"Blame and Remorse"
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Darryl Banks, Karl Kerschl and Adam Dekraker (p), Wayne Faucher, Cam Smith and Robin Riggs (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Superman seeks out Zatanna to help undo the programming done by Maxwell Lord. She refuses and in the course of their argument, Superman asks if she had ever used her magic on any of his enemies. The answer leads them to the Toyman and an explosive confrontation.
Commentary: Rucka pulls off a very difficult trick with this issue because if he had played the story any other way it could have become very muddled. A lot happens in this issue and one event leads into the other with very little explanation. I will admit that it did take me two readings of the piece to fully take in everything that happened.
The mixing of the "Sacrifice story" and the ongoing "Ruin" sub-plot worked out well. Clark's devotion to Pete may come off as na´ve, but I think it is hard for him to accept that one of his oldest friends has betrayed him. From Superman's encounter with Lupe to Clark's argument with Loving, the Planet reporter, he still believes that Pete cannot possibly be Ruin.
This is where Rucka really shows how good of a writer he is. The conversation with Zatanna starts out with him asking her to get in and remove the programming done by Maxwell Lord. She refuses and then the conversation turns to other villains Zatanna messed with (and as this concept plays itself out, I am curious if there is a villain in the DCU that Zatanna didn't mind wipe in one form or another) and if one of those enemies could possibly be Ruin. Then the story focuses on how messed up the Toyman is and while none of Superman's questions are answered, Rucka has Superman trying to convince Zatanna to forgive herself, which is something he cannot do: forgive himself. It is this kind of layered story that makes for not only some great reading, but for some great Superman stories as well.
It was interesting to see the Toyman presented like this. Toyman as child murderer was always an interesting concept, and then in 1999 or so (if memory serves) he was sort of "fixed." The way his part in the story played out was set up and then paid off beautifully. Rucka performed a neat little bait and switch where you think Winslow is this kindly old man who loves helping children and it turns out he is delusional and belongs on an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
The supporting cast got some good screen time in this issue as well. The scenes between Lois and Clark are starting to get a little repetitive, but as a married man myself I can understand having the same conversation again and again, especially if it is about something that is very important. It was nice to see Jimmy in these pages, and even Perry got a few lines. What struck me about Perry's scene is how he stopped and listened to Loving's berating of Kent. I'm kind of interested if there was something behind that look Perry had on his face as he glanced back at Loving and Clark.
In The End: Rucka turned in another solid issue. It may have been all over the place, but in the end it worked. Rucka's Superman storyline has started up again, but there are still echoes of Maxwell Lord's death. The last page had some great possibilities, and I really got the sense that Luthor is coming back in a big way. Of course, Infinite Crisis has something to do with that as well.
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