We are only half a year into the DCnU and already Superman has a new creative team. In some ways I would think that was a sign of instability. In other ways, I might wonder why DC would green-light the Perez run if they knew he would only be around for one arc. This was supposed to be a jump-on point and switching directions and creators so quickly seems off.
That said, I was pretty underwhelmed by the George Perez story arc. It certainly was stuffed with story, being one of the denser books that I have read recently. But it seemed to concentrate on the wrong aspects of the story. And that ending ... well, I talked about it enough in my review.
So in comes comic veterans Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens to guide the Superman ship moving forward. I am a Giffen fan since the Legion days and more recently the Doom Patrol. And Jurgens was the captain back in the 90s. Would they be able to recapture some of the magic of the Man of Steel?
Well, I have to say 'so far so good'. There were some things that worked very well in this issue. And there were other parts that didn't sparkle quite as much. But overall, this was a good read.
The opening page sort of set the table.
This is such an iconic type pose for Superman, shielding people from harm while lasers bounce off him. I even liked the grasping of the cape, adding some surface area to his protection. I am a Superman fan. That means I like seeing Superman be Superman. And this counts.
Some sort of tech/robot minotaur-like unit is blasting through the city. And as the battle unfolds, we get some insight into Superman himself ... some much needed characterization. Superman says this is a 'call out', an encounter where someone starts tearing up the city to get Superman's attention. He hates them and almost wishes he could set up schedule. Annoyance at these bothersome brawls makes sense.
But this is a construct after all which means Superman can unload on it.
It is a quick fight once Superman knows this isn't a living thing. So we know this is someone who cares about the sanctity of life, even his enemies.
Now part of the problem with the last arc (and even Grounded) is the overwhelming sense that people don't like or trust Superman. Once the battle is over, we get to hear the reaction of the crowd. Some are still worried or hateful. But others are cheering and adoring. I am sure if Superman was really around there would be people on both sides. But at least now we get to see some supporters.
The minotaur-unit is hauled away to S.T.A.R. labs. And we learn that it was a drone of sorts sent by the Daemonite Helspont. Helspont realizes that if Superman becomes his agent, he will be able to take over Earth.
Now I don't know anything about Daemonites or Helspont. So that makes it tough for me as a reader. Does he have the power to enthrall? Is he just a despot? Is he an alien? I suppose I will learn more soon enough.
He does look really cool though!
One thing I really liked about this issue was the handling of Superman in his Clark identity.
He is bombarded with requests by his friends. Jimmy needs a place to stay while his apartment is being fumigated. Lois needs someone to pick up Lucy form the bus station. And Perry wants him to rewrite his articles to play up the Superman angle. Somehow in the cacophony, Clark mistakenly agrees to it all. I love the sort of dumbfounded 'what just happened'. It makes Superman more human. He can pound alien robots but can be overrun by friends.
I also like how Clark struggles writing articles about Superman, the ultimate in conflict of interest. He is already humble. It must be tough to pump his own tires.
In an variation of the 'calling out', Helspont sends his drone to the Daily Planet to attack Superman while he is Clark.
In a nice nod to the past, Clark runs into an empty conference room to change into Superman. (I would have preferred a supply closet.) Here we learn that the bio-suit he donned on the Collector's ship must be made of unstable molecules. The Clark clothes seem to morph into the Superman suit. I could never easily explain where the cape and boots were when he was in Clark-mode. So this explains that. I think I will need to think about this more before I give it a full seal of approval.
The bigger thing here is that Superman says that no one knows that Superman leads a normal life. No one wonders what his secret identity is because no one thinks he has one. I like that. It harkens back to Byrne's run.
This fight with the unit is even shorter as it teleports Superman to the Helspont's headquarters.
An interestingly calm conversation ensues. There is a bit too much monologuing here as Superman permits the Helspont to talk for some time. Earth has been looked over by the other Daemonites. Helspont wants to rule it. He is surprised how many beings on Earth are near godhood (as we see Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern). And he wonders why Superman doesn't rule.
I like that Superman says he 'doesn't do Dominion'. There is also a sense that Superman is almost humoring Helspont by letting him prattle on. But after a while, Superman has had enough. It did feel like Helspont went on just a bit too long here.
Again, since I know nothing of Helspont, I don't know how much I should be understanding the things he is saying. Superman says it is nonsense. I have to agree.
With one blast, Helspont defeats Superman. At least I get a hint that Helspont will fill me in soon. I don't need to know everything right away as a reader, just enough to know motivations.
But there is more consequences here than just an alien tyrant trying to take over. Lucy is left at the bus stop! I had to include this if only to show that Lucy is in the DCnU. Will she be as interesting here as when she was Superwoman?
So, overall, this felt like a Superman comic. Since the end of New Krypton through Grounded and into Perez; arc, all I said I wanted was Superman to be Superman, defending Metropolis, being a beloved hero, and interacting with the Metropolis gang. This issue had all that! Hurrah. It has only been a couple of years!
Now I have some reservations about the Daemonite plot, especially if Superman gets controlled and acts the part of the bad guy next issue. I wish there was some background to Helspont provided as that might make this an easier arc to grab me from the beginning.
Jesus Merino continues to provide great finished art here.