Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: Adventures Of Superman #4

Adventures of Superman #4 came out this week and continued to be one of the most enjoyable books that DC is putting out.  So far, each issue has really been a treat with at least one stand-out story in each. As a print guy, it pains me to hear comments on the weekly stories knowing I am going to wait for the paper copy.  With such high standards now expected, I have come to really look forward to this book.

Adventures #4 continued the trend. I have to say after the first reading I was a bit let down. But on subsequent readings, I was definitely pleased. This is an entertaining book allowing great creative teams to tell a brief Superman story, focusing on some facet that is fascinating. I hope DC doesn't change this format because it has been a home run.

Having a Bruce Timm cover with Clark in a classic pose is the cherry on top. This book inside and out really has a 'classic' feel to it and I am not complaining.

The first story is 'A Day in the Life' written by the tandem of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by penciller Wes Craig and inker Craig Yeung. It focuses on a day in the life of Lex Luthor. And the pages are broken in half such that the top half of the page shows Luthor's activities while the bottom half shows Superman fighting a sort of giant robot.

The split page technique was used recently on this book (with Lois talking to Lex on her part) so I thought it might have been too early to use it again. Of course, who knows if these teams have any idea what the next creators are planning.

But on second reading it works very well. Throughout the early pages, we see Superman struggling with the mecha. And above it all is Luthor who is extremely calm and collected regardless of who or what he is facing. He is unfazed by government officials. He is unfazed on a date with an upcoming starlet. He is even calm when facing Gorilla Grodd (and the old SSV). I mean look at him dab the corners of his mouth despite a huge telepathic gorilla threatening him!

And all the while he jots down ideas in a notebook on how to destroy Superman.

That calm is shattered when he has some face time with an angry Superman who knows (although can't prove) that Luthor was behind the robot attack. Suddenly Lex is a screaming, furious, his armor down. In some ways it humanized Lex to know that something could get under his skin.

And as interesting is Superman's rather terse response and his angry reaction, burning Lex's notebook with his head vision.

It was that sudden change in tone that made this story work for me. I liked this story a lot.

The middle story is 'The Deniers' by writer Tom Defalco and art by PeteWoods. I have to say this is a new, much more cartoony look for Woods. And that goes right down to Superman's uniform with the Fleisher Studios style S-shield.

It is something of a funny story as two plumbers in a dinner debate if Superman really exists, or at least has all the abilities he is vaunted to have. After all, wouldn't super-villains just sell their ideas rather than lead a life of crime. Also, despite years in the city, neither have seen him in person.

Of course, just outside, Superman is battling a robot squid, unseen by these two.

It is a cute story.

But for me, the best story of the book was 'Savior' by writer Rob Williams with art by Chris Weston. I loved the retro feel to this story, both in words and in art. The art has a sort of Currier & Ives prints sort of feel. I mean look at that last panel, hugging Ma in front of the weathered farmhouse, chickens at their feet, old pick-up in back.

In the story, Ma Kent (I guess Pa has passed like in the Donner movies) worries that Clark never has time to just sit down and relax. She wishes he could stay for dinner. But here, after fixing the clothesline, he already needs to rush off.

Telling a story from Ma's point of view is somewhat fresh. To hear her worry more about his mental well-being instead of fearing his life from physical confrontations is a nice wrinkle.

As is the case with these stories, we often get montage sequences to show the passing of time. We see Superman fighting classic versions Bizarro, Brainiac, Luthor (in the purple/green body suit),  as well as rescuing Lois (who is rescuing a kidnapped child). I thought all of that worked.

I especially liked this banter between Superman and Lois. She complains he was a little late. He drops her off at the Planet despite he being covered in filth (the bad guys were going to drown her in a sewer).

Can't those two just admit they love each other!!!!

Throughout the story we hear Ma's dialogue as we peek in on Superman's life.

She feels that Superman can't rest because his mind is always on those he couldn't save, always on the tragedy of Krypton. I don't think of Superman as being a morose guy, perseverating over his losses. But maybe I can understand if Ma thinks that. Maybe she is always a little afraid that Clark doesn't think of her truly as his mother when he knows about his biological parents. I suppose that is natural.

Despite the sad tones of these panels, I loved this scene. It really struck me as the Superman of my youth, back when I was first following the character. The Super-mobile, a thought beast, Beppo, Kandor, General Zod looking out the Phantom Zone viewer. Nostalgia sometimes is a good thing.

And then there is this sweet ending.

Maybe feeling a bit weighed down by life (boy that Kandor panel feels sad), Superman heads to Ma's for dinner. The title is Savior and the easy assumption is that refers to Superman as we see him whisk from one cataclysm to the next. But really it refers to Ma and how she is able to help Superman stay grounded, to take a breath and just be calm. She is the life saver.

Everything about this story works. The interesting point of view of Ma as narrator. The concept of a Superman who is sad about what he can't do. The country boy having dinner with his Ma ending. The superb artwork perfectly capturing the tone of the story. Everything works. It is wonderful.

So another great issue showcasing parts of the Superman legend I will always love.

Overall grade: B+

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