"I am Superman . . . but not the Superman you know. I've come here from another world - another time - that is no more. I know that I may sound crazy to you, but I feel that I am responsible. I feel that I may doom this world by being here, and I wonder . . .
"WILL I EVER STOP WHINING?"
Oh all right, I made that last bit up, but that was the question that went through my mind during this spin-off from the current JSA storyline. Dearie Lord, I know the Superman of Earth 22 lost his Earth, but he's been here ages now, he needs to cheer up, get some therapy or find a world that needs a Superman - maybe whichever version of Earth 3 is in continuity this week.
As it is, writer and artist Alex Ross has Superman accidentally bash regular Superman, for the sake of a dynamic opening spread. I didn't mind, though, as it made for one stunning image. I was less happy with the confrontation between the two Supermen on the cover, though - it's a scary, powerful picture of a demonic S-22 killing his counterpart and way beyond anything that happens within.
What does happen is that Superman moans to JSA teen Cyclone, then decides to seek out New Earth's counterpart of Norman McCay, the priest who warned him about cataclysm on his own Earth. Before he can do that he foils an attack on the Daily Planet meant to attract the other guy, which is when they have their tiny scuffle, which ends with our Superman chewing out the other for being a bit heavy-handed. That done, he finds McKay, receives some words of comfort and pops back to JSA HQ, where he meets Lois Lane.
This is where we get the emotional meat of the issue, as Our Lois begs him to tell her how His Lois died. It's an affecting tale, and I'm glad to have read it, but it could have occurred in the JSA title. There's no reason for this book to exist other than to grab a few dollars from fans following the already-stretched Gog story.
$3.99 is what DC are charging. Aha, you think - it's a giant story. Hardly. It's the usual 23 pages of art and what extra pages there are in the package, are used for a behind the scenes look at how Ross created the book. It's interesting enough, but surely most people interested enough to have read this will know how a comic is put together. Many will have read similar features by Ross. The fact that it's Ross - DC are very proud of this book, with a posher than usual cover credit of 'written and illustrated by Alex Ross' - doesn't make the information any fresher.
The writing is better than expected, I anticipated stiffness of the kind found in specials he's done with Paul Dini, such as Spirit of Truth. I assumed that was Ross' preferred tone, and he had directed Dini to produce super-sombre prose. But the script here is fine. Not amazing, but serviceable - no one sounds especially off.
So how is the art? Ross abandons his usual fully painted style for pencils and computer inks, and the result is wonderful: page after page of artwork that has the realism he's known for, plus the fluidity he's previously lacked. Figures are sharp (I loved the touch of Joe Shuster in Lois Lane), cityscapes awe-inspiring and interiors enticing. The new technique seems to have freed Ross's mind, and while he's still used models for a couple of characters, it seems he's not had them pose for panel after panel. I'd rather, though, the new style were used for something that truly moves the big story along than a character study that just tells us things we already know.