"Rack and Ruin Part 1"
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Karl Kerschl (p), Karl Kerschl and Wayne Faucher (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: In an alleyway near the Daily Planet Clark Kent stumbles on to Mr. Mxyzptlk, who is stuck on Earth and suffering from memory loss due to the fallout from the Spectre's war on magic. At a nearby diner Clark and Mxyzptlk help each other and Clark finally figures out the identity of Ruin. Elsewhere, Lois Lane tracks down the Checkmate agent that shot her as Pete Ross reaches out to Lana Lang for help.
Commentary: This is the best Superman comic I have read in the past six years.
I'm not being facetious. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the best Superman comics I have read in the past twenty years and with the hundreds (maybe thousands) of Superman books I have read in that time, that is saying something. With Adventures of Superman #646 Greg Rucka not only gives us a great balance of intrigue and character but also proves why he is one of the best writers to ever handle the Man of Steel.
The opening scene played out beautifully. Mr. Mxyzptlk has never been one of my favorite Superman "villains," but under Rucka's care I've actually come to like him. His plight at the beginning of the issue is rather touching, as is Clark's reaction to it. This is a prime example of why Rucka understands Superman. Here's Mr. Mxyzptlk, a being that has caused Superman a lot of grief (until recently) and what does Clark do when the thorn of his side is down and out? He helps him. Without question he gives the imp a hug and buys him something to eat. It's so simple but shows that one of Superman's greatest strength is his ability to care about everyone, even beings from the Fifth Dimension.
The rest of the scene between Clark and Mxyzptlk were fantastic as well. The conversation between Clark and his editor was a nice little bit that showed that a mild mannered Clark still works after all of these years. The fact that these scenes were "shot" in black and white gave them a surreal quality that I really enjoyed. The subtext of Mxyzptlk's narration was interesting and said a lot about Superman as a character and Rucka, through Mxyzptlk, connected some interesting dots about Superman and the people in his life.
The two revelations in this issue were also great. The identity of the person who shot Lois Lane made sense and the ending of that scene went well. I'm not sure that this was Rucka's intent from the beginning, but I loved how he tied this sub-plot to The O.M.A.C. Project. It plays into my overall satisfaction at how connected the DC Universe has become.
As for the identity of Ruin I have to admit that I didn't see it coming. I should have, but there are times when I really don't want to know the ending and am content to sit back and let the story play out. I always had the feeling that Pete Ross was a red herring and I really liked how Rucka managed to bring Lana Lang out of the two-dimensional depths that Chuck Austen put her in. The revelation of the true identity of Ruin made perfect sense and makes for a complex end to Rucka's run on the title. I'm sure that next month everything will be explained, but for right now we are left with a great cliffhanger ending and a lot of excitement.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Karl Kerschl and Wayne Faucher. Karl and Wayne's work have been great thus far and this issue was no exception. I mentioned the black and white art earlier in this review and it bears mentioning again how much that played into why the scenes between Clark and Mxyzptlk played so well. Having a foggy Mxyzptlk see in black and white was a great touch and frankly the art in these scenes, for me at any rate, were the best in the issue.
In The End: I am really going to miss Greg and Karl on this title. It is so rare to find a writer and artist that do so well with Superman. This issue is Greg's best thus far and promises for an explosive ending. It is rare for me to read a comic and consider it a classic, but this is definitely one of those issues. If there are any future editions of The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, it should include this comic in its line-up.
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