Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics
Superman #221Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 8, 2005
Cover date: November 2005
Writer: Mark Verheiden
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inker: Mariah Benes, Alex Lei, Rob Lei
Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Bizarro swings, high above Metropolis, held by the leg by an OMAC unit.
Jimmy, on the ground, guides the new intern into covering the story. He's a reporter now, mentoring her.
Superman arrives and smashes into the OMAC, telling it to leave Bizarro alone.
The OMAC, retreating, smashes into a news helicopter.
Superman throws himself into the blades, saving the helicopter. Both Bizarro and the OMAC escape.
Superman has to leave, so he disappears into the sky. As he does, Clark Kent appears behind Jimmy, who explains his friendship with Superman to the intern.
Jimmy gives Clark a hard time for always being late to the story. Bizarro sees, and decides to do something about it.
Jimmy invites the intern, Kelly, out to drinks.
Lois comes up to him and berates him for slamming Clark, and tells him to stop, or she'll stop covering the fact that he's been missing deadlines.
Clark meets Lois in her office, and thanks her for trying to show Jimmy how his quest for climbing the ladder can hurt him and everyone around.
Suffering from block, Jimmy has trouble writing the story. The entire department rushes to a message on the roof, telling Jimmy where to meet Bizarro for a "secret" meeting.
Jimmy finds Bizarro at the banks, stealing all of the trash. He explains to Jimmy that he's trying to give him a big scoop. Jimmy tells him to go play with Superman, that he's not helping. He tells Bizarro to call him, and Bizarro leaves to formulate a new plan.
Cheetah sees him leave, and follows. She meets Bizarro in a warehouse and tries to invite him into Luthor's group. Bizarro wants to join, so he says no and takes off.
Jimmy, getting cursed out by Perry for being late, hangs up on him. Bizarro bursts in as Clark comes to visit Jimmy. Bizarro explains that he's a super-villain bent on destroying the world now, and to follow the trail of breadcrumbs. Clark takes off after him, leaving Jimmy to follow the loaves of bread that Bizarro has left in the streets.
Jimmy finds Bizarro's lair, and enters. He finds Bizarro alone, with his foot on a depressor for presumably dynamite. Superman arrives, slamming into Bizarro. Debris falls onto the plunger, but fireworks come out of Bizarro's lair.
Bizarro tells Superman that he did it to teach Jimmy a lesson for being mean to Kent, who Bizarro knows is Superman. Bizarro promises to leave Earth.
Clark arrives to comfort Jimmy, who apologizes for what he did. Clark accepts.
Cheetah, meanwhile, presides over the start of a race between Bizarro and Zoom. It appears Bizarro saying he would leave the planet meant that he would stay.
Story - 1: It's hard to give this one such a low rating, mostly because of the fact that the story idea is good, but the execution fails on a number of levels. It's not the words that tell what Superman is through the eyes of Jimmy Olsen, it's not the battles in the sky, it's not Bizarro being Bizarro, it's the same thing that fundamentally destroyed Superman's basic plot functions a few years back, and I'm hoping that this is an isolated incident from an otherwise pretty fun run from Verheiden so far.
It's the inconsistency.
If I can just sit through a story and not be pulled out by implausibility, it's much more fun for me. This is one of my main problems with Smallville right now, and it was also one of my problems with Verheiden 's work on the Smallville comic, so it's no surprise to see it come back to bite us in the backside now... however much he's improved over the last few years, and obviously.
My biggest problem with this issue was inconsistency of dialogue, bit I'll get to that in a bit, because I have a virtual expose on that.
Here are some of the things which pulled me critically out of the story:
Firstly, in the opening scene, Jimmy offers Superman a rib-eye dinner. This is, of course, very impolite if Superman is a vegetarian. Of course, Jimmy might not know that, but then, he's Superman's PAL. So either Birthright is being ignored, or Jimmy's insensitive, or likely, Jimmy's just offering to buy Superman dinner, the most likely. But still, because of Birthright, this is something that pulls you out of the story, and it's why continuity being a mess is a BAD thing.
