Action Comics #592
August 23, 2010
Superman hangs out with old people and Big Barda considers other career options... at least she will when this whole ordeal is done with.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. I frequently mention how sad it is that sometimes I have to review crappy material from otherwise good creators. This is the case with today's writer and artist, John Byrne.
(Cut to a shot of a panel from "All-Star Batman and Robin #1")
Linkara (v/o): The more that I think about it, the more I believe that he's kind of like the bizarro Frank Miller. Frank Miller in the past twenty years has had a gradual decline in the quality of his work, both writing and artwork...
(Cut to a shot of Miller's blog)
Linkara (v/o): ...yet somehow on his blog, he's eloquent and well-spoken.
(Cut to a shot of a comic by John Byrne called "JLA - The Tenth Circle Strikes Again")
Linkara (v/o): John Byrne, on the other hand, while his work remains good, or at least decent and competent, has a bit of a reputation on the Internet for being a jackass.
(Cut to a shot of the Wikipedia article on John Byrne)
Linkara (v/o): Mind you, this is all secondhand from people who have either spoken with him on his site and forums, interacted with him outside the interwebs, or from quotes I found on Wikipedia, so I can't be certain what's true and what's not, but hey, if I don't bring it up, someone else will.
(Cut to shots, first of the cover, then a panel, of an "Uncanny X-Men" comic)
Linkara (v/o): And since I'm sure this will be the first question people ask me, I don't really have an "opinion" on John Byrne. I like his artwork, and I like some, though not all, of his writing. If the quotes and anecdotes about him are true, I have to roll my eyes and be annoyed and disgusted, but all I've got to go on, really, is his work.
Linkara: And hoo, boy, do I have one of his more notorious works today! Let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Action Comics #592".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen playing over it; cut to a shot of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): This is not a great cover, but it is a good cover. This cover is very much "less is more": Big Barda and Superman are at odds, setting up a conflict that is actually within the book. The dialogue that you have, with Barda wanting to kill the creature that Superman is protecting, draws the reader in to want to know why Superman is protecting the grinning, troll-like creature and also why Barda wants to kill him. Making the reader want to know more is how you make a good cover. (the comic opens to the first page) We open with Barda looking... confused and angry at the same time, like she hasn't quite decided what the hell she's supposed to feel about what's in front of her.
(Linkara is seen imitating her look of confusion/anger)
Narrator: It was a simple enough mistake. The kind of mistake almost anyone could have made.
Linkara: (as Barda) What do you mean Chick-fil-A isn't open on Sundays?
Narrator: A right turn instead of a left.
Linkara: Oh, good one, Barda! Now David Tennant is dead and the stars are going out!
Linkara (v/o): We now get a two-page spread of where it is she's turned into, which appears to be Metropolis' red-light district.
Big Barda: What manner of place is this? I'd hoped to have seen the last of such hellholes when I departed from Apokolips!
Linkara: Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that in a world where Granny Goodness brainwashes millions into thinking that love is pain and that torture is the ultimate expression of affection, that some back alley with prostitutes and bums is comparable.
Linkara (v/o): Plus, I don't recall Apokolips having very many women with pink hot pants or thigh-high boots. Now, here's a real question for you: why are they all staring at her? She hasn't said or done anything. By the way, the implication of the opening narration is that she took a wrong turn. If that's the case, why isn't she just turning around and leaving? Or if she's truly horrified that something on Earth resembles Apokolips, why isn't she just examining it from where she stands? Why does she walk directly into it?? A pimp comes up to her.
Pimp: Hey, big mama!
Linkara: (amused) Oh, man, dude, you're gonna be wearing those sunglasses on your pancreas in a minute!
Pimp: Who's your old man, sweetcakes? Whoever he is, he ain't payin' you enough! You come work for the fancy man, babes! I'll make you rich!
Linkara: Ah, yes, the profitable life of a street hooker.
