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Superman: The Neverending Battle, by Roger Stern Book Review | SFReader.com
Superman: The Neverending Battle, by Roger Stern Genre: Superhero Publisher: Pocket Books Published: 2005 Review Posted: 9/18/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Superman: The Neverending Battle, by Roger Stern
Book Review by C. Dennis Moore
Have you read this book?
There's an evil terrorist out there and he's using the world's weather to bring about the Kali Yuga, the Age of Chaos. Causing hurricanes, flash floods, blizzards in June, tornadoes, he plans to terrorize the world into submission (sounds awfully familiar this summer). His plan is, not only to rule the world, but to decrease it's size; a population of several thousand is easier to control than several billion. With satellite technology and the misguided assistance of a man who really can control the weather--the Flash villain Weather Wizard--the evil Kobra is about to release a toxin into the air which will kill everyone on the planet except those faithful followers who deem him a god. So the Justice League, led by Superman, must put a stop to his Operation: New Dawn.
This is the first super hero novel I've ever read, although I do have several more on my shelves and I keep meaning to get to them. I've often wondered how well reading about my favorite heroes like this, outside the comic books pages, would go over, but author Roger Stern has given me great hope for the other books I have. I loved this book. Well, that's a little strong. But I did really dig it a lot. I think I just found my Star Trek, or my Forgotten Realms series. More Justice League novels for me, please.
Roger Stern has taken his years of experience writing comic books, most of which are dialogue, and used that skill to show the human side of these heroes. I've been reading stories of these characters--Superman, Batman, The Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern--as far back as I can remember, but never before do I recall seeing such humanity from them. I don't mean a great caring for the human race, we know they have that, but Roger Stern has made them people. Through a few simple conversations, we see how vulnerable these people can be when it's just two of them hanging out on a rooftop and talking. After battling a raging storm that threatens to drown an entire community, The Flash and Superman are the only two who stay behind.
Superman looked thoughtful. "Wally, did I ever do anything to make Kyle . . . uneasy?"
"Not during missions. In the heat of action, he's fine. But sometimes--like just now--he seems a little nervous around me."
"Well, sure. Kyle and I may be about the same age, but I've been doing this since I was a kid. He hasn't had his power ring all that long. Once he's had a chance to really hang out with us, the problem should fix itself. But for now, as far as he's concerned, you're the pro and he's the rookie."
"You think I intimidate him?"
"Look, sometimes I intimidate him. And you are Superman, after all. You know--faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive? I've known you a lot longer than Kyle has, and you still intimidate me sometimes."
"I don't mean to."
"Oh, I know you don't mean to. You're not Batman, after all."
Superman looked askance for a moment, then slowly began to chuckle. "Thanks, Wally. I think."
"Hey, it's our problem, not yours. For what it's worth, I don't think you intimidate Diana or J'onn. And probably not Batman, but who knows for sure what the Bat thinks."
I love that scene, it's the calm after the storm, literally, and it's not these two super-powerful figures, it's just two guys hanging out. It's beautiful. There's another scene shortly afterward, the next morning.
Shortly before dawn, Clark Kent awoke, and his eyes tracked to his left. There, Lois still lay snuggled up close to him, her head resting against his shoulder.
Holding his breath, Clark slowly slipped his shoulder out from under his sleeping wife, gingerly easing her head down onto the pillow. I could spend the whole morning here, just watching you sleep. He knew that all was not well with the world, but at moments like this, he felt as though it could be. Clark shifted over on his side, turning toward her, and Lois opened her eyes.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
"'S okay. . . . 'Morning, good lookin.'"
"Good morning, beauty."
That's such a . . . tender scene, and not something I was expecting to find in a book about The Justice League of America. I'm rewarded for having read this book with simple scenes like these, where the icons I grew up with are shown to be so much more than symbols of power, they're also shown to be people.
Unfortunately, along with the good, must come the bad.
While I love the way Stern writes about the interactions between the characters, other parts need some work. For example, Superman is known by many names, The Man of Steel, The Last Son of Krypton, The Man of Tomorrow. Stern seems to like this Man of Tomorrow tag, because he uses it constantly. A handle like that, Man of Tomorrow, should be saved for relevant scenes, when he's doing something that reflects his power. But when you come across a sentence like "The Man of Tomorrow turned around and walked away," it kind of loses its impact. That's not a real quote, just an example. But he does it to distraction. The Man of Tomorrow this, the Man of Tomorrow that. Alright, he's the man of tomorrow, now let's call him by his NAME, alright? Superman.
Also, is there ANYTHING fresh about the "mad terrorist kills everyone on earth by releasing deadly toxins into the air" plot? Not this time, there's not. In fact, if there's a comic book cliche you can think of, it was probably worked into this story at some point. I take that back, no one rescued any kittens from trees, surprisingly enough. But stuff like this scene just points out how unoriginal the bulk of this story is:
Fifty feet below Superman's death chamber, Kobra jumped into a small rail car and shot across an emergency escape tunnel. In minutes he emerged into an immense underground hangar, many miles away.
In the center of the hanger a tall metal rocket--seventy-five feet tall and fifty feet across at the base--sat perched atop a massive tripod. This was the Ark, his aerial flagship.
Warning lights flashed and Klaxons sounded as Kobra strode toward the rocket. Underlings immediately ran to him with a fresh tunic.
Riiiiiiight. I'd hoped he was kidding, but that's actually what happened. Are we completely out of ideas? Is there NOTHING new to be written about these characters?
Still, I have hope that, with this new medium, the 300-400-page novel (this one was 370) vs. the 24-page comic book, the various authors who take them on will become more comfortable with the freedoms the novel grants and pretty soon we'll start to really see some amazing stories. There are others in this series and I definitely hope to read them. Cliched plotline aside, I very much enjoyed what Roger Stern did here and I look forward to seeing what some of my other favorite comic authors have to say about one of my favorite super teams.
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