The first family of Metropolis are on Apokolips and in big trouble. Superman has been dragged into Lex Luthor’s scheme to save his skin, pegged as the prophesied saviour of Apokolips. Lois has been co-opted into the Female Furies, where survival depends on remaining in Granny Goodness’s bad graces.
And Jon? He’s alone in the badlands and feeling hungry. His appetite soon goes.
As an animal lover, Jon can’t stand by, even if revealing himself makes him a tiny target for these alien warriors.
Good boy! In reuniting pups and parents, Jon finds his first allies in this terrifying realm.
Superman, meanwhile, is trying to avoid enforced messiah-hood. And resisting the temptation to clobber Lex for getting him into this situation.
Their arguing leaves Superman and Lex open to a sneak attack by Kalibak, one of Darkseid’s pesky kids, whose plan to find dear old departed dad involves... fracking in the Fire Pits?
And then who should turn up but Granny and her girls, including a familiar face.
What happens next just continues the goodness this issue has delivered so far - big action and terrific characterisation, ending on a wonderful note. The final image won’t surprise anyone who’s seen the regular cover, but it’s even better in the story context.
Writers Patrick Gleason and Peter J Tomasi are taking us, along with the Kents, on a rollicking rollercoaster ride. They do a tremendous job of laying out the position of the various Apokoliptian factions, from the followers of Adora to the minions of Kalibak, the Female Furies to the Lowlies. The absence of Darkseid - currently in kiddie form on Earth - has left a power vacuum to be filled, and the Superman Family are caught in the middle.
I’ve read many a tale set on Apokolips, but this is one of the better non-Jack Kirby evocations. Take, for example, Jon’s description of the smell of the place.
And it’s great to know that despite her history as Darkseid’s favourite minion, Granny isn’t popular with all his troops. It’s also good to see that even on a world as traditionally gloomy as Apokolips, Superman can inspire hope. I also like that he’s human enough to almost give away the fact of his family to Lex.
I realise this is Apokolips and people aren’t nice, and Jon needs motivation, but I do wish our writers hadn’t gone so detailed on the unpleasantness towards the dogs. It’s almost a cooking manga at one point. This isn’t a comic to read with your supper.
Illustrating the book we have three artists, Travis Moore, Stephen Segovia and Art Thibert. I’m taking it Moore fully illustrates the Superman and Lex scenes, while Segovia’s Superboy pages are finished by veteran inker Thibert. If I’m wrong, please correct me!
Whatever the case, this is a strong showing from all concerned. The Superman and Lex pages are at times incredibly busy, but never unclear. And when the big moments are called for, such as the arrival of Kalibak or Superman letting Lex know how angry he feels, the images have real power
That angle on Lex and Superman is especially impressive, not every artist could pull it off. And there’s some fine texturing in the Superman and Lex story that speaks to the dusty grimness of the world Darkseid made.
As for the Jon story, the emotions are always written on his face, while the giant dogs are somewhere between terrifying and adorable.
All this, plus first rate Kirby Krackle and Lois in a unique Female Furies outfit... someone has serious sewing skills to knock up that S-chest design so speedily. Any suggestions as to a Lashina/Screaming Mimi/Mad Harriet-style name for her?
Kudos, too, to Dinei Ribeiro for sterling colourwork - there’s a real vibrancy throughout - and Rob Leigh for his ever-thoughtful lettering... I do like that the gigantic Kalibak gets a larger than usual font.
Gleason and colourist Dean White provide the main cover, and while it’s striking, I do wish another moment from the issue had been chosen. There’s a Justice League movie variant by Renato Guedes which is mostly very decent, though Gal Gadot’s face to hair ratio makes Wonder Woman look deeply weird.
But that’s not the book. The book is Clark, Lois and Jon on Apokolips, dealing with every horror thrown at them. And it’s terrific from beginning to end.
Superman #35 review, Patrick Gleason, Peter J Tomasi, Travis Moore, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert, Dinei Ribeiro, Renato Guedes, Rob Leigh, Dean White