Thursday, 26 March 2009

Superman #686 review

The Worlds of New Krypton mini-series is up and running as Superman's home for the new year, so Superman's home book gets some new stars. The Guardian and Mon-El step up to watch over the City of Tomorrow and this issue represents the ground floor of their tenure.

And as depicted by penciller Renato Guedes and inker José Wilson Magalhães, the ground floors of Metropolis are glorious. Indeed, the whole city has rarely looked better. This is a place with solidity, a city of stone fit for a man of steel. It's Forties America with a touch of Stalinist baroque. And colourist David Curiel adds the final touch, lighting the buildings with sunlight or enveloping them in shade. The art team also do a tremendous job on Mon-El, painting him with a loneliness befitting a man who has spent long years in the Phantom Zone. His eyes are bright blue, but they're haunted. As for the Guardian, he shines as befits a symbol of justice and hope since the Golden Age.

The interesting challenge for the art team this time was fulfilling writer James Robinson's apparent instruction that while Superman interacts with characters in flashback, he's never clearly seen. So he's a reflection in the Guardian's mask; a flash of cape; a figure in the shadows. Yes, it's contrived, but as a one-issue deal, the conceit works rather well.

What also works well is Robinson's script, which, behind Andrew Robinson's evocative cover, gets off to a witty start as citizens look up in the sky and react to Mon-El's appearance. After that we go back and forth within a several day period, showing Superman saying his goodbyes and preparing the way for Mon-El's guardianship of his city; and Mon-El battling one of Superman's regular villains and joining the Science Police in his Jon Kent identity.

I appreciated Superman trusting friends and partners with his plans, liked the addition of a cast member from the Bat-books (well, they nicked Maggie Sawyer), the respect given to John Henry Irons and adored the return of Bibbo in a brand-spanking new Ace O'Clubs Bar. The ensemble feel of this book is tremendously refreshing - it's a Superman title of a different flavour. And if the next 11 issues are as good as this one, I'm not going to miss the big fella.

2 comments:

  1. This was a pretty awesome issue too, wasn't it? I like Mon-El and his role in this book (and now Steel too!), even if I don't like Ma Kent's creepy suggestion that he take the name of her recently dead husband.

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  2. Well, you know John Byrne Ma Kent, probably already planning that third husband. I wanted Bob Cobb!

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