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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman #689

Superman #689

Scheduled to arrive in stores: June 24, 2009

Cover date: August 2009

"The Tourist"

Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Renato Guedes
Inker: Jose Wilson Magalhaes

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

Morgan Edge narrates his fear of the Kryptonians over Mon-El battling various villains, including Livewire and The Gentleman Ghost.

The creature meets with Guardian, and tells him he must leave and prepare for a universe to come. He grants Guardian a power that will make his battle with Codename: Assassin fair. The creature says its name is Tellus, but that Guardian may call him Ganglios.

Mon-El recounts to us the story of engaging with Rocket Reds in Russia and getting his first kiss from a woman named Ivana. He also tells the tale of Class War, a team of heroes made up of Beaumont and Sunny Jim in England, and their fight with a guy named Big Don Drummond, a giant blue man with a tiny head.

Mon-El teams up with a woman named La Sangre, a potential vampire, in Barcelona.

John Henry shows Tom (Atlas) the Ironworks, which he indicates to be the most technologically safe place on the planet. Tom thanks John for the trust, and John indicates it's because he did a background check.

Mon-El meets Von Hammer in Germany, a super-powered private detective.

Mon-El helps defeat animal poachers in Africa with Freedom Beast and Congorilla.

Mon-El fights a giant monster in Japan.

Mon-El fights what he thinks are Chupacabras in Mexico. They turn out to be aliens.

Mon-El fights King Billy in Louisiana.

Guardian appears on Edge's program and indicates that Mon-El is not Kryptonian. Edge apologizes.

The Prankster and General Lane speak of distracting Black Lightning in Gotham, and Lane seeks to arrange a staged death at the hands of villains for John Henry.

Tom reveals himself to be a fake, and appears as Atlas to kill John Henry.

2Story - 2: From the beginning of this run there's been a love/hate with most of the things done on the book for me. This issue, there's been a lot more annoyance than fun. I even considered a 1 here. The only thing that really stopped me was my gut, which tells me that a lot more story got told here than my head's giving credit for analytically.

This book pulled a lot of writing tricks that can often make you think a story is more than it is. The problem being, it's easy to see through. This is about six pages of story stretched to fill 22 pages.

Last issue established that Mon-El wants to live. Very well, actually. This issue re-establishes it about ten times in arbitrary ways. We get that the world is a distinctive place, that's obvious. Showing it in a bunch of cameo appearances in various places in the world doesn't make that point any more or less strong, it just makes the writing redundant, and it can go on ad infinitum. Look at my summary above. Mon-El goes to X and fights Y. All to the purpose of reiterating that the world is broad, diverse, and worth living in. Okay. But that can be established in one page.

This is essentially a big, broad way to play pet characters into tailor-made cameos.

It's also a trick, something a writer does to seem creative or brilliant when they're floundering. Or maybe they just do it because they think it's creative, who knows. Grant Morrison is a key proponent of this philosophy. As is Kurt Busiek. A sample from one of their future issues:

Superman fights the Insan-o-matics on the surface of Teller 5, a colony of the Fifth World Consortium. Only through Ultra-Menstruum and the application of Heuristic Hermeneutics' Facepalm balm is he able to survive the muli-chaos! Featuring a guest appearance by Tellus!

The problem, and the guilt I feel for writing this review, is that I get the feeling that Robinson is better than that. I think Robinson knows how to tell a story, he's just not doing it, for whatever reason. Maybe he's stalling until the story he wants to tell comes into this book. I have no idea. All I know is that this isn't working because a story isn't being told.

Couple that with the pretty dull end to the Tellus storyline, and you realize there's a lot of pet character work going on here. I looked up the Tellus guy, because I wanted to see if I was missing some great in-joke. Turns out I am missing something, but it's not that great. Tellus is an obscure character from the Legion who has appeared once or twice before. I guess the point of putting him in is a deus ex for the Guardian later, and also a little obscure character reference. Doesn't make his appearance any more epic, honestly. I'm still struggling to see the point of why he was there in the first place if he's just going to take off.

Morgan Edge is retconned from a sexist boss into back where he was before, only dumber, I guess, because he instantly forgives Mon-El despite no compelling character reason to do so.

Edge: "Mon-El has Superman's powers, so he must be Kryptonian! OFF WITH HIS HEAD!"

Guardian: "Nope. He's not Kryptonian. These aren't the droids you're looking for."

Edge: "Oh! You're totally right. I forgive you, and apologize for being a dunce."

Cameras cut off.

Edge: "Hey, wait!"

I can't help but think that all of those wasted pages showing Mon-El fightin' around the world like Russel Crowe couldn't have been better spent maybe making a case for Mon-El, especially since that's the dilemma introduced on the first page.

Black Lightning as a plotline appears out of the blue, and is oddly placed. There is very little A to B here. The modus seems to be to cram as many damned characters into 22 pages as possible as opposed to telling a story.

It isn't working for me.

The thought bubbles continue to annoy, as we wonder who Mon-El is talking to, or what the point of his musings are.

What is the conflict here, I ask? Is it clearly defined? You can say Mon-El's desire to live. You can say protecting the world from Lane. You can say stopping Edge's crusade. All are very weakly explored here.

We also see Steel, the man with the self-proclaimed most secure site on the planet, unable to verify an identity check's veracity.

I imagine when this story actually starts moving, it's going to be pretty good. Until then?

5Art - 5: The art continues to rock, with a distinctive view being brought to all characters. It's a bright world for the characters to make their way in, and each of them has their own flair in it. There are some things that just stand out in my mind, like the rooftops, the difference between Tom and Atlas, and the varying regions of the world. If I could look beyond the device, I would be awed by the diversity of the pages more, but that's not the fault of the art, which is superb.

4Cover Art - 4: It's a beautifully painted cover, and a good pose, and there is a great background. The only thing that keeps this from a five is the fact that it got somehow Liefeld'd! in that the hand is missing, which draws my attention away from the subject at hand. The focal point is shifted in the piece such that it draws my eyes to that flaw. Otherwise, great.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

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