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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Action Comics #843

Action Comics #843

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 27, 2006

Cover date: November 2006

Writer: Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Pete Woods
Inker: Pete Woods

"All-Out Action: Back in Action - Part Three"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

The other heroes stuggle to stop the machinery that will kill Superman in scant seconds after he's leapt into the heart of the machine. They fail to do it fast enough, but nonetheless, Superman rises, fine.

It turns out their powers weren't removed, they were just psychologically blocked from perceiving and using them. Their powers begin to return.

Near the Statue of Liberty, U.S. planes attack The Auctioneer, who checks the status of "The Kryptonian," as do people watching across the galaxy, in the Pentagon, and in JSA Headquarters.

Superman acts quickly to splash Aquaman, as being released from having powers kept him from needing water, and restoring the powers brought him to the brink of death.

Superman, unable to see out of where they're trapped, uses his heat vision with Firestorm to blow a hole in the ship. Explosive decompression occurs, and they realize they're near Saturn, and trapped. Superman begins to destroy pieces of the ship to try and get The Auctioneer's attention.

Mr. Terrific points out that the ship is too big for them to do any real damage, and points them toward Ops, The Auctioneer's computer system. Superman goes for Ops while the other heroes handle the robot guards.

Superman grabs Ops, but bringing it closer to Livewire shorts her out. They talk her into being calm, and try to get her to overload and damage the system to get Auctioneer's attention. It works, and he arrives.

Superman has Livewire release all of the other heroes, who blast about the ship, destroying. Furious, the Auctioneer asks what Superman has done, and he explains he's simply opened negotiations.

Superman threatens to kill Ops, and Auctioneer calls his bluff. Superman threatens to release Auctioneer's database and his dirty laundry across space, and Auctioneer calls off his dogs, releasing all of the things he's stolen and leaves.

Before he goes, Superman hears of a ship he'd come to claim, and later ponders with Lois the "third Kryptonian." He also stops and makes good with the military and the president.

In space, we see the ship arriving.

4Story - 4: Three point five, with comic reviews, gets rounded up with me. I'd say this is slightly above average, but not above average as a category.

Honestly, I'm surprised. Rarely does a setup for a storyline bomb with me and then payoff well. This is really a unique situation.

This issue, while using third stringers that didn't really have a place, a villain that wasn't creative at all, really, and a pretty simple resolution, still manages to be fun, awesome, well thought-out, and intriguing. Not because The Auctioneer grew on me. Mostly because of good writing.

It was close to a three, because, as Nick said, the plot's diabolically horrible with these Busiek issues. Doomsday wannabes and a guy who's trying to steal Stonehenge? Like aliens would give a crap about Earth beyond Superman or the Green Lantern that killed all of the other Green Lanterns. And yet Superman is treated as a footnote.

The art helps the story, I'll give it that much. Busiek is tailoring well to Nicieza's talents. I'll get to that in art though.

The title is much like a Charles Bronson movie. It made me snicker. Consider an actual Bronson movie, Death Wish 5: The Face of Death. "All-Out Action: Back in Action - Part Three."

I much prefer Stephen Colbert's Alpha Squad Seven: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure. I mean, if you're going for convoluted titles.

Superman's leap into the heart of the machine didn't set well at first, but then it reminded me of the Return of Superman scene where Superman, despite being de-powered, starts making great leaps into the fray, grabbing whatever powers he can and trying to do good (controvertibly guns, but still). What he did, what is stupid, and thus out of character? Yeah. But does the boldness of the gesture make up for it? Is it so Superman that it makes up the difference? I'd say so.

Busiek's work is similar to Casey's in a lot of ways. It's very glib, very casual with things that would in actuality have more repercussions. It's much less character based in a lot of ways, which makes it rely on the plot, which sucks, which is what keeps it from being great. Here, we see more character in the midst of better action, and that pulls the work up. Unlike Casey, Busiek's got very few inconsistencies, none to harp on that I found, anyway, and to quote ole Quint, y'all know me. If there's a nit, I'll pick it.

I also was genuinely amused in a few places. I don't like the new Aquaman comic particularly, I find it boring, but I like seeing Aquaman's weakness being accounted for, and the discovery of his power was a great moment.

Superman's attempts to dismantle a ship he can't see through, and having to use his brain to solve the problem, both were very welcome additions to the story.

"Thanks, Firestorm! I notice your head's ignited again..." Good line. I mean, really, what do you say to Firestorm? "Boy, man, the spectrum of your radiation looks awesome!"?

Livewire was and remains a weak point of this story. She's pathologically obsessed with hating Superman as of the last story she was in. Now she's suddenly able to get over that and work with him to fix the problem? And what, Superman then just puts her in jail? She's not gonna take a swipe at him?

