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Author Topic: I (HEART) Kurt Busiek's Superman!  (Read 24282 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: August 08, 2007, 09:52:53 PM »

A while back I said that only one man could save Superman now: KURT BUSIEK!

I tell you, I love being right.  Grin

I’ve got to hand it to the guy, he is, far and away the best supercomics writer of his generation, and he’s doing it again with his Superman. I've been saying for a while I need to share my observations on this.


SUPERMAN 654:

Carlos Pacheco, I have a big, fat man-crush on you. Look at his Lois waking up in a t-shirt. I never thought anybody but Nick Cardy could make Lois sexy, but…

This is why Busiek has gotten me to like the Super-Marriage: unlike the chaste, hand-holding relationships of other heroes, Lois and Superman have real passion. The scene at the end where they fly together? Romantic, but a real kind of romantic that long-married couples have.

Busiek’s done something here I don’t think anybody’s thought to do before: bring in the Science Police’s anticedents to mainstream DC. Here, they’re a recently created tech-squad to handle menaces.

And do I detect a Cary Bates reference? “Did you get every bit of him?” “Yep. Every ERG.” Hehehehe.

Carlos Pacheco’s Perry White looks wonderful; craggy, cigar-chomping, dignified.

I love Kurt Busiek’s interaction with spunky, cool Jimmy Olsen in this issue. Jimmy is Clark Kent’s buddy and gives him a ribbing here.

This is by far the greatest use of Superman’s superhearing in some time – he traces a guy by just the slightly irregular, distinctive sound of his heartbeat.

If I have a critique of this issue, it is that the fight with the Manheim monster was boring. Superman trading punches, melting the ground…dull stuff. If Cary Bates was writing this, he would have had Superman do something crazy like fly around and drain the oxygen from Manheim’s lungs.


SUPERMAN 655:

I love the idea of Superman hiding a million books inside each microdot and using his micro-vision to read it – an excellent use of an underrated power and plays up Superman’s intelligence.

I love they kept the Lex dead sequoia-ring desk from Morrison’s Earth-2; very visually interesting idea. The Lana running LexCorp – and being divorced from Pete Ross, is the most interesting use of the character in some time because she’s given something to do. The possibility of her and Clark starting up a romance again is both scandalous and exciting. This is the sort of long-term story that made reading Busiek’s AVENGERS so exciting.

The mystery of this bizarre creature – and its possible connection to Arion – is exciting.

I love how this issue shows up the Johns-haters as the lazy, hypocritical liars they are: here you have Arion Lord of Atlantis clearly post-Coitus with not one, but two women, and a giant one-page spread of dead Russian troops killed in the wake of a monster, which looks like a picture from World War I.



SUPERMAN 656:

Great to see Lana’s dad as an archeologist/explorer again. That’s really dipping into the Super-Mythos pot right there.

As a product of the Soviet regime (my Mother emigrated from Estonia) it was really interesting a choice to set the battle with the creature around the trappings of the Soviet Republic: the dark colors, oppressive old buildings, statues…Pacheco brings it all to life.

Superman speaks Serbian. That’s a great detail.

The does-she-or-doesn’t-she-know story with Llewelyn is compelling, as is the story where she makes a dramatic revalation. I’ll say this: Busiek knows how to plot.

I love the revalation that the monster was experimented on for decades. Suddenly it stops being a “monster” and starts being a person – sympathetic. Suddenly the battle becomes a tragedy, and I feel a little ashamed at cheering on to have Superman break the thing’s neck.

The way Superman finally beats the monster is great (he uses his head and super-powers together), but it would have been better if he had discovered it himself instead of being told so by a scientist-friend.

What an awesome last panel! And a great, unexpected cliffhanger with Arion. I wondered when he was going to show up…
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TELLE
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2007, 08:56:50 AM »

I am almost intrigued enough to actually look at an issue next time I'm in a comic shop....

(I liked parts of Pacheco in Avengers Forever)

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panthergod
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2007, 11:16:22 PM »

Busiek's run is a huge dissapointment fo the most part.

I was praying for a change of the post modern sueprjock portrayal back to the Authentic Superman but really, this is just a continuation of the Byrne Era's 'Peter Parker, Simperman' portrayal for the most part.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2007, 06:09:46 AM »

SUPERMAN 657 was wonderful - Carlos Pacheco's incredible vision of a Metropolis broken in half was real spectacle, not to mention the creepy imagery of the Parasite who had drained Superman speaking with Big Blue's voice and asking Lois to call him "Clark."

My favorite detail was the characterization of Luthor. Here, he was heroic - when that Arab Fu Manchu guy assembled the world's villains to attack together (much like Kang did in "Kang Dynasty") Luthor was actually protecting Metropolis.

Arion is my favorite DC wizard. He's got so much arrogant personality to burn.

