Thursday, 29 March 2012

Superman #7 review

Alien overlord Helspont sends a powerful robotic 'thrall' to Metropolis to assess Superman and finds him worthy; worthy of enlisting him in his quest to make Earth Daemonite territory. When he finally meets Superman himself, he can't understand something (click on image to enlarge):
And with that one moment, showcasing a defiant hero, proudly wearing his S-symbol, I know that the DC New 52 Superman comic is in safe creative hands. Sure, Keith Giffen's association with Superman predates the Crisis on Infinite Earths, whereas Dan Jurgens came on board a few years after and gave us a classic run ... but could they make this series sing after a lacklustre relaunch which dragged Superman's good name through the mud?

I think they can. This first issue, co-plotted by them, pencilled by Jurgens and finished by Jesus Merino, is heaps of fun and popping with fresh ideas. Not Helspont - he dates back to the glory days of the Wildstorm universe, and while the name is rubbish, he has a villainous charm. I'm thinking of how we see Clark Kent's discomfort at being asked to glorify his other identity for the Daily Planet, and the presentation of Superman's new costume as 'Kryptonian biotech' he wills to appear. Then there are re-purposed concepts, such as Earth's propensity to act as a hothouse for superbeings (the Giffen-plotted Invasion mini-series of the late Eighties) and the return of Lois Lane's troublesome sister, Lucy (several thousand Silver Age comics and pre-New 52 Supergirl). There's humour at STAR Labs and the Daily Planet, a de-emphasising of Lois' new TV job and Superman cutting loose.

Simply put, this is a confident, enjoyable Superman comic. It's not out to remake the wheel, it simply wants to entertain - and the number of bad comics out there tells us that's not always an easy thing. The only misstep is the Metropolis throng's continued surprise at the presence of Superman among them, and the distrust many feel for him - isn't this comic set five or six years into the super-career? I get the feeling this sort of thing originates on DC Editorial's answer to Mount Sinai, that stone tablets exist saying that DC's heroes must be treated like Marvel's mutants. Well, enough already - let the DC Universe be the best DCU it can be, not a second-rate Marvel Universe.

The ponderous narrative devices of this title's first six issues have been dumped in favour of a present tense 'what Clark's thinking' - basically, good-old thought bubbles, but in white-out-of-blue caption boxes to fool the kids that we're all trendy now. I'd prefer unashamed balloons, but this works for me, making for a much more comfortable read than previously.

Clark's perpetually flustered appearance apart, I like the art here a lot. Jurgens knows how to pace a Superman story, while Merino adds strength to his breakdowns (presumably, as a first-class penciller too, Merino will be doing full art at some point). These pages are teeming with excellent figurework, great value backgrounds and pulse-pounding action, resulting in a dynamic feast for the eyes. And they're coloured with joie de vivre by Tanya and Richard Horie, while Rob Leigh adds energy on the lettering side.

The cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis of Aquaman fame, and it's rather the winner - extra points for almost managing to hide the fact that Superman has lost his shorts.

If you gave this book a try at relaunch time but jumped off for whatever reason, take another gander. With the iconoclastic Giffen on board, surprises are guaranteed, while Jurgens has a knack for translating the classic DC sensibility for modern audiences. I understand that the Helspont storyline is something they inherited - the horn mentioned herein was blown way back in Superman #1 - but they're making tasty Kryptonian lemonade out of it. And once they can go their own way, who knows what thrills they'll come up with?

20 comments:

  1. Glad to hear this book is finding its legs. I left this one on the shelf today, specifically waiting on your review. Not sure it I'll pick this particular issue up -- and if so, probably in a month, digitally -- but I might give it another look once Hellspont has come and gone.

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  2. I gave up after issue 3 of this, but you do write such tantalising reviews - I am tempted! I'll see what your review of the next issue is like under the aegis of the new creative team and then maybe go back and get issues 7 and 8 at the same time.

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  3. Oh, Rob and Rob, I came so close to persuading you! Oh well, let me know what you think in a month or so!

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  4. Good review. I'm giving the title another chance now that the new creative team has arrived. Hopefully now it can compete with some of the other New 52 titles.
    Just one point I'd have to disagree with you on: I think it's a good thing that the public in the DCU remains divided on whether or not superheroes are to be trusted. Sure, Marvel did it first but it's such a realistic (and inevitable) element of the superhero concept now that the DCU can't afford not to have it and the drama, conflict and plausibility it provides.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words! As for the public opinion, obviosuly, there'll always be holdouts but after five or more years of heroes (presumably!) saving their backsides on a regular basis, I'd expect most people to realise their intentions are pure. Of course, there is that argument that superheroes attract trouble - they most certainly do. If I were a city government I'd ask them to kindly live well away from my area, while ensuring JLA teleport boxes were everywhere!

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    2. Well said. I think the Sam Lane types would certainly plan for the contingency of superhero types turning on humanity with disasterous results (the first couple issues of Waid's Irredeemable show what that would be like-so disturbing I dropped the title), but the public I think would love them. We're talking about a public that went bonkers over Jeremy Lin saving the Knicks basteball season for pete's sake, a superhero that saved the city or world a few times would be the center of much adoration methinks.

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    3. Ten years ago, I might have agreed with you. But we've got a political/media/social media atmosphere that almost always works to divide the public, about everyone. (Tim Tebow, for example. Ultimately, he's just a football player, but his fans & haters break down along political lines? Angelina Jolie has done a ton of humanitarian work -- but whenever someone brings up her name, someone else is bound to scoff and say how much they hate her.)

