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Adventures of Superman #646

Adventures of Superman #646

Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 23, 2005

Cover date: January 2006

Writer: Greg Rucka
Penciller: Karl Kerschl
Inker: Karl Kerschl and Wayne Faucher

"Rack & Ruin"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

A sad, wet, skinny old man sits contemplating how he can get home. A passer-by tosses change into his bowler without giving him so much as a look. Clark Kent passes, and the man pulls him aside, asking him if he knows Superman, because he has to tell him something important.

It's Mxyzptlk. He's lost the ability to think straight because of the damage done to magic. Clark picks him up.

They go to a diner (reviewer's note: it's The Boulevard of Broken Dreams). Mxy remains confused, and tells Clark he couldn't cast magic if he had to. He asks Clark about his wife.

Lois, meanwhile, approaches Diana at the Hague (she's on trial for murdering Max Lord) to try and find out about Checkmate. She tells Diana that she's sure Checkmate is behind her attempted murder, and asks her for information.

Lana Lang, meanwhile, picks up the phone and hears Pete's voice. It's implied that he's refusing to go to the police because he's afraid Lupe will hurt him. Lana tells him she'll ditch the Secret Service and meet up with him.

Lupe sits outside of an abandoned building outside of Ruin's hideout, surveying the situation. She loads her gun and moves in.

Mxyzptlk scrawls on a pad, noting the similarity in Kryptonian between two connected L letters and the symbol for Infinity. He draws arrows from Ruin (written in Kryptonian) to Lex, Lana, Lois, and Lupe. He also writes his name backwards, trying to get home. Clark asks him about it.

Lois, meanwhile, confronts McCarthy about who shot her (he's from the Wonder Woman books, he was placed at the embassy to spy on Wonder Woman). She tells McCarthy to tell her who shot her, or she'll expose his spying.

Lupe crawls the roof. She accidentally trips a sensor, which washes her in blue and makes her disappear.

Clark, sitting with Mxy, tries to put the clues together. Ruin created the Parasites. He can access the Phantom Zone. He must be a scientist. He postulates... Emil Hamilton?

"Kltpzyxm," Mxy replies, putting his finger to his nose.

Superman flies over Metropolis, searching for Ruin with Mxy on his back. Mxy shivers from the rain, so Superman takes him up above the clouds. Superman asks about "Ruin" as opposed to Hamilton. The hope, the distinction between his enemy and his former friend who he still has faith in, reassures Mxy, and with that hope, Mxy reverts to his old self for a moment, realizing some of his magic.

Lois waits for the shooter on a balcony. The shooter reveals herself. Sasha Bordeaux. She tells Lois that the shooting was just another attempt by Max to manipulate Superman. She explains that she's going to try and turn Checkmate into an organization for good.

Lupe arrives back to real time from the Phantom Zone. Ruin taunts her, telling her that she's lucky he let her out.

Mxy transports Superman to Ruin's hideout, and immediately changes back to his real life self (our world).

Lupe bursts in on Ruin with his back turned. In the room, Lana and baby Clark (her son, not Kent) are strapped to a table with explosives. Ruin is holding a control for a laser directed at Lana.

He takes credit for killing her men, and taunts her to shoot him. We are shown that Ruin's back is actually a fake, with Pete tied into the front of the suit with a radio transmitting Ruin's voice over a radio.

Superman and Mxy walk down a hall. Red sun radiation suddenly appears. Mxy rushes to warn Superman, who pulls the door off before his strength can disappear. Mxy reverts to his magical self, in panic.

Mxy throws himself in front of a Kryptonite bar shot for Superman, and takes it, through the chest, before finally saying his name backwards and disappearing.

Inside, Superman finds a bald, scraggly Emil in Ruin's suit. On the table beside him are the beard and hair Emil's been wearing as a disguise.

Superman calls Hamilton. Hamilton scoffs, saying that now, there's only Ruin.

5Story - 5: I guessed wrong. Mwu ha ha! Great!

Well, now we have the conclusion, what seems to be (unless a really hasty pump-fake takes place in the remaining four issues of this series), the revelation of both Ruin AND Lois' assailant. Sasha Bordeaux.

See, I had a guess for Ruin that I kept under my hatch, because I thought it might be right, and if it was, I didn't want to spoil it. Emil, that's surprising enough, and apt, which I'll get into, but my real guess, outside of my article, was Lupe.

Why Lupe?

Well, for a bunch of reasons, but mainly because it seemed to make the most sense to me. Surprising? Yes. Really surprising. Does she have access to the tech? In the SCU, yes. Did she have access to the van to kill her own comrades? Yes. Does she have a reason not to like Superman? Yes. He doesn't play by her book. This played out over the arc, in that she was scolded by him, which is motive, and in that she had almost total access to Ross, which would set him up as the patsy. There was also the fact that after Ross was unmasked, Ruin took on a decidedly smaller frame, which, obviously, is Emil, the skinny scientist guy, which makes sense, but I thought, aha! Female! (perhaps). She's also a character expressly introduced in this arc, so it makes sense that she could end with the arc (even though fans like her).

But hey, Emil! I actually like it better, in retrospect. It means we get to keep Lupe, who I liked, and it also makes the conflict that much more personal.

And, as Rucka said, we know how the heck Emil came back without any kind of segue, and why. Heh. I can't believe I didn't see that coming, and those are just the words I wanted to be saying right now.

For all of that, though, beyond the ending, beyond the revelation, I've gotta say that it's an impressive feat when the REVEAL OF RUIN is not as cool to me as the opening of the book. Why? Well, because though the end made me excited, the beginning made me actually sad, SAD for a comic book character, sad for the situation, real emotion, not just a "this story is neat" kind of vibe.