Linkara (v/o): By the way, I don't know who gave you that nickname "fancy man", but ridiculous '80s sunglasses, a massive trenchcoat, and a purple suit do not make me think "fancy". Naturally, such a well-spoken proposition makes Big Barda fling the guy into some trashcans with just a sweep of her arm. And while Barda is berating the guy, some random thief runs up and grabs her purse right off her arm! The hell?! Okay, this guy is simultaneously the best and worse purse snatcher ever. First of all, Big Barda has enhanced strength, and sure, she isn't as fast as the Flash or something, but she's got to have heightened reflexes, especially having grown up on Apokolips. How the hell does a guy just snatch a purse like that? I mean, we're all looking at the same image here, right? And he's the dumbest because he just saw the pimp get backhanded at least five feet. What kind of idiot thinks that trying to steal from this woman would be smart?? Naturally, Barda goes chasing after him, especially since her bag also contains her weapon, the Mega-Rod. Feel free to make your own jokes about a Mega-Rod; there are plenty.
Thief: (thinking) Sh-She's comin' after me! Who is this crazy broad?
Linkara: (sarcastically) Gee, it's almost as if stealing from the six-foot-five, super-strong woman was a bad idea or something.
Linkara (v/o): Dude, just drop the purse and gun it. If you don't, you're not gonna walk away from this with all your limbs. And now it's just getting silly. He decides he needs to slow her down for two seconds so that he can get into a sewer to escape. So he shuts a large random iron gate that's in an alleyway. How the hell did that sort of thing get installed in Metropolis? If it was just for street barriers to keep people from driving through, why the heck is it something that can be raised and lowered? And doesn't stopping to lower it slow you down, dude? And of course, the plan works, since while Barda just rips the grating out, the guy ducks into a random sewer manhole. For the record, those things are friggin' heavy. Guy's really going through the extra trouble for what's probably only twelve bucks in her purse. Barda, having grown up in an environment where "1984" is considered a lighthearted comedy, has no aversion jumping into the sewer after him.
Thief: (thinking) She's still followin' me! She mus' be part houn'dog, that one!
Linkara: And given what your face looks like, I'm betting you're part cream cheese.
Linkara (v/o): All of a sudden, a tentacle comes down and grabs the guy. Hey, more credit: this one took seven pages to become tentacle hentai, when Elite Force only took four. The squid creature works for Sleez, the villain of our happy piece. Sleez is like Yoda's perverted uncle. Aside from this story, one of the only other times this character appears...
(Cut to a shot of a panel of a comic where Sleez appears)
Linkara (v/o): ...is in "Countdown", (sarcastically) so you know this has gotta be awesome! (laughs, then speaks in a low voice) Good God, somebody kill me now.
(Cut back to this current comic)
Linkara (v/o): Sleez inspects the purse and finds Barda's Mega-Rod in it.
Linkara: (pretending to hold Mega-Rod, as Sleez) Ooh, it even has three settings!
Sleez: He stole this from a native of Apokolips! Perhaps someone who is still close by. As close as the hour of my vengeance!!
Linkara: (as Sleez) And yes, I do like to monologue to my pink squid. Don't you?
Linkara (v/o): Barda makes her way through the sewer, but is almost hit by a blast from the Mega-Rod. She activates her body armor.
Big Barda: (thinking) With my body armor activated, I am nearly invulnerable!
Linkara: Unless, of course, someone aims for your face, but who would do that? It's not like the face contains anything valuable behind it or something. She becomes a little worried as she realizes that whoever is wielding the Mega-Rod is getting more and more skilled at it.
Linkara: How much skill do you really need for a big tube that shoots laser beams?
Linkara (v/o): Barda finds the corpse of the thief hanging upside-down, distracting her for a moment. The blast from the Mega-Rod hits her in the chest and knocks her out. So much for "nearly invulnerable".
