I'm a Superman guy. It's usually the first book I read. This week, it almost lost that 'honour', when I noticed it was a fill-in written by regular artist John Romita Jr. Surely that could wait, after all, so many intriguing, Convergence books, the end of Multiversity...
Maybe a quick read over breakfast.
Oh boy. This is flat-out the most fun I've had with a done-in-one Superman story in ages. The set-up is simple. Superman asks his Justice League colleagues - Cyborg, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash - to help him test his new solar flare power. He needs to know what the trigger is, how he can control the effect and if the solar energy he 'exhales' can be captured and put to good use.
Superman admits that he's starting to enjoy the feeling of being human, so the Leaguers - minus Cyborg, who stays in the satellite to run more tests - go to a pub for a few drinks. Clark's alcohol tolerance isn't great, but the amused heroes keep an eye on him.
Next morning, Clark wakes to news of trouble on the streets - guys with hi-tech guns firing indiscriminately. Feeling less than great, he rushes out, forgetting that it's not been a day since he last discharged and he's not going to be fully recharged. He's down to power levels similar to those of the earliest days of his career, leaping rather than flying, for example. He beats the baddies, but takes some physical damage. Damage which kicks off the next big storyline...
On its own, this would be an interesting tale, as I'm a sucker when it comes to heroes testing their limits. Plus, the combination of John Romita's pencils, Klaus Janson's inks and their regular Marvel colleague Dean White's colours make for the best artwork on this series since Romita and Janson joined a few months back. The storytelling works, Clark looks good, the Leaguers too, and there's some really fine character work in the body language and facial expressions.
But it's Romita's writing that truly impresses me. He gives us the most satisfying presentation of the Justice League since DC rebooted its universe in 2011 - they're intelligent, funny, competent and genuine super-friends. The affectionate teasing of Superman is a delight, and after this issue any writer who claims Clark has no one with whom he can relax will sound rather hollow.
It's the little details that make a big difference - Wonder Woman with a robe over her costume in the satellite; Batman smirking; an unnecessary modesty check by Aquaman; Cyborg and Batman sharing a question.
Heck, the simple act of putting Barry Allen in a hat made my day. We find out what music Clark listens to - and it's a perfect choice - and meet hoods with personality. And slightly inebriated Clark is super-cute - even if he does forget his grammar.
If this is an indication of the new tone of the DCU we've heard about, rather than a teasingly wonderful aberration, I'll be thrilled. There's not a page that doesn't have me smiling - even the final page, the trigger for the upcoming Truth storyline is sharply written and subtly drawn.
'Powerless' also reminds us what a great comic book artist Romita can be, with moments as well timed as this.