Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Superman #1

Superman #1 came out this week and I had some concerns about this title. The Superman that is acting in this title is the status quo. This isn't the look back at the formative years like in Action Comics. This is the Superman of the DCnU and I don't know if I heard enough about the character leading up to this release. We heard all about the Morrison Superman, fighting for the little guy, depowered, channeling the Golden Age. But this Superman? Who knows.

Part of that concern was the creative team. It has been a while since I have read a George Perez written book. Was he up for the challenge of re-inventing the Man of Steel the way he re-invented Wonder Woman so long ago? We're talking more than the cosmetic changes of his costume. This is more than just Superman. This book is showing us the 'new' versions of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. This is the book that will show us if there is a Fortress of Solitude, what the Daily Planet is like, etc. And was Jesus Merino going to be able to smooth out his style into a Superman book.

But the question is 'who is the Superman of the DCnU?' And am I going to like him?

One thing that I did like about this book was that it was hefty from a story point of view. 25 pages long, packed with dialogue and exposition ... this gave us a lot to digest. We meet the historically most prominent members of the supporting cast. And we do get a taste of who this Superman is.

We learn the fate of the Daily Planet pretty quickly. The building with the big globe gets demolished making way for the newer brighter sleeker version of the paper.

The opening of the book is the celebratory gala for a new Daily Planet, part of the Galaxy Broadcast System (or GBS). GBS then renames itself as PGN, the Planet Global Network. GBS/PGN is run by media entrepreneur Morgan Edge (who is now African American). The company is not without it's blemishes as we hear Clark in a flashback remind Lois how GBS was the parent company for the Globe, a rival paper in Metropolis which seemed more like a trashy tabloid and used unethical and illegal measures at times to get information for their stories.

Most of the Daily Planet staff is at the party, celebrating this merger. But Clark is absent.

So a couple of things about this. One, the destruction of the old Planet is surely symbolic of the DCnU and the desire to break a bit from the past. And yet, they do that in an 'everything old is new again' way bringing GBS and Morgan Edge back. This was cutting edge stuff in the 70s.

I do like that (as we saw in Action) Clark once worked for the Globe. Was he there when it became an unscrupulous entity?

As I said, almost all the Planet staff is there. A young Jimmy Olsen is covering the demolition with his news partner and techie Miko. Jimmy and Miko are pretty active throughout the issue, witnessing news and getting pictures any way they can. Looks like Olsen might be Mr. Action again.

Clark isn't around because as Superman he is watching the demolition as well. It seems symbolic of the erosion of ethics as well. In another view of the flashback, we see Clark arguing with Lois about her ability to maintain journalistic ethics while working for someone like Edge. Lois retorts that is why she is doing it, to maintain the high standard the Planet is known for.

It is hinted here that Superman hasn't been in Metropolis for a bit and has become camera shy.  We'll see later that it looks like Perez might be building some distrust or dislike between Superman and the average citizen.

Lois' job in the new regime is as the VP of New media for PGN, handling the blogs and web streaming of the network's news. We also learn that she not only was a Pulitzer winner for the Planet but also an anchorwoman for GBS. I don't know if I like Lois as a newscaster. She should be in the thick of the news, not simply reading a teleprompter. Still, she seems smart and savvy here.

I did like that Lois offers Clark an anchoring job which Clark refuses knowing 'millions' of people would see him. I assume he turns it down not only on principle but also because it might endanger his secret identity. At least in that way, this GBS/PGN differs from the 70s version.

After that set-up, all hell breaks loose and the rest of the book is mostly a prolonged action sequence with Superman fighting a flame being.

Somewhere in the arctic, an alien blows an Armageddon horn of some sort which seems to bring this creature to life in the middle of the new Metropolis Astrodome. In the meantime Superman tries to stop 2 terrorists from crashing a tanker truck of explosive chemicals into city buildings.

One thing I did like about this sequence was that the exposition was told via Clark's article on the incident for the next day's paper.

