Buy Now!

Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #683 Superman #683

Superman #683

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 31, 2008

Cover date: February 2009

"New Krypton" - Part 9: "Hard Times"

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes and Jorge Correa Jr.
Inker: Wilson Magalhaes and Jorge Correa Jr.

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Superman confronts a wide swath of heroes and Science Police members, who tell him that he has to turn in the Kryptonians responsible for the death of police officers.

Superman notes that Guardian is alive again. Guardian gives him thirty minutes to produce those responsible.

Superman confronts Alura, who is busy trying to reverse-engineer a piece of Brainiac's technology. She denies any culpability, even when Supergirl appears. Alura offers to show Superman power, and goes into the sky, calling forth approximately 200 loyal Kryptonians to do battle with the heroes.

The heroes battle.

Black Lightning and a soldier settle a score.

The Guardian attacks a soldier on his own despite lacking powers (and can now apparently fly on his shield).

Superman confronts Alura, grabbing her by the wrists. Supergirl, upset that Superman is grabbing her mother, slams him.

Magic users appear to aid in the combat.

3Story - 3: ARG! This is so frustrating! Not because the story sucks, but because it's so close to being great, and the writing keeps pulling it back! And moving it forward! And pulling it back! At times Robinson is showing true character genius, at other times he's pulling filler move and fanboy stuff that's irrelevant and eats space. At some point he's got an interesting twist on a concept, and at another, he's taking a character in a completely wrong direction.

I feel like I'm watching one of those episodes of Smallville obviously written by committee, where some of it knocks your socks off, and some elements are just odd and strange.

For example: The Guardian! Woo! He continues to travel his arc, bravely attacking a Kryptonian despite no powers. Superman reunites with him, despite fearing him dead. GREAT idea, great concept, great execution.

But then, we have an entire page that could have been spent (page one) characterizing and giving Superman and good ole Jim a chance to catch up, spent on two redundant phrases, with the seeming goal of a more compelling draw-in (which we don't really need as much mid-story, in my opinion). It clunks.

There are a number of redundant pages/scenes in this issue, pages that an editor should have culled or found a larger purpose for beyond cool factor. Starfire's appearance. Steel's appearance, barring a larger plan to use him in the books. The Green Lanterns, barring the fact that they, I dunno, stop being idiots and use their rings to create Kryptonite constructs (of which gold K is theoretically one, right?).

Then there's the Power Girl moment, which is one of those good/bad things. It's AWESOME characterization, but it had no relevance to the plot at hand, really. It was like, "Hey, here's the narrative, VIIIIIP! Let's go see what Power Girl was doing!" The book feels ODD in this respect, and when there are such concepts here to play with, and instead it keeps veering to the side, it feels padded.

But when it's NOT padding, it's GREAT. Which makes me wonder why the padding for such a great story on its own. I know, from the specials, that Robinson can characterize well, and doesn't rely on plot. So why are we characterizing irrelevant side stories in the face of such an awesome dynastic conflict with Alura, Supergirl, and Superman?

I mean, why do we care about Black Lightning's types of lightning when Supergirl's mother is potentially turning into a fascist? That's the crux of my argument. Yes, it's amusing and interesting as an idea to explore how Black Lightning's powers work. But is this the place?

I find it odd that Alura would take the more complex route to solving the problem, not just turning over her men. It shows that she's firmly committed to the soldier class, which is no surprise considering the death of her peaceful husband a few issues ago. I am unsure why the focus on the Brainiac tech, but it's intriguing in that wait and see kind of way.

The compelling part of the above, however, was again tearing me in both directions when it turned into the Superman/Supergirl physical confrontation.

I'll be honest, it emotionally moved me and made me feel anger and sadness, as it likely would for anyone who's been around domestic violence/dysfunction. I won't go into details, but I've been in scenes like the one described (minus heat vision, of course), and alliances shift like that in seconds. It goes from one family member being the hero to being the villain when violence ensues, and Supergirl's reaction was, to me, nothing but genuine. On first look, that scene tore my heart out.

On second look, it was bad writing that used a cheap device. Now, how can I say that, having taken such joy from it? Well, analysis, which is what a review is. If you look at it critically, Superman is turning to force instead of persuasion (which is not his modus), he's grabbing a gal, who, even with superpowers, is smaller than he and likely the leader of this army (and thus you'd want to handle her with kid gloves), and he's shouting, "Think, woman, think!" at her. To me, that's out of character for Superman. He deserved to be hit by Supergirl, she was just defending her mother, and honestly, for Superman to initiate that conflict (and thusly being responsible for the ensuing crash through buildings, which could have theoretically injured people, provided they hadn't seen too much sun yet), is irresponsible.

I'm sure I'll get letters, "Superman is an emotional being! He makes mistakes!" My response is that I'm sure he does, but they're off-camera, as a writer. He only makes mistakes he can't avoid, because he's a moral arbiter character. For instance, Brainiac brainwashes him, he goes and destroys an apartment complex? Superman mistake. He grabs Supergirl's mother by the wrists in an attempt to physically influence her to make a decision? Creepy step-dad, not Supes.

The ending seemed pretty cool, but it was less effective once you sit there and say, "Uh, why didn't they bring the magic users to begin with?"

Beyond that, why did Wonder Woman, being the only diplomat in the group, not contribute?

5Art - 5: The art was incredible, top to bottom. The only thing I think was lacking was some definition on whatever that Brainiac device was, but that's a story element yet to be defined, so no biggie. The draw-in, the fight, the lightning, it was all very well brought to bear.

4Cover Art - 4: Nice image. Gorgeous image. Minus one point for being absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

I still want the poster.

3Cover Art - 3 (Alternate Cover): Nothing leaps out at you from this, but it's solidly drawn and depicts something that happens in the issue well. Great coloring.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2009

February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009

Back to the Mild Mannered Reviews contents page.

Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2009.