      Combine that with much of the public getting only second-hand (if that) accounts of how the universe was saved, and there's a LOT of room for mistrust of the superhero set.

      Can you imagine Wonder Woman, for example, getting universal love from the world, despite her good deeds? We as comic readers can't always agree on who she is and what she stands for, and unlike the public in the DCU, we're privy to her every move!

      So as cynical and pessimistic it is of me to think this, I think that despite the heroes being beacons of good in the world, it's entirely likely that they wouldn't necessarily be recognized as such.

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    4. Hmm, I find myself nodding along with both of you, Mr W and Rob. But if I could impose a mood on the people of the DCU, it'd be accepting and supportive ... making the occasional 'get out of turn Superman' story all the more shocking.

      (You lads and your sportsmen!)

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    5. Oh, I'd be quite happy with that general outlook as a creative choice, Mart! I was just trying to make the point that making the opposite choice isn't as outlandish as it might seem to the omniscient audience.

      (And of sports, I know nada -- which makes it all the more troubling that I have any opinion at all on Tim Tebow!)

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  5. Great review Martin. I liked the Perez run actually and was worried about the new team. I shouldn't have been, considering I've liked Jurgens work on Booster Gold and now JLI, and this issue confirms it. I thought it was a solid effort of good old fashioned comic bookery.

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    1. And so say both of us! Let's spread the word, Mr Whiskas!

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  6. With your review, I might just have to dive back into the Superman run again. I was really disappointed with how it was proceeding, so I just recently dumped it. However, that being said, I am willing to give it another try, especially with a new creative team behind it.

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    1. Aw, great - I hope you enjoy the book, Anthony!

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  7. Full agreement with your views, Martin. Giffen has brought a sense of humor to the book that's deeply appreciated, and Jurgens can actually make the armor work.

    The title has walked back from the brink. That's two good Superman books out of two. A better ratio than Batman, who's stuck with Detective and Dark Knight (and I'm not sure I like B&Robin either).

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    1. Yeah, of the Batman titles starring Batman, I'm down to Batman.

      I want Brave and the Bold back - both of them ... will we ever see JMS' Lois Lane story?

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  8. I loved the Perez run, it's what kept me coming back. I loved how it was wordy and it felt like you were really reading a complete book each individual issue. I liked the tension between Lois and CLark as they vied for different things. I liked the generic villains that lead us to believe Superman actually created them! I liked people not trusting Superman, but trusting him at the same time. This? This felt like I was reading any number of 90's Superman comics with nothing changing except the lack of the mullet and the new Kryptonian Armor. Some people may love that. Some people think the 90's were actual filled with great comics. I do not. Helspont was boring and pontificating like a horrible, cheesy comic book villain. He was so boring, I had to force myself to keep from skipping over half of what he said because I didn't care. I felt like he was just thrown in there to make me want to read that Grifter and it made me hate Superman and Grifter even more. It just felt so forced and it did feel like I missed an issue without missing a single one! I'm rather irritated and it seems that Lois has been rebooted already! She appears to no longer be the head of her own TV station, but working with CLark and Jimmy at the Daily Planet. Why? It was so much more interesting with her, the intrepid reporter that would always endanger herself without a worry, worrying about endangering others! It was a nice change of pace.

    Well, DC just lost me as a Superman reader. I was fearing that, but I figured it was going to happen when I heard about the change in line up. It makes me sad because I loved my little slice of the 80's.

    So Batman and Superman have a few good titles, Wonder Woman has NO BOOK in the new 52 despite having her name on a book.

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    1. Hiya Jan. The Perez run, I think, suffered due to the drawn-outness of the story, likely due to some New 52 edict to get those trades filled out. Anyway, I've had my say here about the issues - it's interesting to hear from someone who wholeheartedly liked the book. You're the first I've come across, but won't be the only one.

      Lois mentions she has an interview coming up, but she could be interviewing someone for a job. Later in the book she starts wrangling the cameras, so while de-emphasised, it seems the Producer role remains. But it can't go soon enough for my liking, Lois needs to be on the streets getting the stories, not in the office managing them. Perez handled her new job very well, but seeing Lois managing a team could get old very quickly.

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    2. It COULD get old quickly, but we've seen Lois as the intrepid reporter literally a million times. We've seen Lois get herself into crazy situations and having Superman have to save her. We've SEEN that and I know by in large, comic fans don't want things to change, but Lois taking on a new role for probably the first time. That can be interesting instead of rehashing the same stories we've already seen from her. I also resent the idea that that's all Lois is and that's what she should stick with. Taking her in a new direction could lead to some very interesting stories as opposed to rehashing the same stories we've already seen.

      Why not give Lois as a producer a chance (though it appears she's not going to have much of one in the new run) instead of regulating her back to her stereotype.

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  9. Because she's Lois Lane, Girl Reporter! The person who inspired me, along with Clark, Jimmy and Perry, to go into journalism - mind, I'm still waiting to throw myself out of my first building.

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    1. OK, so it's been a while and I'm sure this whole thing is dead, but those of you who hated George Perez's run can well blame Grant Morrison and DC editorial staff for that. Perez LITERALLY just handed them the book and told them to make any changes they needed b/c they wouldn't tell him what was going on. Morrison apparently refused to share and tell people what was going on (according to Perez) or at least if the Editorial staff knew, they weren't sharing with Perez. His entire run was plagued with problems and that's why he left. It was miserable for him apparently.

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