How's that for a pithy review? OK, it's pretty rubbish, but honestly, I read this issue, enjoyed the odd moment, but had to force myself to get through it. This comic has been on an upswing of late, with writer Gene Yang and artist Howard Porter showing chemistry in the Mythbrawl sequence. This issue, though, is another round of Superman as desperate man, thinking of little beyond getting back his stolen super-powers.
The story opens at a political convention, with Superman helping ARGUS agent Steve Trevor take down would-be assassin Kingslayer. He's sought out Trevor because he wants access to the government agency's hoard of green Kryptonite.
Stupid boy. Rather than take up Steve's offer to let the super-scientists of ARGUS examine him, he wants to kiss their glowing rocks. Expose himself to as much of the element that can kill him as he can find, on the off-chance he'll regain his ability to absorb solar radiation. He wants to be powered, like, now because the JLA has been captured by Vandal Savage as part of his ultimate plan to ... er, pass.
About ten months into the Truth storyline which has infected the Superman books, we still don't know what the Immortal Villain's endgame us. We know he wants to power himself up via a comet that tickles Earth occasionally, we've seen him use sundry weapons - including his own children - but still don't know what his masterplan is.
This issue, an updated version of Golden Age nuisance The Puzzler invades ARGUS in a new, robotic body provided by current day dullard Hordr_root. Or something. To be honest, I can't work out this page at all.
Is the Puzzler's mind split into two before he's killed? I don't know, and care only in so far as I like to know what's going on. It is a puzzlement.
What the Puzzlebot wants is to stop Superman's plan on behalf of Savage, but not if Steve has anything to say about it. Damn fine chap, that Trevor. Look at how understanding he is about Diana preferring Superman to him.
Well, when he's not torturing villains. This is something of which Superman profoundly disapproves, having completely forgotten the several issues of Superman/Wonder Woman he's just spent kicking Parasite's teeth in with his monkey boots. Hypocrite. Ah well, maybe this means that horrible S/WW storyline, which saw me drop the book, has been instantly Mopeed out of continuity. This version of Steve needs to go too - Steve Trevor is a good man, not the type to happily torment a bound opponent.
Realising he may well die, Superman has just one request of Steve. No, it's not that he tell him where he got that Steve Rogers tribute suit...
He's talking about Lois, I tell you!
My favourite part of this issue is the first few pages. A nod to another Golden Age type, J Wilbur Wolfingham, con man extraordinaire, is fun.
The Kingslayer is enjoyably goofy. And I like that Superman calls for calm at one point.
Other than that, it's just all tiresome, page-filling until the book hits #50 and Superman gets his power back. Writer Gene Yang has fun where he can - I like that Central City has an auditorium named for Forties Flash artist Harry Lampert - but it's as if he's been reined in, strangled by an overarching storyline that simply isn't working. What would have been nice was a cutaway to show Wonder Woman's efforts to rescue the League, or to see what Savage is up to - something to give this issue some context, make it seem like a necessary part of the big story rather than simple page filling.
Ongoing artist - 'regular' is a risky term to use in relation to DC these days - Howard Porter doesn't draw the whole issue, sharing the workload with Ardian Syaf. While I like the reliable craftsmanship of Syaf - his opening sequence is very nicely done - I love Porter's quirkier work, so it's disappointing not to have him do the whole book. Look at that page above, for example, in which the floor layout stretches out to become panel borders. Wonderful.
Also contributing to the art are sturdy inkers Don Ho and Jerome K Moore...
... blimey, Jerome K Moore. I liked Moore's work a lot when he was a DC regular in the Eighties, on the likes of Green Arrow and Star Trek. It seems he's been working away from comics for awhile; I hope this marks a return to the medium.
Hi-Fi's colours are smart and attractive throughout, as are Rob Leigh's letters. Both get a chance to shine on the powerful final page - Leigh has been doing some standout title lettering lately, while Hi-Fi gives great green.
This is a pretty average issue, and it doesn't have to be - the creative team members are talented individuals, but they're fettered by the editorially driven direction (that should probably be 'meandering') of the Superman books. With Superman #50 coming, and a mysterious revamp of the DC Universe after that, let's hope Yang, Porter and co are allowed to fly free, like Superman.