Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Superman #8 review

Now that's one creepy cover. The men behind it are Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis, the artistic team making the current Aquaman series look so good. With luck, some of their fans will be enticed to check out this book starring the Sea King's fellow Justice Leaguer, Superman.

I know, it's 2012 and Aquaman has buzz. Superman deserves buzz. OK, the book doesn't have a mega-moody lead character, a zoftig heroine and gory deaths everywhere, but it does have the original superhero. The Man of Steel. And here he is at his best, showing an unfriendly extraterrestrial where to go while explaining why he loves Earth and its people (click on image to enlarge).
It's not a boring speech, it's heartfelt and feels real. It reads like a statement of intent from the Superman creative team that no matter what costume or origin tweaks he enjoys/endures, the Man of Steel is never going to lash out unless it's as a last resort.

This issue begins with a glimpse of a world in which Superman is hated and feared, an 'it' to be hunted down by the authorities and Justice League. It's an Earth that's the culmination of the attitudes faced by Superman in the Five Years Ago issues of Action Comics, and thank goodness that's not where we are today. As it happens, this world is a fantasy, a vision conjured up by exiled Daemonite Helspont to persuade Superman that Earthlings will turn on him, as his people rejected him. Helspont's 'low-grade cerebral shunt' manifests as some kind of cross between an insect, a plant and classic JLA baddie Starro the Conqueror ...

... yup, this is co-plotters Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens apparently homaging Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic 'For the man who has everything' maguffin. Instead of the Black Mercy parasitical plant that makes its victim so happy with Utopian fantasies they never want to wake up, though, the shunt conjures up a darker world.

Whether by accident or design, the device works for the story, showing that Superman is over his early fears of never being accepted on Earth, and has the willpower to wake up from the nightmare. It also sets up the issue's big fight scene, with Kryptonian and Daemonite throwing down in the Himalayas. Where scripter Giffen has Superman sound natural, his Helspont is a corny soul, spouting dialogue Dr Doom would find naff, so it's a treat to watch Superman wipe the smile off his face.

The episode also progresses a couple of subplots, something we don't see enough of in superhero lines today. In one, Lois Lane's kid sister Lucy arrives in Metropolis and moves in with her; in the other, bedbugs force Jimmy Olsen into Clark's apartment - stupidly, he brings his own pillow. Anyone care to bet against these fine young people deciding they should get a flat together? Anyone else actually old enough to remember the pre-Crisis Jimmy and Lucy romance? He was a pultroon, she was a cow, but eventually he grew up, she turned nice and ... Lucy pretty much disappeared from continuity. Typical! So I want these kids to have a nice little romance.

And one drawn by Dan Jurgens and Jesus Merino would look lovely. There's an appealing strength to their work, with Merino adding a certain roughness to Jurgen's sterling layouts without disguising the essential attractiveness. Their vision of a battered alt-Metropolis works well, while the scenes between Superman and Helspont pulse with energy. The colours of Tanya and Richard Horie are a big help here, sizzling across the pages - well, except in the scene set in Lois's apartment - the girl really does like drab colours.

The only point at which the art doesn't work for me is when Helspont tells how his fellow Daemonites turned against him. The flashback is small on the page, then toned in pale blues. The moment should have power, but it's undersold.

Never mind, though, overall this is a fine Superman comic, one for which Jurgens, Giffen, Merino and co should get more attention. Perhaps throw in a few fish?

8 comments:

  1. That cover reminds me of something from Bio-Meat (A really freaky foreign horror comic with incredibly stupid people and the idiotic they do). Superman's lucky the creature doesn't explode out of him.

    Good to hear Superman is still doing good.

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    1. I've not heard of Bio-Meat, but looking at Google Image, gosh!

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  2. Lucy was a cow? Does that term mean something different in the UK? I mean, Lucy was a shrew, a harpy, a nag and a killjoy back in the day (often simultaneously in one 8 page story), but a cow....I dunno.

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    1. A cow is all those things ... I suspect you think I'm using the word to mean something far filthier. Are you familiar with the term 'nasty old bag'? That would be the original Lucy Lane.

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  3. I'm glad that there seems to be a bit more action in Superman. I read the first three issues and found them too wordy - more like a TV drama set in the world of newspapers and TV stations than a superhero comic.

    If this arc is any good (and for that opinion, I'll read your ongoing reviews), I may pick this up in trade.

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  4. Hi Rob, as I type it's just been announced that after this autumn's zero issue, Superman will be handed over to Scott Lobdell to write. I am intrigued.

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  5. I was so dissuaded by the first creative team and arc on Superman I dropped it, but if the stars align and a particular stellar team lines up for the job I might just re-subscribe. Great review though! It is good to be kept abreast of the run even if I'm not reading it month-to-month.

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