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Mild Mannered Reviews - Regular Superman Comics

Superman: Secret Files 2009 #1

Superman: Secret Files 2009 #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 12, 2009

Cover date: October 2009

"Superman: Secret Files 2009"

Neal Bailey Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Click to enlarge

REVIEWER'S NOTE: I'm going to lump a few things together for this review, because it makes sense, even if it may take the review outside of chronological order. Just so you don't think they took your copy and rearranged it on you... ;)

5Cover Art - 5: This cover is distinctive and awesome. It showcases the mains in a subtle way, putting it in a symbolic context, and gears you up for what the book previews, the upcoming crossover. It even manages to make Assassin cool, which is a stretch so far in many respects.


Writers: Sterling Gates, Greg Rucka, James Robinson, Geoff Johns
Artists: Pete Woods, Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, Francis Manapul, Renato Guedes, Jose Wilson Magalhaes, Fernando Dagnino, Raul Fernandez

A series of profiles present the origin and current actions of multiple Superman heroes and villains, including New Krypton, Superman, Red Shard, Alura and the Guilds of New Krypton, General Zod/Commander Ursa/Non, Brainiac, Superboy, Krypto, Lex Luthor, Metropolis, The Daily Planet, Mon-El, The Guardian, Supergirl, Nightwing, Flamebird, Project 7734, Metallo, and Reactron.

4Profiles - 4: I recently read a comment complaining about the way that comics are inaccessible. In particular someone attacked the recent Superboy comic with the caveat that if you hadn't read Superman comics since 1993, then comprehending them was nigh impossible, and there was no way you could enjoy Adventure Comics. To that I counter, read these origins. With them, you'll be able to understand pretty much everything that's been going on, and jump right in. That's their point, and in that, they do an excellent job.

That said, however, there is very little new information for folks who want to find out something new, so for the long-time fan it might not offer much, and takes up a large portion of the book. However, speaking as someone who is reading along and has since 1991 (SO OLD!), I got a kick out of brushing up on the characters and their whereabouts and new history since New Earth. There are some frustrations, like origin details that are redacted to prevent comic book guys complaints (ironically leading to another comic guy's complaints), but the cuteness of the device makes it worthwhile. As far as the stuff that sucked, I can just say that REDACTED BY GENERAL ZOD REDACTED BY GENERAL ZOD and it broke off inside. HAW!

Luthor's origin mentions nothing about his term as president, and yet there's a story where he was the president, but that's not too big a deal. All in all, they're well written, and a great introduction enhanced by the surrounding stories. My favorite consideration is the idea that Brainiac destroyed Krypton. That I wouldn't mind, actually.

4Profile Art - 4: It's hard to rate them all in a lump like this, but then, we read them in a lump like that, and they're all above average depictions, for the most part. There are some oddities that stick out. Lex in prison was maybe a 3, and the Superman in his New Krypton uniform above a darkened city is a clear five, but generally they are what they set out to be and a little more.



Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Pere Perez

We explore Ursa's history and motivation, in particular her obsession with General Zod and her feelings of failure in the wake of Kandor's capture. She watches Zod in stasis, and fears for his survival.

5Story - 5: A good look into what makes Ursa tick, and a strong character piece. Short, but to the point. The horror of the Brainiac attack is very well exploited. That image of the hovering skull in the sky still creeps me out, has since Johns first portrayed it, and it gets creepier by the showing.

I also like the idea of Ursa as someone other than Zod's gal, someone with complex motivations and a history. More, please.

4Art - 4: There are a couple of moments which are epic in the art, the double spread is awesome, and there's a lot of great battle detail. There are a few moments where things look a little odd or ill defined, and that takes away from the whole, but the attack scene is quite memorable and well done. Pandemonium.

"Double Act"

Writer: James Robinson
Art: Matt Camp

We follow Mon-El as Jonathan Kent and Billi Harper as they go through a day's work, with Mon-El having to leave a few times in order to defeat a few enemies, making awkward excuses. Billi realizes that Jonathan is slightly strange, but doesn't make the connection between Jonathan and Mon-El.

