand in front of Ruin, who isn't moving, and then the nearby phone rings. Superman picks it up. It's Mxyzptlk, back to normal, and he immediately begins tormenting Superman about his ear wax, popping through the receiver.

He grabs Superman by the nose and pulls him into the phone, or down the rabbit hole, as Mxy puts it.

He immediately lapses into the dojo scene from the Matrix, switching into Morpheus clothes. He explains to Superman that he's stopped time to talk to him, and puts Superman in some Neo-esque clothes.

He offers Superman a red candy or a blue candy, both of which are, well, candy.

Superman picks him up and tries to trick him into saying his name backwards, and Mxy laughs it off.

Superman pulls Mxy out of his Matrix garb, just as Mxy tells him that the name backwards gag was old even when Paul Dini did it. He then conjures Paul Dini and sticks a carrot in his mouth, jiving him about Green Loontern.

He snaps Dini away and starts asking Superman how the Lee-Azzarello run is going.

Superman, oblivious, starts pulling off the Neo clothes.

Mxy puts Superman way up into the sky on a tight-rope, a la Neo, and starts telling him that he's here to warn him about something that's about to happen.

Superman tells Mxy he can fly, and steps off of the rope, plummeting.

He lands deep in the ground, Loony Tunes style, and Mxy brushes him off, dustbusting his cape. Superman asks about the warning.

Mxy then proclaims his warning (Reviewer's note...I just HAVE to put it, verbatim, right here:)

"HUSH! The Zero Hour approaches! There will be a CRISIS on Earth! Time will need Ritalin, it's gonna be so HYPER! And a WAR, ohhh there will be a WAR, so SECRET that YEARS will pass before it concludes! A DARK age is coming, my friend, that shall cast you into a NO MAN'S LAND of despair! I mean REALLY dark, talking, like, an OBSIDIAN age here. Honest."

Superman tells Mxy thanks, then flies off.

Mxy lights a cigar that shoots colored bubbles with a mini Firestorm and flits after Supes.

Superman arrives back at the hostage situation only to find Mxy with two hot chicks and a drink. Mxy tells Superman that he needs to heed his warning, then shows him Lois, the day previous, talking to the men in her troop she's been embedded with.

Mxy jumps them to the present, where Lois is fighting a losing battle on the frontlines to save one of her troop. He dies.

Mxy says, "You know, back home, when WE have conflict, we throw PIES at each other. Just so you know."

He takes Superman back after showing him the scene, and tells him that it would be a shame if he lost Lois, rather pointedly. He also tells Superman to watch out for the twins.

Ruin finishes his sentence, "It's feeding time at the zoo, Superman". He then hits him with a green blast, draining his solar energy. The device overloads and explodes. Ruin screams for Xlim, who stands over Superman with an energy weapon ready to fire into a down and bleeding Superman.

5Story - 5: Wow.

I mean, wow.

This has got to be one of my favorite Superman issues ever, no joke. That's not sarcasm, that's honest awe. I've seen good things from Rucka so far, but this issue outdid itself, seriously. It had all of the elements of a good comic, action, comedy, serious dilemma, intrigue into future plots... let's hit the good things.

First, the bait and switch. You think you're getting a hostage situation at STAR Labs (which I groaned at in the previews, because, I mean, how many dilemmas can there be at STAR Labs before someone just posts a guard, huh?), and then it turns out to NOT suck? What? And you get into Superman and Ruin, Ruin looks like a credible threat, particularly with Xlim, and then BANG. The switch. Mxyzptlk. Who, I might add, is probably my favorite thing that Rucka has fixed since coming onto Superman. Did you read Secret Files, and how Mxy became whole again? Rucka tied that up really neat-like. Check it out. Worth the read.

Anyway, so there's the switch to Mxy. Immediately, you start thinking, all right, here we go, another walking building, stupid Mxy story. But no. Rucka, you can tell, has a knowledge of what we've seen before, what we're tired of, what's boring, most especially, and he shows an astonishingly literate take on comic writing. It's like a novelist took time to sit down and write a comic (duh). Check out his novels to see where that comes from. Anyway, so Mxy comes to the fray and dispels the name-backward thing immediately, lapsing into something he lacks... character, a point, a relationship with Superman, and yes, tugging at the fanboy anticipatory strings. Something's going to happen. Perhaps to Lois. Involving twins. The Mxy Twins? God, I hope not. The Wonder twins? What?

