Thursday, 3 February 2011

Superman 80-Page Giant 2011 #1 review


I almost put this issue back on the comic shop shelf, what with Dustin Nguyen's cover image seeming so familiar. Then I clicked that it's a companion piece to the Batman 80pp giant cover of a few months back. I'm not terribly keen on this illo -Supergirl and Ma Kent look pretty off, for one - but it's good to see DC trying different illustrative approaches.

So, what's inside this Superman Family album?

  • Jor-El undertakes a daring, last-ditch attempt to convince Krypton's Science Council that the world is going to blow up. What he comes up with is, basically, a big old lump of glowing irony. Beau Tidwell's script is elegantly composed  but suffers from using mainly internal narrative, and our knowledge that Jor-El must fail. It has one or two great lines, though I dislike the "I've never been wrong before" attitude given Jor-El. Far too Batman/Reed Richards for my liking. My bias against the hirsute Jor-El whom DC has saddled us with since the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner Action Comics run doesn't help - I'm constantly thinking, "who's the beardy guy?". Other than the look of Superman's dad, penciller Cafu and inker Bit can do no wrong, capturing the drama of Krypton's last days with pizzazz.
  • Perry White takes centre stage and bar stool for a 'team-up' with Wildcat, who's in Metropolis on a case. The two old guys share a drink, an anecdote and advice in a spiffy little story written by Neil Kleid and drawn by Dean Haspiel. Kleid's narrative is sharp and ends on the perfect note, while Haspiel captures the veterans with vigour and gives us a wonderfully scrappy Newsboy Perry.
  • 'Quarter-life Crisis of Infinite Jimmy Olsens' has the ginger journalist in unusually contemplative mode. A mad scientist has cloned 100 Olsens, they're unstable and, in a possible nod to Silver Age story World of Doomed Olsens, dying all over the planet. In between learning how his counterparts kicked it, Jimmy talks mortality with Superman. Writer Abhay Khosla's story at once manages to be wacky, deep and terribly touching. Andy Macdonald's generously detailed artwork picks up the mood and runs with it, though I could have done without one page being presented sideways - a bit random, that. Nevertheless, this is an outstanding offering. Extra points for remembering that Jimmy Olsen is Marco Polo.
  • Introspection must be catching, as Bizarro No.1 just wants to be left alone with his thoughts. And pizza. But people keep bothering him. Bizarrogirl from recent Supergirl issues wants him to know she's not living in a cave any more; Lois wonders what he thinks of Superman's walking trip, 'getting to know the average moron'; the JLA throws him a parade ... what's an imperfect duplicate to do? I've no idea, but I laughed a lot. And felt a little sad for Bizarro, thanks to Steve Horton's marvellous writing and Dan McDaid's wonderfully off-kilter artwork. Sequel!
  • Well who knew? All this time Supergirl has been establishing her Linda Lang identity off-panel, she's been making friends. Cue likable Metropolis U student Brendan, who's been 'talking' to her for awhile and wants to be her boyfriend. Awwww. They're on a date at a fairground when one of the 'freaks' is set free and Supergirl soon has her hands full. I rather liked this story by (Marvel Comics letterer?) Joe Caramagna, with its sharp mix of humour and drama, but it fell at the last hurdle with an ending straight out of 1973. Trevor McCarthy's artwork has an appealing vibe, though he seems to be confusing Supergirl's chest with Power Girl's.
  • It's the most unusual Lois Lane story in years as the girl reporter actually does some reporting. Challenged by Lana Lang to find the oddly named owner of a credit card she spots on the pavement, Lois is soon up to her iPhone in trouble. And Lana's right there with her. Along with a very cute dog. Writers Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover present a pacy screwball mystery with standout dialogue, reminding us that Lois isn't the Daily Planet's star reporter for nothing. Amilcar Pinna brings the script to life, adding a modern edge to the depiction of Metropolis that most artists miss. 
  • Finally, Superboy's finding Smallville boring (he mustn't read his own comic) and snaps at Ma Kent before wandering into the night to let off steam. He comes across the local werewolf and everyone winds up learning something. Aubrey Sitterson's story doesn't fit with recent Superboy characterisation, with our boy acting like he did when he first came to Smallville a couple of years back. A note does say it takes place before this month's Teen Titans, so let's assume it takes place quite some time before this month's Teen Titans. I was certainly tickled by the casual way Superboy accepts that the town has a lycanthrope with the wonderful name of Creighton. And the artwork of Eddy Barrows and JP Mayer is first rate, with Superboy's reaction to Creighton snarling in his face just priceless
This is an excellent comic, with several superb shorts and the rest at least readable. Anyone for a quarterly Superman Family revival, featuring some of the talents and characters in this special? I'd certainly like more Jimmy, Perry and Bizarro stories by the creators on show here, and surely husband and wife Tobin and Coover could give us an updated Mr and Mrs Superman? Come on, DC, you know I want it ...

