Superman #1

Superman #1

B

Anyone who knows my background or has spent ten minutes on my blog knows that I’m a little biased when it comes to Superman. I’d like to think that it means I’m more invested than most people in wanting to read good Superman stories, but I know I’m also more inclined to like even the more mediocre installments. Superman #1 wasn’t mediocre, but it also didn’t quite hit the standard set by Action Comics a few weeks back.

It’s worth noting that neither writer/breakdown artist George Pérez nor penciller/inker Jesus Merino is new to the Man of Steel. Merino did some art work for Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek’s runs on Action Comics and Superman, while Pérez has drawn Superman on and off for decades, even writing a few issues in the late ‘80s. And this issue feels like nothing so much as one of those late-‘80s Superman comics — which is really neither complaint nor compliment.

The issue splits its focus between a couple of classic Superman action scenes and the drama of Morgan Edge’s buyout of the Daily Planet. Superman has one of the best and most recognizable supporting casts in all of comics, and it’s nice to see them sharing the spotlight again. The structure feels very traditional, with an A-plot and B-plot that ultimately tie together in the end. It’s a refreshing change of pace, and it does the classic superhero story style better than Justice League International, which had a similar flavor.

On the other hand, it does feel a bit overwritten. Part of that is clearly a thematic choice, as a story that’s partially about the changing face and role of media is told almost entirely through the eyes of various media outlets (that narrate events, as reporters frequently do). And as far as that goes, it works fairly well, at least justifying why the events on panel are also being described in narration.

But part of it is also Pérez’s purplish prose, describing things sequentially and with exquisite detail, even when it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do so. A fair portion of the narration is supposedly clipped from Clark Kent’s after-the-fact front-page article on the subject, drawn from an ‘interview’ with Superman himself, and reading through those captions makes it hard to believe that Kent would be working for anything more respectable than a high school yearbook. It’s too descriptive, too linear, too expository, and doesn’t feel like anything you’d ever read in a professional newspaper. Also, for something that comes out of an alleged interview, it reads an awful lot like someone narrating events as they observe them, and not like someone asking questions and receiving answers. It’s sloppy, and it mars an otherwise interesting motif.

The art is lush, as you might expect from two artists of such high caliber. The page layouts contribute to the book’s classic feel, with lots of tight panels and an efficient use of the reduced page count. The technique really allows the single splash-page to stand out and have an impact, although it makes a few pages feel a bit cramped — something the overwritten narration and dialogue don’t help.

Others have noted some changes to the art from the preview pages, most notably Clark’s hair and glasses at the end. The look appears to have been (rather hastily) altered to conform more closely to what Clark looked like in Action Comics, which strikes me as somewhat odd, given that Clark is supposed to be several years older here. He hasn’t changed glasses or his hairstyle in all that time? Clark’s mussed-up bangs really don’t work in the retouched art, though I suspect that future issues — where he’s drawn like that from the start — will make the look seem more natural. Regardless, it seems like a change for no good reason. Or maybe one good reason: if Jimmy Olsen’s new Bieber-‘do is any indication, bangs are in style.

Other changes worth noting include Perry White’s svelte, square-jawed look and Morgan Edge’s transformation into a Vandyke-sporting black man. The former seems like part of the overall de-aging of characters, which unfortunately makes Perry seem less like the wise old newshound he’s typically been, and reduces the number of people over fifty in the DCU by one more. I can’t say that I’m at all bothered by the latter, but I do kind of wish artists could imagine a few more African-American hairstyles. Either that, or I’d like to see the new Morgan Edge lead a team with John Henry Irons, Crispus Allen, and Captain Sisko.

And, of course, there’s Superman’s new costume. It’s perhaps a bad sign for the design when the artists on the character’s eponymous title do their best to downplay all of its unnecessary lines and piping. They’re mostly successful at it, and I have to say that I was too caught up in Superman doing actual Superman-type things like chasing criminals and fighting monsters to be distracted by his silly collar or blue-not-red-but-still-totally-there briefs. Then again, I read through the Supermullet years, and I have a complete run of issues from the Electric Superman era, so my tolerance is pretty high.

The plot ties up perhaps a bit too conveniently, but it’s worth noting that this is one of the very few done-in-one issues I’ve seen from the New 52. Sure, several threads are left for the next issue to follow up on, but we get a complete story in this issue, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Again, it’s the welcome return of an old-school story style, where the subplots and mysteries carry through a series of largely standalone issues.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the issue. It’s not perfect, and it’s not innovative, but it’s a very old-school sort of Superman story. And after years of asking for something more like this, I have a hard time complaining about it. This was a security blanket of a comic — perhaps a little threadbare after years of use and storage, but enough to trigger all those old warm-and-fuzzy feelings from days gone by.

Pull List Verdict: KEEP IT

tags: george perez, jesus merino, superman, the new 52

  • Anonymous

    Great review, man. I agree about Clark’s newspaper story… it’s really poorly written. I lost it at the “Tower of Babel of indecipherability” part. It’s doubly bad writing when you consider that it’s supposed to come from a prizewinning journalist. Geez. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678019951 Andrew Stamm

    The newspaper “narration” was definitely the weakest part… didn’t read like a newspaper article at all, and that’s really kind of inexcusable.

  • Thomas Foss

    Seriously. Guys like Kurt Busiek and Jeph Loeb deserve more credit for making Clark’s columns–and even narration–read a bit more like actual newspaper articles. But at least it wasn’t nearly as bad here as it was in “Superman: Earth One,” and I haven’t seen Pérez giving interviews about how unrealistic the Daily Planet is and what a real newspaper would be like, as JMS did.

  • Anonymous

    I just read Earth One yesterday. I’m glad I waited til after I read Morrison’s Action #1, because from that perspective, it comes off as a totally unsuccessful version of what Grant’s doing. Stupid aliens to fight, no Lex, no real feel for the iconography of the character… very lame. 

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