Sleez: And thus, she falls... and my enemies* are enriched! For more years than I can count I have been on this planet... abandoned by great Darkseid, left to rot on a primitive little world at the edge of nowhere!
- NOTE: Sleez actually says "schemes", not "enemies".
Linkara: Dude, get a blog. It would help you stop talking to yourself.
Sleez: But now, at long last, the fates have recharged my patience. They have sent to me the perfect bait for my trap! An officer of Darkseid's own elite guard!
Linkara (v/o): You know what'd be funny right now? If he, like, kept talking to himself for an hour, and Barda just woke up and punched his face in. But no, what we're going to get is (exaggeratedly) so much better. We cut to two days later, where Clark Kent is checking out a volunteer clinic outside of Suicide Slum, the impoverished and crime-ridden area of Metropolis. The doctor introduces Clark to an old woman.
Clark: I'm Clark Kent... Molly, is it? How do you find living here, Molly? Are you comfortable?
Molly: Carl Trent? I knows 'at name. I heard it somewheres... once...
Linkara: (as Molly) It probably goes without saying, but I had jello today.
Doctor: I'm afraid you won't get much in the way of coherent conversation from Molly, Mr. Kent.
Linkara: (as doctor) She's nuttier than peanut M&Ms.
Linkara (v/o): The doctor reveals that she's actually 121 years old, and that a good chunk of the patients in the clinic are also extraordinarily old. Clark uses his enhanced vision to take a closer look at their genetic structure, seeing traces of a bizarre form of radiation that he's unfamiliar with. After he leaves, he changes into Superman and flies off to Suicide Slum to see if he can get an explanation.
Superman: (thinking) Now that's very interesting. I'm detecting traces of that same peculiar radiation all through this area. Where can it be coming from?
Linkara (v/o): And then we cut to Barda, clad only in what could only be described as about a hundred tassels, dancing around in front of Sleez, who has a jukebox.
Linkara: So... Barda emits life-extending radiation when she dances? (shrugs)
Sleez: Dance for me, pretty pretty! Dance for Sleez! I was driven from my native world because great Darkseid judged me too disgusting even for the blackest corner of Apokolips.
Linkara: My God, it's true! What sick and twisted nightmare would actually make her... DANCE?! (Shock Horror sound is heard)
Linkara (v/o): Barda, managing to break through some of Sleez's mind control, says that she's never heard of Sleez before. And of course, now that he actually has a real audience, Sleez monologues the backstory of both the New Gods and himself.
Sleez: (narrating) In the sweltering darkness of the lowest levels of that world, I first came to self-awareness.
Linkara: (as Sleez) Pants were optional in those days.
Sleez: (narrating) I lived. I thought.
Linkara (v/o): Huh, how very Cartesian.
Sleez: (narrating) And I knew I had power!
(Cut to a clip of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, showing Emperor Palpatine zapping Mace Windu)
Palpatine: UNLIMITED POWER!!!
(Cut back to the comic)
Sleez: (narrating) Power enough to bring me under the watchful eye of Darkseid! A young Darkseid, then. Not yet master of either Apokolips or his own dark powers.
Linkara: (as Sleez) It would be years before he mastered the dark art of sitting on other people's couches.
Sleez: (narrating) He made me his servant, his aide... even his councillor [sic]. We learned much from each other. Much of the hidden face of humanity. Darkseid pointed out to me the pathways to realms where my power burned bright!
Linkara: (as Darkseid) You want to go to White Castle? (as Sleez) OF COURSE! (cackles)
Sleez: (narrating) But there came a time of changes.
Linkara: (as Sleez) Puberty was not fun for Darkseid.
Sleez: (narrating) Petty cruelties amused him less and less. His mind turned to the greater workings of the universe!
Linkara: (as Darkseid, thinking) Where does string come from?
Sleez: (narrating) I fell from favor. On that day was I the first to know the touch of Darkseid's omega beams! For an instant that seemed an eternity I was less than nothing! But I was not destroyed! Instead, I found myself transported. Hurled across time and space to a lost corner of the cosmos called Earth!
