Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist(s): Carlos Pacheco, Jesus Merino
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Superman defeats Arion.
Commentary: It’s big and it’s loud, signifying nothing. It seems as if this is the case with many of DC’s books these days. It’s very disconcerting. The only major storyline in the last year that’s lived up to its hype is “The Sinestro Corps War” over in Green Lantern. DC’s other flagship title, Batman, is currently in the throws of the highly touted, “Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” and that too is a lot of action without substance. The trend continues over in Justice League of America #15 with the dismal finale to Dwayne Mcduffie’s inaugural run on the title. Once again, I blame the parents; those being, the editors and marketers at DC. They seem bound and determined to make every issue of every book somehow cram and connect to Countdown and spin off titles like the just released Salvation Run. Listen up DC! I don’t buy comics for the events or spin-offs I buy them for quality entertainment on a monthly basis. The convoluted mess that the DC Universe has become leaves me lukewarm to the upcoming Final Crisis. That’s how I approached this Superman Annual; lukewarm.
Somehow DC editors seem to think having us wait months on end for a story that began in the main books to conclude in an annual is a good idea. It’s not. Having to buy the annual in such an untimely manner made me pretty ambivalent to the outcome of the “Camelot Falls” storyline. About the only intriguing thing that happened here was that the Phantom Stranger conjured up a magical ward against magical attacks on Superman’s S-shield. It was kind of a neat idea, but only slightly so. It forced Arion to resort to remaking himself physically to battle Superman mano y mano but that took any suspense or sense of danger out of the equation. Superman easily bested Arion in the physical prowess realm. Busiek uses the old cliché of having potential allies (2 of the Young Gods from earlier in the core book, if anyone remembers) transformed into monstrous, near mute cannon fodder to be used against Superman. Superman figures it out and they are restored to their true forms. Ho-hum. How many times has this been done?
An inconsistent story point is how Arion blathers on and on about Superman’s alien-ness being so great a threat to humanity and humanities ultimate destiny. Um, I always thought there was something wrong with this accusation from the start. Here’s the reason why. Arion is a magician who manipulates and wields demonic forces. Correct me if I’m wrong but wouldn’t those qualify as “alien” and outside of this earthly realm? How is the intervention of those forces any less a threat to human destiny than Superman’s otherworldly origin. It just doesn’t work as the driver behind why Arion has made Superman’s life so hectic this year. A slight form of character redemption this issue is how Busiek makes Superman “clean up after himself” considering the extreme measures he needed to go to breach Arion’s undersea fortress. We see Superman using his power as the ultimate boy scout, righting the ecological and geological littering he was responsible for. That is totally in character. But, Busiek and the other Superman writers let us down again by insisting on including “The Last Son of Krypton”, Chris Kent, in brief cameos. Bad call DC! Bad call! “The Last Son” storyline has yet to conclude in the pages of this year’s Action Comics Annual and we see Chris Kent alive and well all over the place in other Superman books. Once again you’ve removed any sense of jeopardy or danger from the mix in regards to the fate of Zod and Ursa’s child. It’s obvious he survives “Last Son” and lives happily ever after with Lois and Clark. I can’t wait to open the Action Annual and read the disclaimer, “This story takes place before…yadda…yadda…”
The back up story is better if only because it does give us a realistic (in the context of Superman’s world) view of what Superman would do if he decided to take his family including his Kryptonian cousin, adoptive son and dog on a much needed vacation. Superman finds a paradise planet devoid of sentient life and takes his family there for some rest and relaxation. One complaint I have however is when Superman christens the newly found world, “Tarabithia”. Um, hello! Wasn’t that included in the title of a popular kids’ fantasy movie last year? Why not give it an original name that has some significance to this “Super Family”? Lazy writing? I don’t know. I’ve never been a big fan of all these other Kryptonians existing. Superman is better to me when he is unique in the DC Universe. A female and dog version of him lessens how important and special he is in the grand scheme of things. We even have a Daxamite with his powers as well as Green Lantern’s coming out of “The Sinestro Corps War”. Finally, I’ll say it again, Chris Kent’s appearance here lessens greatly any sense of anticipation I have regarding the finale to “The Last Son” storyline. DC has proved it can have great and talented creative teams on their books and still hobble them into mediocrity.
Final Word: What could have been another great and memorable story in the annals of the Man of Tomorrow ends in the worst way for an action character; boringly.
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