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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #204

Superman #204

Scheduled to arrive in stores: April 28, 2004

Cover date: June 2004

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams

"For Tomorrow" - Part One

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

An over-monologue speaks to feeling selfish and unneeded. It has the color of a Superman voice-over, but it bleeds away to reveal a priest named Daniel in a church speaking to Lupé about what's happened. It is revealed that they were once interested in one another, just before Daniel took his vows, and now Daniel considers taking them back for Lupé.

It is revealed that Daniel is the one who feels selfish and unneeded, and Lupé leaves him to consider the events of the last year, which seem to have effected everyone.

Leaving, Daniel notices something, looks up, and sees Superman.

He drops to his knees, but Superman stops him, telling him not to. The priest wonders why Superman is there, and Superman responds that he doesn't often visit the church or fly over it.

Superman asks the priest if he will violate his oath of secrecy, and the priest thinks that he's trying to ask him for information, and the priest tells him that he can't violate the trust, even for Superman. Superman corrects him, telling him that he's actually there for confession.

Superman asks if the world is all right after the last year, then starts to tell the story.

Superman hears a distress call from space, and he finds Green Lantern in the middle of a jam. He helps Lantern out of captivity, then leaves Lantern to handle the problem and heads home.

Superman explains to the priest that Lantern is a lot like a priest (meaning, he uses his willpower to get by, presumably).

When he gets there, Lois is gone, and millions have disappeared, unexplained.

He explains that he could have stopped the disappearance, had he been on Earth... and that what he did afterward, his sin was to save the world. Superman leaves, distraught.

5Story - 5: Well, we have a rather interesting start to what will be, obviously, a very important and characterizing story for the Man of Steel.

We have continuity, which is bloody amazing. Lupé is a character that has appeared not once, but TWICE in the first three issues of the new teams, which inclines me to believe that they're actually working TOGETHER to make sure what happens with one book jives with the next (ignoring the obvious and multiple flaws of Birthright, that is.).

As part one of a story, is the drooling Superman fan in me sated? Meaning, do I have my Loeb type grandiose event in each issue that pleased me so much in the past? No. Actually, this issue accomplishes very little. There are a million people missing, one of them is Lois, Superman failed to stop it, and there's a new character, Daniel the priest. Okay, that's one sentence for 22 pages, and it about sums it up.

That's one of the problems I had with the Azzarello Batman run. The words were very pretty, and everything had a sense of the epic and adult, but where was all the fun, you know? Here that continues. This isn't a very fun issue. But is it a good read? Yes.

I didn't really understand the entirety of the Batman run, largely because I didn't take the time to read them all in sequence, and I also breezed over creations and plot points that didn't interest me, plus the dialogue was a bit confusing.

Here, before you, I have to put my game face on and really bone up, read the book closely, and so I did. But if I hadn't knuckled down and done that, I can honestly tell you I would have missed plot points, because while there are devils in the details of this church story, you don't see them unless you look close, pay attention, and take your time. This is good and bad, depending on how much you care to pay attention instead of having fun while reading comics. In the case of an already serious story, I found it a distraction.

Do I like this story idea? Yes. Was the presentation confusing at times and also a bit like a 22 page conversation per Bendis but without the fun? Yes as well.

But in place of the fun, we have nice moments, like the comparison of the priest to Lantern, the real characterization. It's kind of a trade-off, and I accept it, but I'm inclined to want Superman to be everything to everybody, so I feel a bit cheated that the fun isn't there.

I have notes:

The priest drops to his knees. This reinforces the god quality of the DCU heroes, and I don't know how to respond to that. On one hand, we just learned from Austen that Superman is a social activist everyman just like he used to be, but here he's that stunning figure you're so awed of you can't speak to him. They don't jive. But I like both, so this is not a complaint.

