That Healing Touch

Authors: Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns and Jeremy Johns
Artists: Matthew Clark, Andy Lanning and others
Titan Books
RRP: 9.99
ISBN 1 84576 196 0
Available 21 October 2005

Lois may be recovering from her bullet wound, but Clark is beset by the vengeful Ruin, who, intent upon destroying Superman and those closest to him, unleashes twin teenage Parasites. And when Mr Mxyzptlk returns from the fifth dimension, anything can happen - even the baby that Lois and Clark always dreamed of...

Collecting the stories that were originally presented in Superman Secret Files 2004 and issues 633-638 of Adventures of Superman, this graphic novel is a follow-up to Unconventional Warfare.

Just like Unconventional Warfare, this isn't such a great place for new readers to dip their toes. Though the book is prefaced by a handy "story so far" digest, it helps if you have already read other recent graphic novels. Many of the plot elements, particularly to begin with, deal with the consequences of previous stories. For example, the first chapter concerns the imprisoned Amanda Waller, former head of the Suicide Squad and Minister of Metahuman Affairs under Lex Luthor. The second features further detainees: Xlim, Replikon's son, and the kidnapped Allston twins, Alex and Alexandra.

But once you're past that point, and assuming you've got your head around all that continuity, the pace rarely lets up as Superman moves from one intense confrontation after another, all of them spectacularly illustrated by a variety of artists including penciller Matthew Clark and inker Andy Lanning.

This volume isn't without its lighter moments, though, thanks to the return of the mischievous imp, Mr Mxyzptlk. His interaction with members of the staff at DC Comics, presented in a couple of photonovel-style segments, is a bit too silly for my liking, but later sections boasting art in the styles of Sin City, Calvin and Hobbes and the Superman Adventures (based on the animated series) are extremely enjoyable. Kudos to Clark and Lanning for aping those styles so well.

However, even these comical asides are ultimately bittersweet affairs, especially when they concern Lois and Clark's offspring. Mxyzptlk carries a terrible secret about the family's future...

We've had to wait seven long months for this continuation of the Unconventional Warfare storyline, and we still don't get closure here. Ruin remains active and has not yet been unmasked, though we are offered a fairly big clue (or perhaps a red herring) as to his identity. Once again, writer Greg Rucka leaves us begging for more.

The only real letdown about this graphic novel is that Titan's barcode sticker obscures some of the back cover blurb.

Richard McGinlay

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