Sunday, January 6, 2013

Waiting for the Trade - Superman


Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 
Superman: Camelot Falls – The Weight of the World

by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino

collects Superman 662-664, 667 and Superman Annual 13

 

Why I Bought This: This had been in the discount bin of my favorite local comic store for many months and I kept considering picking it up because of the Camelot reference on the cover and Kurt Busiek’s authorship. About two months after Busiek responded to my Aquaman review on this site, I figured why not when the price dropped again to $5.
 
The Plot: Prior to this trade Superman was informed by an Atlantean sorcerer that the presence of alien heroes on Earth is disrupting the natural cycle of good and evil that guides human destiny. The sorcerer claims that when evil finally breaks through it will be so pent up that it will lead to the extinction of humanity. Thus he asks Superman to consider leaving the planet for the greater good. Now Superman has two weeks to decide before the sorcerer returns.

Chapter 1 – An alien by the name of Subjekt 17 is in Tibet pondering why some humans live in third world conditions while other have advanced technology as he plots revenge on Superman. (His story seems to be that like Superman he was an alien infant rocketed to Earth, but unlike him he was found by evil government types to be experimented on and turned into a weapon). Meanwhile Superman is at the Fortress of Solitude trying to determine if Power Girl is a Krytponian since some other alien villain recently told him there is a third Kryptonian on Earth but the scans are negative. In Metropolis as Clark Kent, Superman discusses the sorcerer Arion’s claims with Perry, Jimmy and Lois who apparently were brought with Superman into the future by Arion to see the death of humanity. They mostly bring up the good Supes has down while also doubting if the future is fated. Supes then goes to Zatanna (The JLA’s resident mystic) for advice and she fills him on Arion’s back-story: he dates back to 45,000 B.C., died at the hands of Mordu recently then mysteriously returned from the grave for some mystic story she was a part of. Next Supes flies to Iran since in the future Arion showed Supes both human civilization and Superman himself were killed by a villain called Khyber, who was then stopped by an Arab hero named Sirocco. Based on Arion’s timeline, Sirocco should be active now in the present so Superman decides to meet him to see if he exists. He does, although it’s in early in his career and he was using a different codename but likes the one Superman calls him better and changes his name to Sirocco right on the spot. He also claims to have killed the man that is supposed to become Khyber already. When Superman returns to Metropolis there’s a bunch of flying people in the sky.

Chapter 2 – In some magic bar Arion, wearing the costume Zatanna saw in her recent adventure with him, is getting drunk when he is confronted by the Arion Superman met two weeks ago. Supes’ Arion claims the one in the bar is an imposter and takes him prisoner. In Metropolis the flying people are behaving like amok children causing lots of collateral damage. Apparently they are members of the New Gods (a group of quasi-immortals who have something or other to do with Darkseid that I’ve never sufficiently cared enough to look into). Light Ray (apparently another New God) shows up and apologizes to Superman as he gets the teens under control and we learn the random amok flying people were influenced by one of Arion’s spells to show Superman the dangers of aliens on Earth. Meanwhile fake Arion tries to apologize to real Arion for impersonating him. The real Arion grills him about the present since apparently he has traveled forward in time from the past. Next Supes goes to Lana Lang for advice, who is now the CEO of Lexcorp. She says even if Arion is right and Clark has to give up being a superhero she says he could still stay on Earth and help people in other ways by joining NASA as an example. Supes broods for a few pages until a little girl falls off a building and he saves her, at which point he realizes he could never stand back and let people die no matter the surrounding circumstances. He tells Arion on deadline day and Arion casts a spell to possess Superman saying he will use him to cause civilization’s downfall.

Chapter 3 – Superman attempts to fight off the mind control (something he’s been practicing with Martian Manhunter and Zatanna) when he gets attacked by hi-tech soldiers who have government built tech specifically for facing Superman when he’s mind-controlled mostly using sonic weapons, electricity and bright lights. Ironically while they intend for this to disrupt the mind control it is actually disrupting Superman’s resistance to the spell which was working. They also attack Arion and he teleports away. Supes scatters the government agents and tries to fly away to clear his head only to be attacked by Prankster. Then the JLA arrive but by now Supes is free of the spell and so they leave. Supes and Lois meanwhile are disappointed that there is an entire government agency dedicated to stopping him, but that doesn’t stop Supes from rounding up Prankster and arresting him before vowing to find Arion.

Chapter 4 – Superman and Zatanna are battling Lovecraftian creatures set upon them by Arion who sends them a telepathic warning that this humanities future if Supes doesn’t leave. Arion has also taken his case to the public but both people in the streets and the U.N. vow to support Superman. Subjekt 17 finds Superman and for some reason knows where Arion is hiding but won’t tell Superman unless Supes can beat him a fight. Superman tries to be reasonable but when 17 won’t have it he beats the holy hell out of him until he agrees to talk and we learn Arion has a castle at the bottom of the Ocean. So Supes heads there accompanies by some Lex-Corp flying remote cameras Lana built to show the world the big fight. Arion has a force field that Superman cannot break on his own so he makes a massive whirlpool and drops the weight of the ocean upon it and it breaks.

Chapter 5 – We get a flashback of a trip to the future Superman took with Phantom Stranger to verify if the future Arion showed Superman is indeed a probable future and the Stranger seems to confirm it; although he notes the future is fluid as Superman’s adventures with the Legion of Superheroes show. Back in the present Superman destroys Arion’s castle. Arion counter attacks but the Stranger had given Supes an anti-magic aura in preparation for this fight. Arion then sets two monsters on him and while Supes fights them off he transforms into Chthulu. However even in that form Supes is stronger than him and the fight proves pretty one-sided. Arion returns to human form and Supes uses that moment to steal all his magic rings and amulets at super speed. Without them Arion’s remaining spells collapse destroying what’s left of his castle. Supes takes Arion to jail but we see the real Arion escaped to 1659 and left the imposter behind to face the music. With Arion (seemingly) defeated Superman once again vows to continue to strive to save people despite the prophecy. Then in the epilogue we see Khyber come back from the dead.

Critical Thoughts – This is an okay story. It has an intriguing premise and I liked that Superman’s doesn’t just take Arion’s word on this prophecy but tries to investigate by contacting other mystics, looking up people from this supposed future in the present and even time traveling without Arion to verify for himself. It always nice to see the protagonist written in an intelligent manner and use some of the tools available to him in an interconnected universe.

That said the fight scenes are not dramatic at all, which is often a problem in Superman’s comic more than any other hero. Among the villains Subjekt 17 is not a compelling character with motivations that don’t make sense; while Prankster’s involvement also feels both random and unnecessary. Arion is interesting in the early chapters when his motivations are ambiguous to both Supes and the reader but once the story devolves into Lovecraftian horrors it loses a lot of steam--although perhaps I’m jaded on the idea because Marvel’s mostly terrible Realm of Kings crossover was heavily influenced by Lovecraft as well. I did like Arion’s little switcheroo at the end but at the same time I doubt I would bother to pick up a future trade if he came back to bother Superman again.
 

Grade C. The first chapter is very good and there are some interesting ideas here as Busiek writes good dialogue and supporting characters but ultimately it turns into a very run of the mill Superman story in the last two chapters.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree with your assessment. I enjoyed the story quite a bit and I especially enjoy the more cerebral approach to the character of Superman.

    ReplyDelete