GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm


Superman - page 3

Superman: Distant Fires 1998 (SC GN) 64 pgs.

Superman: Distant Fires - cover by Kane, Nowlan, HollingsworthWritten by Howard Chaykin. Pencils by Gil Kane. Inks by Kevin Nowlan.
Colours: Matt Hollingsworth. Letters: uncredited. Editor: Mike Carlin, Frank Berrios.

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

An "Elseworld" story (that is, not adhering to regular continuity) set after civilization has been destroyed in a nuclear war. Superman has survived but the fall out from the fall-out is that he is now a normal man, devoid of powers. He wanders about, battling giant rats and mutants, before stumbling upon a conclave of other superpowered people who survived, also at the loss of their powers: Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, etc. Superman thinks he's found eden...but the serpent in this particular garden is Captain Marvel, who heads a faction advocating war with the mutants and domination of the earth.

And then their powers begin to return...

Distant Fires is a great concept, even if it borrows from Kingdom Come and makes allusions to the Twilight of the Gods -- the final battle between gods in Norse mythology. Unfortunately, one can't help wondering if Chaykin had intended this as a longer, multi-part mini-series (like Kingdom Come). At times, it seems like a synopsis. Superman narrates, which is fine at the beginning when he's alone and ruminating melancholic on his life. Later, though, Chaykin almost seems to use it as a crutch, giving us an overview of scenes, rather than the scenes themselves, spending a bit too much time telling us about scenes and motivation, rather than demonstrating it. Particularly in the second half.

If I'm right, and Chaykin had conceived of this as a longer story, he perhaps could've reconceptualized it for the fewer pages, trimming things in order to to expand other parts. The first third of the book begins with nice scenes of the initial aftermath and Superman burying his friends, but then it just becomes Supes wandering about, battling mutants. There's a scene where he makes a giant, mutated house cat into a riding animal (like a cat couldn't get him off his back in 10 seconds!) but the cat disappears from the later story, apparently irrelevant. All that could've been trimmed...or cut entirely.

Character stuff is also problematic, but that's the difficulty of "Elseworld" stories: how closely must they follow established continuity? Captain Marvel is the villain -- not the antagonist, not the guy with a different point of view, but literally the bad guy. But it would've been nice if Marvel could have gelled more with the established character -- if we understood why he became this way (though Chaykin postulates he had always been jealous of Supes).

Most of the characters aren't really expanded upon beyond Supes, C.M. and maybe Wonder Woman. J'onn J'onzz is there, as is the Joker who, having lost his "power" -- his insanity -- is now sane. That alone is an interesting idea -- how would a sane person react with the memory of his past atrocities (think of the character Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) -- but he only appears in a couple of panels.

Chaykin seems unconcerned with providing any sort of underlying logic to the thing. The idea that invulnerable heroes might survive, but lose their invulnerability, is plausible (their bodies exhausting whatever makes them invulnerable in getting them through the initial fall out), but it's less believable for characters like the Flash and the essentially powerless Joker. And the cause and effect of their returning powers or the climax, well, Chaykin doesn't even pretend to explain. It's as if because he sees the thing as a parable (and with its allusions to mythology) it doesn't need an explanation.

Or as if he was rushing through something that made more sense in a longer draft.

And then we get to the ending and Chaykin manages to partially redeem the whole thing with a beautifully poetic, movingly ironic finale. It's an ending that brings a fitting close to the story...and mayhap to the long history of Superman comics. Really. (Post-script: Actually, re-reading this years later, I realize I maybe just hadn't read too many Superman "Elseworlds" tales at the time, 'cause I think a variation on this has been used a few times in these sort of tales).

The art by Gil Kane is, of course, excellent. He draws kinetic figures, well-shaped, and expressive features. He's aided considerably by Nowlan. I like Kane, but I'm not always fond of his scratchy, stylized line work. Here, Nowlan puts a more solid finish over Kane's layouts. Conversely, the work isn't as moody as the premise would warrant -- the title alone, "Distant Fires", evokes certain images. Hollingsworth's colour may be part of the problem. His choice of muted tones doesn't really create much atmosphere, rendering the thing visually a tad dull.

Distant Fires has a great ending and enormous potential, but potential that isn't entirely brought out by the curt treatment of some of the ideas. It's certainly not a bad read, but it is frustrating because it's so easy to see how it could've been great with some fleshing out.

