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Action Comics #802 By Matt Martin
DC Comics Ė Joe Kelly (w); Tom Derenick (p); Bob Petrecca and Norm Rapmund (i)
OK, first the summary, then the complaining.
Beginning in the town of Little Falls, Colorado, an epidemic has spread across the United States. Known only as the Meta-Virus, it causes sudden and uncontrollable mutations in those people whose genetic structure contains what is known as the metagene (which is apparently DCís explanation for why some people randomly have superpowers, like Marvel explains it under the blanket statement ďtheyíre a mutantĒ). Most perplexing (and even more importantly, disturbing) is the fact that all known victims of the Meta-Virus reside on American soil, leading President Luthorís superhero affairs organization, the D.E.O., to conclude that the Meta-Virus is an act of terrorism against the United States. After discovering that the sickness is triggered by light from a yellow sun such as our own, Luthor reveals a plot, engineered by the newly reborn General Zod, to place lenses around the sun that would essentially change it from yellow to red (a process that would leave Superman basically powerless). Supermanís initial reaction that the plan is simply a smokescreen designed by Zod to weaken the Man of Steel is complicated when the two finally speak in private, and a startling realization is made.
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OK. I can appreciate that itís probably unbelievably difficult to write credible threats for a character that is, basically, invincible, particularly one that we all know will never undergo any meaningful, long-term changes. So in that sense, I can actually applaud Kelly for writing a conflict that canít simply be resolved by Superman punching it until it stops moving; itís rather hard to combat the combined threat of the inexorable wheels of the American government and an incurable disease. As well, I like the way that Kelly portrays Luthor as a truly complex villain; Superman knows that Luthor will always have an agenda against him, but when (at least superficially) it appears that his archnemesis is acting in the best interests of the country, thereís little the Man of Tomorrow can do. And that makes the conflict interesting, far beyond the simple ďMwa-ha-ha! Iíll destroy Superman!Ē schtick thatís Luthorís typical fare.
However, the concept of superheroes dealing with terrorism is justÖsoÖtired. Ever since September 11th, it seems that both of the major comic companies have felt the need to repeatedly deal, both explicitly and implicitly, with the idea of terrorism against a United States guarded by larger-than-life heroes. And it got old a long time ago. As well, Iím not sure that the comics world really needed another evil clone of a major character; to make matters worse, Lois acknowledges that this isnít the first time that the DC Universe has dealt with an evil Superman, dredging up the God-awful Superman Red/Superman Blue fiasco.
On the upside though, Tom Derenick does a really nice job on the art side of things. His work here reminds me a lot of pre-Ultimates Bryan Hitch and thatís not a simple thing to do. The combination of clean linework and bright colors makes for a nice (at least visually speaking) superhero-oriented issue.
In the end, the issue isnít a total wash. It is however severely flawed and, at the end of the day, nothing we havenít already seen before. You can take it or leave it.