Waiting for the Trade – Superman

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 
Superman: Camelot
Falls – The Weight of the World

by Kurt Busiek, Carlos
Pacheco and Jesus Merino

collects Superman
662-664, 667 and Superman Annual 13

 

Why I Bought This: This
had been in the discount bin of my favorite local comic store for many months
and I kept considering picking it up because of the Camelot reference on the
cover and Kurt Busiek’s authorship. About two months after Busiek responded to
my Aquaman review on this site, I figured why not when the price dropped again
to $5.

 

The Plot: Prior
to this trade Superman was informed by an Atlantean sorcerer that the presence
of alien heroes on Earth is disrupting the natural cycle of good and evil that
guides human destiny. The sorcerer claims that when evil finally breaks through
it will be so pent up that it will lead to the extinction of humanity. Thus he
asks Superman to consider leaving the planet for the greater good. Now Superman
has two weeks to decide before the sorcerer returns.

Chapter 1 – An alien by the name of Subjekt 17 is in Tibet
pondering why some humans live in third world conditions while other have
advanced technology as he plots revenge on Superman. (His story seems to be
that like Superman he was an alien infant rocketed to Earth, but unlike him he
was found by evil government types to be experimented on and turned into a
weapon). Meanwhile Superman is at the Fortress of Solitude trying to determine
if Power Girl is a Krytponian since some other alien villain recently told him
there is a third Kryptonian on Earth but the scans are negative. In Metropolis
as Clark Kent, Superman discusses the sorcerer
Arion’s claims with Perry, Jimmy and Lois who apparently were brought with
Superman into the future by Arion to see the death of humanity. They mostly
bring up the good Supes has down while also doubting if the future is fated.
Supes then goes to Zatanna (The JLA’s resident mystic) for advice and she fills
him on Arion’s back-story: he dates back to 45,000 B.C., died at the hands of
Mordu recently then mysteriously returned from the grave for some mystic story
she was a part of. Next Supes flies to Iran since in the future Arion
showed Supes both human civilization and Superman himself were killed by a
villain called Khyber, who was then stopped by an Arab hero named Sirocco.
Based on Arion’s timeline, Sirocco should be active now in the present so
Superman decides to meet him to see if he exists. He does, although it’s in
early in his career and he was using a different codename but likes the one
Superman calls him better and changes his name to Sirocco right on the spot. He
also claims to have killed the man that is supposed to become Khyber already.
When Superman returns to Metropolis there’s a bunch of flying people in the
sky.

Chapter 2 – In some magic bar Arion, wearing the costume
Zatanna saw in her recent adventure with him, is getting drunk when he is
confronted by the Arion Superman met two weeks ago. Supes’ Arion claims the one
in the bar is an imposter and takes him prisoner. In Metropolis the flying
people are behaving like amok children causing lots of collateral damage.
Apparently they are members of the New Gods (a group of quasi-immortals who
have something or other to do with Darkseid that I’ve never sufficiently cared
enough to look into). Light Ray (apparently another New God) shows up and
apologizes to Superman as he gets the teens under control and we learn the
random amok flying people were influenced by one of Arion’s spells to show
Superman the dangers of aliens on Earth. Meanwhile fake Arion tries to
apologize to real Arion for impersonating him. The real Arion grills him about
the present since apparently he has traveled forward in time from the past.
Next Supes goes to Lana Lang for advice, who is now the CEO of Lexcorp. She
says even if Arion is right and Clark has to
give up being a superhero she says he could still stay on Earth and help people
in other ways by joining NASA as an example. Supes broods for a few pages until
a little girl falls off a building and he saves her, at which point he realizes
he could never stand back and let people die no matter the surrounding
circumstances. He tells Arion on deadline day and Arion casts a spell to
possess Superman saying he will use him to cause civilization’s downfall.

Chapter 3 – Superman attempts to fight off the mind control
(something he’s been practicing with Martian Manhunter and Zatanna) when he
gets attacked by hi-tech soldiers who have government built tech specifically
for facing Superman when he’s mind-controlled mostly using sonic weapons,
electricity and bright lights. Ironically while they intend for this to disrupt
the mind control it is actually disrupting Superman’s resistance to the spell
which was working. They also attack Arion and he teleports away. Supes scatters
the government agents and tries to fly away to clear his head only to be
attacked by Prankster. Then the JLA arrive but by now Supes is free of the
spell and so they leave. Supes and Lois meanwhile are disappointed that there
is an entire government agency dedicated to stopping him, but that doesn’t stop
Supes from rounding up Prankster and arresting him before vowing to find Arion.

Chapter 4 – Superman and Zatanna are battling Lovecraftian
creatures set upon them by Arion who sends them a telepathic warning that this
humanities future if Supes doesn’t leave. Arion has also taken his case to the
public but both people in the streets and the U.N. vow to support Superman.
Subjekt 17 finds Superman and for some reason knows where Arion is hiding but won’t
tell Superman unless Supes can beat him a fight. Superman tries to be
reasonable but when 17 won’t have it he beats the holy hell out of him until he
agrees to talk and we learn Arion has a castle at the bottom of the Ocean. So
Supes heads there accompanies by some Lex-Corp flying remote cameras Lana built
to show the world the big fight. Arion has a force field that Superman cannot
break on his own so he makes a massive whirlpool and drops the weight of the
ocean upon it and it breaks.

Chapter 5 – We get a flashback of a trip to the future
Superman took with Phantom Stranger to verify if the future Arion showed
Superman is indeed a probable future and the Stranger seems to confirm it;
although he notes the future is fluid as Superman’s adventures with the Legion
of Superheroes show. Back in the present Superman destroys Arion’s castle.
Arion counter attacks but the Stranger had given Supes an anti-magic aura in
preparation for this fight. Arion then sets two monsters on him and while Supes
fights them off he transforms into Chthulu. However even in that form Supes is
stronger than him and the fight proves pretty one-sided. Arion returns to human
form and Supes uses that moment to steal all his magic rings and amulets at
super speed. Without them Arion’s remaining spells collapse destroying what’s
left of his castle. Supes takes Arion to jail but we see the real Arion escaped
to 1659 and left the imposter behind to face the music. With Arion (seemingly)
defeated Superman once again vows to continue to strive to save people despite
the prophecy. Then in the epilogue we see Khyber come back from the dead.

Critical Thoughts
– This is an okay story. It has an intriguing premise and I liked that
Superman’s doesn’t just take Arion’s word on this prophecy but tries to
investigate by contacting other mystics, looking up people from this supposed
future in the present and even time traveling without Arion to verify for
himself. It always nice to see the protagonist written in an intelligent manner
and use some of the tools available to him in an interconnected universe.

That said the fight scenes are not dramatic at all, which is
often a problem in Superman’s comic more than any other hero. Among the
villains Subjekt 17 is not a compelling character with motivations that don’t
make sense; while Prankster’s involvement also feels both random and
unnecessary. Arion is interesting in the early chapters when his motivations
are ambiguous to both Supes and the reader but once the story devolves into
Lovecraftian horrors it loses a lot of steam–although perhaps I’m jaded on the
idea because Marvel’s mostly terrible Realm
of Kings
crossover was heavily influenced by Lovecraft as well. I did like
Arion’s little switcheroo at the end but at the same time I doubt I would bother
to pick up a future trade if he came back to bother Superman again.

 

Grade C. The
first chapter is very good and there are some interesting ideas here as Busiek
writes good dialogue and supporting characters but ultimately it turns into a
very run of the mill Superman story in the last two chapters.