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Superman: Ending Battle Paperback – May 26, 2009
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I have mixed feelings about the ending but it makes Manchester Black look like a massive psychopath and a massive badass so I guess I liked it overall.
It’s a good one. Not the most emotionally resonating Superman graphic novel out there, but it is enjoyable if you are a.) a Superman fan b.) a casual comic reader.
First things first though, you should familiarize yourself with Warren Ellis' "The Authority." Ellis created a super team that was unbound by conventional "hero" moralities -- they are ruthless, indifferent to criminals' rights and innocents' suffering, and don't hesitate to kill if it accomplishes their goals. You could argue that they were presented as a more modern, realistic alternative to traditional comic heroes. (This is my take. Point is, The Authority is particularly relevant to what goes on in "Ending Battle.") Ellis is a great writer (check out "Transmetropolitan," and "Planetary" too, among other things), The Authority was a very popular book for a while, and it's worth reading on its own merit, especially Ellis' run (the first 12 issues, I think).
Then read Action Comics #775. It's a single, stand alone story written by Joe Kelly, one of the writers of "Ending Battle", and it's the crux of the whole thing. In this single Superman comic, Kelly has Superman take on the very premise and philosophy of The Authority. (He's not subtle here, his super team "The Elite" are a direct representation of Ellis' team.) This is a great issue, worthy of the title "What's so funny about truth, justice and the American way?" and Kelly's commentary is clear: Superman and The Elite -- and the world view they represent -- cannot co-exist.
Once you understand who The Authority are, and what takes place between Superman and The Elite in Action Comics 775, you're prepared to fully appreciate "Ending Battle." If you're wondering what fills the eight issues, there's a lot going on -- Lex Luthor is president, The Elite and their leader Manchester Black systematically arrange for almost every Superman villain you can think of to attack everyone close to Clark Kent, and Lois Lane, Clark's wife, comes face to face with Manchester Black entirely on her own. The ride is so good you can't help but worry that the ending can't live up to it.
Geoff Johns (another great writer) gets top billing on this collection, but it's Joe Kelly's baby. Kelly wrote the final issue (and one or two of the earlier ones in this collection), and that's the way it has to be, because it was his story that started this, and he's the one who gets to end it. In a feat that's quite rare in comics, not only does this story distill Superman, and a hero's responsibilities, perfectly, it is what it claims to be: The story of a battle that resolves the issue once and for all.
The Amazon product description SPOILS the surprise of who was behind it all along. I hope they change that.