By: Greg Pak (story), Scott Kolins (art), Wil Quintana (colors)
The Story: Superman finds it hard to save others when he can’t save himself.
The Review: Now that Doomed has entered its second phase (“Enemy of the State”), I think it’s say that the arc is living up to all my worst fears about a Doomsday storyline, i.e., there really isn’t that much story to tell. Doomsday is a mindless killer, and it isn’t any less so in the form of Superman. In that kind of scenario, there’s really only one way for the plot to go: unbridled panic from the world at large, not unlike the chaos unleashed from a Godzilla attack or alien invasion.
As if a hybrid Superman-Doomsday isn’t perilous enough, this issue confirms that his very presence is murderous, setting trees ablaze and killing off “millions of living things…insects, protozoa, microbes,” turning Superman into a walking plague on top of everything else. Thus the story cycles through the same three beats over and over: Superman’s horror of himself, everyone else’s horror at what he’s becoming, and the competing loyalty from his most diehard supporters. The reactions are quite natural, but terribly monotonous; as in any disaster story, they serve only to kill time until the disaster inevitably escalates once more.
That goes double—or, shall I say, triple—for the appearances of John Corben (a.k.a. Metallo) and Joseph Martin (a.k.a. Atomic Skull), who pose no serious threat to Superman, especially in his state, but are sent in solely to keep him and Steel from pursuing an actually sensible course of action so as to make things worse. Clark helps in that regard thanks to his increasingly irrational temperament, preventing him from following through with the advice of friend and foe alike.
Frankly, it’s starting to get pretty hard to tell who’s on whose side in this situation. Steel, Diana, and Lana are obviously still pro-Superman all the way, but Lois’ devotion goes through a fairly rapid decline in this issue. Despite the denial she expresses in her intro Daily Planet article, she changes her tune just a page or two later, not only siding with General Lane in telling the public that Superman can’t be trusted, but admitting to Corben, “[Y]ou were right all along, about Superman, John. He’s shown his true colors.”
Pak hints heavily that Lois’ betrayal isn’t natural; her glowing eyes and Corben’s ramble that she’s in his head all indicate that she picked up something during her investigation in Smallville. This ties into Lana’s discovery that the comatose Smallvillians are still sending electrical signals from their brains out into space, though why remains a mystery. Perhaps the answer will finally take Doomed into a genuinely interesting direction, one with a little thought behind it.
I’ve rarely been a fan of Kolins’ art and this issue should give you a pretty good idea why. His shaky, thin linework is simply too small in scope to properly capture a larger-than-life icon like Superman in a storyline of such proportions as Doomed. This disaster plot should be splashy and cinematic, but Kolins’ art only highlights how melodramatic and occasionally silly the story really is. Scenes that should have a strong dramatic effect instead look comical, like Clark swatting Steel away with one hand. Kolins’ attempts to give action sequences momentum usually end with distracting, extraneous jags and lines, as if his hand suffered from caffeine jitters as he drew. It’s not all bad—his close-ups on characters’ faces are surprisingly detailed and expressive at times—but this is definitely not the standard of art we’ve come to expect from Action Comics once Aaron Kuder came on board.
Conclusion: Mindless without the redemption of being entertaining most of the time.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Once the kryptonite blast melts Corben’s face off, he can easily be Martin’s doppelganger. They should consider future team-ups with Director Bones and call themselves the Tri-Skeleton.
– And the award for Least Dimensional Villain Line Ever goes to Atomic Skull, for his response to Steel’s warning that he “could kill everyone within ten miles“: “Heeey…that sounds great!” Character development!