13 comments:

  1. I had no intention of buying this issue, but a quick flip through the pages at the store convinced me otherwise.

    The Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro stories were truly excellent, and worth the cover price by themselves.

    I wish all the 80-Pagers were this good!

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  2. Indeedy. You know, I should have given a shout-out to the editors, Wil Moss and Matt Idelson. Thanks chaps.

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  3. It should be noted, though, that this issue was almost entirely Supermanless. Considering that Superboy and Supergirl already have their own comic, and Jimmy Olson his own back-up strip/now to be a special, why is a "Superman 80 Page Giant" telling their stories, instead of *some* focus on the title character, who has been almost absent from the DC Universe the past few years? C'mon, DC, what the heck do you have against the Man Of Steel?!?

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  4. And there's a great argument for an official Superman Family revival - there'd be no excuse for Superman's pals and gals to take over his specials!

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  5. This was good stuff Mart.

    I for one would buy a Superman family book. Heck ... make it a quarterly!

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  6. Got to agree! Great issue! I hated the recent crossover (War/New Krypton) so much that I'd been wary of all Super titles except Superboy (which has been wonderful), but this was well worth the purchase! Especially Jimmy and Bizarro. Too bad Supergirl's own comic doesn't develop her character. I'd buy it. (I figure Superboy might have taken place before the current run, but TPTB wanted to address the 'break up'.)

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  7. Kenn, thanks for the comment. I do, though, think Supergirl has had plenty of great development under Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle and co. I'd love to know what you feel was missing.

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  8. Martin, I can't really assess their run on the title, as they were probably hamstrung by the crossovers, so I don't know how much of what was on the page was theirs. Personally, I hated the return of the Argo origin, Kara's reaction to Thara over Zor-El's death (and the similar Lois reaction to Kara's self-defense killing of Lucy),Kara overreacting with Lana about her illness, and the forced romance with Brainiac 5, which almost precludes any decent development in Kara's own time, to name but a few.
    Unfortunately, the new crew is tying in a bunch of crossover characters right out of the gate, and I still have no sense of who Kara/Linda is, outside of this short story.

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  9. "It's the most unusual Lois Lane story in years as the girl reporter actually does some reporting." That was priceless. How is it that the only Lois Lane that we've had in a while is either Superman's cross-country groupie or Lex Luthor's bodyguard robot? These people get paided to come up with this!

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  10. Thanks Kenn, I appreciate the detail. Some of those qualms you mentioned are things that bothered me as I've looked at the issues (eg the reaction to Lana's illness and the Lois business) but overall I've just loved the recent run so much - especially compared to what's come previously - that I forgive the odd super-melodramatic moment. I hope the book pleases you more, soon.

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  11. I know, Erik, they should give us a job (actually, an editor's role would be lovely, ta!)

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  12. Great review, Martin. Bizarro-Lois' "average moron" line was my favorite part of the issue; I laughed out loud.

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  13. Thanks Brian. The 80pp giants just get better. I'd like to see a Wonder Woman one, once the regular continuity returns.

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