This comic book may have rated a seven-point-five out of ten on a numerical scale, but it rates a corn cob pipe on a scale from hegemony to platypus. If you've been reading this series and were hoping for some nice, tidy answers...well, you won't find them here. But you will learn some things about Jack Kirby's Fourth World, the many faces of Superman...and about yourself. Mostly, you will learn about yourself.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #6 Review and **SPOILERS**
Someday Never Comes
Written By: Neal Adams
Art By: Neal Adams, Buzz, Tony Aviña
Lettered By: Cardinal Rae
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: July 6, 2016
**SCORE AND NON SPOILERS AT THE BOTTOM**
All aboard for the last leg of the Great Superman Trip! Plasticene porters with looking-glass eyes will be happy to take your bags and shove them off the caboose of this magical mystery train, through the dendrites and across the synaptic gaps of Neal Adams’ mind. Because there’s no baggage allowed here, folks, no preconceived notions about Superman and his supporting cast—we’re looking at living history here, being written with dynamite and a stiff drink of Mind Your Goddamned Manners, as you read this book and allow its power to subsume you directly through your eyeballs. You don’t criticize a tornado, you don’t opine upon a tsunami. You don’t ask a forest fire about its socio-political agenda. You just deal with it, marvel at its power and pick up the pieces when it’s done wreaking havoc on your world. We were warned that there would be a Coming of the Supermen, but it turned out the Supermen were just the tip of this paisley print iceberg. Read my review of the last issue in this miniseries if you think you’ve got the cojones to face the starkest, most personal truths!
Last issue ended with the Best Splash Page in Comic Book History: Darkseid calling Luthor’s incinerated body a pompous ass. Looks like Darkseid’s Omega beam didn’t take, because Lex Luthor is perfectly fine as this issue begins—and even better, he’s still laughing at Darkseid. Still laughing! I don’t like to be in agreement with Darkseid, but Lex really is a pompous jerk. Darkseid blasts Luthor a few more times, screaming epithets all the time, but more Lex Luthors seem to pop up every time one is extinguished, which is not explained like most of the stuff Luthor seems able to do in this comic. Darkseid blurts out that he can’t believe that this mudball (e.g. Earth) “…birthed the greatness of Apokolips and all mankind!” And then Darkseid clams up in the funniest fucking way: knowing he has said too much, he tries to back out of it by being totally silent. It’s literally what a five year-old would do and I was laughing myself stupid. Lex and Superman—oh yeah, Superman has just been standing around, observing the comedy with a wry grin—press Darkseid on the issue, and he tries to play it off like, “Did I say ‘Apokolips?’ I meant ‘Pocky Sticks.’ Those chocolate wafers from Japan. I love those things. Pocky Sticks.” Feeling hemmed in, Darkseid reveals that he’s stolen all of Luthor’s technology with a piece of a Rubik’s Cube, which he intends to bring back to Apokolips and put to nefarious use once he can get the whole thing unscrambled. Lex tells him that the Red Sun mote—remember, this was chucked into our Sun last issue, which weakened various Kryptonians a bit—will eventually run out and all the Supermen will be fully super again. Darkseid is like, okay dude, that’s cool, but I just robbed your whole laboratory with this red cube, which by the way is totally indestructible. That sounds like a challenge to Superman, who grabs it and crushes it to dust in front of Darkseid’s face. Are we suppose to feel sympathy for Darkseid here? It looks like he’s just being relentlessly bullied by everyone. Darkseid socks Superman in the nose, which probably makes him feel better but does no actual damage. A Boom Tube opens up and Darkseid starts walking through it to Apokolips, but Superman snakes him and zips back to Apokolips before him.
There, Parademons are sort of standing around, not knowing what to make of this development, when Superman happens upon the alien demon that’s been sort of hanging around and making shit happen for this whole series. In my interview with Neal Adams (which you can read, if you follow the link below!), he revealed that this being is from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End…which, if you catch my silence during that segment, I never read. I burned through it since speaking with him, and it is a great science fiction book…but apart from the image, that of a traditional “demon” figure, it seems to bear little resemblance to the Overlords in the book. This particular Overlord tells Superman his name is “El,” and that he is “nobody,” and before he can explain what the fuck he’s talking about Darkseid comes barreling through the Boom Tube like he’s being shot out of a cannon, screaming for Superman’s blood. But when he comes upon Supes and El, he stops and addresses the Overlord by name and says he didn’t expect him…ever. This El seems to know everybody that’s anybody around these parts! El just lays the pimp command on Darkseid to stop fucking with Superman, then says that he could reset a clock of some kind? Maybe Darkseid has a problem with sleeping in and being late to work or something, because based on this conversation El the Overlord is the big boss!
