Friday, October 07, 2005

The Loeb Review: Superman for all Seasons

Since my exploration of the work of Jeph Loeb seems to be so popular, here's a review I did some time ago during my quest to find something he'd written that didn't ultimately suck.

This is clearly an earlier work by Loeb, and although it has his trademark monologue captions, here they are not as polished as more recent works, and in places it's hard to tell who is talking. It also thankfully doesn't bring in a lot of guest stars for no very good reason. But it does have annoying plot holes, Lex Luthor acting like an idiot, and those dumb powersuits.

It starts off quite well, dwelling on Supes coming into his powers and the bewilderment this causes him, but then it continues to dwell on this at length while rehashing Superman's leaving Smallville and setting up in Metropolis in a way that adds nothing to previous versions. I'd reccomend replacing book 2 with John Byrne's Man of Steel, since it covers the same ground and is more interesting. It also doesn't include the stupid plot with the submarine. Issues never addressed here: Why was the submarine shooting at Metropolis? What was Lois Lane doing aboard it? What did Luthor possibly have to gain by this (if he was indeed responsible)? The whole thing is just one big plot hole that really has little to do with the story at all.

And then we get to Luthor idiot plot #2: Make everyone in Metropolis ill and then tell Superman it's his fault so he'll be sad. Show him up by conveniently providing an antidote and then have someone drop dead in his arms for no good reason to make him even sadder.

Whenever Loeb writes Luthor he characterizes him as an idiot with the vast resources to turn his whims into reality. Luthor sets up a rescue team to upstage Superman but appears to have staffed it with thugs rather than trained specialists. They wear uniforms that look sinister in an absurd color scheme kind of a way. Why do such a half assed job when you have the resources to hire real trained firemen/doctors/astronauts/whoever else you'd need, and a promotional department who could make them look like a friendly, serious emergency service. His absurd virus plot only succeeds at all because Loeb writes Superman dumb enough to fall for it.

And what was the deal with all that stuff about Jenny Vaughn? Superman saves her from a burning building - fine. She becomes a total Superman nerd; I can see that. She's an expert in viruses - okay. Lex Luthor hires her and then brainwashes her with film of Superman being heroic - why? She was already a complete Supes groupie. She then helps Luthor develop the virus, or the antidote, maybe both, and dresses up in a superheroish costume and calls herself Toxin (what a giveaway). Lex then manoevers the situation so Supes has to carry her up into the clouds as everyone has conveniently forgotten about Lex's flying powersuits. She then gets a couple of pages of captions telling us how she had a miserable childhood and promptly drops dead for no explained reason so Lex can blame Superman.

I'd really like it if someone could explain to me what the hell is going on there because it makes no sense at all to me.

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Anonymous Brad said...

I really liked this series when I read it, considerably more than Man of Steel, which I thought was deathly dull. That said, I liked Long Halloween the first time I read it, too, before I really [i] thought about it[i]. I'm pretty bad about noticing plot holes until someone points at them and yells at the top of their lungs.

10/07/2005 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

This book is idiotic, but I gave it a positive review on my blog because compared to Loeb's usual work, it's he next coming of Watchmen. I think even if he did a comic with only one panel like Family Circus he'd still find a way for it to have plot hole.

10/08/2005 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger Chad said...

So what's the deal? if you don't like the guy's writing, if you don't like his style, if you don't like his storytelling sense- WHY KEEP READING WHAT HE DOES?

You were on a quest to find something he did that didn't suck? if it had to be a quest, why did you care at all?

10/08/2005 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I can tell you why I'm fixated on him. If he was just bad, I could avoid his work like I do with Ben Raab and Howard Mackie. They get placed on one book here or there of minor importance and usually get teamed with an artist I don't care about.

Loeb on the other hand is bad yet unavoidable and always in your face. Whenever I get into a book or character, sooner or later Loeb gets invited to write it and totally derails whatever good plotlines were set up. So I kept giving his issues a try because I was already reading the series, and he'd always end up driving me away. As soon as I moved onto another book and started enjoying it, he'd end up there too! He derailed a bunch of good DC books I was reading to suck them into the horridly plotted Our Worlds at War crossover. I was looking forward to a Superman/Batman book, then I found out he was writing it. Now he's coming onto Ultimates, which I like. Combine that with the fact that his books were pretty much the only way to get McGuiness, Sale and now Madureira artwork now (all of whom I love) and there you go.

So as I kept watching him produce increasingly worse work yet get higher and higer, I became fascinated and figured there must be some great Loeb gem out there that allowed him to coast on former glories and started looking for this Holy Grail. So I started searching for it, armed with my public library card.

10/08/2005 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger Marionette said...

So what's the deal? if you don't like the guy's writing, if you don't like his style, if you don't like his storytelling sense- WHY KEEP READING WHAT HE DOES?

Originally I read something of his and saw some good qualities in it (particularly the dialogue) although it was flawed in other ways. And yet a lot of people seemed to think highly of him so I asked around for recommendations of his best work, hoping to see this potential realised.

But each work seemed to be flawed in some respect or other, and soon I was beginning to see the same writing tricks repeating over and over again to the point where it was looking formulaic.

At some point in the quest I stopped caring whether he'd written something that didn't in some way suck, and he just became a running gag in my writing. I find him entertaining at the "so bad it's funny" level, and he's always good for supplying me with something to write about.

As for why he deserves my ire in such quantities; as he says himself in the interview quoted by Brian "Superman/Batman is the DC flagship book right now." And yet despite his belief that he is writing the most important comic published by DC he makes no effort to keep consistant with the rest of the DC universe. He seems to expect everyone else to keep in line with him, even when he is rewriting other people's work out from under them. And I'm not even going to get on to the "two Luthors" speculation here.

Plus, you know, Supergirl.

10/08/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Arndt said...

Superman/Batman should be the flagship title of the DCU and the other titles should try to keep up with it.

But Superman/Batman should not be written by Jeph Loeb.

10/10/2005 09:51:00 AM  
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