Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist(s): Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Superman takes the fight to Arion in the penultimate chapter of “Camelot Falls”.
Commentary: Superman’s always been a hard character for me to follow on any regular basis. Sure his image is iconic in the annals of comic book history but reading his adventures on a month to month basis is just something I’ve never been able to do. In my opinion writing Superman well must be one of the hardest assignments in comics. At the heart of the character is the ideal being of unsurpassed moral virtue living amongst fallible mortal men and acting always in their defense and best interests. There just is no single person exactly like that. It’s hard to live up to much less write it effectively. We can understand Batman because if we had the cash and the motivation we could be Batman too. But, could any of us rise to the level of perfection Superman is supposed to embody? For years the writing of such a perfect character has frankly bored me. Really the only reason I pick up Superman here and there is because the art teams attract me. I like looking at good and cool depictions of this immedietly recognizable icon.
That’s what attracted me to current storylines here and in Action Comics initially (aside from the Countdown tie in issues which interrupt otherwise good stories). With the “Camelot Falls” story, and this issue in particular, Busiek has started to make me take notice of what is being written as well as what I see. He does this by emphasizing what Superman is in the eyes of the world around him. We get an opening scene with the eyes of the world on this being of extreme power doing what he does best; which is flying to the rescue. Anything Superman does should be a media event. He’s capable of doing big things on a worldwide scale. Why wouldn’t all eyes be focused on him? We then flash back two weeks to what prompted Superman to go tearing off to confront Arion for what he hopes will be the last time. Superman and Zatanna combat a literal and physical “looming darkness”, a precursor to the darkness Arion has said Superman’s presence will bring to the world. Here’s where I have problems with the issue. Ever since “Identity Crisis” it seems DC is determined to give Zatanna air time and presence with every major character in their stable. This is getting tiresome and frankly she is just not that interesting of a character and neither is her backward magic-speak power. I understand the need to have Superman rely on someone magically minded here but the Phantom Stranger pops up too. Wouldn’t he be enough? As far as I’ve scene Zatanna is just eye candy (buxomly displayed here by Pacheco and Merino) with little substance. We can get such cheesecake in any other number of characters without the need for Zatanna popping up everywhere. For me her appearance is a parody of womanhood and a distraction to the events unfolding. A woman Pacheco and Merino do draw and ink to good effect here is Lana Lang. They incorporate the classic redheaded Lang with the slim, straight-haired Lana of TV’s ‘Smallville’ nicely.
I’ve always liked the idea of incorporating cutting edge super-science into Kal El’s adventures. After all, he is, “The Man of Tomorrow”. Superman works when the rest of the world is trying to keep up with him. We literally get that dynamic with the remote super-cameras following him on his latest adventure. A Busiek creation I didn’t like initially shows up here for a battle with Clark. It’s Subjekt-17. The reason I didn’t like him was because to me he looked like every other alien heavyweight Superman’s ever fought, i.e., Darkseid, Doomsday, Mongul, etc. etc. However, that’s not what he is at all. He’s exactly what Superman could have turned out to be if he’d fallen into the wrong hands upon his landing on Earth. Subjekt-17 is the Frankenstein monster version of Superman. He is a once gentle being with great potential for good, hardened by compassionless governmental and scientific tinkering. He’s the Superman who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks if you will; a sympathetic monster with far too much power. Kudos to Busiek for giving us such a great foil for Superman to contend with. His last words to Superman this issue, “You value their garbage over me…” made something wrench on my insides.
The final scene is one where we get something else that makes Superman work for me. It is a great, almost biblical exhibition of his power over the elements. It’s these kinds of acts that make us believe Superman is all he’s cracked up to be, namely, the most powerful hero in the Universe. Busiek combines the above elements to give us a Superman for the age and beyond just as he was intended to be.
Final Word: Busiek and Pacheco combine wide screen action, viable threats for the man of steel and futuristic technology to give us an exciting read.
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