Cover price: $8.50 CDN./$5.95 USA



 

Superman: The Earth Stealers - cover by Jerry OrdwaySuperman: The Earth Stealers 1988 (SC GN) 48 pgs

Written by John Byrne. Pencils by Curt Swan. Inks by Jerry Ordway.
Colours: Bill Wray. Letters: John Costanza (? - the letterer was unbilled). Editor: Denny O'Neil.

Rating: * * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

A mysterious alien starship arrives in our solar system and literally grabs up earth and the moon, transporting them across the galaxy. Superman (scooped up right along with his adopted world), needless to say, sets out to stop the earth stealers.

This was an enjoyable fantasy adventure. It's often easier to begin a story than to develop it, and here The Earth Stealers starts out very well, from the opening hook of a moon base spotting a fissure in space, to Superman setting out to investigate the mysterious space ship. Once he actually makes contact with the bad guys, the story loses a bit of its intrigue, and the plot unfolds fairly routinely, but it's still pretty fun.

The story actually reminded me -- only vaguely, it's true -- of "The Land Lords of Earth", an old GGerry Conway-penned Superman story from Action #477-478. Though the Earth Stealers isn't quite as good as that earlier tale.

Admittedly, a big -- I say big part of the appeal here is the late Curt Swan's art. This is, I think, the only graphic novel featuring the peerless art work of the man who largely defined Superman for more than one generation of readers (though his work is reprinted in collections like Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Kryptonite Nevermore. But as far as an original graphic novel, this may be it. What can I say? Swan's depiction of Supes and his gang, his understated, but eerily realistic figures, his clean style, just screams Superman to me. Admittedly, Jerry Ordway can be a bit of an overpowering inker. In some cases that can be a plus, but here, there was a little too much of Ordway and too little of Swan occasionally -- but only occasionally. And I've nothing against Ordway, anyway.

The colours are vivid, though not quite as elaborate, or multi-shaded, as more recent GNs.

The story is also pretty harmless, lacking some of the grit and nastiness I've come to expect from Byrne and Superman stories of that period. It's old-fashioned fun. Maybe in more ways than one. One review I read of this suggested it was an intentional throw back to Silver Age flamboyance, that this isn't really the sort of adventure that Superman has these days. I don't know if that's true, but it could explain the way the story is treated as almost apocryphal. This is not an Elseworlds tale, but it does end with the characters agreeing never to speak of it again, and Superman musing that "it's as if it never happened". And the whole thing is dedicated to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as if intended as an homage to Supes' history.

Like a lot of prestige format comics, there's nothing here that necessarily screams "graphic novel" -- no mature subject matter or anything. But the sheer biggness of the outrageous concept makes it a comfortable fit. And the (relatively) modest price tag makes it all the more agreeable. I think it may have been re-issued at a slightly higher price, but still cheaper than a lot of comparable books.

Admittedly, I wish the story had been a little richer, a little more complicated, but Superman: The Earth Stealers is an enjoyable, atmospheric adventure, deliciously delivered by Curt Swan's art.

Original cover price: $4.00 CDN./$2.95 USA.


Superman: End of the Century 1999 (HC & SC TP) 96 pages

Written and illustrated by Stuart Immonen. Inks by Jose Marzan, Jr.
Colours: Lee Loughbridge, Stuart Immonen. Letters: Bill Oakley. Editor: Joey Cavalieri.

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Pre Post-Script (July 2015): An advantage to on-line reviews is you can revisit them and amend them where necessary. In this case, I dragged End of the Century off my shelf for a re-read (a few years after my previous reading) with a vague recollection of having found the book a little underwhelming. Perhaps because of that lower expectation, I found myself enjoying it more than I recalled! Stuart Immonen's art is effective and moody (arguably some of the best I've seen by him) and his dialogue solid (considering I don't normally think of him as a writer). An issue I had the first time -- that it almost seemed too much an ensemble, with Superman merely A main character as opposed to THE main character -- was less an issue. Indeed, I took it as part of Immonen's attempt to make the thing seem like a sprawling epic, involving various characters and plot threads. It's a graphic "novel" as opposed to just a long Superman comic.

However, as things went along, my initial qualms (detailed in the original review below) started to reassert themselves. Including for all that it wants to seem epic, with flashbacks to a Century or more earlier, the plot wasn't that complex -- and the reader basically knows the gist of what's going on pretty early, so there's not really that much mystery, nor is it building to any surprises.

