Starting over a month ago, DC decided to launch a half-baked event leading up to the release of Action Comics #900 (the comic is released next week). Its also a tribute or reminder of the last time DC sold a whole boat-ton of comics, which was 20 years ago with The Death of Superman storyline, from which came the Reign of the Supermen storyline.
Its no secret to longtime comics fans that when the company decides to suddenly overlay an "event" on a comic or a story within a comic that was not originally plotted to include the "event", things get messy. And, boy howdy...
Is this thing ever a mess.
Steel (One Shot)
Written by STEVE LYONS; Art by ED BENES; Cover by ALEX GARNER
|"I am Iron Man! Wait... that's wrong..."|
In the context of this issue, Superman is off wandering America, and so when Doomsday shows up, Steel basically gets really, really beat up. The end.
Fans speculated that DC had killed Steel, and given the capricious ways of DC editorial, hey, maybe...
This issue was supposed to be setting us up for the Reign of Doomsday story, but somebody forgot to make sure this was going to synch up with anything else, and the next installments just sort of trickled out into books I'm not currently reading.
I didn't mind the set-up of Steel #1. It just felt like a prelude to bigger events, and sometimes comics does that. But here...
The co-plotting of the issue is attributed to Dan Didio and artist Phillip Tan. Script by Didio, DC's current Co-Publisher and a man who just loves a good mutilation in his comics.
I picked up Outsiders when the series relaunched, dealt with the changes as editorial floundered with the line-up around 2007, and then quit reading. I actually picked up the issue where it was revealed that Superman's sometimes-ally/ sometimes-enemy The Eradicator (I know... that name...) was joining the team, but, honestly, that was one of the worst comics I read that whole year. It was just a mess.
Well, in this issue Doomsday shows up out of nowhere in the middle of a completely ongoing Outsiders plot that's still seemingly concerned with the New Krypton storyline from the Superman books and which even the Superman books aren't really talking about anymore... and beats everyone up, especially The Eradicator.
We do learn that: Hey, Doomsday seems to have new powers. And, look, that Olympian fellow from Gail Simone's Wonder Woman run found a place in... Outsiders?
Outsiders seems to be the place DC gave Didio where he can keep talking about and insisting that things that happened under his stewardship at DC were neat ideas and shouldn't be forgotten. Rucka's Checkmate? Yes, absolutely a great book and its a shame DC has already forgotten how good it was. Its too bad Didio louses up the memory with a nonsense superhero brawl. Basically everything wrong with Wonder Woman that happened after OYL? It can be seen in the fact that Didio thinks anyone was that interested in The Olympian in Wonder Woman or hoped he'd show up again. The mix-n-match set of characters is just a telltale sign that Didio doesn't really get the actual DCU all that well, and he's not quite ready to admit defeat.
Mostly, though, the arrival of Doomsday in the title is meant to draw out The Eradicator, and once the two points are connected, its not too hard to say "oh, so Doomsday is going after all the characters from Reign of the Supermen".
Justice League of America #55
Written by JAMES ROBINSON; Art by BRETT BOOTH & NORM RAPMUND
|I don't think half of these characters appear in this issue|
And then Doomsday shows up in the middle of a bunch of stuff that must be happening in Justice League of America, but given that I haven't actually been reading this title for what must have been a year, I have no clue what's happening. Eclipso is running around, possibly on the moon, possibly not. There seems to have been an incident that made Alan Scott go bald, created a magic city, which I think is ALSO on the moon, but its really hard to say.
What I did follow is that Supergirl is wearing all black and being moody in space and Doomsday shows up out of nowhere picking a fight with she and Boodika of the Green Lantern titles.
This crosses into...
Superman/ Batman Annual #5
Written by JAMES ROBINSON; Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA
|it's a little hard to parse, no?|
You see, Doomsday isn't really after Supegirl... the pattern is the same. He's after the Cyborg Superman. They fight. And just as Doomsday adapted to defeat The Eradicator and Steel, he also adapts to Cyborg Superman, which sounds kind of okay, but it really means Robot Doomsday, which just means... the fight ends.
I did get to see Robinson jettison the whole Dark Supergirl thing he was doing in JLA, and while that was satisfying to see him basically write Dark Supergirl to an end, it just felt like he decided "oh, I'm not going to keep doing this", and got a bit too literal with his explanation to the point where it just felt... silly.
If this is getting a little tedious to read this way, let me tell you....
The basic issue is that no matter what DC does with Doomsday, he's not very interesting. He has no motivation, and he only really works as a plotpoint. This was the design by the original creators back in 1992. Doomsday was a killing machine, and that was that. In the spirit of comics of the 1990's, that was pretty high concept. Various writers have tried to put their stamp on Doomsday and attempt to make him more interesting by, say, giving him the power of speech (now redacted), or thought (now seemingly redacted), or any of a number of items that would make him more interesting than, say, a really angry hunk of rock. But for some reason, we always wind up back at the angry hunk of rock.
Mostly, after the catastrophe of Countdown to Final Crisis and trying to wind stories into the ongoing narrative spine of the DCU, and watching that just utterly collapse, I figured DC was done with these sorts of "and now we pause for an issue while editorial mandates a brainless slugfest so you might pick up an otherwise unrelated comic" antics.
Curiously, Superboy seems to handle the narrative confusion the best of any of the series.
Written by JEFF LEMIRE; Art by MARCO RUDY; Cover by EDDY BARROWS & J.P. MAYER
|I bet Doomsday's breath smells like peppermint Tic-Tacs|
As Lemire has written the book so episodically, with each issue feeling contained to a specific time frame, Doomsday showing up seems less like an interruption and more of an unfortunate happenstance.
All that said, between all of these issues, nothing happened that couldn't have been represented in about four pages of issue #900 of Action Comics, and I'm forced to believe that we'll see exactly that in a recap.
The whole experience is a shame on so many levels. It burns through an issue of Superboy, it wastes a perfectly good opportunity for a Steel one-shot that could have demonstrated why Steel is exciting as a character, and it unnecessarily drove me, as a reader who doesn't care for the current JLA or Outsiders runs through a long slog with both books (especially the co-opted Superman/ Batman Annual. Those Annuals have been a lot of fun in previous years.).
There's no reason to think Action Comics #900 won't be a good read (more on Action's recent run another day), but if DC was casting a net to get Superman readers to check out JLA and Outsiders, this was a pretty cheesy way to do it, and, worse, they did nothing but convince me I've made the right decision ignoring both.
If they were looking to re-intro Steel, then... okay. Showing Steel getting creamed or dead wasn't a convincing argument for why I should keep up.
If they wanted to set a point in continuity where Superboy and Superman and Action synch up, okay... but you can do that in a little editorial bubble, not blowing through an issue of a brand new title.
Its all just more than a little disappointing.