Tuesday, May 31, 2005

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #640

We've known for a while who Ruin is (or at least we've had a pretty strong and unrefuted suspicion), so the point of this issue is less about the shock value than how the suspicion is made fact.

Lois Lane -- as investigative journalist, as Clark Kent's wife, as Superman's girlfriend -- is a natural vehicle. She is close enough personally that she has all the pieces, but her professionalism gives her a little bit of distance so that she can assess the facts even as she holds back on reporting the results for his sake.

Lois guides this issue, her thoughts and assessments taking up the greater half of an issue carefully and cleverly running along parallel tracks. The single sequential panels along the bottom of the page are the linear narrative of events -- Clark visiting Lana, talking to Pete, then visiting Jimmy and finding out about Ruin's attack on Steel; Lois's day in the newsroom; Jimmy's return to action. That's the actual story.

The top register gives us a multimedia presentation, Lois's monologue boxes commenting on what we can see through photographs, scrapbooks, cameraphones, video, newsprint, television, and magazines. Lois is explaining what the events depicted mean, but in the story below, Clark is reacting to them. The top register shows us taped video footage of Ruin attacking Steel and the bottom has Clark at the hospital talking to Jimmy when he hears that confrontation and runs off to meet it.

And then you realize (if you hadn't already) that the top register is not strictly contemporary with the events in the linear story below; it is not (just) a cute narrative trick or a Brother I sort of comment on the possibility of omniscience through technology, nor is it the sort of literal parallelism that goes on over in Superman/Batman. Clark's storyline on the bottom register is of events as they happen; Lois's storyline up top is an ex post facto analysis as she tries to make sense of why and how her husband's best buddy from childhood could turn into his nemesis. The multiformatted evidence may have coincided with the events of the linear story (Clark's story), but that was a well-constructed coincidence by Greg Rucka abetted by Karl Kerschl, whose last-page depiction of Superman's reaction shot (on the cover of the Daily Planet) makes the issue work -- we knew Ruin was Pete Ross, but Clark Kent didn't.

Rumors going around about the nature of the Infinite Crisis say that this is not the end of the story, but the very beginning. And certain parts of Lois's monologue present themselves as pointed and ironic harbingers to bear those rumors out. I like the ideas and, so far, how they've been put into motion. My initial comparison point to the Ruin-is-Pete Ross storyline was the sadly disappointing Hush arc over in Batman, but this is so far quite superior (if not as pretty) and if Pete Ross's evil turn is just as obviously manufactured as Tommy Elliot's, then Rucka and company are doing the smart thing and not focusing on it.

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