An old enemy returns and why the Kents left Hamilton County.
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There’s something weird going on in Hamilton County when Batman comes to town. Find out more about it as we take a look at Superman Volume 4: Black Dawn. Straight ahead.
Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
D.C. Rebirth began with Clark Kent and family living in Hamilton County. Clark running a farm with Lois getting rehired to the Planet, first impersonating her younger self and then made the actual Lois Lane with the advance of Superman Reborn, where the 2 timelines were merged. She, and now Clark, have jobs in Metropolis and so, eventually, it’s going to require moving there. I think this has always been in the offing. As much as I like the idea of Clark Kent, rural farmer who super commutes as Superman, I think that these things in comics, there tends to be a gravitational pull back towards a certain status quo and one of those big things is Lois Lane and Clark Kent, reporters for The Daily Planet, working and living in Metropolis. So, this was always going to end and I think that the writers of Superman, where most of the Hamilton County stuff occurred, were really aware of that; that this was not going to last forever and so they actually were pretty clever about it. They worked in little hints throughout the Superman issues that showed some of the weirdness going on in Hamilton County but never focused on it too much except for one issue which didn’t seem at the time to really go anywhere but in retrospect, was part of the weirdness going on throughout this.
And so, we come to Black Dawn and in many ways Black Dawn is like a finale of a T.V. series. The book contains issues 20 through 26 with the Black Dawn storyline taking up issues 20 through 25 and you remember Superman is being published every two weeks. Currently, it’ll be just monthly when Brian Michael Bendis takes over. So, this is the culmination of a year’s worth of storytelling and their writer Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason as the artist, really, it’s a great run. I highly recommend it, right from the first volume but at any rate the story begins with Batman coming to town to report some problems with John’s powers and some weirdness going on in Hamilton County and Superman, Batman, Robin and his son John, aka Superboy, are doing the general superhero thing of scoping around in the shadows until Lois Lane comes out and shines the light on them and tells them to be like normal people and go indoors to talk and so there is this great picture. This is one of my favorite pictures from the Patrick Gleason art on Superman where you’ve got Batman and Superman sitting at the kitchen table of farmhouse along with Robin and Superboy and you’ve got the rooster clock in the background and it’s just as beautiful for how out of place and awkward Batman looks in this picture. It’s got one of these great lines, where because Batman doesn’t eat his pie, and Superboy asked “Doesn’t your dad like Apple?” and Robin whispers, “Batman doesn’t eat pie.”, and it’s just a beautiful, weird little thing and I just love that. It’s really emblematic of the sort of fun this series has had. Really, it’s just a tremendous picture and it’s one of my favorites in this run so I love that and essentially Batman reveals that there’s weird readings and that John’s powers are being repressed, for some reason, and he’s here to investigate and everybody goes to bed but Batman wanders out on his own and is captured. So, it’s a serious situation and other people disappear and get captured. Lois finds herself alone in the farmhouse and so we get an issue where Lois is dealing with being alone in this really weird landscape and you get Lois Lane driving the Bat-mobile.
If you recall, last week I was talking about how some of the really great modern Lois Lane stories are being written right now and I think this issue was a great example of that. The art is good throughout the story but there is a little bit of unevenness because Doug Mahnke actually comes on to do some of the art on several issues in this series as well as collaborating with Gleason on them but there is a reason for Mahnke’s inclusion and I’m going to spoil kind of a mid-art reveal, so giving you a warning, spoiler warning on this.
It’s revealed that the villain behind this is Manchester Black, who first appeared back in Action Comics 775 back in 2001. Manchester Black headed a group of anti-heroes known as the Elite. They faced off against Superman in a story called “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?”. The Elite were written as a response to a group of anti-heroes known as The Authority, who really took on extraordinary actions and freed themselves from the mores that traditionally limited what superheroes would and would not do. Their actions caused so much devastation that it led to Superman confronting them all in battle and defeating them. In many ways, the idea of one man up against a wide array of opponents and foes, it calls to mind, to me, when I read it a kind of like high noon Superman version and it’s a really great story. So, they bring Manchester Black here and Manchester Black has been working with aliens in the area and helping to keep them safe in exchange for their cooperation and his plot is to get Superboy and turn him towards his end, towards his sort of rough form of vigilante justice. He uses his psychic and telepathic powers in order to help achieve that end and it’s up to Superman and Lois to find a way to save their son. There’s a solid ending to the story. I won’t spoil that part of it and it really does show the strength of the Super Family. If I had a critique of the story, this sort of long, involved, yearlong, even just in Universe months, long entrenchment really just did not seem Manchester Black style. It seemed like they wanted to bring back Manchester Black for the sake of it rather than him really fitting in the story. That said, there does lead to some pretty, creepy looking art that’s pretty stylistically done. I will say that Manchester Black, such a photo that brings disturbing imagery through what he does as well as his ability to manipulate minds and so you do end up with some art that is a little bit startling for a book known for its more fun visuals, including what looks like, and appears to be at the time, an amputation or near amputation but other than this, I think this was a solid story to close out the Hamilton County run.
Now we also get for Issue 26, a one issue story and this one is “Brains versus Brawn”, and it’s a guest story written by a Micheal Moreci and Scott Godlewski and the setup is that Superman is teaming up with Superboy and trying to teach him how to use his powers but Superboy, in battle is kind of doing his own thing rather than following that Superman’s directions. At the same time, Superman has flashbacks to the time when Paul Kent it was challenging him and expecting him to do things a certain way. Superboy ends up having a failure and Superman recalls what happened with Paul Kent where Paul own the fact that he had caused the problem by insisting that Clark do everything his way and so Superman concludes that Superboy too has got to be given a chance to really learn and develop his own style rather than be forced to do everything Superman’s way and I think that there is a good moral lesson in that and particularly about the relationship of father and son, where a parent should be equipping a child to be themselves rather than a copy of the parent. However, I do question if the issue does take the lesson a little too far because with Superboy, we’re dealing with a 10-year-old with superpowers and it 10 years old, all you pretty much got is instinct without the years of experience and training. So, there does have to be a balance where you are listening and where there is also room for growth. So, it may have been a bit unbalanced in its approach but it’s still a valid moral and I enjoyed it. Overall, as I think has been the case with every volume in the series, I enjoyed Black Dawn and I will gladly give this particular volume a rating of classy and I am eager to see what’s ahead for Clark Kent and family as they move to the city and we’ll be picking that up in future volumes.
Alright, well, that’s it for now. If you do have a comment, email to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure and rate the show on iTunes and Follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy and if you’re liking the podcast please rate on iTunes and from Cascade, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.