So although I started to enjoy it more than I remembered, and I give it marks for the art and an ambitious effort by Immonen-the-writer, my original review remains fairly representative of my opinion...

There are so many formats used by comics these days -- on going series, mini-series, specials, one-shots, annuals, graphic novels (48 pages, 64 pages, 96 pages, hardcover, softcover, etc.) -- that you can find yourself wondering why particular stories were presented in particular formats.

End of the Century is a whopping 96 page graphic novel illustrated by Stuart Immonen, who had drawn Superman's regular comics -- and is written by him, as well. To present the story in such a format, I kind of expected it to be self-contained and stand alone (ala Superman: Infinite City). And it is...sort of. And it sort of isn't. The story involves arch foe Lex Luthor's ex-wife, Contessa del Portenza, and though the basic plot is original to these pages, a lot of the surrounding stuff seems to draw upon previous Superman comics. Most of it you can pick up easily enough as you go...but it does make the story seem a little less like a self-contained graphic novel and more like part of the on-going monthly.

The story concerns a dark secret of the Contessa's (who is, apparently, immortal) and how a Century before she was forced to imprison her equally immortal son...who had grown into a murderous sociopath. This backstory is unveiled in flashbacks, while in the modern scenes, the Contessa is harrassing Luthor by burning various properties of his, in order to "persuade" him to relinquish their infant daughter to her. Meanwhile, a Luthor financed archaeological expedition -- being covered by reporter Lois Lane -- is on the verge of uncovering the place where the Contessa had imprisoned her evil son (and it's a bit of an awkward coincidence, since I'm not sure Luthor is supposed to know of the connection to his ex-wife ahead of time).

And, of course, Superman is involved in various capacities.

End of the Century isn't a terrible little effort...but it does seem a touch bland; and thin, considering the page count. In summarizing it in the above paragraph...I didn't really have to leave too much out. There aren't many surprises or twists. The historical backstory is pretty straightforward, and because we know it, there isn't even a great deal of suspense about what the expedition will uncover. And though the story takes its time getting to the climax...that climax is just a pretty standard dust up with a super baddy.

Immonen approaches the material as though it's an ensemble cast -- so even though Superman is certainly prominent, he doesn't really dominate the story (and in the climax, it's not even his actions that save the day). Yet, Immonen doesn't really develop the characters much past the core regulars. When in the climax, one of the archaeologists is casually killed, it seems a bit surprising and awkward...and then you realize it's because Immonen didn't really see him as a significant character, despite the number of scenes in which he appears. Perhaps the most interesting character is the Contessa who, though not necessarily a "good" person...isn't really an "evil" one either (after all, she imprisoned her son to save the rest of humanity).

Art-wise, Immonen is a moody, well-regarded artist. The flashback scenes, in particular, are painted (in a yellow monochrome), evoking an almost Alex Ross like realism. And it's kind of too bad Immonen didn't do the whole book that way, which would at least visually make it more special. Yet as much as I enjoyed his art, there were some compositional problems (where you had to re-read a panel to figure out the key action). As well, perhaps at its heart, the story is meant to evoke a horror tale, involving unsuspecting archaeologist unearthing an ancient evil. But though Immonen's art is shadowy and moody, he doesn't quite capture a spooky, creepy tone.

Ultimately, Superman: End of the Century is good looking and an okay page turner, but not really justifying the format.

Softcover price: $__ CDN./ $17.95 USA.


Superman: Escape from Bizarro World 2008 (HC TPB) 128 pages

Written Goeff Johns & Richard Donner, with John Byrne, E. Nelson Bridwell, others. Illustrated by Eric Powell, with John Byrne, Curt Swan, others.
Colours: Dave Stewart, others. Letters: various.

Reprinting: Action Comics #855-857, Man of Steel #5, DC Comics Presents #71, Superman #140 (2007, 1986, 1984, 1960)

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Escape from Bizarro World collects a recent three part Superman story from Action Comics -- not necessarily long enough to justify a collected edition -- then (appealingly) pads out the collection with a few vintage reprints also featuring the Bizarro theme.

Bizarro is, of course, an imperfect clone of Superman, a dimwitted, chalk-skinned creature who tends to think in opposites. Not quite an evil villain, over the years he has been portrayed variously as a dangerous monster, a tragic antagonist, and as comic relief.

