Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Jesus Merino
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The issue starts with a flashback scene when Clark was traveling the world after he got out of high school. He is at an archeological dig in Western Australia with Callie Llewellyn. Clark uses his super speed to save Callie from an ancient giant trilobite that almost falls on her. Later Callie mentions to Clark that it felt like someone picked her up and carried her out of harms way. Callie then mentions the rumors of a Superboy in and around Smallville. Clark calls Superboy the Sasquatch of the Midwest. Clark says that nobody has ever seen Superboy and that he doesn’t believe he exists. Clark wonders if Callie was suspicious of him being the mythical Superboy.
We cut to the present where Subjekt-17 and Superman are in a massive brawl. Callie continues to feed Superman information about Subjekt-17. In 1949, the Russians found a crashed UFO. In it was a pregnant alien. She was barely alive. The Russians airlifted her to a secret facility and birthed her child. The mother died. The Russians then sedated the child and kept him comatose. The child began manifesting super powers. The Russians conducted experiments on him for decades. Callie says that Subjekt-17 is just a damaged child. She asks Superman not too hurt him too much.
Subjekt-17 uses his x-ray vision on Superman and says that they are both aliens. However, Superman sides with the humans who have hurt Subjekt-17. Therefore, Subjekt-17 must destroy Superman. Superman and Subjekt-17 are locked in a fierce fight and Superman is desperately trying to put down Subjekt-17 before someone gets seriously hurt. Suddenly, a beam blasts Subjekt-17 and the alien disappears. Arion appears in the air above Superman. Arion says that Subjekt-17 is elsewhere and no longer any of Superman’s concern. Arion says that Superman must listen to Arion and obey him. Arion says that he can only pray that he is not too late or this world is doomed to a living hell by Superman’s own ignorant hand.
The Good: I loved the archeological dig scene with a young Clark Kent. I like this new twist on Superman’s past with him having used his powers as a teen much like Clark on the Smallville TV show. The idea of a Superboy being a legend like Bigfoot is cool. I like this past for Superman much more than the one we were given after the original Crisis where Superman had absolutely no history of a Superboy in any shape or form. I wouldn’t mind more stories about a teenage Clark in Smallville using his powers undercover to fight evil.
I liked the comparison and contrast between an Alien like Subjekt-17 and he has been treated on Earth and an alien like Superman and how he has been treated on Earth. Clark is right in that Subjekt-17 could have easily been him if he had been found by the Russian military instead of the loving Kents.
I liked the ending. I dig the haughty and arrogant Arion. I’m very curious to see where Busiek goes with this plotline.
Pacheco serves up more enjoyable artwork. I love Pacheco’s Superman. Pacheco’s style is a good match for this title.
The Bad: Superman #656 was basically just a “Monster Smash” issue. We definitely get plenty of action in this issue. However, the battle wasn’t that interesting. It felt too much like your typical mindless brawl. I don’t particularly find Subjekt-17 to be a terribly compelling character. He seems like a standard issue villain.
The dialogue was average. Busiek has done better on this title than what we got in this issue. Superman #656 just read like a filler issue. It was nothing special or particularly engaging. It was a quick read and when I was done this issue didn’t really make much of an impression on me either positively or negatively.
Overall: Superman #656 was a bit of a generic and uninteresting read for me. I always prefer excellent character development, dialogue and solid storytelling over a massive mindless brawl. Therefore, this issue was just not my cup of tea. Superman is still a good title. Every title has an issue that reads like filler and Superman #656 was that issue for me. I’m sure the next issue will be much more stimulating.