Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Azzarello Superhero Facts of Life Part 3 - You Take Them Both And There You Have

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is an intriguing project. Written by Azzarello with absolutely stunning (although not always stunning in a GOOD way) art by Lee Bermejo, Man of Steel is one of those projects that makes you think Azzarello has it all figured out...and then, it makes you think he doesn't get it at all.

The one thing that struck me the most of this series is that, for the most part, the plot of this story could have been done in any of the past 20 years by any number of creators. Byrne, Stern, Michelinie, Ordway, Kesel, Simonson, Jurgens, Millar, Immonen, Casey, DeMatteis, Kelly, Loeb, Schultz, Austen, Rucka, Seagle, Verheiden, Simone...any ONE of them could have come up with this story, and heck, I think Michelinie basically DID in his mini-series "Superman's Nemesis: Lex Luthor."

However, as I have mentioned in his Broken City story, the plot is not the most important aspect of Azzarello's better comics, but rather, his delivery of said plot. And in the early issues of this series, Azzarello does a fine job giving the story such panache that he really sells it. Lex is charasmatic, the story really flows well, and our view into Lex's dealings really resonates.

The turning point for the series really appears to be the middle issue, which is a fun story of Lex Luthor dining with Bruce Wayne. However, the parallel story of Batman engaging with Superman over a piece of Kryptonite (don't ask me what the plot of that parallel story is, exactly, as I have no clue) seemed to be quite weak, and the ending of the issue does not appear to be resolved in the mini-series, which is irritating.

The last two issues seem to lack a good deal of coherence, and the finale, especially, reeks with "Really? Really? THAT'S what you're going with? THAT?" The idea that the entire mini-series is all an intricate plan just to make Superman look kinda sorta maybe a little bit bad in the public's eye? I might be able to get behind such an ending if it was a Joker mini-series, as the twist would be that the Joker is insane, so it makes SENSE that all these intricate plans for such a miniscule result is just an expression of his madness. But for Luthor, it serves only to make him look like a buffoon - and Luthor does not work well as a buffoon, and I do not think Azzarello INTENDS on making him look like a buffoon, that is just how it turns out.

All that work...for THAT?

A really disappointing ending.

As for Bermejo - his photo-realistic art, while interesting, can sometimes be a bit much. For the most part, it is great to look at, but sometimes, it is stiffer than Greg Land. However, it is always striking. I have to give him that (by the by, I do not like the whole - the "S" looks like a iron-on decal look).

All in all, this series seems to combine the dramatic stylistic storytelling with his Broken City story and the incoherence (and Mr. Orr!) and ill-advised planning of For Tomorrow. The result is, as mentioned before, disappointing. So, sadly, the superhero world of Azzarello never seems to be livin' up to our dreams. However, there's a time you got to go and show, and, well, we're growin' now, so we now know about the Azzarello Superhero Facts of Life.

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Anonymous Lee M. said...

Haven't read Broken City or For Tomorrow yet, but my biggest problem with the Luthor series was Azz's propensity for using hockey player names would tear me out of the story (much like Meltzer's use of comic characters in his prose work). It's a nice wink & a nod to some fans, but I find it distracting. Orr, Amonte, Federov...

2/28/2006 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Yeah, that IS lame.

Now, if he chose, like, OBSCURE hockey players, THAT would be kinda cool.

Like Wayne Dillon or Pete Stemkowski.

2/28/2006 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe he should use Tony Twist *ducks and covers*

2/28/2006 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Pete Stemkowski said...


2/28/2006 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I am sorry, Pete, you're still obscure!

I love ya, though!

2/28/2006 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Man of Steel is one of those projects that makes you think Azzarello has it all figured out...and then, it makes you think he doesn't get it at all.

I haven't read LL: Man of Steel but this is a perfect description of EVERYTHING I've read from Azzarello. Except I pretty much conclude he doesn't get it all each time I read one of his books.

3/01/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Brian, I just read LL: MoS last Monday and that's exactly what my reaction was.

And while I wouldn't say this story was decompressed per se, there's nothing about it that couldn't have been crammed into an Annual. Lex's actions and behavior don't make no sense in the end.

Lex's relationship with blonde I liked, though. Someone should bring her back.

3/01/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the botched ending may not be Azzarello's fault. LL:MoS was supposed to tie in with Vietch's QUESTION series and a VIGILANTIE mini with the "Science Spire" or whatever that thing was called, as the unifying element.

I'm not really an Azarello fan, but I did hear this somewhere, in an interview with Vietch I think, and it's a legitimate defense.

3/01/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did I spell Veitch wrong? Sorry.

3/01/2006 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

This one was great right up until the story started. I was having a really great time seeing things from Luthor's POV, seeing him as a crusading Everyman and Superman as the sinister inhuman invader from space.

Unfortunately, this big dumb story got in the way. grr.

3/02/2006 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Great one-sentence description, Pol.

"It was good until the stupid plot actually began."

I totally agree (okay, I would say "Good" rather than "Great," but yeah, basically).

3/04/2006 04:25:00 PM  

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