Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Superman #700 - Giant Sized Awesome
Thanks to likes of Blackest Night and Brightest Day my love for DC Comics has been rekindled and my wallet hates me for adding that much more to my weekly comic budget. We're not currently on speaking terms, but I'm not letting that stop me from getting awesome comics like Superman #700. I know I normally don't review Superman comics, but this is a Giant Sized anniversary issue and I just couldn't resist. These kinds of books are like a winning season for the Detroit Lions, rare in it's frequency yet beautiful in it's own right.
The book itself is divided into three self-contained stories. All of them are awesome in their own right, making it a three for one deal that offers more bang for the buck. Your wallet and bank account may just like you a little bit more, although my wallet still hates me. The first story centers around Clark and Lois. Now it may seem strange that the most iconic relationship in the history of comics has been lacking lately, but between Blackest Night and War of the Supermen these two haven't really gotten a lot of screen time. They're long overdue and they get their chance when Lois gets into trouble (as she's so prone to do) with Parasite.
What happens next is classic without being cliched. Superman shows up and saves Lois. I know, some are rolling their eyes because that's what Superman has been doing for nearly a century. My response to them (other than "what the fuck is your problem?") would be this is who these characters are. This age old story of Superman saving Lois is ingrained in their persona and it helps drive their relationship in a unique way that makes it the most iconic in comic history. Add to that, Superman still looks pretty badass when he beats the shit out of guys like Parasite.
After a classic super ass-kicking, Clark and Lois get more personal and this is where the real meat of the story resides. Clark fills Lois in about what happened on New Krypton (read War of the Superman if you're scratching your head) and they have a brief discussion. It's not as cliched as one would expect. These two, like any serious couple who doesn't want to end up in divorce court, don't gloss over these facts and confront them. I know that may seem counter-intuitive to readers raised on the merits of make-up sex, but in the real world and with characters like these confronting these issues is what makes a relationship actually work. Yet to satisfy these twisted notions, Clark and Lois do have an intimate moment.
After some super cuddling, the couple go out for a stroll. And by stroll I mean flying through the sky at speeds that would make most people shit themselves. This is Superman we're talking about. Everything he does is done with super dedication and that includes Lois, who by now should be plenty used to flying over the city as no mere mortal woman ever has. Here they share another moment that is very reflective of their relationship. Lois wants Superman to promise that he'll never leave her again. Now most men when their woman tells them this are obligated to say one thing: "Yes dear. I will never leave you again." Anything less will result in couch banishment for a full year and no sex for possibly longer.
But this is Superman we're dealing with. He's a guy whose righteous to a fault. He can't make a promise he can't keep, even to the woman he loves. He doesn't even flinch. He tells her he can't make that promise. This is why Lois is so right for him. She doesn't just understand. This is a part about him she loves. Many women may find it annoying for a man to be this blunt and morally ridged. But for Lois, for whatever odd tastes she may have, it's the equivalent of a pussy boner. And his response is just what she expected and wanted. If after this you're still cynical about Clark and Lois being the best couple in comic history, then you're just being difficult.
The next story shifts gears a bit, telling a story using the Worlds Finest. For those of you who aren't up to speed with comic lingo, that means Batman/Superman. Only this story isn't a typical Batman/Superman team up. In this story, Robin gets to do the teaming while Bruce Wayne and Batman take a back seat. What happens is Bruce has the standard Wayne Enterprise business he can't miss and Gotham has to go without Batman for the night. Robin is expected to stay home and finish his Geometry homework. But as with any rebellious teenager, he has other plans.
He ventures out on his motorcycle to stop a smuggling ring. There's no Batman to watch his back. He's just a kid in a costume looking to bust some heads. In the context of this story it's pretty predictable what happens next. He's overwhelmed, cornered, and captured by the well-armed smugglers. It seems at this point Robin can't hold his own and the bad guys don't take any chances, knowing Batman won't go down so easily.
But Batman is the least of their worries. As it just so happens, Superman is in town and he lends Robin a hand. He saves him from a concrete slipper and a date with the bottom of the river and makes quick work of the smugglers. Well-armed they may be, but Lex Luthor they are not. They don't stand a chance. Superman takes them out and Commissioner Gordon takes care of the rest.
Now if the story ended here, that would be fairly decent if not sub-par. But there are a few more twists that bring the awesome factor up to par. Not only does Superman fly Robin back home before Bruce can find out, he actually does his geometry homework for him! Seriously, when have you ever heard of a superhero being that cool? That's the kind of hero you don't just admire. That's the kind of hero you'd rather pray to besides some greedy, overly dramatic non-homework-doing super-being in tights. Only Superman can pull it off and it makes for a fun and entertaining end to a story that could have been too bland to mention.
The next story is a bit lighter on the action and much heavier on the drama. It covers Superman being interviewed about what happened with New Krypton by the media. The questions are pretty standard and unlike 99.9999 percent of all politicians and public figures, Superman answers honestly and without hesitation. He even says those three words that no politician is even supposed to think "I don't know." It all seems standard when out of nowhere this woman comes up and slaps him right across the face. No, she's not a super-villain looking to cause trouble. She's a regular woman whose pissed at Big Blue.
Now why is she pissed? It's not because Superman wronged her or lied to her. It's not even because of what happened to New Krypton. She was mad because she just lost her husband to a brain tumor. It seems odd that she would lash out at Superman of all people. He's a guy who fights super-powered monsters, not brain tumors. But that wasn't the point. The point she made was that he wasn't there. He wasn't where he was supposed to be, with the people he was supposed to look after. Some may argue circumstances, but it doesn't make her wrong and Superman knows this.
Superman then flies off, which is sort of his way of saying "no more questions" only in his case the media doesn't give him shit for it. He's clearly affected by what that woman said. He talks to Batman and the Flash about it. He talks about perspective and how they relate to the people they're trying to protect. For a guy who by many measures isn't human, that's an important perspective to have. The events of New Krypton made him forget about that and it's only now he's fully realizing that.
It makes for a fitting and emotional ending to the three stories. It also ties together the after-effects of events like War of the Supermen. It's always easy to gloss over these more personal moments in a story where there aren't giant robots looking to crush everything in their path. It perfectly compliments the first two stories and brings home much of what makes a Superman comic super. It may seem melodramatic to some, but in terms of storytelling it adds to a sense of completion.
In terms of a Giant Sized anniversary issue, Superman #700 can be considered a standard by which all others like it are measured. It's one of those issues where the writers seem to put extra effort. Some might find themselves wishing "why the hell can't they do this with every issue?!" Well that's not how these stories work. They are best told in a certain way and under the right circumstances. Those circumstances just happen to be rare and that's what makes it special. Nobody would give a fuck about Christmas if it happened more than once a year. It's the rarity that makes it special and this comic embodies all of those traits and then some.
Any Superman, DC, or general comic fan would be wise to add this to their collection and frame it for future generations so they know what real awesome entails. This issue gets a 5 out of 5 and every mark of perfection a comic can possibly earn. If DC keeps making comics like this, I'll be needing a much bigger pull list for each Wednesday. Now if you'll excuse me, my wallet and I are going to have another fight. But for awesome like this, it's worth it!