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Superman #655

Posted: Saturday, August 12, 2006
By: Ray Tate



"Cold Comfort"

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Carlos Pacheco(p), Jesus Merino(i), Dave Stewart(c)
Publisher: DC

Busiek begins his story in seventeenth century France where we find the aftermath of what looked to be a very energetic threesome. I suppose some people will accuse the Atlantean hero Arion of "abusing" those poor, apparently exquisitely satisfied women, but I prefer to refer Arion instead as lucky bastard. Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino and Dave Stewart make this prologue almost painfully sensual and sexy, and this scene foreshadows the more mature nature of Superman. This book is not meant for kids, but it won't hurt adults who have experienced more than four-year-old brain development.

Some readers may be wondering what Arion is doing in a Superman book. He serves three purposes. One, Busiek knows that there are no longer any powerful occult mages in modern day DC. Spectre pretty much cut a swathe through most of the powerful magic users, and Dr. Fate was killed some time ago. Multiple times in fact. Arion is about the only one left whose name has any cache, and credit Busiek with some ingenuity for realizing that he would still be available for his use, if only in the past. Second, Arion foreshadows the nature of the threat that Superman will face. The thing looks to be another science gone amok type creature, but Arion's worry suggests that this animal is something more. Third, Arion provides a very nice visual in which Busiek and Pacheco segue the story to modern times.

We find Clark Kent flying in a plane. He sits among his peers and the hacks in journalism and passes the time by reading a book. Busiek informs readers that this version of Superman is a lot smarter than the previous dullard that we were stuck with for--oh, about ten years--and this is the only moment where the writing becomes somewhat heavy-handed. It would have been better I think to simply accept as a given that Superman being a Kryptonian was far smarter than most humans, Batman and Lex Luthor being the exceptions. Instead, Busiek exposits that his powers have returned and with those powers came a greater mental acuity. None of this was truly necessary.

Busiek executes an unexpected flashback sequence that should be in the book much better. In this scene we see Clark paying a visit to Lexcorp's new CEO Lana Lang. This scene re-establishes Lana, who sounds very much like Smallville's Lana, in the DCU. It re-establishes her as Clark's former love and also firmly binds Clark to his wife Lois Lane, not even in this issue but a force felt throughout the scene. As the scene suggests, Busiek isn't above using Lana as a catalyst to generate tension between the three. Though there is a line he will not cross. The artists seem to love Lana more than Lois. They give to her a sense of class and style. When contrasted with Lois seen last issue, Lana clearly has the better haircut, and her colors appear more vivid and full of life.

The theme of old girlfriends should become as tiresome as that stupid "Mondays" joke in the premiere of Busiek's debut, but surprisingly this new theme doesn't. Busiek spaces out the scenes with the old girlfriends. Lana's scene took place in a flashback, and Callie's desperate whisper for help--"somebody save me," anyone--propels Clark and the story forward. Here we see Busiek employing a beautiful and canny understanding of how Superman works. Superman doesn't just wait in the plane to protect his secret identity while his friend suffers cosmos knows what. He intelligently engages his powers to plausibly exit the aircraft and soar into the sky as Superman--inspiring awe thanks to Pacheco, Merino and Stewart.

Superman looks and behaves much better in this second issue. He displays more emotion than the simple peeved looks that described his character in the new debut. He exhibits concern for Callie, and he looks appropriately mean when addressing the cause of the destruction. We also finally have an artist that knows how cloth is supposed to move. Under Pacheco's, Merino's and Stewart's talents Superman's cape becomes hypnotic and majestic in each panel.

The book's cliffhanger whets the appetite. Arion leaves his companions, still in a state of exhausted bliss--or extreme abuse depending on which idiot you ask--and literally cuts a way to the twenty-first century. I'm impressed.



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