The three-part Escape from Bizarro World has Bizarro kidnapping Superman's adopted pa, Jonathan Kent. Superman pursues him into space only to find Bizarro has created a cube-shaped Bizarro planet and populated it with a society of Bizarro people, including a Bizarro Lois, a Bizarro Jimmy Olsen, etc.

As DC Comics is constantly re-inventing and revising its continuity, this is supposed to be the first appearance of the Bizarro world and Superman's encounter with it...even though the idea dates back decades to when there was a regular back up feature called Tales of the Bizarro World.

Escape from Bizarro World is written by Geoff Johns who teamed with film director Richard Donner for a run of issues. Donner directed the well-regarded Superman, the Movie back in 1978 and, perhaps lending him even more mystique in fan circles, partly directed Superman II before he was pulled from the project (there's the DVD Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, where Donner attempted, with what footage was available, to finally present his original vision for that film). So Donner is seen as having some "creds" when it comes to doing Superman (though I would point out he's a director, not a writer) and there's an obvious attempt to give a few nods to those old films by having Supes' Fortress of Solitude be made of crystal and Superman able to consult a hologram of his biological father.

Though Bizarro has been used as simple comic relief, initially Johns and Donner play it more straight. And there's a genuinely spooky, creepy tone as Superman first encounters the Bizarro world and walks its crooked, grey streets.

A lot of the appeal here is guest artist Eric Powell (The Goon comics), whose style is both cartoony...yet drenched in a rich mood and shadowy atmosphere. Though the characters are exaggerated, he artfully models and shadows them so there's a greater 3-dimension to them, a -- paradoxically -- greater reality than a lot of artists employ. You can see in it echoes of Berni Wrightson or Richard Corben. He also has a nice sense of composition and storytelling, as witness the opening scene. In this he's matched by Dave Stewarts subtle and moody, almost painted colours. It all serves to lend the tale a lot of atmosphere and panache. Granted, like a lot of modern comics, his art can be a bit gory in spots -- stylized gore, perhaps, but awkward when you contrast it with adds in the comics for kids' toys!

The problem with the Bizarro concept has always been that whole reverse thinking -- where yes is no, and good is bad -- that more than a few writers have had trouble with over the years. And Johns and Donner are no exception. There's an inconsistency to the "rules" of this Bizarro world that undermines the narrative a bit.

Superman discovers that the Bizarro population actually hates Bizarro #1 (as we'll call him from now on), which is meant to add to the poignancy -- after all, he created the Bizarro world so as not to be alone, and finds he's still an outcast. Things get worse when Superman ruins his secret identity, robbing Bizarro #1 of his one chance at being accepted by the population.

Thanks to Powell's moody art, the story works viscerally, even if you might question the logic (or, um, is that illogic?) But then it starts veering in the direction of the old, comedic Bizarro stories. But the shift in tone kind of undermines the earlier scenes...and the humour never quite becomes that amusing. Of course there's still an underlining drama and pathos, and Superman's pa advises Superman on how to help Bizarro and the planetary population.

It's not that Escape from Bizarro World is bad -- as mentioned, the art is atmospheric, and there's a decent sense of compassion at work (not something I necessarily expected from Johns), even if it's Jonathan Kent, more than Superman, who provides it. There are some nicely affecting flashback scenes to Supes' childhood.

But...even at three issues, Escape from Bizarro World feels stretched! And what's "in" and "out" of continuity aside, there's nothing that fresh here.

But an appeal is how self-contained it is. There's no references to any on going sub-plots, no cryptic references that require having read the last 50 issues. Other than a brief scene clearly meant to tie in to Johns' Sinestro Corps arc in Green Lantern comics -- which is distracting only for a couple of panels -- this is something you can pick up, read, and put down, and not be left wondering about a dozen dangling threads.

The older reprints reflect the different ways Bizarro has been used over the years.

There's the first appearance of Bizarro in the post-Crisis reality from Man of Steel #5 (which may or may not mean it's still canonical). Written and drawn by John Byrne (nicely embellished by Dick Giordano) it plays the concept straight, for a mix of action and pathos -- it's a decent, if simple tale which lifted plot elements from the very first Bizarro story published in the 1950s (and included in the 1987 collection, The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told).

