Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: Superman #2

I was a bit disappointed with Superman #1 last month, and then a bit crest-fallen to learn that George Perez was leaving the title after the sixth issue. While losing a talent like Perez is a blow, I was more disappointed that DC hadn't firmed up a long term creative team for this book entering the relaunch. I would have appreciated some stability with the creative team in this new frontier of the DCnU.

So heading into Superman #2 I had relatively low expectations. It's amazing how quickly I could cool down in this conflagration of the DC relaunch. And yet, low expectation can mean that it is easier for a book to be better than expected. And that was true here. There is some good stuff here - the action, the Lois/Clark interaction (for the most part), and the Gen. Lane/Superman interaction (for the most part). In some ways this has the feel of a 'done in one' story while building on the bigger arc that Perez is forming here.

But the angsty Superman, doubting himself and feeling isolated is still here, perhaps the biggest problem I have with the issue. This is Superman ... the new Superman. He should be well-established, appreciated, and confident. Hopefully this is a transient theme in the book.

Jesus Merino's are is very nice here, a sort of mix of Perez and Mark Bagley in just the right dollops.

In the aftermath of the flame person attack, Superman heads to a astronomical charting site, peering at Krypton's galaxy, trying to (I assume) get a clue of why this fire monster said 'Krypton'. It is unclear if this thing arrived from outer space or just sprung from the ground.

While mulling things over, General Lane shows up, flaring his usual xenophobic rhetoric and wondering just what relationship Superman has with Lois.

We have seen General Lane in both Action and here, both times spouting his distrust and hatred of Superman. One thing I hope we end up getting is some back story on Lane, something that explains his feelings. He needs some depth, some background to explain his overall feelings. Even here, he questions Superman hearing the word Krypton.

The Lois questioning leads to a flashback with Clark helping Lois move into her big corner office.

There is some nice give and take here, some chemistry as Lois explains how Clark's passion for writing about social issues spurred her to be a better reporter. They sound more like a team than rivals, more like colleagues who bring out the best in each other.

Perez does lay it on a bit thick with Lois talking about how much she is a 'friend' for Clark. It is obvious Clark would like more but that word is such a buzzkill for a smitten guy. Despite that one misstep, this was a great scene showing the respect the two reporters have for each other.

The plot takes a step forward when Cat Grant tells Clark about one of his 'social issues' stories, a homeless man squatting at a construction site. But Clark just needs to get away.

It is nice to see Cat Grant being a part of the supporting cast and falling into her superficial characterization.

Back in the present, Lane continues his rant against Superman. According to him, the flame being probably was 'home grown' and attacked Superman to try to best the Man of Steel. That means Superman is a danger to anyone near him as villains and monsters attack him wherever he goes.

The Superman I know would remind Lane of all the lives he has saved and apologize that the General feels that way.

But this new Superman? He wonders if Lane is right. Really? This is the direction DC wanted for Superman? To have their greatest hero doubt himself? Didn't we just read this in the vilified Straczynski Grounded issue?

The homeless man is somehow a bigger part of the story than just an offhand remark by Cat Grant. He somehow is possessed and part of the bigger story.

The bulk of the rest of the issue has Superman fighting a Killer Croc like alien. This monster seems to somehow be invisible to all of Superman's senses- multiple visions, super-hearing, etc. Initially, the monster has his way with Superman, causing property damage and endangering lives while Superman lashes out blindly. It is an interesting premise.

Lois, watching Jimmy's live feed realizes that Superman is basically fighting blind. Luckily, the fight is broadcast on a nearby jumbotron. And on that electronic feed, Superman can see the alien. Another interesting turn of events. Lois is able to help Superman out from afar by making sure Jimmy keeps the cameras on the two combatants. Meanwhile Superman uses his various visions to scan the city for any TV screen which will help him locate his foe.

I have to say this battle sequence was pretty crisp, exciting, with good art.

Superman ends the fight by tossing the monster into a Best Buy equivalent. Surrounded by TV's the monster doesn't have a chance and gets pummeled. That is ... until if fades away before mentioning Krypton again.

Again, this scene was played out nicely. And I am glad that Lois played a big part throughout the book.

With the threat gone, Superman heads to his Fortress of Solitude (I presume) to record some thoughts. So there is a Fortress in the DCnU although we don't know many details. Still, at least there is one.

Unfortunately, the scene ends on another down note. Just as Superman is thinking about how great Lois is, she calls Clark and again drives home the point that she is Clark's friend and is there for him if he needs her. Clark doesn't need to be alone. And yet, look at this panel, a small Superman, shoulders slumped, surrounded by black. Lois words as big as him, nearly crushing him. I get it ... I do ... this Superman feels alone, especially because he has feelings for Lois who seems oblivious.

So I don't know if all this hand-wringing angst is a good way to go with the initial arc of a new Superman. It is almost the anti-thesis of the young hero in Action. That guy seems confident, eager to help, and full of vitality. This one seems one insult away from crying. Only in the fight scene did I get a sense of Superman, the hero.

Still, the big action sequence overshadowed these brief scenes showing an emotionally vulnerable Superman. The bigger part of this book was a fun romp. Now if only this weepy stuff can go away.

Overall grade: B


Dave Mullen said...

I liked it as a read, the best Nu-Superman appearance so far, but I'm not raving about it, and I should be given it's a high profile full-on reboot.

As you point out there is a great deal lacking here in terms of what the character represents. There's a hole that needs filling fast if he's to catch on and gain a regular dedicated audience.
I liked the density of the narration in particular, if this initial Superman opener is remembered for anything it will be this. I don't think there's anything else memorable about it apart from that frankly....

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comment.

You are right that in this world of 'decompressed' stories, Perez has shoved a whole lot of stuff into both his issues so far. And that does deserve recognition and praise.

Both issues took a while to read and digest and I can't say that about all of the DCnU.