Jimmy offers to take the girl he's mentoring out to drinks, which now makes Jimmy 21. That makes sense, I guess, but then, so much for the perpetually 14 kid. I guess that's been gone, but I'm confused as to Jimmy's exact role. He was first a kid photographer, then he became a big shot newscaster for WGBS, then he was busted back to photographer, and now it would seem he has Clark's old position, which I thought was given to Creeper with Austen. So in other worlds, it's obvious what he's doing, but because a long, drawn out, and failing continuity makes that hard to get into and comprehend, continuity being a mess is a BAD thing, I reiterate.
Also, I just don't see Jimmy as the drinking type. I see him as trying to emulate Clark, which is another thing... why is he treating Clark like a lap dog for the whole issue? Granted, the premise is that Jimmy learns a lesson about flaunting power, but then, one has to first buy that Jimmy would DO that. I don't believe Jimmy would just suddenly turn on his second biggest mentor after Superman arbitrarily for fame. Maybe Cat Grant. Maybe even Lois, before she knew Clark's secret. But Jimmy, Jimmy's a different beast. A sidekick for Clark, in a sense.
In fact, I think the major flaw of the story is that it's a tale about Jimmy, but sometimes it's Jimmy, and sometimes it's hip and bent on fame second entity Jimmy, the Jimmy that was so implausible as "Mr. Action", for those of you who have been around the comics for the last decade.
Jimmy, for instance, just plain hangs up on Perry when he's running late. With Lois, that would fly, because Lois is Lois. But Jimmy, who Perry uses as a doormat? No. Sorry. You hang up on Perry you hit the bricks, Olsen. At least, that's how I see it. Perry doesn't hold the press, because the Planet's never missed an issue. He simply hands it to Kent for an exclusive. Or Lois. Or the intern.
Jimmy in this story is cathartic, too hip for his own good, and, well, kinda not Jimmy. Jimmy doesn't have long hair, he has short hair that sticks up. He has freckles. You follow? And I KNOW, the story has to move on, it has to be modern. I TOTALLY get that. But it's like making Superman hate being Superman. It doesn't make the story cool, it just saps the intent of the character. You have to keep the bare essentials.
And if you look at this book, heck, this isn't even Verheiden, but Jimmy doesn't even have FRECKLES in this book, and he's referred to as "Freckles." You see what I'm running into here, as a reader?
There's also just the plain ABC that gets disrupted in this story. Jimmy goes up to the roof of the Daily Planet and there's a big notice of where Bizarro is.
Does Jimmy call Superman with his signal watch? Nah, let's just go straight to the scene with the evil crazy person with all of Superman's powers and poke fun at him. This after a scene where Jimmy is writing about how much he trusts and respects Superman, and this BEFORE a scene where Jimmy tells a taxi driver that Bizarro can take out eight million people, so he's knowingly doing this stupid thing... it's hard to swallow.
Then you have to buy the fact that he can get there before the police, OR, if you think he doesn't, and you call the one cop shown outside of the bank a police presence, why the heck do they let him in to deal with Bizarro alone? I mean, when a family member has been shot, the police don't let you in to comfort them. You think they'll let freckles put his butt in danger? To plausibility.
For that matter, if the location of Bizarro's "crime" is in the sky in big letters, why would Jimmy notice before Superman?
He arrives to deal with Bizarro, if you can buy into that, and then Bizarro tells him that he's stealing garbage. Does Jimmy encourage Bizarro to stay put until Superman arrives, or to go with the police? Nah, he tells Bizarro to beep him as Bizarro goes crashing through the roof. Still no signal watch.
YES, this is supposed to be a funny story, and my critiques take it too seriously, I get that. But concurrently in thought, realize that in order to suspend disbelief and have fun with an oddball story, you have to have a rational framework, nonetheless. That's essential in the most serious and the most comical of stories, beyond something that is completely farcical, which this is not.
Jimmy and Clark encounter Bizarro, and Bizarro tells them he's planning to destroy the world. And where.
Jimmy then follows the breadcrumbs to Bizarro's headquarters.