3Story - 3: There were a few neat character moments, but it takes quite a lot of work to do what the story accomplishes, which is to set forth that Billi likes Jonathan, and that Jonathan is strange. Mon-El is already established as strange, and I have to understand who Billi is before I can really care what she thinks of Jonathan. All we know so far is that she's in the Science Police and is related to Harper, as far as I can tell or recall.

This seems to be a broader problem with Robinson's work on the title so far. Many many characters, very little definition or story so far. It's extraordinary decompression, which would be fine if this were an independent ongoing story, but this is a monthly Superman comic with (presumably) finite arcs that are fairly short respectively speaking.

Nonetheless, there are a few cute moments and fun character bits, particularly the ins and outs of the SCU (COUGH) er, Science Police going about their day-to-day.

4Art - 4: A good depiction of the story, and there are a few really neat moments, like the crazy Nazi guy, and the rooftop chase, that stick in your head after the story is over.

"Blood Sisters: A Tale of Old Krypton"

Writer: Greg Rucka and Sterling Gates
Pencils: Fernando Dagnino
Ink: Raul Fernandez

Thara and Kara spend a night in old Krypton exploring the Firefalls after rigging Balex, a robot like Kelex, to tell their parents they're safe in bed.

They encounter a dangerous bird, and reach the Firefalls debating the origin of the phenomena, whether it was a religious myth (Thara's preferred origin) or a scientific phenomena (Kara's). Thara explores the issue with contemplative prayer, Kara goes to the edge of the falls and tries to find a flammable fruit for a scientific explanation.

The bird attacks Kara, and almost knocks her into the falls. Thara saves Kara by throwing the flammable fruit onto the bird, which Kara lights with a rod from her pack. The bird falls.

The two, united in their victory, use an accidental cut to become blood sisters, and split a crystal to share between each other as a symbol of friendship.

Later, after Thara fails to save Zor-El, Supergirl renounces their friendship, and Thara feels regret.

5Story - 5: A strong story which brings empathy and a history to two characters that have been notorious hard sells for me in terms of their actions and past. Here we see Kara as a normal person, and that makes her more sympathetic, and we see Thara as a deeply spiritual person with a heroic adventuresome streak. The bird and the falls as a device would normally be rather simple, but by tying it into the history of Krypton it takes a new meaning and adds depth.

Remember that story, a long while back, that was just the Kents and the Superman family having a wonderful lunch and exploring what Krypton was, with no conflict, by Busiek? That story almost single-handedly made me leave comics. It really did. This is a good example of how to do that story in a way that expands the history but still tells an awesome story with heart. Good times.

5Art - 5: The coloring deserves a special notice here, it brings the story out a good bit to exploit the already good art and make it something more. But beyond that, good action, an interesting rendition of the Firefalls, and real emotion throughout. The only gripe is the bird, which is kind of strange, but it serves its purpose well.


Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Stefano Gaudiano

Just after Lex Luthor leaves office, Pete Ross wonders what his legacy as president will be.

He is called out to a press conference to explain Luthor's actions, and as he is, he is asked to sign a small set of papers that he is told mean nothing. They're handed to Amanda Waller, and they're the papers that start Project: 7734.

Ross is responsible, count it up now, for Checkmate AND 7734.

An oblivious hick president who isn't really aware of what's going on providing a face for an administration that's doing awful things behind the backs of its constituents?

Thank God it's fiction, folks, and could never happen in real life! (Cough).

5Story - 5: Kind of sad and bittersweet. It takes a little bit to get where it's going, and it doesn't add too much to the overall story, but it's still a moment that makes you feel so much sympathy for the poor schmuck that you don't care. This is where the little moments of characterization Robinson's great at can override the thinness of what's actually going on, and so far it's one of my favorite pieces by him, even if it's succinct.

5Art - 5: This looks like a watercolor in many respects, and it suffers from some of the maladies that watercolors suffer from. Pete's face is kind of missing a few pages in. But it somehow works, given that it's with the feel of the story, and there are a few seconds that just pop, like when he's looking out the darkened window and thinking about his legacy.

Mild Mannered Reviews


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

January 2009

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