Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Greg Rucka's Ruin Arc Is Better Than Sex

A while ago I devoted a blog post to my Top Ten Favourite Superman stories. I've recently read a story arc that was so mind blowingly awesome that I'm rethinking the whole order of my list. The arc I'm referring to is Greg Rucka's Ruin saga that ran through Adventures of Superman in 2004-2005. It's collected in three trades, Unconventional Warfare, That Healing Touch and Ruin Revealed and it's one of the best Superman arcs I've ever read.

She gets better

One of the great things about this arc is that Rucka has a go at involving Superman in something resembling world politics. Whenever this has happened before writers have created fictional Middle Eastern countries for Superman and his buddies to meddle in, for example Qurac, Syraq and Kahndaq. This story is no exception, only in this story Made-Up-istan is represented by Umec, a name Rucka cleverly created from the acronym for Unnamed Middle Eastern Country. Rucka manages to show us in a very powerful way why a being like Superman can't interfere in foreign affairs, no matter how much he'd like to. Lois Lane gets shot while reporting on a war in Umec. As soon as Superman hears the shot he flies across the world and it isn't long before Lois is being nursed on the Justice League Watchtower. However, as a result of Superman's brief presence in the country the Umecis surrender to the opposing side. Just by showing his face Superman can decide the outcome of wars and change a country forever and so he has to think very, very carefully before he goes sticking his nose in.

Superman's daughter?

Rucka doesn't just write a brilliant Superman. He writes a better Clark Kent than practically any other writer. Clark finds himself demoted at the Daily Planet thanks to Lex Luthor's final actions as President of the U.S.A. He's confronted by an up and coming young journalist who wonders what happened to the award winning journalist who wrote "the piece on 21st Century slavery and tried to take down the President"? These glimpses of Clark's talent as a journalist are balanced nicely with some bumbling klutz moments as Clark does his meek and mild mannered thing. At one point Clark falls out of a helicopter and into a skip in order to be able to turn into Superman. There's also a lovely moment where Clark sticks a bit of toilet tissue on his face with lipstick in order to pretend that he's cut himself shaving. With so much debate on the 'net about how Clark should be portrayed, Rucka shows that Clark can be meek and endearingly clumsy as well as a respected and accomplished journalist.

Lupe nuzzles the 'S'

Clark's not the only one who's written well. Lois is consistently written as a believable character, whether she's experiencing life as a journalist embedded in the midst of an armed conflict or discussing whether to start a family with Clark. Jimmy Olsen gets plenty of attention as he begins a relationship with Geraldine Frank, the aforementioned reporter that gave Clark a hard time. Also, Clark gets caught in the middle as Pete Ross and Lana Lang's marriage falls apart. As well as the old favourites Rucka makes some interesting additions to the Super-cast. For example Lt. Lupe Teresa Leocadio-Escudero, the new leader of Metropolis Special Crimes Unit. Rucka realises that for a cop to want to be leader of the Special Crimes Unit in a city where "Special Crimes" means rampaging alien monsters, they'd have to be at least a little unbalanced. Lupe is one of the most interesting supporting characters that Superman has had for awhile. When she's not trying to get Superman to join her in the bath Lupe's beating up suspects to avenge her fallen officers. As much as I'm enjoying the Guardian's current stint as leader of the SCU, it would be nice to see Lupe return.

Mxyzptlk in Adventures of Superman 634

Mr Mxyzptlk also pops up in this story, however rather than just being used as a magical pest he takes the role of a sort of guardian angel to Superman, warning him of upcoming trouble. There's also some funny moments where Mxy visits the DC Comics offices in a photo strip. So often such fourth wall breaking can seem smug and self indulgent but Rucka pulls it off. At one point Mxy also provides a treat for fans of Bill Watterson's legendary Calvin and Hobbes strip as he shows Clark and Lois what life would be like for their child utilising a variety of different artistic styles.

Mxy crashes the DC office in Adventures of Superman 634

This arc also contain some wonderful cameos from other DC heroes. There's a great moment where Lois asks Wonder Woman to keep an eye on Clark while she's away in Umec. The Flash also makes a great cameo as he shows up in a Umec hospital disguised as a U.S. soldier in order to help Superman move the wounded Lois to the JLA Watchtower. The fact that Wally West is still wearing his Flash ring while in disguise says a lot about the Wally's sentimentality, as well as providing the reader a visual clue to his identity.

Superman continues to feel the effects of Identity Crisis

The way the JLA rally 'round to help Superman while Lois is wounded is touching but it also demonstrates how the heroes have organised themselves since the events of Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis, in which the loved ones of our heroes are targeted by a mystery villain. Rucka also ties the stories in nicely to Geoff Johns' Infinite Crisis without disturbing the flow of his own story. For example Superman's horror at Wonder Woman's murder of Max Lord ties in with the climax of the story (spoiler alert) in which Superman finds an alternative to killing Ruin. "I told you. No dies, not even you." Brilliant.

Clark and Lois debate Wonder Woman's actions in Aventures of Superman 644

And what about Ruin? I won't reveal his identity here as I hope this blog post has inspired people to go and check out these books for themselves. I realise that most people probably already know who he is since the story is a few years old, but I'll keep shtum about it just in case. Suffice to say the identity of Ruin is a satisfying pay off, especially for longtime fans of Superman. Also, Ruin is a villain motivated by hate, and as fans of Star Trek's Khan, Doctor Who's Master and Lex Luthor himself will attest, hate is the most interesting motive for a villain.

The Parasite Twins

The story also contains two new Parasites, the tragic return of an old Green Lantern villain called Replikon and some of the best art you'll ever find in a Superman comic. Some of the covers in particular are gorgeous. So, please, I urge you. Check out Unconventional Warfare, That Healing Touch and Ruin Revealed. You won't regret it!

Buy it, it rules!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I don't know if it's better than sex....but it is pretty good. I really liked End Game, and the mini SM:Red Son. I would say Red Son is probably my favorite Supes arc ever!



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