What I like about Busiek's DC work, both this story and his JUSTICE LEAGUE, is that he takes his time to develop the worlds he's creating. He took his time to build up the threat of the Void Hound in JLA, and here with this possible future, he spent a whole issue to show what a tremendous menace the Assassin Master is, and the consequences of failure.

Now THIS is the sort of Superman story I was expecting when I heard Busiek was going to be writing the character - a massive, high-stakes battle against an over the top superfoe where even Superman (at first glance) appears to be the underdog. You feel real fear for the character and wonder how he will be victorious. It's very exciting. When I read in an interview that Busiek originally intended this story to be in his JLA (before some witless manatee at DC removed him from that book), I was not in the least bit surprised.

Never before did I notice, though, that to write a giant, high-stakes Superman story you have to plot it very similarly to a JLA or Legion battle: and since...well, to be as honest as possible here...Superman is the JLA in one man and seldom needs the other guys. If you can make a menace that challenges Superman, you pretty much have made a menace that challenges the JLA.

Subjekt 13 was great and all, but this is the story arc where Busiek is saying "okay, I'm through dicking around here. Let's get serious."

What I especially like so far about Busiek's SUPERMAN is that, apart from his story arc with Johns, he is for the most part using NEW villains: Subjekt 13 and that Fu Manchu-style Arab guy that sort of looks like Steve Gerber's Presence. What a great look he has.

Subjekt 13 is a tragic, reverse Superman story. I think considerably less of the Jerry Siegel Super-Menace story than others do, but THIS is Super-Menace done properly and tragically.

What I think is the most depressing detail about the Subjekt 13 story is that he came to earth with his parents...including his pregnant mother. Both were killed, and thereafter at no point in his life was he ever shown love.

Busiek and Pacheco created a whole world through flashbacks and history, and yet managed to be totally unique. What MORE do you want from a good-sized 23 page comic?

Best Superman story of the past seven years.

Quote from: TELLE
I am almost intrigued enough to actually look at an issue next time I'm in a comic shop....

(I liked parts of Pacheco in Avengers Forever)

In a more just world, THIS would be the Superman book everybody would be reading.

It's great to read Busiek's Superman and wash out from one's mouth the bitter taste of ASS.

And I love Pacheco too. I was amazed by the sea-monster riding German troops in ARROWSMITH.

Quote from: panthergod
Busiek's run is a huge dissapointment fo the most part.

I was praying for a change of the post modern sueprjock portrayal back to the Authentic Superman but really, this is just a continuation of the Byrne Era's 'Peter Parker, Simperman' portrayal for the most part.

If you can show me one occasion of Kurt Busiek's Superman "simping" or angsting...I will send you a YouTube video of me EATING my collection of Astro City issues with ketchup and salt.

I don't really see any evidence of that. Yes, poor Clark Kent couldn't buy a break with Perry White, but Pete Parker got that from Superman, not the other way around. All the hard-luck stuff is concentrated on Clark Kent where it belongs.

"Superjock?" Yeeesh. Yes, I too was disappointed a scientist had to tell him how to beat Subjekt 13, but there are many, many other occasions Superman demonstrated not only intelligence but SUPERINTELLIGENCE. One issue had him using microscopic vision to read a microbiology journal he placed inside a single punctuation mark. He found Manheim with knowledge of medicine, and disabled Neutron with science.

And if I had a dollar for every time Busiek's Superman used Reed-Richards style fifty buck words, I could probably buy the Arion/Assassin Master story in TPB for all the forum regulars!

If anything, I don't think Superman is responding emotionally ENOUGH for my tastes. The battle with Subjekt 13, for instance, should have been more emotionally difficult for Superman than it was shown to be.
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Uncle Mxy
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« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2007, 01:09:36 PM »

What I like about Busiek's DC work, both this story and his JUSTICE LEAGUE, is that he takes our time to develop the worlds he's creating.
Fixed.

I enjoy Busiek's work, but I think he meanders a bit.  Subjekt-17 (not 13) should've been a two-part story, not a three-parter, IMO.  I know there's a need to reintroduce a DC universe and he went into "filler mode" trying to compensate for other creative teams, but his arcs feel a little drawn out.   

My favorite new Busiek villain, hands down, is the Auctioneer.




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Great Rao
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2007, 06:46:10 AM »

Julian, are you going to keep going with the Superman reviews in this thread?  If so, I look forward to reading them.

The most recent issue I have is #665, "The SECRET ORIGIN of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen!" - quite a bit down the road from the issue numbers you mention here.  It's a stand-alone story and a great read.  It's a flashback to how Jimmy joined the Planet and became Superman's pal so it takes place before Lois was in on Clark/Superman's secret ID shtick.  I really like a small touch that Kurt threw in:  Clark did his typical feigning some problem so he could make a quick get-away to switch to Superman, and Lois immediately knew that there must be a story brewing someplace so she takes off after him to get it.  First time I've ever seen that.