Superman, always the everyman, admits to being thoroughly confused, but takes El up on his offer to zip through a rejiggered Boom Tube to New Krypton, to hang out with Rafi and Lois Lane. I don’t see why they couldn’t have just walked there, since it’s right on the same planet. Superman emerges from the Boom Tube and runs over to Lois and Rafi, who are sitting in some uncomfortable-looking lawn furniture, but before he can get his hugs and kisses Orion punches him dead in the nose. That’s the second time he’s gotten socked in the sniffer this issue! Superman is all “What the hell??” and Orion explains that…okay, this is a toughie. Try to follow: Orion implanted plan A, which I guess was to kidnap a Middle-Eastern kid and his dog, steal an artifact from Lex Luthor’s building, but then hang out with Lex Luthor and buy a Red Sun mote in order to weaken the Kryptonians sharing their planet. Since that has failed, even though all of it happened, Darkseid will now go to plan B: a full-scale invasion of Earth. So after being humiliated by a bald human and a smarmy Kryptonian, Darkseid is naturally going to launch the armies of Apokolips on the planet they protect? Huh? A brilliant tactician, Darkseid is not. Orion further says that Darkseid will use the Boom Tube to make his armies appear instantaneously on our world, and they will be unstoppable because, Superman says, Boom Tubes are indestructible! Okay, wait just a minute here. For one thing, there have been so many Boom Tubes used in this miniseries, I don’t know if people even know how to walk any more. Darkseid’s uses a Boom Tube just to answer the door for a pizza delivery. Heck, Darkseid’s minions already did use Boom Tubes—a couple of times—when they attacked LexCorp for whatever the thing was that they stole in the second issue. So why should everyone realize that Darkseid wields some scary power now, when he’s used it all along? Another thing: in what world is the more cogent back-up plan to launch a full frontal assault? Isn’t plan B usually some crazy concoction to employ in case the military barrage doesn’t work?
I don’t know why I put so much effort into thinking about it, because it means precisely nothing when it turns out that Rafi’s dog Rusty is actually Izaya, Highfather of New Genesis! It makes perfect sense, because “dog” is “Izaya” backwards! WHAT?! Is this comic book actually a CIA manual programming me to be a Manchurian Candidate, and someday someone will whisper “Izaya,” into my ear, and then I will become a Kardashian-killing machine? Because you can just whisper it into my ear any time, if that’s the case. Rafi explains that Highfather is his grandfather, because why the fuck not, it’s not like that’s the least sensible thing on this page. Highfather says that Darkseid will be attacking soon, before the Red Mote that’s dampening Kryptonian powers burns out and restores them to their brassy glory. Well, suggests Superman, why don’t they just close the Boom Tube? YOU JUST SAID THEY WERE INDESTRUCTIBLE, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!! YOU GOT ALZHEIMER’S OR SOMETHING?? Now I understand what the “Supermen” in the Coming of the Supermen means: his multiple personalities and mercurial behavior!
So it all culminates in some spectacular and insane action, as Highfather turns into a wolf monster and fights an Apokoliptan dragon, as Superman crams the initial surge of Darkseid and his forces back into the Boom Tube from whence they came. And then…this is just unbelievable, folks: Superman does a flip outside the Tube and grabs an edge, then folds it inwards, and grabs the rest of the rim of this Boom Tube—this cannot be accurately described in text, people, you’re going to want to see this for yourselves—and sort of crimps it inward, pulling it into a thick Boom Tube filament that he pulls all the way back to Apokolips, inverting their only ride to Earth! Darkseid orders his forces to kill Superman, but they flat out ignore him, and he walks away with his shoulders slumped. DARKSEID WALKS AWAY WITH HIS SHOULDERS SLUMPED! Not since Action Comics #593, when Mister Miracle and Oberon walk into a scene of Darkseid sitting in an easy chair and holding a snifter of brandy, have we seen Darkseid look so…human. The story fairly well wraps up with some other befuddling resolutions, most of which only beg more questions, and then there’s a last panel revelation that is supposed to be the big bombshell of the series, a thread to be plucked at later by Neal Adams or another Superman writer…but honestly, I’m so shellshocked by the constant barrage of side-splitting humor and mind-warping science fiction, I’m a little pooped out.
So uh, hooray for the conclusion? That isn’t a conclusion? I’ll tell you what: this is a cohesive, coherent story that just happens to go in really wild directions—and I mean really wild—where even the unexplained things are explained as being…unexplainable. But it’s also a celebration of Superman and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World in a way that I dare say I have never seen done before. Labeling this story “good” or “bad” seems inconsequential, like passing judgment on someone’s mind and denying their creative impulse. This issue and miniseries takes a certain kind of reader, I think: one with a really good sense of humor and a willingness to take stories at face value, without imposing their preconceptions or formulas upon them. And I think people like that could really enjoy this miniseries, as I have. But I also know there are a lot of people—and comic book fans especially—that would find something like this too “out there” for their tastes. I would love to see this story concluded, as Neal Adams alludes to in the interview, but I think I need a breather to digest what’s just been stuffed right into my craw.
You can listen to my interview with Neal Adams on this week’s podcast, or read a transcript of it right here!
Bits and Pieces: