tisdag 6 augusti 2013

Kurt Busiek, Peter Vale, Jesús Merino, Renato Guedes: Superman – Shadows Linger

OK, I've gushed about Kurt Busiek's Superman before, so I won't do it again.

Seriously, I won't, because this isn't all that good.

Now, I'll wager that's not entirely Busiek's fault, because these are stories from the Superman comic book, issues 671-675 (published in 2008, if I understand things correctly), so he's likely under editorial control and forced to stick with some overall storylines that aren't entirely conducive to great stories. For example, Clark Kent and Lois Lane now have a kid they have to take care of. Not only does this kid have superpowers, which makes for a subplot that needs to be addressed in each issue (or chapter), substantially slowing down the narrative without really contributing anything. Also, having a kid around makes for sentimental breaks in the story when the kid has to be told regularly that Clark and Lois really do care for him and aren't going to send him away for being a nuisance. It's the sort of soap opera-ish subplot that can help keep people returning to a series and also make for interesting stories when it's concluded, but in a collection like this, where it is still far from its resolution, it really doesn't contribute anything positive.

Also, the art, while passable, doesn't add much excitement to the stories, so it's basically up to Busiek to carry the whole burden of making this a worthwhile read, and saddled with not only the limitations mentioned above but also a couple of non-original storylines, he doesn't fully deliver.

First comes a three-issue storyline about an insect creature who's made a deal with Lex Luthor before he went down in flames and Lana Lang had to take over Lexcorp. Since Luthor can't be found, the insect queen's minions kidnap Lana instead, taking her to their secret base on the moon. Superman follows, is initially defeated and imprisoned, and has to escape and defeat the creatures who have already defeated him once – a familiar enough plot, right?

Then comes a two-issue tale about how some reactionary and fanatical priests from Daxam come to Earth to fetch the "heretic" Mon-El for punishment. Naturally, Superman can't hand him over, as he'd die of lead poisoning as soon as he was brought out of the Phantom Zone. Superman tries to explain this to the priests, and also to warn them of the danger they run of lead poisoning here on Earth. In a nice enough portrait of fanatics of all kinds, the Daxamites don't listen to reason. Things are also complicated by the presence of super-villain Paragon, who's trying to kill Superman so he can become ruler of the Earth – until he's insulted by the Daxamite priests and decides that they need to be taught a lesson first. So he shoots them, which leads to lead poisoning, but even then they're too damn stupid, sullen and stubborn to see reason or even accept Superman's help.

Overall, the stories aren't all that bad, but they're not exactly original, so they need to be told with a lot more verve than they are to become exciting. I'll give Busiek props for some nice touches – like Lana Lang not being one bit worried as Superman takes on the insect queen in final battle: "Where've you been, Anders? He's Superman -- of course he's going to win." – but it's not enough to make this collection genuinely interesting.

Not a waste of time as it's still competently done, but ultimately not recommended.

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