On the lighter side, there's DC Comics Presents #71, written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by classic Superman artist, Curt Swan (inked by Dave Hunt). Bizarro and his Bizarro Justice League create a villain to fight, Bizarro Amazo, who has the ability to give powers to ordinary people. Superman and his Bizarro clone must work together to stop Bizarro Amazo from wreaking unintentional havoc on earth by imbuing unsuspecting people with super powers. Again, the reverse thinking logic is erratically employed, but as a light-hearted tale, it's an unpretentious page turner, with a core plot that isn't just a re-hash of other Bizarro stories. In some ways, it's my favourite story in this collection.

The oldest reprint, from Superman #140, I don't have in my collection.

Ultimately, this is a perfectly okay, but unspectacular collection.

Cover price: ___


cover by Jerry OrdwaySuperman: Exile 1998 (SC TPB) 304 pages

Written by Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, George Perez. Pencils by Kerry Gammill, Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, George Perez, with Curt Swan, Mike Mignola. Inks: various.
Colours: Glenn Whitmore. Letters: various. Editor: Mike Carlin.

Reprinting: Superman (2nd series) #28-30, 32-33, The Adventures of Superman #451-456, Action Comics #643, Action Comics Annual #2 (1988-1989) - with covers

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 2

Previous to these stories, Superman discovered a pocket universe/alternate reality in which a parallel earth had been destroyed by three Kryptonian super criminals. With no court to appeal to, and worried what would happen if the criminals made it to his universe, Superman decided to violate his personal code and execute them. But the guilt over that affected him back on his earth, even resulting in his developing a temporary spilt personality. All of this is explained at the beginning of this collection as Superman, still torn by guilt, and worried he might pose a threat to those he seeks to protect, elects for self-imposed exile. With a handy oxygen tank and a teleportation device, he sets off for deep space.

What follows is a few space-set adventures, culminating in an epic confrontation with the alien conqueror, Mongul. While, back on earth, a plot continues to transpire involving corrupt media mogul, Morgan Edge, and his gangland ties. In a few of the original comics there ran a Lex Luthor back up strip that isn't reprinted in this collection.

The appealing thing about this TPB is, firstly, its cost (at least when first issued): 300 pages for normally what you would pay for half that size, while still being on nice paper. The art is also good. I tend to prefer Superman artists with a semi-realist style, like those in this collection. The main artists are Kerry Gammill, Jerry Ordway and Dan Jurgens -- Gammill, inparticular, does a nice job. Jurgens' work is probably the weakest, although it's still decent (Jurgens would go on to a long association with Supes -- but maybe he was paired with inappropriate inkers here). Another reason I picked this up was because Curt Swan contributed a few pages. Swan had retired from the series a few years before and seeing him back on his signature character was great -- but Swan's contribution is in the Action Comics annual, where a 48 page story is alternated between three artists (Swan, Ordway, and Mike Mignola) resulting in Swan only contributing a paltry dozen pages. Still it's an interesting collaboration, with each artist handling specific aspects of the story (Ordway does the action scenes, Swan the talky scenes, and Mignola the flashbacks to Krypton). George Perez only draws the final issue...and his work seems rushed, or at least ill-served by the inker.

As you can tell, I'm kind of avoiding delving into the heart of the collection: the stories.

The problem, as so often happens with big epics written by a committee of writers, is that the broad strokes concept -- Superman takes off for adventures in space -- take precedence over the individual issues. A number of issues seem like fillers, even vignettes, rather than stories in their own right. An eerily effective sequence of Superman teleporting into an area of space where the stars are being eclipsed starts out neat...but peters out as an adventure. Another, two-part tale builds slowly as Lois Lane investigates a mysterious cover-up on earth that lays the ground work for Superman's concurrent adventure in outer space. But the whole "mysterious" incident is something, apparently, that any regular Superman reader was already familiar with. As soon as Lois announces she's going to the town of Trudeau...a lot of readers know what she's going to find. So what's the point? Admittedly, I didn't know the full story, so, from my perspective, it should've still worked. But as soon as it turns out the "solution" is just flashbacks to an earlier comic, my interest waned. And when we cut back to the Superman side of the story, as he confronts the same menace, it seemed too much of the fighting n' smashing, and not enough plot n' character.

There are some interesting, atypical stories, like one where Superman attempts to settle down on a deserted planet (Superman #30), but it still feels a tad...thin.

