Pros: This collection features two great stories with thoughtful messages. Superman is also depicted as being as classic and wholesome as ever. The art is good overall.
Cons: The entire Helspont storyline is completely mismanaged, ending with it being a completely train wreck.
Overall: Despite being a significant improvement from the previous volume, all the good it does is significantly hampered by a poorly executed Daemonite invasion arc. Outside of this, the rest of the book is really good and features a few smaller stories highlighting how great of a hero Superman can be. If readers are able to look past this book’s one glaring flaw, they will find a rather enjoyable collection of stories.
Superman Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies is host to a grand rollercoaster of story quality. It starts out modestly with a decent Helspont story, picks up the pace with two rather good random villain stories, and then plummets with a messy and confusion conclusion to the Helspont arc. Radical quality shifts like these make it very had to give a definitive answer on if this collection is positive or negative in terms of story. Overall, it will come down to individual preference to decide if suffering through this collection’s low points justify experiencing its highs.
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The first of the non-Helspont arcs is a great, short commentary on media sensationalism and human emotion. Anguish is a villain born from an abusive household who personifies the consequences of such an environment. She has become literally and figuratively “untouchable” from the world, unwilling to let anyone into her life for fear that they may hurt her. She also feels it necessary to exact the same abuse upon others, thus furthering the vicious cycle that is domestic abuse. All in all she is a surprisingly well rounded character considering she is only in two issues, hopefully she will make some more appearances in the future.
Media sensationalism and how much it can damage individuals is also highlighted in this short story. It shows how an everyday person can be completely destroyed by the media while the media CEOs receive little more than a scratch. It is a succinct message calling for journalistic integrity that fits well with the rest of the book.
The second of the non-Helspont arcs revolves around the threat of an extraterrestrial killer bringing an invasion force to Earth. However, at the end of the story, readers learn that this creature has no intention of doing such a thing, he simply wants to return home. He was brought to this world against his will and only killed in response to the confusion brought on by his situation. The question of “what is right?” is asked in another successful attempt at effective social commentary though a short story arc.
Now for the book’s biggest flaw, the Helspont story, this story is simply a poorly written nightmare. It starts out decently with Helspont trying to recruit Superman to take over Earth with him. However, his tone and motivations completely shift as the plot progresses and writers change. All of a sudden he has a drastically different backstory and plan. He no longer is trying to conquer Earth, instead he views it as a garden in which he is growing future solders. This and a myriad of smaller inconsistencies make for a confusing and uncomfortable reading experience. This is compounded when multiple characters from other series are brought into the fold, each of which raises more questions than the last.
Once all of this confusing setup is done and readers are ready to get to the real action, the story ends. References and plotlines from multiple series all attempt to start this Daemonite invasion storyline only for it to be shut down in the most anti-climactic of fashions. For those thinking this is just ending with a cliffhanger, the benefit of hindsight can confirm that it comes to a nearly complete end here. Clearly sometime was going very wrong in the editor’s office at the time for a story to be mangled this totally; these issues were only released a few months apart from each other. Dan Jurgens’ promising start to the series indicates that this arc had potential yet somewhere along the road it ending up being the confusing mess that this book presents.
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The art in this volume is overall very similar to what it was in the prior volume. Make sure to check out our review of that volume to see more about it.
- Helspont crashes to Earth due to events at the end of Stormwatch Vol. 1: The Dark Side (Review).
- A human energy pattern is mentioned by Helspont at the beginning of this volume. The explanation for this is in Grifter Vol. 1: Most Wanted.
- Superman’s Kryptonian suit appears again in this issue. He receives this in Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel.
- Superman mentions faking his death in the past. This takes place in Action Comics Vol. 2: Bulletproof.
- In the “Secrets and Lies” arc, Anguish picks up a truck while terrorizing people. The exact way she does this is a reference to the cover of the first issue of Action Comics, and thus the first appearance of Superman. This issue can be found collected in Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 1.
- Martian Manhunter mentions recent events between him and Stormwatch. These events occur in Stormwatch Vol. 2: Enemies of Earth.
- Grifter mentions that he has already fought Helspont. This happens in Grifter Vol. 2: New Found Power.
- Starfire makes an appearance. The explanation behind why she is where she is can be found in Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: REDemption (Review).