Comic Book Review: Superman #657

Last issue was nothing out of the ordinary. I found the Subjekt-17 story arc to be rather common. Having said that, it appears that we are in treat for a much more interesting story arc. I have a feeling that Superman #657 is going to be a pretty good issue. Let’s crank out this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Jesus Merino

Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: The issue begins with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in the year 2014 which turns out to be a post apocalyptic future. We see that Metropolis has been split in half and is in ruins. Jimmy and Lois were foraging for medicine and managed to find a nice stash in an old pharmacy.

Suddenly, Jimmy and Lois are attacked by Ghostwolves. An Arab hero by the name of Sirocco then appears and lays a smack down on the Ghostwolves. However, one of the Ghostwolves sneaks up behind Sirocco and slices him across his back. Sirocco is down for the count. Just then Lex Luthor and Parasite come to the rescue and take down the remaining Ghostwolves. We learn that Parasite overloaded on Superman’s powers years ago and retained much of Superman’s personality and even his voice. Parasite eases Sirocco’s pain enough so they can carry him back on their journey home to their hideout.

We shift back to the present where a stunned Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are watching thru magical orbs this story of the future being shown to them by Arion. Arion says that this future can be ameliorated if they will all listen to him. Arion continues his story by telling them that the Earth’s villains rose up and battled Earth’s heroes in a might fight. Many of Earth’s heroes die in the battle.

That the person behind this insidious attack by the Earth’s villains is none other than Khyber. Evidently, Khyber was originally known as Hassan-I-Sabbah, the Old Man of the Mountain and as the Assassin Lord, Master of the Hashshashin. He has been around for a millennium. Khyber is the scourge of the Muslim world. Khyber was long thought dead, but in fact he was simply in hiding building his forces. Khyber used the actions of Muslim extremists to mask his activities. Khyber made alliances with many of Earth’s super villains. However, some of these villains such as Black Adam rebuffed Khyber’s advances to form an alliance. That Khyber set off the war between Earth’s super villains and super heroes.

The heroes begin to lose the battle, and eventually, Superman brawls with Khyber in an effort to end the entire conflict. Unfortunately, Khyber is pretty tough and he is strong enough to punch Superman and cut open his lip. Then Khyber infects Superman with nanotechnological poisons via the cut on his lip. Khyber then throws the weakened Superman deep into the Earth like a rocket. Superman cracks the crust of the Earth and creates a massive explosion more destructive than numerous nuclear bombs.

The impact creates an electromagnetic pulse that wraps around the entire Earth. Power fails across the entire globe. The crust cracks open in a thousands of miles long gash and then gravitic forces slam it shut almost instantly. The molten rock creates underground tsunamis of superheated lava. The entire Earth convulses. Tectonic plates crack and shift. Massive earth quakes hit every continent. Tidal waves hit ever inch of coastal lands. Thousands of volcanoes erupt across the Earth. Billions of people die.

Then a nuclear winter follows all the chaos and destruction. More people die. Then Khyber’s allies claim parts of the globe. Ocean Master takes the North Atlantic as promised by Khyber. Kobra takes much of Asia. The Atomic Skull is granted the Andes. Mister Big builds an empire centered on Los Angeles. We see Toyman trying to take over Metropolis only to be stopped by Lex Luthor who then claims that Metropolis is under his protection.

We then see Lex, Parasite, Lois, Jimmy and Sirocco arrive at their secret hideout, appropriately named Luthor Mountain, that would have been a four to five hour drive in the past, but now it is a three week journey on foot. At Luthor Mountain we meet a young female Green Lantern, a Flash in a wheel chair and a girl who appears to be a combination of Donna Troy and Wonder Woman. Luthor is informed that Khyber’s forces broke through the swamps on the north side and have been attacking in waves for days.

We then cut to far north of Luthor Mountain where what appeared to be another normal volcanic eruption. We see a volcanic evil looking Superman fly out of the volcano along with the lava.

We then cut back to the present where Superman, Lois, Perry and Jimmy are still listening to Arion’s story. Olsen has interrupted Arion’s story by cheering that Superman is still alive and is going to save the day. Arion tells Jimmy that Superman is still alive; however, he does not save the day. In fact, Superman is about to make things much worse. End of issue.