Again, somehow the police don't get there first. And again, Jimmy arrives before Superman, the man who can cross the globe in the time it takes for a bullet to hit his wife under current continuity, when sufficient stress is involved. Destruction of the world, in other words, might make him hurry.
But even assume, as you may, that Bizarro's wink helps Superman to understand that Bizarro means no harm.
Bizarro is still insane, and with the powers of Superman. Superman would immediately find him and subdue him, for the sake of accidents, if nothing else (indeed, like the plunger that could have destroyed the world but instead unleashed fireworks, which was an accident).
Okay. So Jimmy gets there before Superman, and though the WORLD could end (and Jimmy believes that it will, apparently), he doesn't call the cops, he doesn't hit the signal watch. He just drags a cab driver INTO the danger, then admonishes him to run, and take all of Metropolis with him.
The whole finale is rather convenient... and I hate to say it, Smallville convenient, like in an episode where there is no real reason for the mains to meet up and do battle, but they do anyway. When the rational framework dictates other terms.
If you just sit back and enjoy the story for what it is, it's been done before, a number of times. How many stories have you seen where Bizarro does something misunderstood to present some cute solution to a moral dilemma to Lois, Jimmy, Perry, Superman, character X? Granted, that's the point of Bizarro, but what is new, what is different, what moves things FORWARD with this interpretation? Loeb gave a story where Bizarro and Superman traded places. That was curious, and new. Kelly (as I recall, I could be wrong), showed Bizarro getting tortured by Zod into becoming introspective instead of a backwards beast. Those were interesting, forward-moving Bizarro stories.
This is just a "Bizarro comes to town" story which, while curious, is not epic, an average idea at best, and when you couple it with a lot of inconsistencies, it drags things down.
So that's the review part... here's the most critical failing. The dialogue. And this is, I must stress, based in my personal understanding of the character. But I'll also stress that this is from 14 years of reading Superman comics every week, and another 6 sporadically.
Bizarro speaks in opposites, and he speaks in straight speech that is interpreted in the opposite of how a human would understand things.
Meaning, when he wants to say happy, he says, "Me am sad!"
And when he does things, he does them opposite style. So say, he goes to get a haircut, it's okay for him to talk normal human talk, as long as it's indicative of backwards-ness. Like, "Me am here to get a hair lengthening!" when he wants a haircut, or more creatively, "Me am not here to get a hair lengthening."
Verheiden has his own cadence for Bizarro, which is cool, but it's self-contradictory at times. I've taken each bit of the dialogue down so that I can be fair, and I'm going to point out the dialogue, the translation into human speak, what it's supposed to mean in the story, and any conflicts, to show you fairly why it pulled me out.
Remember that the OUR MEANING part is supposed to make logical and coherent sense in the story. And I base my take on that in the flow of the story and where it seems the dialogue is leading to, logically, as opposed to how it comes out.
"Since me am Superman's newest enemy, me ready to give big hugs."
Our meaning: "Since I'm Superman's oldest friend, I'm not ready to give you (the opposite of big hugs, presumably a punch)".
Conflict: None. Bizarro is saying that he's Superman's friend, and he's not going to attack him. Makes sense.
"One eye try kill Bizarro. One eye must be new best friend!"
Our meaning: "An OMAC tried to kill me. He must be my new worst enemy."
"Me sock Superman for hurting new soul mate."
Our meaning: "I won't hit Superman for not hurting my new worst enemy."
Conflict: It seems Bizarro is trying to say that he thanks Superman for saving him. But the problem is, he thanks Superman for HURTING his new soul mate, when he should thank Superman for NOT hurting his new soul mate, in Bizarro speak.
"Lucky me cancel health plan before seeking treatment for painful injuries."
Our meaning: "I'm lucky I didn't cancel my health plan before not seeking treatment for my small injuries."
Conflict: It's sensible for Bizarro, being Bizarro, to say that he's glad to have a health plan before NOT looking for treatment for minor injuries, but it's also confusing, and unnecessary dialogue. Would be better: "Not Lucky me no have health plan for not treating small-time hurt." Or the like, which would then mean, "Good thing I have a health plan for getting treatment for these big injuries."
