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Superman #215

Posted: Monday, April 25, 2005
By: Michael Deeley

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams & others, (including Danny Miki and Tim Townsend) (i)

Publisher: DC Comics


, for this issue.
, for the entire story.

Superman battles Zod as Metropia dies. Superman thinks about his hubris in creating a paradise to save the Earth, and the similarities/differences between him and his father. Father Leone, now turned into OMAC Mark IV, uses the vanishing device to enter Metropia. His new programming compels him to kill innocent people. Superman uses the device to return everyone back to Earth. Leone and Equus (whom we now recognize to be OMAC Mark III) land on a desert island fighting for the foreseeable future. Zod remains in The Phantom Zone, happy to see it returned to empty darkness. Superman builds a new Fortress of Solitude in a South America jungle.

I just re-read the entire “For Tomorrow” storyline. And while I can see what Azzarello was trying to do, it has some major flaws. For starters, the pacing is very slow. Not just in regards to events in the story; the characters will speak in sentence fragments, broken into two or more balloons, sometimes across multiple panels. You have to remind yourself that Superman doesn’t remember building Metropia at the beginning of the story. So when he says, “My sin was trying to save the world,” what is he referring to? Threatening to destroy the Earth to force the elemental giants to back down? Getting involved in Nox’s rebellion? Or just his belief that he and he alone must save humanity, even when it’s shown he’s not able?

Another plot point that doesn’t quite fit is in this issue. When Superman sees Father Leone has become a monster like Equus, Leone said, “I did this to myself.” How? Leone didn’t ask to be cured of cancer. He didn’t agree to help Orr track Superman. From what I saw, Orr approached Leone, injected him with a tracer, followed him to the Fortress of Solitude, and then used him in the OMAC project. As far as I can tell, Leone is blameless.

There’s no adequate explanation for how Superman was able to transform the Phantom Zone into Metropia. We don’t actually see any public outcry against Superman’s involvement with Nox, so it’s hard to believe it actually happened. And frankly, lines like “I don’t believe in magic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe it exists,” lower a story in my eyes. That’s like saying atheists don’t believe in God, but they believe he exists. There are other awkward turns of phrases that made me groan.

Azzarello’s purpose seems to be to show the religious significance of Superman; the hero as savior. Religious imagery is abundant. This issue pays homage to Michaelangelo’s classic “The Creation of Adam,” with poses reversed. (Perhaps on purpose. Superman acts like God, but is on Adam’s “side.” Zod, posed like Adam, is on God’s “side.”) The reversal of positions would imply a reversal of roles. Zod’s rejection of Superman’s help is the opposite of Adam accepting power from God. This also ties into the recurring theme of Superman’s “Holy Trinity”: “Superman Save Me.” When Father Leone is first seen in a red case being changed by doctors, his hands are in the same positions as in many depictions of Jesus Christ’s. The cumulative effect of religious imagery and expressions creates the image of Superman as a divine figure.

But in the story’s second half, we learn he was trying to succeed where his father failed. He was trying to save his entire world from destruction. His instruments included The Phantom Zone, a hell created by his father. Thus Superman seeks redemption for his father’s failings. His failure proves there are some people he cannot save. And some things are beyond his power. Superman’s supposedly selfless actions were inherently selfish.

Ultimately, Superman is human. In spite of his abilities, he thinks, feels, and acts like any ordinary person would. But throughout the story, Superman is denying that part of himself. He emphasizes his Kryptonian heritage. He points out he is here to save people from themselves. He continuously refers to himself as someone separate from humanity. Maybe it’s his way of avoiding the loss of Lois Lane after her vanishing. Maybe Azzarello just wanted to underscore Superman’s similarities to religious saviors. Either way, seeing Superman deny his human heritage is uncomfortable.

I think this was Jim Lee’s best artwork in his entire career. Wonderful stuff. Another reviewer remarked at how European comics must have influenced Lee. I agree; there’s plenty of detail in the environments and the characters to create the sensation of texture and weight. This issue, like last, had several inkers assisting Scott Williams. But the overall visual style is more cohesive here than in last issue.

The story is challenging, but, as I said, flawed. Azzarello largely succeeds in conveying his “big message.” But there is confusion on a few basic points, which get in the way of understanding Azzarello’s point. Fortunately, Lee, Williams and company turn in truly beautiful art that alone is worth the price of admission. Overall, “For Tomorrow” was a better than average story. It’s certainly one of the best Superman stories in recent years; which only shows how bad Superman comics have been lately.

Frankly, it made me long for the simple melodrama of Chuck Austen’s Action Comics, and Greg Rucka’s conspiracy in Adventures of Superman.



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