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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Superman Vs. The Elite



Is Superman still relevant? What? Of course he is. Get out of here. What kind of stupid question is that? In Superman Vs. The Elite, new sheriffs in town in the form of a quartet of super beings (not super heroes) dubbing themselves The Elite arrive to directly question Superman's methodology. Specifically, his unwillingness to kill his enemies and use his powers to be judge, jury and executioner. The Elite target Superman as the first, greatest, and brightest of all superheroes, though this beef could easily be taken up with all of Superman's pals, first and foremost Batman

At first, The Elite, led by raffish punk psychic Manchester Black and consisting of a magician named The Hat, a hulking energy blaster named Coldcast, and a winged valkyrie haboring disgusting slugs named... Pam, seem friendly enough and enjoy hanging out fighting bad guys and saving people with Superman. But the more the Man of Steel gets to know them, the creepier and more deranged The Elite reveal themselves to be. The Elite are a can't-miss spin on The Authority, a world saving team of anti-heroes popular when the source material for this movie, a DC Comics story called "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?" was published over a decade ago. 

Superman Vs. The Elite presents an amusing mini-cartoon within the cartoon pointing out the quaint, hokier tropes of Superman as a square, establishment, milk and cookies kind of superhero. The Elite style themselves as cooler and willing to do what needs to be done, especially when a nasty villain named Atomic Skull rampages through Metropolis killing dozens of innocents. The moment when The Elite cross the line and Manchester Black psychically executes Atomic Skull is powerful stuff. (Superman tried to stop Black but it seems Superman isn't faster than the speed of thought.) Trouble is, The Elite are fascists, or worse, and publicly threaten the entire world into bending to the will of their personally-enforced police state. To intimidate the world into acquiescing, they challenge Superman to a televised fight to the death on the moon. 

The idea that The Elite have the power to kill Superman is a bit questionable. Black, as a psychic, and The Hat as a sorcerer seem to have abilities specifically tailored to circumvent Superman's physical invincibility but the other two don't seem up to a Kryptonian's power levels. And they aren't. The fight itself is largely one sided: The Elite assault Superman and seemingly kill him. But of course, they don't. They completely underestimate him and fall victim into a common misunderstanding about Superman: that he's a sum of his superpowers and not also one of the most intelligent men on Earth. Superman outsmarts them, with help from his battalion of hokey Superman robots, takes them down one by one, and scares the living piss out of Manchester Black. Superman lobotomizing Black with his heat vision and bitch slapping him is immensely satisfying.

Superman Vs. The Elite goes into some intriguing territory where Superman directly involves himself in international affairs, actually bringing down aircraft and missiles to prevent two Middle Eastern nations from going to war. Common people are shown as souring on Superman, with young children complaining about playing as Superman. "You can kill me, but I can't kill you?" The strength of Superman's ideals are ultimately vindicated in straightforward, ham-fisted ways, but the moral and ethical deck was stacked in Superman's favor the minute The Elite revealed they're totalitarian, homicidal maniacs. It was never believable the world could be so enamored with The Elite so quickly, just because they're willing to kill people. I mean, one has to question simply calling yourselves "The Elite" and boasting winged slug woman as one of your ranks.