We also meet more of the paper's staff. Perry White is still editor but looks more like Sarge Steel here. And the publisher is a hispanic woman named 'Izzy' Izqueirdo. The planet's staff looks like the planet, multiracial and multicultural.

And there is more mystery here. The flame being keeps going on about Krypton as it tries to burn the city down. What is that all about?

The Superman action sequences are nicely balanced with the reaction of Superman being back in town and this battle.

We see Jimmy and Miko take over security cams to get footage. We see Lois pull back her helicopter staff so as not to endanger them for a story. Both are nice touches for their characters and hammer home the earlier feeling we got from them as people of action and integrity.

And we see a begrudging relationship between Superman and the Metropolis Police. The police lieutenant seems to be both happy that Superman is around for things like this, whether he likes it or not. Will this Superman have a working relationship with the law? Is there an Inspector Henderson? Or does Superman's early run-ins (as seen in Action) still carry some weight with the current police force?

The flame being is defeated when Superman carries it into space where a lack of air snuffs it out. But there is no body, no being. And the Astrodome seems none the worse for wear despite having exploded when the flame being emerged. So there is a lot that is unknown of this threat.

With the disaster over, Clark submits his story (he happened to be in the neighborhood when it all went down) and tries to patch things up with Lois. The prior flashback ended in a pretty heated fashion.

It is here we finally meet Lois new beau Jonathan. Now the thing that gets me here is why would Lois open the door? And why would Jonathan walk up without a shirt on. Seems a bit contrived as a way to introduce the character and see Clark's reaction. This felt a bit forced.

I also didn't like Lois telling Clark that Metropolis seems to be a target for mayhem because of Superman. That sounds way way way too much like early 'Grounded' and coupled with the camera shy/not around comments make me worry that Perez is going for the 'isolated from humanity' route which I think might be disastrous as a first run of this reintroduction of the character.

Of course, the counterargument to that is that he is here as Clark and it is hinted at that he loves Lois. That is a pretty human thing to be feeling, even if he is shut down by her (and driven farther away).

So a lot of story, a lot of introductions, some hints of the tone of the book as Superman not being the automatically loved and revered inspiration for man here. As with all these books, I need to read a lot more to get a better feel for the book. This was a decent opening chapter, showing that Clark is still (thankfully) a big part of the Superman character.

Jesus Merino does a good job handling Perez breakdowns. He seems to be channeling Mark Bagley throughout the book and I don't mind that.

I just hope we don't have an angsty moping alienated Superman right out of the gates.

Overall grade: B


Gene said...

Anj wrote:

"I also didn't like Lois telling Clark that Metropolis seems to be a target for mayhem because of Superman."

I've heard the same said of Batman, that he is responsible for Gotham being plagued by villians like the Joker or Poison Ivy.


Kandou Erik said...

I'm dropping this book. Right away. It really stunk, seeing Clark humiliated liked that by Lois. I don't mind Lois and Clark not being married, or not even dating -- but this was too much. They do realize comics are a form of escapism, right? Even Clark being rejected by Lois, I can deal with. But opening the door with Mr. Shirtless right there? Why not have Clark just walk in on them having sex, to make it feel REALLY humiliating!

Forgive me if I'd like to see something more uplifting happening in Superman's life; something that doesn't remind me of my lack-luster love life. Action Comics was fun - and Lois was depicted as a feisty rival of Clark's, in a charming and fun way. The depiction in Superman #1 is just insulting to the readers, especially right on the heels of divorcing the two.

This was just damn depressing.

Anonymous said...

Back in the golden age Lois used to routinely, insult belittle and degrade Clark Kent. On the olde TV series she called him a coward to his face.
To me this sort of thing is the abuse Clark has to put up with to keep his Superman persona separate and safe.
John Feer

Kandou Erik said...

No - I'm fine with her insulting Clark. Heck - being in competition against each other is practically their thing. But this was just to much in-you-face.

I know I'm taking this a big personally, but Superman has always been a vehicle for male-ego fantasy -- being able stop bad guys with you're own hands, ect. Even the Clark/Superman/Lois dynamic has always been a metaphor for boys, being something "super", that the girl doesn't necessarily see in you're regular self.

