Review by Frank Plowright
As Sacrifice begins Superman’s at somewhat of a crossroads. He’s fallen out with his closest allies, he’s being targeted by the media suggesting humanity should be prepared in case he turns against them, and he’s been fought to a standstill by an unknown foe. Further carelessness amplifies public concern, and if that wasn’t problem enough, the way Ed Benes draws him constantly grimacing would render anyone fearful.
It’s unfortunate as Mark Verheiden and Greg Rucka’s plot for the title story is a clever one, leaving Superman completely unsure of what he’s doing and endangering others. The mid-point revelation is excellent, and by that point an assortment of other pencillers have taken over with Karl Kerschl and Rags Morales the best of them. They supply more realistically proportioned humans and better considered page designs. If it’s noted this is Superman’s lead in to Infinite Crisis, there will be those aware of who’s mentally manipulating him, and on publication it was quite the plot bomb. The way things played out, any new readers will just shrug their shoulders as it’s someone who’s not been used for a decade now.
This leads into a spectacular battle between Superman and Wonder Woman, or, to be more accurate, what would be a spectacular battle if all artists used were up to the standard of Kerschl and Morales. Some lay gruesome figures over almost featureless backgrounds, one of them being David Lopez who’d develop into a fine superhero artist. Although a Superman book, a chapter taken from Wonder Woman’s title sheds a little more light on the bigger picture before a coda in Smallville rounds things off.
An interesting and very cleverly written moral dilemma is presented to Wonder Woman when she’s using her lasso compelling people to tell the truth. Someone asks to be killed. Should she do this? Rucka’s Wonder Woman is strong on spirituality, and her eventual decision is informed by that, although the sequence is illustrated in overwrought fashion, and would become removed from the context by what followed elsewhere.
Much of the plot is required to launch Infinite Crisis, for which an irretrievable breakdown between friends is required, something Sacrifice delivers in an emotionally strong and credible way. It is, however, repetitive and padded, with variations on a sequence being re-run at the start. It would also be a far better book for some artistic consistency. Large-scale battles occupy many pages, and for all his ugly scowling faces Benes illustrates these in a more exciting manner than almost anyone else here. As this compilation draws from four different series it’s understandable that there’ll be different artists, but four artists with varying styles in a single chapter? Why?