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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Friday, June 22, 2012

Morality-lite

Superman Vs The Elite
Action Comics #775

Wherever comic fans gather at some point there will be a discussion over who would win in a fight between any two given heroes. The truth is that it depends entirely on who is writing and what comic it's in.

The original comic that the new Superman OAV is based on Superman Vs The Elite took thinly disguised caricatures of Warren Ellis' superhero supergroup The Authority and pitting them against Superman, in what was essentially a fight between the classic DC style and the overblown 1990's Image style. As this was a Superman comic, Superman wins, and teaches a moral lesson about restraint and the rule of law.

The video was written by Joe Kelly, who also wrote the original comic, and the larger canvas gives him much more room to expound on the concepts in the comic. Sadly, he doesn't do this by making the message more subtle or exploring it more deeply, so much as having characters stand around and deliver speeches. It's very obvious and preachy, and you can practically see the big neon sign flashing 'AUTHOR'S MESSAGE' everytime it happens.

There is little that has been added to the story that isn't dreadful. Menagerie, the lone female member of the team, has gone from having no personality or dialogue to cliché sexual predator. Manchester Black's origin appears to have taken place in Victorian London, with everyone speaking atrocious mockney, but it does result in something I never expected to see; Superman calling someone a wanker[1].

The one bright spot is the dialogue between Supes and Lois Lane, which is witty and clever. Their relationship is spot on, which only serves to make their light, intimate scenes bizarrely out of place in such a heavy-handed, preachy melodrama.

The Elite are Kelly's straw men, displaying all the worst qualities of the 90's Image Extreeeeeme style[2]. Which rather makes it odd timing to produce an animated version, when the reinvention of DC has given us a Superman whose philosophy is difficult to distinguish from the bad guys in this movie. Arguably you couldn't even write The Elite in the new DC; their power to shock for their extreme stance loses all its power when Superman and Batman are bahaving as badly as they are.


Notes.
1) A much more offensive term in the UK where we know what it means.
2) Apart from the pouches. All 90's Image-style characters had pouches everywhere.

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