Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Azzarello Superhero Facts of Life Part 2 - You Take The Bad

"For Tomorrow," the 12-part storyline that Brian Azzarello wrote and Jim Lee drew, is very much a tale of two parts, both flawed, but both flawed in different ways. The first was trying to be too high-brow, and the latter was trying to be low-brow - both failed. The end result was a rather bizarre storyline that, well, wasn't very good to start with and eventually ended up peculiarly terrible.

The jokey one sentence description of "For Tomorrow" that people use when they speak dismissively about it is "It's Superman talking to a priest - and that's it." That, however, I think is an unfair characterization of the storyline, as really, only the first few issues of the story follow that pattern (and, as mentioned, the story was an garish TWELVE issues long). And, upon retrospect, those early issues that people mocked at the time are sadly the best issues of the series. I always find "For Tomorrow" to be an interesting lesson in Brian Azzarello as a writer - the guy clearly moves to the beat of his own drummer, and in many a ways, I really admire that about him. He is given Jim Lee to work with, hot off one of the most popular storyline of the past five years (if not THE most popular storyline of the past five years), and given the centerpiece of a big Superman launch - and he decides to tell a personal, human interest story. It is just so ballsy, how can you NOT admire the gumption a bit? Here is an artist who does basically two things well - he draws T&A really well and he draws action scenes well. So Azzarello writes comics where he just waxes poetic with a priest. Come on, you have to sorta admire that!

However, from reading the story, it appears as though, at one point, DC informed him that he had to pick up the pace. I do not know if you folks recall, but this storyline was HEMMORGHING readers - just losing them like crazy, to the point where, by the end of the storyline, Superman had lost, in issue sales, the total amount of readers for the other two Superman titles combined (that is, about 100,000 issues). So while I was not there, and cannot say for sure that Azzarello was told to make the comics have more action in them, the change in tone of the comic is drastic. After a number of low-key stories, the action comes faster and more furious, to the point where the last three issues are just non-sensical series of action sequences.

Still, reading them again, the early issues are pretty decent. The conversations between Superman and the priest are interesting enough, and the whole "the priest has cancer" twist was hinted at extremely well (the priest buying peaches, for instance).

In addition, two other things leap out to me as being good about "For Tomorrow."

1. The basic plot of Superman devising an emergency plan in case Earth is ever in danger of being destroyed, and that emergency plan being co-opted by a bad guy


2. Azzarello's new mercenary character, Mr. Orr. Azzarello writes "badasses" well, and Orr is indeed a badass.

However, pretty much every other aspect of the comic was handled quite poorly. For instance, they introduce this villain named Equus, who looks and acts EXACTLY like Seth from the Authority!! It was sooo bizarre. Really, though, the low point of the series came in the last issue, where the priest is now in a super warsuit, going by the codename Pilate.


That's right.

The same priest from the beginning of the series ends up donning a superpowered war suit (not of his own volition) and going by the name Pilate.

It's probably hokier than you are even imagining right now.

So, basically, "For Tomorrow" started out slow and flawed, and then became fast-paced, but even MORE flawed.

Not a good comic.

In fact, an interesting side-note is how quickly DC disavowed "For Tomorrow." The plot of the story is that it is a year after one million people vanished from Earth (we learn later that Superman's plan involved using the Phantom Zone to transport Earth's denizens to in case Earth was going to pull a Krypton), and yet that year has basically been glossed over. Superman and Lois never mention the fact that she was gone for a year. No other heroes ever point out to Superman that it is kinda lame of him to get mad at Batman's contingency plan getting co-opted by bad guys after Superman JUST had the same thing happen to him. We never hear about Pilate or Equus again (although they are shown alive at the end of the story). Superman's new Fortress of Solitude was quickly dropped. Basically, the only things from this story that remain are A. The quick reference to the OMAC Project in one of the later issues (apparently, the warsuit the priest wears was a prototype for the OMAC stupid robot things that I hate so much) and B. Mr. Orr, but that doesn't count, because he only shows up in Azzarello's NEXT project.

