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Action Comics #819

September 5, 2004

Quick Rating: Awful
Title: Sodom and Gomorrah

Clark and Lana have a little heart-to-heart.

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

The two most frequent complaints you’ll hear about Chuck Austen’s writing is that 1) it is repetitive and 2) his characterization of women is, shall we say, one-sided? People make these complaints over and over again, and I’m a bit reluctant to say it some times. But after this issue, which is a textbook example of everything that could possibly be done wrong with these two characters, I feel that sometimes you’ve just got to call ‘em like you see ‘em, without any effort at sugarcoating.

This issue Superman, still recuperating from the beating he’s taken over the last few issues, is being “nursed back to health” by his old girlfriend, Lana Lang. However, this is not the Lana Lang we have read about in every comic book since the Superman revamp in 1986. This is a Lana Lang who wears short-shorts and belly shirts, takes childish, petty pot-shots at a woman who isn’t around to defend herself, and throws herself at a married man who has made it clear for years that he is not interested. This is the worst part of this issue, Chuck Austen is tearing two decades of characterization to shreds for the sake of a trite, clichéd plotline that would seem dull and redundant in an episode of Days of Our Lives, let alone in a Superman comic book.

Everything touched upon in this issue, every single character point, is something that has been discussed ad nauseum for years now, and has been resolved for a very long time. Lana has grown up, Lana has moved on. Anybody else still obsessing over a high school boyfriend this many years later would be told to go to therapy, not presented as a sympathetic heroine. This smacks of a writer artificially generating storylines by dredging up things that others have already done – and better – because nothing else is coming to mind. Lana in this issue is spiteful and petty, spitting out specious arguments about Lois Lane and putting forth reasoning that anybody who has actually read the storylines where these characters’ relationships were defined would know is completely untrue.

The book is intercut with a fight scene with the two cleverly-named adversaries Sodom and Gomorrah, a fight made more difficult by the fact that Superman’s powers are fluctuating uncontrollably, as predicted by the doctors at S.T.A.R. Labs (which is a pretty impressive feat, seeing as how two issues ago they were complaining that they didn’t know a bloody thing about Kryptonian physiology).

Even the artwork, usually the saving grace of this title suffers this issue under guest-penciller Prado, who seems to handle the Clark/Lana scenes while Reis does the fight scenes. Reis’s scenes are fine, but Prado’s are half cheesecake.

If I wasn’t reviewing this issue, I don’t know if I could have read it through to the end. By the time I got to the eight-page Bionicle ad section in the middle, I was begging for it to be over. These aren’t the characters I love. These aren’t even characters I like. These are boring, petty people, and I’m tired of seeing them in this book month after month.

Rating: 2/10

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