Wouldn't Clark Kent go to the priest instead? Superman's personal life is Kent's, and that would be more apt. Nothing wrong with Clark revealing the secret, and Superman would know that the Priest would kneel, perhaps, and make things awkward, but realizing that Superman was a human in spirit as well might have been wiser as a writing choice. But that's coulda woulda.

A year has passed. So what happened in that year, and how does having one title ahead of the others factor. Is it good, is it bad? So far, it hasn't meant much of anything, so no criticisms, but watch it.

Superman's a Catholic now? Or at least confessional? No comment there, I know the value of airing one's concerns to a priest, even being irreligious, but still, like the Quraq thing, associating Superman with taking a side in religion or politics is REALLY testy grounds for me. He never takes a side, like Rucka said (interview forthcoming sometime soon) if he takes a photo with the President, he takes a photo with the leader of the opposition. His balance of public opinion is tenuous and based on how apolitical he is (that last bit's mine).

I find the idea that Superman heard Green Lantern from way out in space, despite super powers, HIGHLY implausible and odd, but it's not too big a deal, just a footnote. Coupled with other oddities it would have been devastating, but really, it was my only technical complaint. Superman may have been listening, but sound doesn't travel in space. Sorry. Unless this is the Star Wars universe.

Which it's not.

The image of tragedy occurring on so many frequencies, and how Superman has to sift through it all as we do, I loved that imagery. Very nice.

As a story, this is a good first step. My only complaint is the dialogue, but while it is choppy, if you sift through it (and to be fair, that IS the responsibility of the reader) it all makes sense and is quite poignant. Is this everything to everyone? As I said, no. But is it Joe Casey?

Well, look at my above numbering to show you that though I have a few critiques, this plot review is only 994 words long. I just don't have too many bad things to say about it, and that's a great thing. Some of the Casey rants would hit 5,000.

Eddie, Brian, Greg, Chuck...

You're 3 for 3 so far in my book. Keep up the good work (finally) and thanks.

One caution, however. This book has very little Super, quite a lot of man. If the story is dialogue like this the whole way through, we WILL realize that you're writing Batman and not Superman... Batman talks and deducts. Superman pummels and deducts. That's an important distinction, but here's the benefit of the doubt, Brian.

5Art - 5: This art has the potential to go for the dark quality that I don't like in Superman, but really, in this issue it's just an issue of lighting, and the lighting makes sense given the tone and activity of the book. There are also numerous in-jokes and homages, like Casey's new book, The Intimates.

C'mon, now! Joe Casey almost ruins Supes for us all, and he gets plugs for his next book, I write 231 Superman reviews and you guys can't even name a villain after me? What's up with that!? Name a disease that criticizes after me or something!

I'm desperate here! :)

All joking aside, there are some great homages. First, the shot of Superman looking down over the city after finding Lois was gone is a very famous image from the Golden Age, and the relational perspective on the first page of the Theater district of New York... a great reexamination. I love the new Metropolis.

Superman looks human, and real, as does Lupé and Daniel. Superman has definitely left cartoony and gone back to human looking. I respect that.

It's hard to make a story with a lot of conversations beautiful, and Lee did it. I'm impressed.

Superman in space was really well done as well. For a book without a lot of action, this book sure played up what it had. Good one, all around.

The re-entry was amazing looking. The paper stock only emphasizes it. Good times to be a Superman fan.

5Cover Art - 5: Well lookie here! THE ORIGINAL LOGO. That's worth a five of five right there, and would be, if below it wasn't what I would call one of the most definitive Superman covers since the Byrne reboot.

This cover epitomizes Superman in a lot of ways, and there's a reason it's being made into a statue before the issue even came out. Just look at it.

Is it something that happened in the issue? Symbolically, he spends the whole thing looking over Metropolis. But if you try to take this criticism angle, good luck. There is just very little to critique here. Maybe the lack of color in the background? Not even that. Look at the incredible detail, look at the color, this is just an amazing cover.

Ah! There's a criticism. It's Batman's pose. But heck with it. It's still amazing in all respects.

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