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  Superman Adventures (DC)
written by Scott McCloud
art by Rick Burchett and Terry Austin

"The War Within", issues #11,12
Rating: good, Content: [super] [all ages]

 I've always been a big Superman fan (and have a series of Halloween costumes - one of which still fits - to prove it). But I got tired of the stories being told in the "main" Superman series, because of the weekly-rotating committee of writers (among other things). So when DC launched Superman Adventures, a separate monthly Superman series in the style of the animated TV series, written by Scott McCloud (the creator of the beloved Zot! series from days gone by), I jumped at it.

  The art style is based directly on that used for the animation, simpler and "cleaner" than most mainstream comics. Kids tend to prefer this style, and it helps identify this book as the kind that will appeal to them. Penciller Rick Burchett is very good at this type of art, having proven and honed himself on Batman & Robin Adventures (also based on an animated series). I think he (and his colleagues over in Warner animation) draw Superman's jaw too large (historically, Batman's the one with the square chin), but other than that, I have no complaints about the art.

 However, the stories in the early issues of the comic book were tied very closely to the TV episodes that were supposed to air around the same time, with most of the new characters and situations being set up in the TV series. That might have been OK if I watched the show, but no local broadcasters carry it, and I probably wouldn't take the time to watch it anyway. It felt like I was reading "part 2 of 2" every month, with "part 1" being an animated episode I had no way of seeing. This was worse than plotting by committee. So I stopped buying it after six issues.

 But I heard that the TV-entanglements had been reduced, and that recent issues of the book had been pretty good. So I picked up #11. It was "part 1 of 2". Oh well, at least I hadn't missed anything yet, and it would be continued in the next book, due out shortly.

  I sat down and read both #11 and #12 together, and was just really darn impressed. I knew McCloud could do better than those first several issues... this proved it. He got me involved in the story, enough to care enough about what was going on... to sit up in my chair in excitement at some points, and to cry at others. As the cover of #11 implies, this story features a medical threat to Superman, and the efforts taken - by him and by Lois Lane - to address it. It's a rollercoaster ride.

 This story was full of classic superheroics: putting your life on the line for the sake of something greater than yourself, using your wits and will to solve seemingly impossible problems, never giving up, and finally coming through in spite of it all. And I'm just talking about Lois here, shown as a smart, tough, compassionate woman... a hero.

  Superman was pretty impressive as well, trying to do what he could while he still could. Because that's what he feels he has to do. And between his "you have to take care of some things yourselves" speech as Superman, and Clark egging Lois on to help take Supes off the pedestal, he was subtly, quietly preparing the world to live without him. One scene, where Clark tries to say "farewell" to Lois (who is engrossed in an article she's writing) was beautifully scripted and drawn. McCloud oughta write a book about how to do this stuff.

 (As a matter of fact, he has. His book Understanding Comics is considered one of the best analyses of how the medium of comics works - and why - published to date. It's also an entertaining read.)

 Heck, McCloud oughta write a screenplay based on this. Forget the "tortured soul" approach the planned Superman film is expected to take. Make this into a movie called "Superman Lives" and you'll have the public beating a path to their local cineplexes... and comics shops.

Barnes & Noble GET IT: Monthly issues of this series are available in most comics shops (call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK or check your local yellow pages to find one) and many newsstands. A collected edition of several issues is available as well, and you can order it online from Barnes & Noble here (and help support this site through the small commission we get on each sale).

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