The centrepiece of the saga is the multi-part Mongul story. Mongul was a villain from the old, pre-Crisis days, but this is the first time Supes had met him in current continuity. It's a decent tale, stretching over at least five issues, including the annual -- I say at least five, because the stories kind of segue into each other, but the gist is in Adventures of Superman #454, Action Comics Annual #2, Superman #32, Adventures of Superman #455, Superman #33. Superman is captured and put in an intergalactic gladiatorial arena on Mongul's artificial world, Warworld, while a hermit priest, hiding on a local asteroid, has a past connection to Krypton. In addition to Mongul, the story introduces the "eradicator" device which played a part in later stories and, I'll admit, seems too much like what it was: a poorly explained plot device. Superman also goes back to having a super cape...something that had been eliminated from the mythos a couple of years before.

But even the Mongul story is more decent than truly great, hardly seeming like it has five issues worth of story and plot twists. Indeed, it feels like another example of the plotting-by-committee idea, as though they had the bare bones of a plot, but weren't sure how to develop it (about halfway through we learn the politics of Warworld are complicated and there is another power behind Mongul...but we hadn't a hint of that until it becomes relevant, almost as if the writers were making it up as they went along). As well Superman seems too much like a side player, not really initiating much of the action on his own. And the story ends kind of unsatisfactorily, with Mongul no longer king of his world but little indication the regime change will bring about much social reform.

A surprising amount of these issues are devoted to events back on earth -- almost as if the Superman-in-space scenes are the sub-plot and the earth scenes the main plot. Superman, as Clark Kent, had been writing an expose on Morgan Edge's Intergang, and a private eye is mistakenly killed by those gunning for Clark. This leads to a few issues of people thinking Clark's been murdered (since Clark is in space and can't explain otherwise). But it doesn't really affect things much. It isn't even handled as a mystery or anything: everyone assumes it's intergang, and with that assumption in place, no one, not even the police, seem interested in pursuing a further investigation. Lex Luthor, in a potentially interesting turn, vows to track down the killers since Clark had once saved his life...but then never does! There isn't a lot of soap opera-y stuff happening -- no mysterious man in Lois' life, no Jimmy Olsen dealing with a personal crisis -- yet the "plot" stuff, involving Clark's "murder" and reporter Cat Grant acting as Morgan Edge's girlfriend for information, is hardly that interesting, because not a lot happens, nor are there many -- any, in fact -- surprise revelations or twists. Again, I get back to that plotting-by-committee thing, as if they had ideas but weren't sure how to develop them.

When Superman returns to earth, it's treated as a triumphant return, with writer Perez pushing all the buttons he can to elicit a lump in the throat. Which might have worked better when the arc was published over six months or so. But in a collection like this, Supes just doesn't seem to have been gone that long.

At the heart of the story is the moral/character exploration as Superman exiles himself because of his guilt. But when Superman finally decides it's time to return to earth...it's not clear why, or what he thinks he's learned. Obviously, the DC Comics staffers were in a bind. John Byrne wrote the execution story and I have no idea what his intention was (I haven't read it myself). Byrne's politics -- like with most of us -- can reflect differing political extremes, both left (Byrne has often expressed environmental themes in his work) to extreme right (the ex-Canadian Byrne advising Canadian fans in the letters pages of The Next Men they were being "socialized into the poor house"). Was Byrne endorsing capital punishment? Or did he mean for it to lead into this soul searching intended to reassure fans that Supes would never do such a thing again? Either way, the writers here are stuck trying to make Supes feel guilty and regretful...without actually saying he was wrong to do it (which would make him guilty of, y'know, murder!). The result is that they manage to skirt the moral issue -- the very issue that initiated the story line -- for 300 pages!

And once you realize that Superman had already robbed the Kryptonian villains of their super powers, the justification for executing them -- to prevent them from repeating their crime -- seems awfully weak.

A lot of Superman TPBs are culled from this period (late '80s to mid-'90s) and most have left me with mixed feelings. But whenever I feel like trying Superman...well, these are the books that are most readily available (at least at the time I first read n' reviewed this). Exile, though not terrible, left me a touch unenthused...great price notwithstanding.

HOWEVER...after recently re-reading it (and in the process of re-reading all my various Superman comics/TPBs from that era, so better immersing myself in the series) I enjoyed it slightly more than I recalled, simply on the basis of being an okay page turner, and have boosted the rating (from 2 1/2 stars to 3).

Cover price: $20.95 CDN./ $14.95 USA.


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