Superman (vol.4) #24 (2017)

Superman (vol.4) #24 (August, 2017)
“Black Dawn, Chapter 5”
Story – Patrick Gleason & Peter J. Tomasi
Pencillers – Doug Mahnke & Patrick Gleason
Inkers – Jaime Mendoza, Mick Gray, Joe Prado & Doug Mahnke
Colorists – Wil Quintana, John Kalisz & Hi-Fi
Letterer – Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor – Andrew Marino
Editor – Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.99

Apropos of nothing, that’s a whole lotta credits for this issue… you’d almost think it was over-sized.

Never ceases to amaze me how large the credits column is nowadays.  At least we don’t have a half-dozen editors and creative “chiefs” listed!

We open in flashback mode where a green-skinned girl who bears a striking resemblance to the Kent’s neighbor Kathy (hmm…) is being consoled by the fella who served as last issue’s big reveal… no, not Mr. A… Manchester Black!  Upon turning the page… I’m not sure if I’m reading Superman or a Young Animal book… strange aliens who have been battling the Kroog are being read a verse from the gospel of Manchester Black.  One of the aliens looks a lot like Mr. Cobb (hmm…) and rather than live in fear, they decide to go “all in” with Mr. Black.  Gotta say, I was hoping for something a bit more than “aliens”.

In the present, Cobb and Kathy are approached by their alien comrades… they are the Super Elite, by the way… it grows rather contentious, and Cobb expresses his fear that Hamilton will not be as safe a place to live as promised.  He demands an audience with Black… but is turned down.  Maybe Cobb ain’t such a bad dude after all.

We shift to Lois and Clark at the hospital.  Lois is in the bed with her bottom half covered, so there’s no update on the status of her leg.  The hospital staff is in panic mode dealing with the “seismic event” that just occurred… Clark doesn’t understand how they can’t see what’s really going on, which is a testament to how strong Black’s power of suggestion might be.  After a brief chat, Clark Supes-up and heads out in search of his Son.

He arrives at Cobb’s farm, which he lifts straight out of the ground… he can see the network of tunnels below.  Before he can dive in, he is greeted by… Jon!  Well, that was easy!  Not so fast… because Jon didn’t come alone.

Superman is shocked to see his old foe, Manchester Black… and immediately fires a his eye beams in his direction.  Black, being a super-cool, turn of the century style, trenchcoated bad-ass… halts the beams, and uses them to light his cigarette.  I really hate Manchester Black… though, I guess I’m supposed to.

Black sends Superman reeling with a shot… right into that burning tree.  He then begins revealing his plan… he sees certain qualities in young Jon that he might be able to use.  He continues pummeling Superman with blasts while Jon begs for him to stop.  Superman then calls Krypto in for a distraction.

Before we know it Superman is on top of Black, beating him about the head and shoulders.  He mentions that he “could kill” Black… which our baddie thinks is an absolute riot.  Ya see, the world needs someone like Black precisely because Superman won’t kill.  He ponders why they’re not having this discussion standing over the smoldering remains of Darkseid as evidence that when push comes to shove, Superman just doesn’t have what it takes to “get the job done”.  But maybe, someday… SuperBOY will.

To further explain his grand scheme, Black rises the “troublemaker”-inhabited pods from the ground… we see familiar faces from the entire Rebirth run up to this point.  We learn that each one was podded so they wouldn’t get in the way of his continued long con, trying to shape Jon into the man he (and the world) will eventually need him to be.  In a cute bit, Superman asks why Black hasn’t simply killed them… and he comments that he’s read enough comic books to know what might happen to a boy after his parents are killed.  After the monologue, Cobb and Kathy arrive to help put Black down!

Cobb gets nailed with some psychic-type power, which reverts him to his natural alien look… which causes Kathy to react by creating a blast of her own… which frees the captives from their pods.

At this point, Manchester has really had enough of everyone’s crap… and so, he decides to infect Jon with that black goop that’s been all over the place during this story… ultimately causing him to “go Black”.

I’m just about ready for this arc to be over.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s well written and well crafted, but at this point it just feels like it’s been going on forever.  In the past two issues, little things have pulled me away from enjoying this to its fullest… last issue, Lois lost a leg… this issue, we get the big reveal… and it’s aliens?  I was hoping for something a bit more, I dunno, ominous?  Given the tone up to this point, I really thought we were getting something different.  Early on, I compared this to an episode of Twilight Zone… without giving much thought to how underwhelming some of those reveals were too.


On to Manchester Black, who is just as face-punchingly awful as I recall him being.  Now, that’s not a bad thing… remember, he is pretty much every “by any means necessary” turn of the century superhero trope rolled into a single dude… I think he’s supposed to be face-punchy.  Or, maybe I’m just projecting.

It felt like around the year 2000, a lot of us who entered the comics fandom during the “Chromium Age” were starting to feel like we’d outgrown superhero comics… and all the gimmicks, and stunts… we were too smart for that kinda thing anymore… or, ya know… maybe I’m still just projecting.  For us new-or-near adults, books like The Authority really resonated.  For what it’s worth, I stuck with the X-Men… but what do I know?  Manchester Black and the Elite were a study in that post-bust nouveau-bad ass take on superheroics.  Now, nearly two-decades later, Black still feels very much like that.

But, I will say… face-punchiness aside, I really like his plan.  Seeing Superman as a lost cause… to his cause, he instead focuses on molding Jon into what he feels the world is looking for insofar as a protector or savior.  It makes perfect sense, and totally fits his character and his established motivations.

Despite my feelings that this story might have gone on an issue too long at this point, and my general dislike of Manchester Black (which, again… is likely the intention), I’d give this issue a pretty high recommendation.

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