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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Superman: Sacrifice

Publisher: DC
For full credits see the other information section at the end of this post.

What's it about?
This is a dark time in the DC Universe.  Heroes have been murdered.  Trust is being lost.  Civilians can't be saved.  Is it any wonder that tempers are frayed?  Against this background, Superman sees his arch enemies going after Lois, killing her.  Lois is the love of his life, so when he sees her dead body, he can't cope and he vows to destroy the murderer.

But things are not what they seem, and in his fury he has really taken down one of his closest friends, Batman, and nearly killed him.  It is revealed that he is hallucinating the murder sprees, and Wonder Woman is the only one that can stop him.  How will she do it?  What will the consequences be?

Against this personal story of responsibility and power, we have a glimpse into other major events in the DC Universe.  For example, the OMACs - blue robots created to destroy all super human threats.

What's good about it?
It's a good character study into DC's big three - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  Although they are often misclassified as simple one dimensional heroes, they all operate differently, have different goals and different methods.

Wonder Woman is a warrior, a soldier.  She is dedicated to truth and justice but she has the strength of the Gods behind her and she is an outsider.  Batman is human, despite often being treated or written as super human.  He's very clever, he has a lot of skill, but he cannot compare on a physical level to Wonder Woman or Superman.  He knows this which is why he plans and thinks and prepares for everything.  Superman is our hope.  A superpowered alien from another world, he stands for what is right and just. With all that immense power, he holds himself responsible for his actions, and he always accepts the ramifications.
It's powerfully written and it forces you to think about moral problems.  I have always thought that superhero comics, like sci-fi stories, are particularly good vehicles for doing this, for prompting you to think about philosophical problems.

Additionally, it provides some of the most memorable pieces of comic art I have ever seen.  One is this double page spread:
There's a real ominous feeling to this piece.  You know that the man who is bordering the action panels is a bad guy and there's a real feeling of drama in the choice of colours and scenes shown.  More on the art later.

This book ended up being pretty important in the DC Universe and is continually referenced, both in story and by the fans.  If you want to get into DC's stories this will fill you in on the background, whilst also being a gripping read.  There is a bit of blurb at the start of the book bringing you up to date with previous events in the DC Universe, which is useful for putting some scenes into context.

The last issue that is collected in this trade is all about Steel - an African-American hero, motivated by Superman's lead to create high tech armour and serve as a hero.  Although Steel doesn't have a big role in the book, it's worth mentioning his appearance as there just aren't enough Black characters in superhero comics.

What's bad about it?
This book was originally published as a crossover event, collecting various issues from the following titles:
Superman #218-200
Adventures of Superman #642 and 643
Action Comics #829
Wonder Woman #219 and 220.

Each of these series had different writers and artists teams, so as you progress throughout the book, you will notice two things - a recap of previous events and a change in art style.  The recap is unobtrusive but the change in art is more noticeable.  I think each artist does a good job of interpreting the mood and action, but there are some scenes that jar with me.  These are mostly those done by Ed Benes, who pencils the first two issues, and are largely because of his emphasis on the female characters' breasts.  Ed Benes has always done sexy work, but he's got worse as his career advances.  His men are alright, powerful and imposing (see above right) but I won't post any examples of his women because quite frankly I find them a bit embarrassing.

So have another action shot instead:

What's the art like?
Most of it's pretty dramatic.  The action scenes are pretty spectacular, in particular the ones with Wonder Woman and Superman:

Other art teams take a more gentle approach:

There's even some whimsical scenes:
And then there's a bit of mythology, as shown by the Minotaur from the Wonder Woman issue, where they discuss personal accountability:

As this book is primarily an action book, let us finish with another fight scene:
Other information
ISBN: 9781401209193
Price: I can't find a price on Amazon but the DC website says this is still available and I estimate it will cost about £12 in British money.

Although this book is billed as a 'Countdown to Infinite Crisis'  and it helps set the stage it does not directly lead into it.  Infinite Crisis is one of DC's major universe changing events - you can read more about it here.
So, if you want to follow the story directly on from this book may I suggest reading, in the following order:

The Omac Project
Wonder Woman: Missions End
Infinite Crisis
Manhunter volume 4: Unleashed

But a word of warning, do not read these books before you've read Sacrifice!

Credits for Sacrifice as follows:
Writers: Greg Rucka, Mark Verheiden, Gail Simone
Pencillers: Ed Benes, John Byrne, Karl Kerschl, Rags Morales, David Lopez, Ron Randall, Derec Donovan, Georges Jeanty, Tom Derenick, Tony Daniel
Inkers: Alex Lei, Rob Leam Mariah Benes, Nelson, Karl Kerschl, Bit, Mark Propst, Dexter Vines, Rob Petrecca, Cam Smith, Sean Parsons, Marlo Alquiza
Colorists: Rod Reis, Guy Major, Tanya and Richard Horie, Wildstorm FX
Letterers: Todd Klein, Rob Leigh, Nick Napolitano, Jared K. Fletcher


  1. I actually liked this, I preferred its take on Max's demise over the actual pov from the event.

    Nice review ;)

  2. I actually much prefered the POV in this collection/miniseries over the actual DC event.
    Very nice book^^

  3. The OMAC project is my favourite DC's story ! Nice to read a so good article about it ! I agree with your observations concerning Mr Benes's Style, he exagerate the sexy side of his female characters. His Lois Lane, for example, doesn't look like the idea I have of a Lois Lane. She always reminds me Aspen, from Fathom. But I think he's one of the best illustrators for Superman, because his Supes is really "super". He illustrates his strength and his thickness so well, and gives him a real power when he draw him flying. Always a big pleasure to read your articles :)

  4. Thanks for the comments guys :)