Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Adventures Of Superman #2

I know I am always going to be hopelessly behind the times when it comes to reviewing digital first stories. I am an old-timer, waiting for the print versions, and therefore perpetually lagging.

Adventures of Superman #2 came out last week, putting the fourth, fifth, and sixth on-line chapters of this series into print form. I gushed about the first issue and it's classic sensibilities on the character. This issue continued that trend with the entire issue being deliciously entertaining and one chapter standing out as being simply fantastic.

But the format also is great, a throwback of sorts. These are brief stories which need to have a beginning, middle, and end in a handful of pages. It is unlinked from continuity. And there is a sense of wonder and fun in the chapters so far that is sorely missed in the main books. While the words might be considered 'toxic' by the marketing people and despite it's 'Teen' rating, so far this book has been an all-ages book. I can read these stories to the supergirls at home. And they can learn about the Superman I grew up with here.

DC also probably knows that there is an opportunity here to cash in on the buzz of the movie here. I am sure it isn't coincidence that the cover pose by Giuseppe Camuncoli mirrors Henry Cavill's 'first flight' scene in the movie. Also, I am not surprised that the 'Man of Steel' name is so prominent on the cover. Luckily, this book's tone is far away from the movie's. Ironically, there are parts of this issue which seem to comment on the movie's more controversial pieces.

The first story in the issue is 'The Bottle City of Metropolis' by writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli.

The story opens with a nice discussion of what it means to be Superman and it is broad strokes showing just what people love about the character. He talks of the "sheer joy of being able to make a difference", "to help people", "to do the right thing", to l"ive a life in service of the greater good."

In an amusing sort of resonance with the ending of Man of Steel, he says that dropping a building on a bad guy is not what being Superman is about. Fascinating!

But in all he does, Superman notices the same man everywhere, something which seems impossible. This guy even appears in the Fortress. And he talks of how Superman being around makes the average man seem worthless and weak. It is the antithesis of what Superman wants people to feel.

But then, in the midst of a disaster that Superman can't seem to deal with, the same man arrives.

And suddenly he has a new outlook on Superman. How Superman is an inspiration. That he is the example to make us all Superman.

The story ends with a sort of Philip K. Dick 'what is reality' sort of twist, a bit of Total Recall switcheroo.

I loved the overall theme in this story. It covers just what Superman should be.

It is the middle story in the book that stands out. 'Slow News Day' was written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and drawn by Joelle Jones. It is simply phenomenal, playing on the Lois/Clark rivalry/flirtatiousness. There is sort of throwback feel to this, right down to the sort of 1940's fashion the two sport.

On this slow news day, Perry offers his two top reporters the 'honor' of covering a dog show. It is the classic 'dog' news story thrown around in the 50s. Lois bets Clark that she will get a front page story out of it, a better story than he can produce. Clark accepts.

Unfortunately, Clark is called into duty as Superman, delaying him from getting to the show. We see snippets of his duties - putting out fires, stopping the Toyman and his giant robot duck, corraling escaping zoo animals ... it is all so Silver Age.

But I also liked that last panel, a clear homage to the Donner movies where Superman acts as a rail to save a train. Again, with Man of Steel on the minds of the world, I thought this interesting.

He even gets called to save the timeline by Kamandi and Rip Hunter.

And when he comes back, tired, and with a beard, Lois is there, sporting a jaunty hat, to grab his picture.

I loved Lois in this story. And the story has a nostalgia feel to it without overdoing it.

With moments left, Clark zips to the dog show and writes his human interest story, enough to get on the front page of the local news section.

Meanwhile, Lois gets the front page of the Late Edition (do newspapers still have late editions or is this another nudge at the timing of this). She covered Superman while Clark was 'at the dog show'.

I love how Lois declares them both winners and thinks they should celebrate together. Man, I miss the Lois/Clark dynamic! So glad to find it here!

And Joelle Jones' art just sizzles here. Wonderful stuff.

This story is an A+.

The last story 'Best Intent' is written and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming. I was looking forward to seeing Oeming's take on Superman.

The story is a somewhat confusing time travel story. A timeline guardian asks Superman to help him find and stop another saved Kryptonian from becoming a galactic despot.

I have to say that after decades of reading time travel stories, I thought I could understand all the intricacies. But I will admit that even I am confused by this one.

It seems like there are three timelines here. The original timeline. The one where Superman and this guardian save the baby. Here Superman asks if he can raise this Kryptonian child as his own. The guardian seems to imply that it is this timeline that leads the baby (who turns out the be the guardian himself) to become this villain. And so, repentant, the guardian goes back in time to take the baby from Superman and send him onto a third timeline, one where he hopefully becomes a hero.


If anyone has another idea about this, a better understanding, I would appreciate it!

Still, I love the art here. Blunt and beautiful at the same time.

If anyone is looking for a sort of primer on Superman, if anyone is looking for that elusive Superman book to offer tweens to read and introduce them to Superman, this seems to be that book. How interesting that this 'out of continuity' book and Smallville are my favorite Superman books right now.

Overall grade of book: A


Martin Gray said...

It is indeed a wonderful series but, oh dear, I missed the Oeming story, even though I have it. That's what you get with speedy releases and repeated cover images. I'll see if I can work that story out later.

Meanwhile, yeah, wow, that Fialkov and Jones story. I tweeted Joshua that I'd love to see a Christmas story by him and Jones, imagine how classically delicious that could be. I hope others are letting DC know how much they loved this teaming, and this series.

Martin Gray said...

Oops, my brain, I just realised, I have the story with me in the tablet.

OK, I'm not a huge fan of it, I didn't understand the Kerry Quinn guy at all. But I think there's just two timelines, but Superman has the kid sent elsewhere, which will create a third timeline.

Or something ...