"Me am use x-vision and super-hearing to avoid learning ugly truth. Olsen am friend to Superman, but hate Clark. Me am confused. So me know exactly what to do!"
Our meaning: "I am not using my x-vision and superhearing to learn a great truth. Olson is not Superman's friend, but loves Clark. I am sure. I don't know know what to do."
Conflict: Almost everything in the sentence doesn't make sense, even translated to our meanings. Verheiden, it would seem, wants us to assume some of the positive in what Bizarro says, and some of the negative. This might be a foreshadow for the twist (That Bizarro is not trying to help Jimmy, but Superman), but it's so twisted even for Bizarro speak that it really fails.
"Ha. Plan am coming together like charm! Me so happy, me cry like baby!"
Our meaning: "Aw, the plan is not working. I'm so sad, I could cheer."
Conflict: Obvious. Again, Verheiden wants us to assume Bizarro can use some of the positive in personal monologue.
"Me already tell you, me not want worthless cash! Now bring out real loot or me start blasting!"
Our meaning: "I didn't already tell you, I want worthless cash. Don't bring out the fake loot or I won't start blasting."
Conflict: Obviously, Bizarro instead wants trash, not cash, and he will start blasting if they don't bring out the fake loot, so our meaning is completely wrong.
"This trash make me poorest man on Earth! Soon me have nothing I ever wanted!"
Our meaning: "This trash (remember, he can use our speak if he means its intent is in opposite usage to normality) makes me the richest man on Earth! Soon I'll have everything I never wanted!"
Conflict: This makes sense. The last sentence is odd, but Bizarro thinks that way, so it's not too far off.
"Me not understand how kitty-cat find me. Me am hiding from relentless paparazzi."
Our meaning: "I get how Cheetah didn't find me! I'm not hiding from the relentless paparazzi (or meek paparazzi)."
Conflict: Cheetah found him, and he's hiding. He says he's not hiding. Again, Verheiden expects us to accept Bizarro speaking normally.
"Me am flattered by meow-cat's invitation, for me grow weary of lonely existence... want new friends... life beyond am empty, soulless universe... "
Our meaning: "I'm insulted by the invitation, for I'm not tired of my un-lonely existence. I don't want new friends. My future life is in a full, soulful universe."
Conflict: Again, positives where there should be negatives.
"So me say no! Besides, me still have grand plan to hatch!"
Our meaning: "So I say yes! I don't have a grand plot to hatch."
Conflict: None for the first bit, he is telling Cheetah he wants in. But then he says he doesn't have to hatch his plan first, which he obviously does.
"Front door was open, so me come through window."
Our meaning: "The front door was locked, so I didn't come through the window."
Conflict: He came through the window.
"Me have trivial, insignificant story for reporter-Olsen! Lose am Pulitzer for sure!"
Our meaning: "I have an important, significant story for Jimmy. He'll win a Pulitzer for sure."
Conflict: NONE. Bingo. This is right.
"Me am super-villain now! Me destroy Earth! You want to save world, follow am trail of crumbs!"
Our meaning: "I'm not a super-villain. I won't destroy Earth. If you want to condemn the world, don't follow my trail of crumbs."
Conflict: He is trying to trick Jimmy by saying he IS a super-villain, so saying he's not doesn't make sense. He's telling Jimmy he won't destroy the Earth. Then he says that he will condemn the world if Jimmy doesn't follow his breadcrumbs. That last makes sense, but not after telling Jimmy he won't destroy the Earth. It can be argued that perhaps Bizarro is trying to trick Jimmy and so he's trying to speak "Earth", but then, Bizarro isn't that complex. He's a dum-dum.
"Super-villain Bizarro am concoct diabolical plot. Me am destroy world, then appoint self king-boss ruler of nothing!"
Our meaning: "Hero Bizarro didn't concoct a diabolical plot. I won't destroy the world and appoint myself the non king-boss ruler of everything."
Conflict: The first part is true, but he wouldn't tell Jimmy that. He's trying to make Jimmy think he DID. And he says he won't destroy the world and make himself king. He wants Jimmy to think he will.