The Good: Superman #657 was a solid issue. It was nothing incredible, but it is certainly better than average. Busiek moves the story along at a nice pace. Busiek is able to lay the foundation for this story arc in an entertaining fashion and this issue should be a good spring board for a rather action packed story arc. Busiek delivers some good dialogue. Arion is by far the best written character. Arion’s haughty and imperious personality is entertaining and Busiek gives Arion all the good dialogue. Arion certainly steals every scene that he is in.

I like the motley crew of heroes in 2014. Lex Luthor and the Parasite complete with much of Superman’s personality are interesting allies. The role that Busiek places Lex in is perfectly logical and fits his character just right. Like him or not, there is no doubt that Lex would fight to the very end to preserve humankind and especially to protect his beloved Metropolis. The situation in 2014 places Lex in a very heroic light. However, we all know that his long range goal after defeating Khyber would be taking advantage of the destruction to rebuild a new world in his image. Lex is opposed to any dictatorship other than his own.

Busiek added plenty of neat little touches in his version of the future. I liked the Bizarro Swamps. That was great. I thought the Flash in a wheelchair was a neat twist. I also like the character that was a combination Donna Troy and Wonder Woman. Hopefully, we will get to see more of these characters in the upcoming issues.

Busiek did an excellent job painting an extremely vivid picture of the destruction of the planet. That was well crafted and had a nice strong impact on the reader.

Pacheco did a solid job with the art duties. His art is a bit inconsistent from panel to panel. Some panel shots were rather ordinary while others, like Superman coming out of the volcano, were flat out incredible. All in all, Pacheco creates a nice looking comic book.

The Bad: I’m not really a fan of the style that Busiek is using to tell the tale of Earth in 2014. Having Arion in the present day telling the story of the 2014 future to Superman, Jimmy, Perry and Lois doesn’t have the same impact as just placing the reader in the future and telling the story. Busiek’s method of telling the story makes the 2014 storyline seem less real and less compelling. I have the feeling that it is merely a future that may or may not exist. I don’t feel any tension concerning the 2014 storyline. It removes the reader too much from the story. We are merely watching what may happen. I thought that Busiek was actually going to have Arion take Superman into the future to try and stop Khyber. I guess we have to be told this entire story of a possible future that may or may not happen before Superman actively engages in a course of action to stop Khyber in our present time.

Sirocco is a rather average character. I can’t say that I find much about him all that captivating. Part of that is because I truly dislike heroes whose powers or codename are attached to their ethnicity. When Sirocco first appears, Busiek makes a point to have Lois mention that even in the cold, the breeze that Sirocco kicked up was hot and dry and smelled faintly of tamarind. Why? Why is that necessary? Allen is a name with Scottish roots. When the Flash rolls into the joint, no writer feels the need to mention how the air smelled faintly of haggis.

Sirocco only exists in the storyline because Khyber is a big mean nasty Arab villain. If there was no Sirocco in the storyline, then people would say that Busiek is unfairly portraying an Arab character as the bad guy. If you are going to have a character like Khyber in the story, then Busiek feels that there has to be a good guy Arab to show that there is no stereotyping going on. At any rate, no matter the motivation, Sirocco is not that interesting of a character.

And speaking of Khyber, I wasn’t all that impressed with him, either. I appreciate Busiek trying to create a new character, but Khyber fell flat for me. I rarely like it when a writer brings in a brand new character and builds him up to be some ancient and powerful threat.

Plus, up to this point, Khyber appears to be nothing more than a massively powered maniacal dictator style villain. Khyber is that typical magical powered villain of some nebulous background and creation. Maybe it is just me, but I just don’t get the appeal of Khyber. I prefer my villains to have more personality. I also like villains that are a little more grey rather than an evil stereotype.

Overall: Superman #657 was a better than average read. Busiek did a good job laying down the foundation for a story arc that could deliver some potentially exciting and action packed issues. I’m not all that wild with Khyber, however, I’ll give Busiek a chance. I’ll admit my bias against mythology and magical based villains. If you like that style of villain then you will probably enjoy Khyber much more than me. Superman #657 is still a quality title with better than average writing and artwork.