This review is for both volumes of Camelot Falls.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by Busiek in this one. He's hands down my favorite comic writer, especially when it comes to portraying Superman. He manages to strike a tone of reverence and nobility in the character, of unassuming humility, that captures the essence of what he is. At the same time, he knows how to balance the inner turmoil that Clark faces, the dilemma of being an outsider, of carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders while simultaneously delivering fantastic and jaw-dropping action with a team of good artists - and the art certainly doesn't disappoint in Camelot Falls. What does is the plot, which all-in-all I wouldn't mind if there was a strong central theme - one which finds a new way to capture just how hard it is to be the Man of Steel, but it's just not there until late in the game, and by then there's not much time to develop it into something that we haven't really read or thought of before. Busiek has always surprised me when he pens Superman stories by getting me to think of him as I never had before, some new facet of his personality, or his struggle. Again, this was absent from this story.
In a nut-shell, a crazy Atlantean wizard dude named Arion comes with a prophecy from the future: Superman, and all Earth's heroes for that matter, are going to be the cause of the end of humanity by holding back a tide of darkness for too long, allowing it to build to an intensity and level that will not just set civilization back, but wipe it out altogether. What to do, what to do? Relax and let the darkness consume the Earth so it can start again, or keep fighting the good fight and hope for the best? There's something hopelessly Ra's al-Ghul and League of Assassins in this idea. History runs in cycles, humanity gets too corrupt and is wiped out, then we start all over again, past sins forgiven, new and fresh and all that good stuff. The idea is unoriginal and the villain is kind of uncompelling. The moral dilemma for Clark isn't that deep either. It forces him into some poignant scenes of soul searching, but ones that Lois kind of hits right on the head from the beginning. The question essentially involves a choice between giving up or continuing. The choice is obvious and there's no real development in the character that has to be done to achieve this leap of logic.
Three stars for volume two for a couple of reasons. One, with the whole prophecy issue, there are some interesting fate vs. free will themes that pop up. I may be a sucker for these types of motifs, but I thought it well-played given the nature of the plot, but not developed as well as it could have been. Two, Busiek can certainly write dialogue. He's about the only person that doesn't manage to make Clark sound hopelessly 1930s cheesy when he says stuff like, "You opened a portal in time and now I'm going to send you back to the 17th century where you came from!" Ok, a little over the top, but there are some really, really great monologues and dialogues. Particularly poignant are the scenes between Clark and newly appointed CEO of Lexcorp Lana Lang, recently divorced and far from her child, but still in love with Clark, who she's shared so much with, but can never have. These scenes are pretty heartbreakingly terrific and I give Busiek the credit he deserves for them. Nothing seems to escape Clark's notice - he hears and senses everything, and it weighs heavy on his soul, which is why he's such an endearing and appealing character. He wants to fix everything and make everyone happy, and he's awesome for trying. Busiek sums it up well. Clark: "I hear the ache in Lana's voice, and I wish I could help, wish I could fix everything. I can save the world. But there are some things even I can't do. And there's more going on, always more...And Lois...I smile at the very sound of her heartbeat and I'm about to bank over to join them, but...There's a lot to think about. The dangers that might be coming, and how best to be on guard against them. Whether I'm stopping the threat or helping cause it. How to even tell the difference. There's a lot to think about. In the meantime, though..." (and here you can tell it really sinks in and that he has to live with the fact that he can't do everything, trying to rationalize and tell himself it's not your fault, even though you can tell from the lonely art in the panel that he does blame himself) "Yes, there's a lot I can't do. A lot I'll never know. But I'll do what I can, and hope to help mankind find a way to solve their other problems, whatever comes. Whether I'm one of them or not." The words sound hopeful, and they're what we expect from Superman, but the panel subtly betrays just how heavy a burden it is to carry and how disappointed he is in himself for not being able to be not just Super, but Perfect. And that is why, thin plot and all, Busiek is awesome.