What makes-or-breaks a Superman story for me is how Superman is portrayed.  In all of Kurt's stories to date, Superman has been spot-on.  No sign at all of any of the Byrne/Jurgens mistakes.  This Superman is the real deal.  Anything else is quibbling over minutiae.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2007, 09:29:25 AM »

Quote from: Uncle Mxy
I enjoy Busiek's work, but I think he meanders a bit.  Subjekt-17 (not 13) should've been a two-part story, not a three-parter, IMO.  I know there's a need to reintroduce a DC universe and he went into "filler mode" trying to compensate for other creative teams, but his arcs feel a little drawn out.   

My bad, 17. But actually the fight with Subjekt 17 DID take two issues 655-656.

I agree there were a couple things that could have been taken out - the flashback to young Clark Kent using his powers secretly to save Llwelyn from a space-trilobite or something was interesting, but ought to have been a "DVD extra" or "Special Feature." We already established that Llwelyn suspected Clark.

Though let's look at everything that was going on in the two Subjekt 17 issues apart from the main story:

Lana Lang taking control of LexCorp, and the tantalyzing possibility she and Superman might start their relationship up again;

Arion, Lord of Atlantis observing Superman from the 17th Century and realizing he needs help;

The does-she-or-doesn't-she subplot about Llwelyn and Superman's identity.

All that, plus the main investigative story about Subjekt 17. Is there too little going on in those two issues? Well, you be the judge.

I like that they took a whole issue to show how terrible and grandiose Arab Fu Manchu is. One of Busiek's strengths is worldbuilding. I loved his story set on the Crime Syndicate Earth during his JLA run. It was much better executed than the previous story arc that introduced the world.

Do what I do: take the first two issues of Busiek's "Syndicate Rules" ALONE, and compare it to all four issues of Morrison's "Earth-2," and make a list of everything you know about Anti-Earth. The list will be twice as long for Busiek's first two issues than Morrison's whole arc.

The introduction of the favor principle for instance...you understand how a society like that of Syndicate-Earth would work. And the connection to Qward that Busiek explored was ignored by others.

Quote from: Great Rao
Julian, are you going to keep going with the Superman reviews in this thread?  If so, I look forward to reading them.

Yes I am, thanks. I'd like to count down to the latest ish and then take them month by month. I don't think I've ever been this excited about a monthly Superman book.

Quote from: Great Rao
What makes-or-breaks a Superman story for me is how Superman is portrayed.  In all of Kurt's stories to date, Superman has been spot-on.  No sign at all of any of the Byrne/Jurgens mistakes.  This Superman is the real deal.  Anything else is quibbling over minutiae.

One thing about Busiek's Superman I've noticed is that he has a sort of swagger, a self-confidence. I'd call it "overconfidence," but really, considering Superman's abilities his confidence might just be proportional!

The more I think about it, the more it seems Len Wein may be right about the humble Clark Kent being the truer identity. There is something about Superman's behavior that comes off as the natural exhilaration of flight and infinite power: he's relentless and an easily angered force of nature. He isn't reckless, though - Superman excels in so many fields (mental, physical, etc.) and his enemies can only effectively challenge him in one. So even if it seems he's the underdog, he never really is because he's got something up his sleeve.

The Neutron fight in 654 brought this out well. He only slacked up his physical attack because he had a trump card: the nearby science police.
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2007, 03:53:33 PM »

But actually the fight with Subjekt 17 DID take two issues 655-656.
You're right.  It just felt "long", somehow.  At the end, it was like "here's Arion" and the entire Subjekt-17 stuff gets thrown out and it wasn't like tons of stuff happened along that main story line.

Quote
I like that they took a whole issue to show how terrible and grandiose Arab Fu Manchu is. One of Busiek's strengths is worldbuilding. I loved his story set on the Crime Syndicate Earth during his JLA run. It was much better executed than the previous story arc that introduced the world.
Agreed.  Let me be clear...  I think Busiek is a fine Superman writer, and I greatly enjoy his work.  I'm picking some nits that I never even got close to picking with most other Superman writers, because the starting point in terms of plot and character was so obviously crap. 

Quote
He isn't reckless, though - Superman excels in so many fields (mental, physical, etc.) and his enemies can only effectively challenge him in one. So even if it seems he's the underdog, he never really is because he's got something up his sleeve.
Batman would disagree.  He doesn't do obvious things that would shore up his weaknesses, except as one-offs.  Any reason that a well characterized  Superman doesn't have anti-red sun tan lotion on him along with other self made and|or Krypto-Kandorian technology, or wield a GL ring, Mother Box, etc.?  He doesn't travel to the past (or use a time-viewer) and observe how a happier Lex Luthor whipped up anti-kryptonite serum because it hadn't occured to him? 
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