Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Adventures of Superman #40 Review (Max Landis, Jock)

Superman’s a dividing figure for readers – there are some who like the classic character and appreciate his rich history, and there are others who think he’s boring, limited, outdated etc. Having read The Sound of One Hand Clapping #1, it seems clear Max Landis subscribes to the latter.

Joker is in Metropolis, for some reason. He’s planted bombs around the city, threatening to cause catastrophic damage unless he speaks to Superman – it’s desperately important to speak to him, again, for some reason. But when Superman and Joker meet atop the Daily Planet, Joker performs a tedious monologue about why Superman sucks.

Which begs the question: why does Joker want to speak to Superman in the first place - to vent his frustrations about his character to him in person? Why? Why does Joker care about Superman at all? We’re given a hint that it might be to do with identity as there’s a cute montage of the various faces of Joker over the years from Jerry Robinson’s original to versions by Brian Bolland, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, etc., and Joker mentions that he’s not sure who he is - I guess this is early in Joker’s emergence as a villain? – while Superman is quite assured in who he is.

He is the Joker though so he must have a semblance of identity – he has his appearance and name down, he tells jokes, he makes threats, he’s usually in Gotham fighting Batman, he’s the murder clown. So, when he resorts to (poor) insult comedy and Superman laughs, it annoys him – his humour’s not to be shared with others.

No, I think it comes down to Landis hurling his own problems with Superman at the character via the mouthpiece of Joker. If you’ve heard Landis speak, it’s quite similar to the way Joker’s written here – sarcastic, weak humour delivered energetically and physically, and, I’m sure if he donned the makeup, he’d look exactly as Jock’s drawn him here.

So what are Landis’ grievances with Superman? His costume is not memorable – which isn’t true as its iconic and arguably the most famous superhero outfit which defined all other superhero outfits. He doesn’t have a thing, a particular disposition – which isn’t true because he stands for peace, fights for those who need his protection, and his disposition is one of his most clearly defined qualities. He’s bland, he’s vague – and now it’s just random gripes. I’ve heard similar complaints about Superman before, I guess Landis is just better connected (his father is John Landis, the screenwriter) so he’s able to have his published in a comic. 

Jock’s a fine artist but he’s not given much to do here. The issue is static with Joker standing atop the Daily Planet soliloquising while Superman hovers slightly above, arms crossed, cape billowing – the classic pose. It’s almost like a play in how reductive it is. And I wasn’t that impressed with how he drew Superman in one panel where it looked like he had a jowly face, as if he’s massively overweight.

Joker sums up the issue towards the end, saying that it’s been a boring conversation. I agree – why bother in the first place?

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