Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Action Comics #794

Invaders From Space!

Writer: Chuck Kim
Artist: Kano
Colors: Moose Baumann
Letters: Comicraft
Assistant Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: John Paul Leon
Cover Date: October 2002
Release Date: 28/08/2002

12 years ago...

Clark sits in the Smallville movie theater watching a B-movie featuring the Justice Society fighting off an alien invasion. The rest of the movie-goers react positively towards the routing of the alien invasion, and this continues once Clark, Lana, and their friends leave the theater. Clark is concerned that he can never reveal his aliene heritage in case it causes more negative reactions and alienates his friends.

His dilemma is observed by the Quintessence, a group of powerful figures who include Zeus, Shazam, Highfather, The Phantom Stranger, and a Guardian of the Universe called Kontross. The Quintessence observes that Clark is at a crossroads, and fear that should he head down the wrong path he would end up leading an army of supermen and women against the Earth.

That night, Clark confides in his parents, and Pa tells him that he is meant for bigger things than Smallville. The next day, Clark struggles to escape a blood drive, knowing that the needle would be unable to pierce his skin. He is observed by shadowy figures who identify him as the one they want. Back at home, a note tells Clark that his parents have been taken. Pete Ross arrives to pass a letter to Lana via Clark. Clark manages to get rid of him before the shadowy figures arrive. The figures are bio-suited CIA agents who have been searching for Clark. As Clark surrenders in return for his parents' safety, Pete watches in amazement from the window - his friend Clark is an alien!

Clark is held in restraints in an underground facility. He is telepathically contacted by J'onn J'onnz, who has also been captured, and undergone forced amputation of his arms and legs. Clark is rescued by his parents and Lana, who have managed to break free and, with J'onn strapped to his back, the fiveattempt to escape, only to be stopped by Green Lantern and the Justice Society. The two groups fight, but Clark and his family are eventually subdued.

In fear and rage, Clark lashes out with all his strength, rendering the Justice Society unconscious. Pete arrives witrh a mob from Smallville, baying for Clark's blood. Lana stands up for him, but fires from the battle have spread and have trapped the Smallville townspeople. J'onn reminds Clark that humans will always want to study and dissect him, but Clark chooses to save them, in the hope that a more positive outcome can be reached.

Suddenly, Clark wakes up - his experience was a dream planted by the Quintessence who wanted to see his reactions. They are now satisfied that Clark will use his powers for good and to forge a new future for the Earth.

Oh wow, this is bad...

There's a run of Superman comics from (roughly) a few months prior to Superman: The 10c Adventure through to Superman #200 that are just really, really bad. It's the point after the Jeph Loeb Superman run and before Godfall where the comics really lost their way, with an ill-advised fake-Supergirl and the most obvious attempt to shoehorn Birthright into continuity, and creators who just didn't seem to get Superman. And this issue is one of the worst published in that short era.

What does this story achieve? Well, it shows that some very powerful people need assurance that Clark Kent won't grow up to a big bad nasty man and destroy the Earth. Except that as one of the very powerful people points out at the end, they know who he will become, when he intones with as much sombreness and authority as possible 'The Earth is in good hands. The world has its Superman'. Unless Chuck Kim is trying to convince me that the concept of Superman is a universal one, or that there is some kind of Superman Corps whose members need vetting by five very powerful people with nothing better to do with their time, then they are just pointing out how pointless the whole episode is. And lets face it, if they don't know Superman's future, then why put a representation of J'onn J'onnz into the nightmare scenario? It could be absolutely anyone, and if their fears are real and immediate, then they won't know of J'onn's importance or his future connections with Superman.

The tragedy of this issue is that there is actually a pretty decent idea for a story buried in here. The idea that Clark is afraid of his alien heritage (even if, continuity speaking, he won't discover this for years to come, having merely suspected it until Man of Steel #6), especially in terms of how his friends will come to view him, is a worthy one, and one that doesn't really get explored within the comics. It's a shame that it's coupled up with a pretty lame B-movie-inspired nightmare, capped off with an 'it was all a dream' finale.

I really dislike this book. Unlike Starman #51 and Martian Manhunter #20, it has nothing new to say about the origins of Superman and the early life of Clark Kent. The Quintessence never bother with Clark Kent again, except in the context of universe-threatening events where their attention is mainly on other things. Clark doesn't grow up to be evil and destroy the world. If this issue had never been printed, Superman's life would have turned out no different. This is an irrelevant comic seeking a misguided sense of importance and for that reason alone it should be left in a dark corner and forgotten about.

The Geeky Bits:

Estimated Diamond Pre-Orders: 34,854
Diamond Sales Chart Position: 57
Best-Selling Comic Of The Month: Transformers: Generation One #5

Next on World of Superman: Spooky tales of fright and horror... it's a pretty lame short story for Hallowe'en with Superman tacked on...

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