"Smallest story ever for reporter-Olsen!"
Our meaning: "Biggest story ever for Jimmy."
"Heartfelt plea touch am deeply. Me destroy world now."
Our meaning: "Your heartfelt plea doesn't sway me. I won't destroy the Earth now."
Conflict: He's trying to trick Jimmy into thinking he IS destroying the Earth.
"Me hope Superman spoil am perfect plan. Me am must stop him!"
Our meaning: "I hope Superman doesn't spoil my flawed plan. I must let him succeed!"
Conflict: He does want Superman to stop him, but he doesn't want Superman to succeed, in that he wants to at least depress the plunger. Odd.
"Bizarro appreciate Superman remodeling help. Me know lair fixer-upper."
Our meaning: "I hate Superman's remodeling help. I don't know anyone who can fix my lair."
Conflict: None. This makes sense.
"Me am hear Olsen make fun of Kent. Me am seek revenge by creating big story. Make reporter-Olsen greatest newsman in the world! That teach him!"
Our meaning: "I didn't hear Olsen make fun (or praise) Kent. I am not seeking revenge by not creating a big story (or by creating a minor story)."
Conflict: No matter how you put it, that's wrong. He didn't hear Olsen praise Kent, he did hear him make fun. He's seeking revenge by what, making Olsen's story small, or giving him a big story? Seeking revenge by giving Jimmy a big story makes Bizarro sense, but it's hard to pull out of this dialogue.
"We am brothers, same but different."
Our meaning: "We're not brothers. We're different, but the same."
Conflict: This, what should be the most poignant moment of the issue, has Bizarro telling Superman that they're not brothers. It should be, "We aren't brothers. Different, but the same."
"Me am leave Earth now. Try and find world that makes less sense..."
Our meaning: "I'm going to stay on Earth and not try and find a more sensible world."
Conflict: Very true, but then, Superman can translate Bizarro, so why does he think Bizarro's leaving?
"Me promise to leave Earth. So me stay. On mark, set, stop! Loser take all!"
Our meaning: "I promised to stay on Earth, so I'm leaving. On your mark, don't get set, go! Winner takes nothing!"
Conflict: The last, stylized phraseology is up for grabs and may be right. Bizarro saying he'll leave Earth, however, after saying he promised to stay, is non-sensical.
There's something to be said for, in the flow of the story, trying to make it easier to read Bizarro speech by making our assumptive positives part of his speech. But then it goes against character. It's much more skillful (and to my pleasure as a reader) to make Bizarro speak less, or to work on the dialogue MUCH more than this so that it's all coherent, and even though there's always potential dialogue conflicts with Bizarro, usually not this much.
Neal, you're taking this too seriously!
You're damned right I am. When I have a life-wish to write Superman and I see the people doing it failing to do the things that I, considered an amateur, would, like carefully dialoguing and mapping the dialogue of a complex character like Bizarro, I take it very seriously. I was recently told that I shouldn't say, "I can write better than this" by a professional. So I won't. I'll instead say, "He should have written better than this, given the job he has, which many envy and desire."
One, or two, or FIVE Bizarro quotes that can't be put into rational sense when translated is okay. That ALWAYS happens. When it's MOST of the phrases that don't reflect a knowledge of Bizarro, however, that's another story entirely.
Should I just shut up and take it for what it is?
I don't know. I do know however, as I said, that I was pulled out. And of late, because of the high quality of most of the stories, I have the ability to let a lot more slide. So when the bell goes off in my head in the middle of Swept-Alongville and says, "Neal, you're being pulled out." Even in the middle of a set of many good Superman stories, chances are, something is up.
Art - 4: The art, on the other hand, is just fantastic. From the opening, which is very well rendered, to the classic look and feel of Bizarro, most things work really well.
The only major complaint is, like I said above, that Jimmy doesn't really look like Jimmy. He's got long hair (Birthright hair, I might add, with a snoot of disgust) and NO FRECKLES. Not one. How do you draw Jimmy without freckles in a story focusing on Jimmy? That's a point right there. Everything else though, especially the splashes (which were many but justified), is really well done. When Superman sees the copter, I've seen that pose before on an Action Comics cover for Austen, but in this book, we see a way to do it that isn't totally contorted.