This is either Busiek purposefully ignoring Simone's story (which I would do, but with a segue, were I writing it. Nah, actually I'd use a different character. Livewire bugs me), or he's instead ignorant to her established character. Both are problems with continuity resultant of having "name" writers instead of a team of writers on the same page writing Superman. I resent this personally, because I love a solid internal continuity. Stuff like this can pull you out of a whole arc. And arcs are expensive. Editors assume we will not stop buying for this. If I didn't have reviews to write and a fanatical obsession to Superman, I'd have quit Busiek.

Comics in general disappoint me of late, and this is why. Two years ago, I was buying more comics than I ever had. The reason? Internal consistency between titles and a real team feel to the DCU universe. Now I'm down to Titans, the Superman books, the All-Star books, Checkmate, and 52. I flip through Batman and Green Arrow, but honestly, it's become drive-by solo efforts now, and there's no guiding arc. It sucks.

This comic is indicative of the "guy comes to town" mentality that stagnates capes, and we should work beyond that as a fan community, and DC should as a corporate entity. Decompression to extremes is horrible (see For Tomorrow) but decompression with good stories and a stated goal (See Infinite Crisis, and somewhat Civil War, though it's dropping a ton of balls) works.

All in all, like I said in the comments, I was hoping Busiek could pull it out. So far, he's failed save in his first and this last issue, and even so, this issue brought nothing really original to the table, it's just decent writing.

Johns I trust. Busiek's been really hit and miss, and this arc hasn't changed it, even though it ended on a good note.

4Art - 4: Nicieze was bugging me, and I couldn't figure out what it was until I read this issue. I loved him as a kid. One of my first major crossovers was X-Cutioner's Song, and I followed him all over X-Men back before they turned to total crap and remained so until Morrison and Whedon and Bendis on Ultimate, for a brief period of time. Now they're back to crappity crap again, but anyway, point being, I'm biased PRO Nicieza.

On Superman it just wasn't doing it for me in some ways, and was in others, and I finally put my finger on it. The characters look pretty archetypical and awful, but the backgrounds are so incredible it's hard to complain. I mean, look at that ship, and the scope of Auctioneer. It's fine work, if only the characters had a little more personality. Still, a fine effort.

UPDATE: The above makes me look like a rank amateur and idiot, but I have a decently good reason, I think, heh.

First off, thanks to Jeph Loeb, who wrote in and corrected me, telling me that Nicieza wasn't the artist, but rather the co-writer and not an artist. This mistake occurred because of an addlepated eleven-year-old, namely ME. When I was a kid, I didn't know the difference between artist and colorist, I just read the books, and I knew I kept seeing some of the same guys again and again, so I just committed them to memory. I chunked Fabian with "artist" in my addlepated reviewer brain for some reason, and I continually make the mistake. I might still be doing the same thing with Jurgens had I not become fanatically and unhealthily obsessed with his work...

So thank you, Jeph, artist of The Ultimates 3 (I kid!). It's flattering to get a letter from you, hombre, but one bringing this to light makes me take notice. I usually like to leave minor mistakes in reviews because it makes me feel bad and keeps me sharp, but this one was too big to ignore.

Bearing that in mind, replace all the Fabians above with Pete, and note that Pete didn't do X-Cutioner's Song, at least that I know... and in the writing, Fabian deserves half the credit, for sure.

I apologize for this error, and I give full permission, Fabian, next time you see me (and I'm traveling the con circuit, so you might) to smack me about the face in a most Victorian way...before saying, "Good DAY, sir!"

Busiek gets similar privileges, by the way, for when I focused largely on Johns in Up Up and Away's first review. And, well, for the reviews. But that's obvious.

1Cover Art - 1: You know, I'd be lying if I said that this cover wasn't my user icon right now in chat programs. But the reason why is because it's so unmitigatingly awful. It's just horrible. I mean, Superman himself is cringing on this over.

"I'm on a cover that says, 'We'll Smack You Up? Are you *%$#ing *%$#ing me? Get me Levitz. NOW!'"

The nuance defender of this cover will say, "Neal, it's a tabloid parody."

Yes, I get that. I'm not mentally challenged. Nonetheless, it's just so badly done, so awfully cheesy, this is EXACTLY what made Casey's run grind like chewing glass. It hits some of the same bells, which scares me.

Cheesy pose that has little to do with the story at hand. A band of second-string heroes. Words on the cover. Flawless, untouched newsprint (see 52 for how to rough that up). Superman looking like he's going to the bathroom.

You know those Superman covers they poke fun of now from the fifties? Papa Spank? This is one my kids will be making fun of on the mentalnets. By then I'll be in my flying car and up out, and this is one of the reasons why.


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