Today, I’ll take a look at the “Superman” group of DC’s New 52.
Like Justice League, this book takes place in the early days of the new DC Universe, before superheroes are widely accepted by the public. Grant Morrison, arguably the best comic book writer today, perhaps ever, has been tasked with the unenviable job of rebooting Superman, one of the world’s most recognizable fictional characters. Morrison starts off showing us that this early version of Superman has not yet come to grips with the immensity of his powers, and is willing to use questionable vigilante methods to bring criminals to justice. I found this to be a fascinating facet to Superman’s personality, because it is so much different from the Boy Scout image we have grown to accept. The issue concludes with an action-packed set piece of a train (with Lois Lane on board, of course) about to go off its tracks. This clichéd sequence harkens back to a simpler time, but I have never been able to believe train cars in this situation wouldn’t just jackknife and derail, causing massive death and destruction. Morrison also introduces us to a forceful take on slimy Lex Luthor, who is already one of the world’s most powerful men. The art by Rags Morales and Rick Bryant is a solid effort, bringing Superman’s physicality to life, but it doesn’t have the charm that Frank Quitely’s art had on Morrison’s All-Star Superman. We should expect to be excited and surprised by Superman’s journey as Morrison progresses forward with this story in the months to come.
For those not keeping score at home, this Superboy is not the young Clark Kent of Smallville. This is a relaunch of the Superboy character that arose out of the “Death of Superman” saga twenty years ago. This Superboy is a Superman-human hybrid clone that is being nurtured and studied by a mysterious organization known as Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Writer Scott Lobdell paints Superboy on a blank canvas, starting the story at a point very early in Superboy’s development, and then speeds through a lot of background information while keeping the story interesting. It looks like Lobdell will be exploring how the character learns to perfect his powers as he learns more about his so far unexplained origins. Artists R. B. Silva and Rob Lean give the book a crisp, clean look that is very appealing. I enjoyed the first issue of Superboy very much, and look forward to the story to come.
Supergirl has always been in the shadow of her Kyptonian cousin, Superman. This series doesn’t really look to change that status, but the first issue does foreshadow some possibly interesting teenage angst to propel the story forward. We see Supergirl land on Earth and immediately an unnamed alien protection squad of exoskeleton-wearing soldiers is upon her. Supergirl is obviously disoriented by her sudden landing; the last thing she remembers is being on the way home from school with her friends, and her first instincts are to think it’s all a dream. But as the mechanical men attempt to restrain her, she slowly realizes that she’s on a strange world with a yellow sun. Just as she dispatches her final foe, none other than Superman drops in to presumably set things straight. Artists Mahmud Asrar and Dan Green make Supergirl look good, but the story by Michael Green & Mike Johnson moves very slowly. Green and Johnson come out of TV writing, so may be more used to having longer story arcs. Whatever the case, I hope that they pick up the pace a little and start filling in some of the blank spaces, or else readers aren’t likely to stick around very long.
Whereas the Superman in Action Comics is a young, inexperienced superhero, the Superman in this title is a much more mature and confident character. It is, however, nothing ground breaking. We see the staff of the Daily Planet go through some turmoil as a Rupert Murdoch type media magnate purchases the paper, while Superman goes through his own turmoil fighting a weird fire alien. A faux newspaper article narrates much of Superman’s action, and the scenes with Lois Lane and her crew are colored with frenetic TV style quick cuts that heighten the tension. Writer George Pérez (who also does the breakdowns) is a better artist than writer, but being able to combine the two skills helps him stuff a lot of story into a small space. Jesús Merino ably renders the finished pencils and inks. The large supporting cast has always strengthened the Superman mythos, and Pérez gives us some tantalizing hints to the new gang. For example, Perry White looks much more like a square-jawed man of action than in many previous incarnations, and Morgan Edge, the producer of the Planet’s affiliated network news division, is now an urban black man. There was also an inexplicable one-page cutaway showing a stirring monster that somehow ties into the new Stormwatch book; it didn’t seem appropriate to have this kind of crossover so early. Superman does nothing to tarnish Superman’s reputation—it is a safe, traditional comic book for all ages.