Cover Art - 2: This cover angers me, because it's a case of false advertising. Zoom is in one panel, ONE PANEL of this story, and he gets the cover so Flash fans will buy it. And it says "Villains United" crossover, but it's not. Villains United is just a small subplot in here, and the mains of Villains United never appear in this book, the Secret Six. Part of what is making Villains United work in ways is the fact that it's focusing on the has-beens, not Luthor's group.
There's also the fact that there's no real background (that drives me nuts).
This cover is completely misleading. The art is decent, but as I said, words, no background, not representative of the story, that takes a lot off.
Other recent reviews:
Mild Mannered Reviews
2005Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.
- Action Comics #821
- Adventures of Superman #634
- Superman #211
- Superman/Batman #14
- The Question #1
- Majestic #4
- Identity Crisis #6
- JLA #108
- JLA: Classified #1
- Justice League Elite #5
- Justice League Unlimited #3
- Smallville #11
- Action Comics #822
- Adventures of Superman #635
- Superman #212
- Superman/Batman #15
- Superman/Batman #16
- The Question #2
- Identity Crisis #7
- JLA #109
- JLA: Classified #2
- Justice League Elite #6
- Justice League Unlimited #4
- Action Comics #823
- Adventures of Superman #636
- Superman #213
- Superman/Batman #17
- Superman: Strength #1
- The Question #3
- Darkness/Superman #1
- JLA #110
- JLA: Classified #3
- Justice League Elite #7
- Justice League Unlimited #5
- Action Comics #824
- Adventures of Superman #637
- Superman #214
- Superman/Batman #18
- Superman: Strength #2
- The Question #4
- Darkness/Superman #2
- JLA #111
- JLA: Classified #4
- Justice League Elite #8
- Justice League Unlimited #6
- Action Comics #825
- Adventures of Superman #638
- Superman #215
- Superman/Batman #19
- Superman: Strength #3
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1
- The Question #5
- JLA #112
- JLA: Classified #5
- Justice League Elite #9
- Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1
- Justice League Unlimited #7
- Action Comics #826
- Adventures of Superman #639
- Superman #216
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #2
- The OMAC Project #1
- The Question #6
- JLA #113
- JLA: Classified #6
- Justice League Elite #10
- Justice League Unlimited #8
- Superman #217
- Action Comics #827
- Adventures of Superman #640
- Superman/Batman #20
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #3
- The OMAC Project #2
- Villains United #1
- JLA #114
- JLA: Classified #7
- Justice League Elite #11
- Justice League Unlimited #9
- Superman #218
- Action Comics #828
- Adventures of Superman #641
- Superman: Infinite City
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #4
- The OMAC Project #3
- Villains United #2
- JLA #115
- JLA: Classified #8
- JLA: Classified #9
- Justice League Elite #12
- Justice League Unlimited #10
- Superman #219
- Action Comics #829
- Adventures of Superman #642
- Wonder Woman #219
- Superman/Batman #21
- The OMAC Project #4
- Villains United #3
- JLA #116
- JLA: Classified #10
- Justice League Unlimited #11
- Superman #220
- Action Comics #830
- Adventures of Superman #643
- Superman/Batman #22
- Supergirl #1
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #5
- The OMAC Project #5
- Villains United #4
- JLA #117
- JLA: Classified #11
- Justice #1
- Justice League Unlimited #12
- Superman #221
- Action Comics #831
- Adventures of Superman #644
- Supergirl #2
- The OMAC Project #6
- Villains United #5
- Shazam/Superman: First Thunder #1
- JLA #118
- JLA #119
- JLA: Classified #12
- Vigilante #1
- Justice League Unlimited #13
- Superman #222
- Action Comics #832
- Adventures of Superman #645
- Villains United #6
- Infinite Crisis #1
- Shazam/Superman: First Thunder #2
- JLA #120
- JLA #121
- JLA: Classified #13
- Justice #2
- Vigilante #2
- Justice League Unlimited #14
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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2005.