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Superman: The Ten Cent Adventure

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2003
By: Ray Tate



"Truth"

Writer: Steven Seagle
Artists: Scott McDaniel(p), Andy Owens(i), Tanya & Rich Horrie(c)
Publisher: DC

Every critic has an idea about how to save the comic book industry. My idea is the simplest. Lower the prices of the comic books. When comic books were only a quarter, I bought tons of them. Granted, the storytelling was far more sophisticated back in the pre-Crisis days, but I probably would not have dropped any title from my subscription list and gladly added more. The industry would make more money in the quantity even if the quality of the product varied.

I pride myself on fairly reviewing every book I receive or buy, but when a book fails, I go for the jugular because I've been robbed of approximately three dollars. I could have used that money for a Venti iced tea at Starbucks and a refill. I could have used that money to buy a cup of soup at Bruegger's Bagels. I would not have been too upset if Superman: The Ten Cent Adventure had failed to entertain. It afterall only cost me a dime.

True to DC's word and unlike the filthy, underhanded Batman: Ten Cent Adventure, Superman: The Ten Cent Adventue does tell a single, stand-alone story while setting up the longer intended plots of Steven Seagle's run. You can end your association with the book after the final page and feel that you have read a complete story, or if you're significantly intrigued you may continue your travels with the Man of Steel.

Mr. Seagle's characterization of Superman is, discounting the animated and Smallville interpretations, the best I've encountered for a long, long time in a so-called Original Universe book. I gave up the Superman titles after that stupid, stupid inside Joker's brain storyarc. I have however flipped through the books at the comic book store and have been less and less impressed by what I have seen. The characterization here impresses. Seagle makes Superman noble and intelligent--two aspects of the character so overtly missing from past issues in--we'll call it the Inflated Baloney era to describe the artwork and the writing. Mr. Seagle even gives the Big Red S a sense of humor and has the audacity to deny some of the post-Crisis events that, despite what other hacks say, do not exist any way: "I don't kill, son. Ever." This statement flatly denies his execution of the Phantom Zone villains--recently an issue in other Superman books--from the Byrne era, and that makes sense since the Zero Hour erased it. The strength of Superman's convictions brands his dialogue and gives him that deep voice you've always expected him to have. His voice demands that you listen and believe in him.

Another aspect of the book that works incredibly well is Superman's relationship with his wife Lois Lane. They actually touch! Rao, I never thought contact would be made. Seagle and Scott McDaniel give the couple the intimacy that was needed to make them believable and make their relationship more than simply a throwaway piece of post-Crisis meddling. It also looks as if somebody lives in their apartment.

The stand alone plot of Superman battling a less than super but souped up villain is more interesting than it really should be. Mr. Seagle makes the plot inherently humorous with a hilarious origin for the villain. He still makes for a credible threat, and his presence allows the Big Guy to do what he does best: save lives.

What did not interest me were the ideas for the intended storyarcs. A group calling themselves the Futuresmiths act as the source of the fruitcake villain's augmentation. While the Futuresmiths themselves may become interesting, their scheme at the end simply made me groan: "Not again!" While I enjoyed Clark's reactions to Perry White's undercover work, I don't believe this germ of a subplot carries any potential or this fake schism in which the characters engage. While Mr. Seagle cleans up the characterization of the Superman cast, he's still forced to work with a continuity I cannot stand. Brainiac Technology infected Metropolis and nano-worked it into a giant computerized city. The whole place looks futureshock ugly, and it complicates Mr. McDaniel's superb slimmed down Superman and the downright beautiful atmosphere of Lois' and Clark's sunlit apartment. Mr. Seagle sets the majority of the duel in a Metropolis locale called Plaza of Two Truths, and the setting left me scratching my head while making obvious my problems with the Brainiac infected Metropolis. It doesn't look like a real city, and the artifice hurts the realism that could be found for instance in the first Worlds Finest miniseries by Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude. While the city there looked good and maintained an art deco future-pulp style, Superman contrasted the structure of the city. He was the out of the ordinary. If Metropolis is out of the ordinary then Superman merely blends in with the scenery.



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