A hunkered old man, in the rain, in an alley, lost, afraid, destroyed, and who is it? MXY? Mxy! The happy-go-lucky little imp who tries to do right and fails miserably, more often than not, and here he is, cold, shivering, reduced to nothing, and powerless because of the end of magic.

Firstly, I hadn't even thought about what the end of magic meant when it came to Mxy, so this was a shock. Secondly, it was a collective sigh of relief from all of fandom...

You'll recall that one of Rucka's first moves writing Superman was the Secret Files and Origins, where he reverted Mxy from the homicidal twins bent on destroying the world to sell encyclopedias (Seriously...the Casey run. GAH!) into good old Nertz man.

So imagine my fear, reading the solicitations, where their ad copy said, quote:

"...Superman has his hands full with a very different Mr. Mxyzptlk! And this time Mxy's no joke!"

I said to myself...uh-oh. Why? Because what does the above say? It seems to indicate that Mxy's not going to be a happy little imp helping Superman, but maybe turn into something "serious", as serious is said in quotes often in the comics world, which means he turns homicidal and tries to destroy the world.

Instead, we get this, a REAL way to take Mxy seriously. By giving the character a heart, a motive, and a moving way to save Superman's life in a time of need in exchange for Superman's endless kindness, showing the story element that's so often missing. Yeah, Superman's a dupe for kindness and faith in humans, but that's what also comes back and saves him when things are at their worst.

The reveal of Pete in that suit, as it was paced, was just MASTERFUL. You're actually sitting there, begging for her to shoot at that figure, saying, "Gimme the gun! I'll do it!", and then, just in the bottom corner, Pete, hiding, scared, and innocent. Chilling, and it could only have been done by a well paced page in the writing, and a well drawn page to go with it, drawing Pete to where the eye naturally goes last.

From the Boulevard of Broken Dreams black and white sequence, to the big reveal, this isn't Rucka's BEST issue of the run, but it comes in a close second for me, just after the baby issue. And that's saying something. This is still, it remains, my favorite Superman run of all time next to the Death and Return, which, hey, might just be my inner kid speaking. This is definitely my favorite modern take on the character.

Which begs my only question with this whole run so far?


Though heck, on this note, it's one heck of a way to go out, but seriously, only two Superman titles in the mainline? WHY? WHYYYYYYYYYY?

I've been with this series since 496. 496! Now it's going to end at 650. That may not mean much, but when something you've been reading since before your voice cracked (and no, smart guy, it didn't just happen last week) dies, it's just...indescribably sad. I thought I'd be reading the four main titles for my entire life. Now it's down to two.

That's almost as sad as Mxy in the beginning. This is my 34th Adventures review, and considering I only do every OTHER review, that's saying something...I've been loyal for a while, so this hurts. Though honestly, given Rucka's novels, I can't wait to see his take on Supergirl. He might actually, you know, give her more emphasis on character. And while Loeb's a great showman, and while it's neat to see her visit a whole bunch of neat people, I really want to see someone (anyone) knuckle down and get to her character. If you read Queen and Country, if you read Rucka's new Perfect Dark novel, if you've been reading Wonder Woman, you'll know he's the guy for the job.

Which brings me to my next worry...why are they canceling Wonder Woman? But that's another homepage. And I have faith in these guys right now.

I also feel a bit betrayed by Loeb's promised that he'd see Supergirl through (post the announcement of the Marvel contract) and now he seems to have just dropped everything and gone to Marvel after six issues. Personally, I hope to work for both companies, and I can see the benefits of an exclusive contract, but hey, I live near the Seattle Mariners, so you'll have to forgive the man who lost Griffey and Johnson and A-Rod to MONEY. There's something to be said for loyalty, and to be completely honest, I believe Loeb's most fervent and loyal fans are you and I, the Superman geeks.

My one complaint with this issue is that I STILL don't know (and I was paying attention) how Lois went from A to B with the fact that she was shot, and Checkmate was responsible. Still, the execution of this issue (even if A to B wasn't there) from B to C was top-notch, and it's been set up for quite a long time now. It reflects an unearthly continuity eye, to have a minor, back character for the Wonder Woman series be the link Lois uses to find Sasha. It shows remarkable cohesion in the universe, a relationship between the series on an intimate level beyond the Wonder Woman knows Superman thing, and it was just a nice little shout-out for those who were paying attention.

5Art - 5: Kerschl continued to impress, down the line. From Mxy's pathetic-ness (is that a word?) to the scene in the clouds, from The Boulevard of Broken Dreams to the expression on Hamilton's face, top-notch.

My favorite part of Karl's work, as it always has been, is how real and human everything is. Wonder Woman's not a triple-E breasted woman, she's a well-built human gal who's attractive, but also a warrior. Lois looks like a human being, not a super-model. Clark's expressions are half of his character, as are the things he carries with him, as are his locales.

The expression on Pete's face...look at that.

The scene with Lois and McCarthy. Very cool.

I may be crazy, but the scene where Superman takes Mxy above the clouds and looks down at Metropolis looks EXACTLY like Superman in the trailer, or in the video diary. I'm guessing that was an inspiration.

Either way, awesome stuff, as usual.

5Cover Art - 5: Usually I'm pretty hard on covers with a lot of empty space, but since the empty face is the subject of the issue at hand, and since Superman's expression makes so much sense, and heck, since the coloring and the pose of the cover itself are all just so well done, it's got an override with me.

What I like most about the cover is the fact that Superman is looking up, he has the sense that Mxy's there (in his pose), and he's even looking in the right direction, he's just not exactly finding him. There's something haunting about that.

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January 2006

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