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Superman #223

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2005
By: Michael Bailey



"Stones"

Writer: Mark Verheiden
Artists: Ed Benes, Ivan Reis (p), Mariah Benes, Marc Campos, Alex Lei, Bob Lea, Oclair Albert (i)

Publisher: DC Comics


Plot: Supergirl visits with Superman in his new Fortress of Solitude and informs him that she is planning to leave the Earth and follow Donna Troy out into space. Nearby, Talia meets with an inmate of Callao Prison named Lucia and offers her the Blackrock in order to gain vengeance on Superman for putting her in jail. Lucia takes the rock and engages both Superman and Supergirl in battle.

Commentary: From the beginning of his run on the book I have always had this weird reaction to Mark Verheiden's Superman stories. As I read through them I have this vague feeling of unease, and I tell myself that I don't like what I'm reading, but by the end I end up really liking the book. Despite the end result, there's always something that's a little off and I realized with this issue what it was. In my nearly twenty years of reading the Superman family of books, I have usually paid strict attention to continuity, keying off of John Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series, and I guess I just got used to it. Ever since DC published Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright maxi-series there has been this up in the air feeling about what is and isn't canon as far as Superman's history goes so when there are little details discussed, as there were in this issue, part of me wants to enjoy the story and the other part wants an explanation on my desk by eight the next morning.

So it's not that I don't like Verheiden's Superman, it just took some getting used to.

Of all of the current Superman writers, Mark Verheiden has done the most to integrate some of the elements from the middle to late seventies era of Superman into a contemporary setting. Choosing to bring back Blackrock, of all characters, was somewhat risky but from its first reappearance a few issues back and now this new bearer of the Blackrock, Verheiden proves that any concept from the past can be reintroduced and done in an entertaining and exciting manner. He also managed to bring some elements from the Christopher Reeve movies as well and, like last issue, did a great job using the Superman robots.

Verheiden also keyed off of contemporary events regarding Superman's stance on killing an opponent while also playing with Supergirl's views on the subject. I thought it was interesting to have Kara associate with Themyscira and Wonder Woman over Superman, but with this issue Verheiden brings her a little closer to home. Like his characterization of Superman, Verheiden's version of Kara Zor-El is probably the best outside of Jeph Loeb's. Her fight with Blackrock was dramatic, and while some of the dialogue was heavy on exposition, Verheiden got his point across without beating the reader over the head with it.

The art remains amazing. Ed Benes and Ivan Reis, along with a veritable army of inkers, produced another stunning, action packed issue of Superman. It is so nice to see Superman looking like Superman again. Benes' Supergirl is a little more proportionate than other artists and I wouldn't mind seeing him handle the character again, especially with how much I enjoyed his run on the last few issues of the Peter David Supergirl series. While I still feel the costume is a little skimpy, I at least believed that Benes' Supergirl has something resembling a working digestive track.

In The End: The humor and action were balanced just right with this issue. Verheiden wrote a fantastic issue, and I am very keen on his exploration of the Man of Steel. The art is still great, and I am going to be a little sad when Ed Benes ends his run on the series. If nothing else this issue was worth it for the comment Supergirl made about her costume and the Internet, though the Superman-With-Chimps gag was funny as well, especially since someone has gone to all of the trouble of actually producing such a site.



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