That theme of rejecting Clark while idolizing Superman has always been there - but this was just really a rotten way to portray it. Superman was at least missing in space during the Superman Returns movie - so there was less of a problem having Lois moving on. But this is the darn opening act of the new 21st century version of Superman - and they really just ruined it in this issue.

Dave Mullen said...

I very much liked it, so much plot crammed into this issue and narratively dense to read. There are two things really that drag it down, one is the costume, which I like less and less every single time i see it. And the other, bigger, problem is Superman/Clarks presentation. Too emo basically, at the best of times I don't want to read about a hero who is a moody introvert, but when that's transerrred to Superman of all characters it's hard to accept. I hope they thaw this character out fast and get some self confidence and worth into him.

There's a lot of good stuff in this issue and it mostly bodes well for the future - Lois has basically switched places with Clark as he was in the pre-crisis Marty Pasko era and the friction between the two due to their respective stances I find compelling. Clark is dedicated to News in its traditional form, Lois is dedicated to news reporting of the multimedia era.... almost Tabloid.
The renovated Daily Planet is another welcome addition for me as apart from being very cutting edge it offers the potential for a broader range of story possibilities. As with the Clark/Lois relationship a lot of thoought has been put into this and it bodes well.

But as I say this generally good work is being spoiled for me due to the rather odd decision to make Clark a bit of a loser and Superman a blank slate, it's been several appearances now by him since the beginning of the month and yet we have no sense of what this man really thinks and feels in both of his identities, and no real means of remotely feeling anything for him. Who can care about such an aloof and apparently sad character given this sparsity of attention he's gotten...

Anj said...

I am trying to give this book the benefit of the doubt figuring it will take a while to reset the mythos.

But I agree that if this is years after Action, Supes place in the city should be solidified.

I don't mind Lois dissing Clark a bit, but answering the door with shirtless Jon makes little sense.

We'll see. I liked the feel of Action much more than this book.

Dave Mullen said...

I don't mind Lois dissing Clark a bit, but answering the door with shirtless Jon makes little sense.

We'll see. I liked the feel of Action much more than this book.

I thought both books were okay, not spectacular though. They seem to be taking their time with Superman and (I hope I'm wrong) going for an Earth-One feel. I didn't like that book one bit unfortunatly.
Reading 'Superman' was a nice experience, I liked it, but Superman felt a bit like a stranger in his own book. The story wasn't concerned at all with him, rather everything around him.
If it's their intention to go with an Earth-One take and give us a somewhat dull, moody, Introverted Superman I won't be sticking around longterm. I would get no enjoyment out of following such a take.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the Clark love Lois thing. For most of the iusse Clark acted as if he barely liked her, infact the two don't even seem that close.

To me, he looked embarrassed, and in this situation, anyone would feel the same way.

Kandou Erik said...

Well, it was just announced that Perez is leaving the book after issue #6. Giffen and Jurgans are going to take over after that. Maybe it will be better - but haven't we seen those writers tackle Superman before? This book is seeming more and more like a place-holder, while Grant Morrison is allowed to do this thing in Action Comics

Anonymous said...

Regarding Jonathan:

Just brought up my copy again as I didn't remember it as her opening the door with him there. Looking at the progression of the panels, the thing that seems stranger to me is that the door didn't seem to have an obvious peephole. :)

If it did (and I'll assume that given the building and Lois's behavior) she saw Clark through it an opened the door to find out what his story is. She IS a reporter after all and her instincts would kick in whether it's business or personal. Jonathan was there, but he'll always take backseat to a story.

Now, given the situation, Jonathan overheard a conversation she was having with a MALE voice and, of course, had to come to the door to show himself, lest the male voice not understand the situation. This didn't seem odd to me at all, Jon just wants to see just what man is more important than he is (completely misunderstanding her motivation for answering the door).

Since this story, I haven't noticed another significant appearance of Jon, but I'll look back through now just to see if there are other traits which would back up that behavior.