Ruin Revealed

Authors: Greg Rucka and others
Artists: Karl Kerschl, Renato Guedes and others
Titan Books
RRP: 8.99
ISBN 1 84576 244 4

Available 26 May 2006

Ruin has proven to be one of Superman's most dangerous foes, repeatedly threatening the lives of his loved ones. When he is finally unmasked, the world is stunned. But Superman suspects there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. Nothing will stop him from seeking out the truth - not even encounters with the killer android OMACs, the maniacal Toyman and the deadlier-than-ever Lex Luthor...

I've omitted certain revelations from the synopsis above, including the identity of the individual Superman discovers beneath Ruin's mask. Thanks DC and Titan for (no pun intended) ruining the first 22 pages of this graphic novel for me. If you don't already know the plot to this book (which is collected from issues 640-1 and 644-7 of Adventures of Superman) then I urge you not to read the blurb on the back cover.

This follow-up to That Healing Touch is a bit of a letdown in certain other respects too. The true identity of Ruin is a disappointment. I don't care much for Karl Kerschl's art, either - to my eye, it looks less detailed and less realistic than the work of Matthew Clark and Andy Lanning or their colleagues on other Superman titles. The third chapter looks particularly sketchy, despite (or perhaps because of) the involvement of six different artists: Kerschl, Darryl Banks and Adam DeKraker on pencils, and Wayne Faucher, Cam Smith and Robin Riggs on inks. The art of the final instalment, a solo effort with both pencils and inks by Renato Guedes, looks the best of all.

There are some neat moments, however. The first two chapters take place before Wonder Woman's controversial action against Maxwell Lord in Sacrifice and the super-villain community's response to that action in Villains United. There's some delicious dramatic irony as Lois Lane muses about the nature of super-powered heroes and villains:

"...if you hurt a friend of Wonder Woman's, do you really think she's going to break both your legs? No, you don't. She's Wonder Woman. And the villains know that, too. They rely on the fact that you will not cross the line they do every single day. They rely on it, but they don't, for the most part, abuse it. They don't want to test it... Like the heroes, the villains form a community of sorts, too. Why bring down that heat?"

There's also a poignant appearance by Mr Mxyzptlk, while the Toyman's current mental state is not dissimilar to what Superman himself endured at the hands of Maxwell Lord.

For the first time in ages, I see no obvious Smallville influences on the writing or art. I suspect that this is because a bigger media event is coming in the shape of the new movie, Superman Returns. Accordingly, the artists' visualisation of the Man of Steel begins to take on a less stylised likeness, closer to that of actor Brandon Routh, during the fourth and sixth chapters.

Ruin Revealed may be a bit of a comedown after the dramatic highs of Unconventional Warfare and That Healing Touch, but it would be untrue to say that it ends in ruin.

Richard McGinlay

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