Linkara: You know, it sounds like he banished you because he was bored, not because you were "the most disgusting on Apokolips".
Sleez: (narrating) And here I stayed waiting through the long march of years... waiting for the wheel of fortune to turn my way again...
Linkara: (as Sleez, holding up fist) Someday, I will buy a vowel!
Sleez: And now it has! For with you as my captive... and the Mega-Rod in my hand... nothing can stand against me! Nothing!!
Linkara: Oh, yeah, a big metal tube that shoots lasers. (shakes head) There's no way anybody can stop you. Unless they, you know, have guns... or bombs... stabbing objects... really hard rock...
Big Barda: ...No... please... not again...
Linkara: (as Barda) Don't make me dance the funky chicken again! No!
Linkara (v/o): Superman shows up, grabbing Sleez and tossing him into a wall. Yeah, holding that Mega-Rod really made you unstoppable.
Superman: You had me at a disadvantage, miss. I don't think I know you... Unless you're Wonder Woman under all that glop!
Linkara: (stunned) Excuse me?!
Superman: Unless you're Wonder Woman under all that glop!
Linkara: UP YOURS, YOU SANCTIMONIOUS PRICK!! The woman was held hostage for two days doing God knows what, and the first thing you say to her is about her heavy makeup, which sounds like a veiled insult to her looking like a prostitute?! Seriously, go to Hell!!
Linkara (v/o): Barda reveals who she is to Supes and says that his intrusion allowed her to break free of Sleez's mind control. She armors up and reclaims her Mega-Rod.
Barda: Now, Sleez, it is time for you to pay! Pay for the indignities which you heaped upon me in the past few* days!
- ANOTHER NOTE: Barda actually says "two", not "few".
Linkara: (as Barda) You made me dance the robot to Queen, you bastard!
Linkara (v/o): By the way, implied rape there. Classy. Superman stops her from killing Sleez.
Superman: I have to, Barda. There's more to all this than you understand!
Linkara: (as Superman) Let me explain, and then you can kill him!
Linkara (v/o): Barda interprets this to mean that Superman is under Sleez's control and that the whole rescue is actually a plot by Sleez to break her will.
Barda: But the full force of my Mega-Rod (Linkara snickers briefly) would fell even the real Superman!
Linkara (v/o): Supes is knocked out, and Barda prepares the killing blast against Sleez. However, Sleez's octopus thing, out of nowhere, grabs her Mega-Rod. Oh, yeah, I totally believe that the flabby octopus thing can somehow force the Mega-Rod from the grip of an angry, super-strong woman. That makes tons of sense. And so, our comic ends with Sleez pulling a lever, and Superman and Big Barda fall into a trapdoor. Okay, what the hell? This is some random sewer pipe, not a castle! Who the hell installed a trapdoor – that the two conveniently happen to be standing on – with a huge pit?!
Linkara: (holding up comic) This comic doesn't quite suck, but it's bizarre and icky. The villain is unconvincing, and the characterization is a bit off for Superman and Barda. For that matter, the squick factor of what's happening with Big Barda requires a really talented writer to pull off, but I think we could get to that more next time. This issue was bad, but not that bad. But ohhhh, boy, come back next week. Here's a hint of what's to come...
(He raises his finger in the air, and erotic-sounding music plays briefly)
(End credits roll)
No, Lieutenant Munro is not returning here.
Sleez was clearly kicked off of Apokolips because of discrimination against fat, perverted green slobs.
Also because John Lithgow had recently come to Apokolips. Now Sleez has got to cut loose. Foot loose. Kick off the Sunday shoes.
(Stinger: A shot of a panel showing Sleez is shown, as Kermit the Frog is heard singing "It's Not Easy Being Green")
- It's not that easy being green,
- Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
- When I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold
- Or something much more colorful like that.