So, yeah, bad comic.

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Blogger Chris said...

Can I assume that Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is the "You Take Them Both" portion of the program?

Because I want someone to explain to me how the hell Azzarello can write exactly 2.5 great issues of a 5-issue series and the other 2.5 issues can suck so very, very, hard.

2/28/2006 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Now, if you remember, that arc of Azzarello's Superman took place one year in the future. Although I doubt that DC will pick that up, considering that Kyle Rayner is still a GL, it would be cool if they did. Fuck, what if that OMAC was some precursor to a new OMAC series? Doubtful, but if so, it would put the series in a whole new light.

2/28/2006 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Marionette said...

I read this and I found it a total yawnfest ending in a completely absurd fight scene. Plus it was way, way too long.

2/28/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Can I assume that Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is the "You Take Them Both" portion of the program?"

It's like you're some kind of mind-reader!!

2/28/2006 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Now, if you remember, that arc of Azzarello's Superman took place one year in the future. Although I doubt that DC will pick that up, considering that Kyle Rayner is still a GL, it would be cool if they did. Fuck, what if that OMAC was some precursor to a new OMAC series? Doubtful, but if so, it would put the series in a whole new light."

I believe it was, instead, that Action Comics and Adventures of Superman were set in the PAST, rather than Superman being set in the future.

That idea was quickly dropped when Azzarello's run was a critical and commercial disaster, and Berganza has since been quoted on saying that DC is just going to gloss over the whole "one year later" aspect of "For Tomorrow."

2/28/2006 05:29:00 PM  
Anonymous The Ever-Lovin' Alex Freakin' W said...

I'd like to take issue with the idea that Mr Orr was a 'good thing'. Every time he answered a question with another question I wanted to cut someone. The fact that he turned up in the Luthor mini made me stalk the neighbourhood looking for small dogs to kick. He was the most annoying character I've had the misfortune to encounter in comics for quite a while, and there's a lot of competition.

2/28/2006 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Beta Ray Steve said...

It's seemed like Azz was trying to spread 3 issues of story over 12. I left when I realized that all those issues of Superman and the priest chatting were leading to... more talk.
"For Tomorrow" was like "Hush" except without the tour of every Batman villain, it was pretty but plodding.

2/28/2006 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Vitamin Steve said...

The failing of this series came from the fact that it was part of a botched Wildstorm take on the Superman characters. If you remember, DC was going to hand over Superman to Wildstorm Editorial for a little while, and there was this plan for them to have a giant storyline that would encompass the last "The Question" mini-series, "Lex Luthor", the aborted Micah Wright "Vigilante" series,the Azz-Lee "Superman: For Tomorrow", and I believe and OMAC book of some sort.

This explains some spillover between the 3 that actually got published (both "The Question" and "Lex Luthor" have to do with Lex's plan to build a giant "Science Spire", while Mr. Orr(or as I liked to call him "Captain Mustache") was featured in both "Superman" and "Lex Luthor". I believe that the original plan for "For Tomorrow" was to also involve the Science Spire, and Lex using it to attack Superman. Obviously, the giant plan got botched, and DC changed their path halfway through the planning, so the ones that got published had their stories tweaked, and instead of Lex vs Supes in "Superman", we got Zod. And personally, I believe that the OMAC we saw in "Superman" has nothing to do with the OMAC's we've been seeing since "Countdown". It's just a coincidence that DC would rather we forget.


3/01/2006 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Interesting stuff, Steve, and I personally believe most of it, except I would suggest that Azz's OMAC reference, as they appear in the later (i.e. changed) part of the story most likely IS meant to be an Infinite Crisis tie-in, as the "Men in shadows" riff had appeared in more than one title at that point.

3/01/2006 01:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought they had continued with Superman's new fortress? I could've sworn he was attacked by an OMAC and the new Blackrock while he was there (not a good track record for the new digs).


3/01/2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I'm sorry, when I said "not continued," I meant that they destroyed it in the first issue of the new creative team.

3/01/2006 11:21:00 AM  

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