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Action Comics #815

May 8, 2004

Quick Rating: Below Average
Title: Superman Versus Gog: End Times

Superman and Gog throw down in Smallville… can the Teen Titans turn the tide?

Writer: Chuck Austen
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Marc Campos
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Art: Arthur Adams
Publisher: DC Comics

And the soap opera begins.

I’ve never made a secret of how dissatisfied I was with Chuck Austen’s work on X-Men and Captain America, but I’ve tried very hard not to let that color my judgment of his Action Comics run. I’ve tried not to let that make me harsher than I ordinarily would be, and I’ve looked very hard at this comic, but there’s no way I can juggle these elements that doesn’t fall apart on every other page.

With the news that Doomsday is on the loose, Superman sends three of the Teen Titans to Smallville to hunt for him. (Problems #1 and #2 right off the bat – why would Doomsday go to Smallville in the first place and why would Superman send three kids, even Superboy, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl, to look for a monster strong enough to kill him? Problem #3 comes in when you realize the Titans are walking around Smallville in costume for no apparent reason. This is all in the first panel, mind you.) Instead of Doomsday, though, another foe inexplicably attacks the small town – Gog.

Back in Metropolis, Clark Kent is in a screaming match with his wife over the phone asking the question everybody else was asking last issue: why didn’t she tell him that Perry White had demoted him? One can accept the premise that she wanted to give Perry the chance to tell him himself, but we learn this issue that she knew it for two weeks – you can’t accept that Lois would keep such a secret for that long without telling Clark or confronting Perry. We then meet Clark’s replacement, a character whose reputation has been built as a sleazy television tabloid reporter, so naturally he’s earned a spot on the Daily Planet staff.

The actual fight scene, in fairness, has a few high points. Superman taking charge of the Titans is a nice bit of characterization, but he then proceeds to throw off one-liners that would have seemed appropriate coming from Spider-Man but are totally out of place for the man of steel. Then, when he’s got his villain on the ropes, he stands there and cracks jokes instead of delivering the knockout blow, behavior one expects from a grade-b supervillain, but not from Superman. It’s also particularly amusing that the same Superman who makes jokes about clichéd villain dialogue is the one who, earlier in the issue, actually shouted the phrase “Don’t start that, okay? Don’t make this my fault,” while arguing with his wife.

Thank God for Ivan Reis and Marc Campos. These guys draw, hands-down, the best Superman I’ve seen in years. He looks strong and powerful without lapsing into the cartoonish the way other recent artists have, and they do a fine job with the Titans as well (I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them do a run on that title sometime). The fight with Gog and the resulting debris look really good. In fact, if one were to review this comic merely on artwork and not on dialogue, it would be easy to give it an almost perfect score.

Unfortunately, the story factors heavily into it, and there are just too many holes in it to possibly recommend. Austen has no grasp on the characters or on logical plotting, and the comic book suffers exponentially because of it. I really do want to enjoy this title. Superman is my favorite character and I want his titles to succeed. But I can’t see that happening in the near future.

Rating: 4/10

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