sweatboy's Superman #121 - They Call It Suicide Slum! review

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Conceivable criminal acts, real heroism and Superman fails

"It's a reality we ignore because we're too busy congratulating ourselves for the housing our tax dollars have provided. We like to pretend that this piece of turf doesn't even exist. In contrast to that, shootings occur on a daily basis as rival gangs fight over that same land"

So, many people seem to have a bone to pick with Superman, for how invincible or headfast he is, or how he has no real weaknesses, for how nothing ever goes wrong in his stories, and how Batman's a better hero. "His stories are so perfect", "He has too many super powers, of course he's gonna win all his fights", and therefore he's boring....right? I think this is a great contradiction.

It's an issue that has Clark Kent narrating the story in his civillian identity and speaking in the 3rd person of Superman, who btw doesn't have any lines. (I've also heard something similar about Daredevil, where he plays the role of lawyer Murdock throughout the whole book, appearing in costume only like twice if at all, so the idea may not be completely original) He does fly a second time, but he's got no time to waste and he flies with his glasses on and his shirt half open; half Kent, half Superman, as if he was shedding his double identity, cos it didn't really matter at the time. As if, it was no longer his concern. One of the panels depicts Superman more like the Eradicator, with burning eyes and a floating cape. Oh and most importantly, Superman does fail.

The story's basically about a crime and a witness, and the criminal's threat to keep her shut. Politicians covering up messes and cops laughing at the "big shots" being suddenly interested. Lateesha Johnson, the main character in Clark's story (this is not ABOUT Kent or Superman) get's shot even as Sup...Clark is trying to shield her from a rain of bullets. Her mother loses it and blames it on Kent. Clark says something very cool:

"You can't die. I wont let you die. Your mom was right. This is MY fault. Not because of today alone but because i've ignored this place for years. People think i can fix every problem... but i can't be everywhere. Some i can't fix"

It's also interesting how Superman reacts toward the shooter. I would have been angrier, and if i were Superman, with all his might and power, i'd be more forceful, but he just blows him off with a breath. But of course, although Superman can't save the kid from getting SHOT, he manages to save her from DYING. We can't have a sad ending can we? Just for the sake of the effect by the story i wish the kid had died, but she IS the protagonist. And this is where the comic hits it's downfall, when Clark says that Lateesha managed to survive because

"..good fortune or fate, or God himself had shone on her that fateful day. A passing samaritan whisked Lateesha to the hospital"

How necessary was that? Is Superman comparing himself to God? or is he humbly shielding his involvement in this, and creditting a symbol instead? a symbol of hope, like the whole Superman guise. There's also the introduction of a "Mr Jupiter", wealthy benefactor, possible politician, who hires Lateesha's mother and provides a home. Once again a rich man has to come in and save the day. Superman, and some main DC heroes like the Flash seem like obvious conservatives, probably republicans, and i feel some political thought toward the end of the book. Mr Jupiter is also comparable to 'Mr L', the shady weapons provider (i have a slight idea as to who that may have been) and maybe his purpose is just to show us that though the world is filled with a lot of evil, there could be a few good men out there.

I like this issue for several reasons; the plot, the cover, the paper quality and art, the narrative method, the creative team and the fact that Superman only enters once in this issue

The cover is all b&w from the title, to the logo, to the capeless Superman, EXCEPT for the red cape that covers an indistinct body (but of course, you've seen this cover before you read the review). It does tell you something the story. Something else you also notice on the cover are the names Jurgens and Rubenstein. The duo has worked together on a lot of Superman Marvel vs DC (which was great for the fact that Superheroes fought each other and the Yin Yang aspect, but not much else) Jurgens was also responsible for at least one fourth of the Death and Return of Superman arc. In D&R, we see many instances where heroes cause more destruction than help. Superman leaves a family in a burning house (to chase D-day) How long would it have taken for Superman to put that fire out? Then Maxima acts without thinking and blows up a whole town (good job, JLA) The idea to actually kill the big guy too was to boost sales, cos people thought he was boring. It makes me think if Jurgens had been planning such an issue for a while to make Superman look good.

The rest of the pages are just as impressive. With glossy paper and deep coloured ink, i'd say for a 1997 comic this is pretty state of the art. I could not imagine a better face to define Clark Kent's character, but with a plot like this book's you don't necessarily need good art. The issue is presented as an article narrated by Clark Kent and Kent's own experience covering the story as an investigative reporter. There's always been some controversy about Superman's true identity. Is he really Clark Kent using the identity of Superman to save the world? or is he really Superman using Kent's guise to infiltrate society and stay connected to what's going on around? Or is he neither, both being facades? or is he both?

The story starts with captions in Kent's POV introducing a little girl, Lateesha Johnson, and the neighbourhood she lives in, The Simon Project within the Suicide Slum. When i was younger i've always wondered what "crime" really meant, what real life bad guys would look like. Real life bad guys don't have costumes and icons that give them away like they do in comics. They look normal, and you never know who could be capable of killing other people. In actuality, we are all greedy and ignorant and we all hold some potential to cause pain. The fact that we have un masked gangsters (and their shady supplier) as the villain is much cooler than having, say... Dr. Light.

I have nothing to complain about this issue, i only got good things to say and it earns my utmost respect in ratings.

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