Current Reviews


Action Comics #821

Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2005
By: Michael Bailey

"Black and Blue"

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: John Byrne (p), Nelson DeCastro (i)

Publisher: DC Comics

Plot: Superman battles Black Adam for custody of Dr. Psycho, who has been in Metropolis using his powers to cause people to become obsessed with the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, Bizarro races with Zoom across the globe to see if Bizarro will join Luthor's Society.

Commentary: Superman learned a valuable lesson this issue; don't touch Black Adam when his blood is up or he'll punch you in the face.

It's a guilty pleasure, but I enjoy these types of fights. Many people would call it an adolescent power fantasy, but I call it good, clean family fun. Superman has long been considered the ultimate "boy scout" or "goodie two shoes", but I think it is all in how you play him. Over the past few months Superman has in both Action Comics and Superman been a little more aggressive in his handling of the villains he has been fighting. I believe there is something behind it because he is usually not this hot headed but at the same time I am enjoying it. There is a part of me that likes the concept of a Superman who doesn't brook any back sass. He wasn't going to back down against Black Adam and the fight played out beautifully. I especially liked Superman's inner dialogue about how he could never tell Lois just how careful he has to be in using his strength and losing control.

The important revelation of this issue had to be Superman finding out about the "super villain conspiracy." He now knows that they are getting organized. The problem is that this information isn't going to go anywhere because unlike the villains, the heroes are all over the place. Despite his warning to Black Adam that he will be watching them, I can't see this as the moment that Superman decides that things need to improve on the part of the heroes.

Black Adam continues to become one of my favorite DC characters. He's kind of the Magneto (Claremont-era) of the DC Universe. He's not a bad guy so much as a powerful man who has his own opinion on how things should be done. He is an honorable man who will fight for what he believes in. His methods may be harsh and I may not agree with them, but he does believe in protecting the "innocents" and outside of defending his own country I believe he joined Luthor's Society because of the JLA's mind wiping of Dr. Light and the Secret Society of Super Villains. It's funny, because I think in Adam's mind, killing them would have been better. Considering his past and the problems he's had with his own mindscape I can see this.

The fight ended as it should. As assertive as Superman has become lately, he still wouldn't hit a man with his back turned. It's just not Superman.

The sub-plot with Lois and the Congressman is coming along nicely. I am very interested in how this turns out particularly since Infinite Crisis is coming and Superman may be too distracted to help Lois if she gets in over her head. I also thought the exchange between Lana and Lois not only tied up all of the mess that Chuck Austen started but made Lana seem more in control and stronger as a character. I'm also enjoying the relationship between Jimmy and Shuman. It's nice to see the supporting characters getting some play, especially when they were given such poor treatment (with the exception of Greg Rucka over in Adventures of Superman) with the previous creative regime.

And how can you not like the race between Zoom and Bizarro? Sure Zoom's motivation in this is a mystery to me, but I liked it anyway.

The art continues to be excellent. There has been a lot of fuss and bother made by certain individuals regarding Nelson's inks over Byrne pencils, but I am rather fond of the end results. I really liked their version of Black Adam. Adam has a very simple and dynamic costume. Byrne and Nelson went for a very large lightning bolt on his chest, which isn't my favorite, but it worked here. Byrne and Nelson also went for a very blocky version of Bizarro, which for some odd reason reminded me of his entry in the original Who's Who entry.

In The End: It has been quite some time since I have been this excited about the Superman titles, and Gail Simone is certainly one of the reasons. This issue was a lot of fun and had some quirky moments, but Gail managed to keep her own voice and sub-plots going. Byrne and Nelson's art still has that epic feel, especially in the action scenes and this issue had one of the best fight scenes of the year.

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