And the DIALOGUE. Man, Rucka has Mxy pegged. He makes him interesting again. It was creative, it was spot-on, and it hinted at that BIG thing Rucka mentioned VERY guardedly in my interview with him a while back. I thought he was perhaps being sarcastic, but who knows... knowing Rucka, I wouldn't be surprised if something really cool is going to happen.

And that line about War and pies just has to be singled out, because while it's funny, it's also a very nice, very non-polar criticism of war, and I respect it as such.

Cut back to the fight with Ruin, and we have Superman credibly threatened, near-death. It's a heck of a cliffhanger.

And the dialogue poking fun at all the other major crossovers? Hilarious! Cool!

The only thing I didn't like about this issue, a bicker I stand on often, is that there were damns and hells all about. But you know what? I wholly forgive them here. You want to know why? They're not coming from Superman. They're coming from people who aren't nearly perfect... the Lois, Lupe, and otherwise more "human" people. I mean, kids may be seeing a lot of this, but heck, they rationalize that if people who are more coarse curse, that's appropriate character for a kid to learn. I respect it a lot more than Superman running around screaming, "DAMN YOU!"

But really, here's what I liked best about this issue. My first novel, it was a piece of experimental fiction called, oddly enough, Homicidal Suicidal Psychological Steve. It's about this guy who has knowledge of the author, he's a pro-antagonist, meaning he's both for and against the protagonist and antagonist at the same type, and he knows himself to be only a device. Yeah, it's confusing. It's supposed to be confusing, that's why it's experimental. Why do I bring this up? Because I feel a real kinship and garner a true enjoyment from the idea of characters knowing that they are characters and just rolling with it. Sometimes this is bad, it can become out of place, even cause anachronism or falsity, but Mxy, he SHOULD be a character in an experimental fiction. So when he talks about the Lee-Azzarello run, the underlying subtext WE are thinking about as it relates to Superman and his upcoming crisis, and Superman is just like, Huh? It amuses the heck out of me, to the point that I laughed out loud, which I don't do as much now that I've read so much that most things are old hat. Rucka tucked a literary subtext into a comic, and unlike most, who flicker out trying to be over-literate (see the entire Casey run), Rucka's succeeds joyful in its own madness, because he picked the RIGHT character with which to toy the literate monkey. And he did it in such an unexpected fashion that it slaps the reader down, unexpectant, and makes for a truly memorable issue.

To say nothing of the little barb of the Paul Dini Mxyzptlk episode, which, if you've seen it, has Gilbert Godfried going nuts as Mxy and Superman tricking him into saying his name backwards an awful lot.

It tells me that Rucka, like me, is a fan, and he enjoys the character, and he knows where to take him. Usually I sit there and say, "Man, if I had the reins here, I would treat the character with more respect, go more intriguing directions". It's the nature of the fanboy. But here, with Rucka, I find my inner fanboy undone. And that, friends, takes some talent.

This is how to make Mxy get taken seriously. Don't split him into homicidal twins. Move his character forward! Give him a purpose! Insert him with CREATIVITY!

And hey, that moment with Lupe where Superman just throws himself into a potential death situation, and Lupe's reaction? Classic.

Rucka's work is just getting better. I'm now even more honored to have met the man. He's going to redefine Superman. And the best part? He's keeping the old curmudgeons like myself, critical of everything, truly happy.

5Art - 5: Matthew Clark's cape is I think my favorite part. What a stupid thing to fixate on, huh? But look at it. It's changing the costume lightly, but it also makes Superman a little more human. And his panels, while rigidly structured, often show a little organic jump that just comes out at you. And his poses, when someone is saying something serious, they're just poster-worthy. I don't know Ruin from Barrage, but he's already bad@$$ because of his spread in this book for me.

And rarely are side characters already as defined as Lupe has become through Clark, particularly not with near photo-realism while maintaining a comic's integrity.

My lone complaint are those few occasions where there appears to be a missing background, or where a background could have been, but is not. But such detail goes into the characters, unless you're really scrutinizing, it flies by, meaning, you don't notice it at all.

4Cover Art - 4: Remember the Hollow Men? Yeah, sorry about that repressed memory. Anyway, there was one cover where they were pulling him off the page, erasing him... kind of Looney Tunes style. It was HORRIBLE.

This is that cover done right.

I subtract one because it's been done, because there IS a lack of background (even though that kind of makes sense, given the Looney Tunes Motif) and because it didn't happen in the issue.

Nonetheless, it IS a symbolic representation of the Looney Tunes intensity of the issue, it's a GREAT drawing of Superman, the coloring is perfect, and hey, even the words aren't too annoying. And I'm even STILL digging that new logo.

Just a great all around comic book.

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Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

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