Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Superman #678 Review

Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Renato Guedes

The second part of the "Coming of Atlas" story is not a bad comic, but it has so many clichés that it occasionally become accidently comedic. The story is fairly straightforward. Atlas, a man from the past with superpowers takes over the world from the evil head of the Lizard Kingdom (who is, disappointingly, not actually a lizard). He puts the Lizard king's head on a pike, and everyone is happy to get rid of him, until they realise that Atlas is an angry bastard with a taste for orgies (yes, this book includes what is probably the first ever orgy in a Superman comic). So, his adviser tricks him into being sent into the future, where he decides to take over the world again.

There's more going on of course. We see more of the techno-cops that we met in the last issue, who will presumably become supporting characters. There are also two mysterious people behind the scenes, who are clearly both evil because they are obviously Republicans. The first is a woman in a suit, who may or not be Lana Lang, who is directing the techno-cops. The second is, as far as I can tell, General Thunderbolt Ross, who seems to have accidentally gotten lost in the DC universe. He plans to study Superman fight Atlas, presumably through the cameras that are floating around, in hopes of killing the Man of Steel later.

The book is occasionally quite funny. I enjoy that the general sends in Atlas to fight Superman and has so little expectation that Atlas can possibly win that, when Atlas says he plans to rule the world, he answers, "I wish you well in your endeavors". Occasionally, though, the book becomes unintentionally silly. Lana...er, the cop...gets upset when she is called "ma'am". The past history of the Lizard Kingdom is so silly, it feels like a Hagar the Horrible comic.

One cliché that is getting a little annoying is how the past in comic books is being represented in old style printing with visible dots. It was very clever in the Sentry and worked well in the recent Might Avengers arc, largely because it included the Sentry. However, now the trick is popping up all over the place. Here, Atlas the Horrible's past looks like a comic book from the '40s, largely I suppose because it's the past (though, shouldn't it be in cave drawings?). The difference is that the Sentry comics were largely surreal, and the old-style drawings captured the strange sense that perhaps the Sentry was just insane. In this story, it's just a way to shout, "Look a flashback!". I almost expect to see Wayne and Garth waving their hands up and down saying "ditditditdoo ditditditdoo", since that's only slightly more hokey and obvious.

Overall, though, it's a solid effort if a little quaint. The fight is fun. There are unseemly happenings about. We get to see Jimmy on a motorcycle. However, with Action Comics consistently putting out engaging stories right now, a story like this just can't measure up.

C+

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