Adventures in Superman #5 came out in print version last week and continued to be a solid book, bringing back a sort of classic Superman. That means more than red trunks. It also means a sort of nostalgic look at truth, justice, and the American way. And because these are short self-contained stories, there isn't much time to bring subtext or smoldering subplots. Things need to be told quickly. There can be nuance ... but it has to be nuance of big ideas that are evident.
So in this issue, we get two stories. The first shows the nurturing side of Superman in a sort of sideways look at Superman's origin. The second looks more at Luthor and how profound his hatred of Superman is.
I have to say, this book and Smallville are the Superman books I look forward to the most each month. It does not escape me that both those books exist outside of the current New 52 continuity.
The first story is titled 'Infant in Arms' by writer Nathan Edmondson and art by upcoming Supergirl artist Yildiray Cinar.
The story is familiar. A baby from another world crash lands on Earth, in the midwest no less. The similarity with Superman's origin ends there. This is a princess who is fleeing her world because a military revolt is ongoing. Loyal soldiers are trying to protect her but her ship gets shot down.
As her pod crash lands, the US military surrounds it with the plan to open fire. It is another sort of hamhanded look at our military - shoot first, investigate second. Luckily, Superman is there to scoop up the baby and protect her.
The baby has some rudimentary telepathic powers and is able to feed Superman some back story. She is a princess who is destined to save her world.
The ships trying to kill her open fire and actually can harm Superman, forcing him to scoop her up and fly off.
I love this scene where the baby cries hysterically from the flight. And Superman tries to calm her by playing with her and singing to her. I love it.
Superman finally drops off the alien at a local church/orphanage where a nun takes her in. There is something sort of throwback and bucolic about this scene. The nun even says there isn't a wet nurse on the grounds. When was the last time anyplace had a wet nurse??
Still the panels of peace followed by war works nicely.
In the end, Superman defeats the evil troops and keeps the nun and the princess safe.
The ending is pure Superman gold. I love how the nun says 'she came to us in need. Who are we if we don't offer her shelter?' Just wonderful.
Even the eager gun-toting soldiers are now smiling in the background, softened by this interaction. Sweet and a riff off of Superman's origin, this was a very nice story.
The second story washes away the nice feelings of the first. This issue is a tragedy and a look at evil mind of Luthor. I have to say, there has been a lot of Luthor in this series. Lots of creators must love Luthor.
"The Way These Things Begin" was written by Kyle Killen with art by Y:The Last Man legend Pia Guerra.
We starts with a starstruck Superman fan named Mike who decides that the only way he will meet Superman is to put his life in peril. He and his brother park their car on railroad tracks, awaiting the train to come, knowing Superman will save them.
It is a crazy idea. Superman is everywhere. How could this guy know Superman would save them? It reminds me of how insane it was in the 50's when Lois would pitch herself off a building.
During the story, Luthor bemoans that Superman is always able to stop him and be everywhere. But then Luthor creates a devious plan. He will keep Superman busy with nonsense. He wants Superman's full attention. So Luthor busts into a bank with a modified tank ... something crude for him.
And then he blows up a dam.
With Superman that busy something is going to slip through the cracks.
And something does. Mike gets killed bu the train because Superman arrives too late.
I love this panel. You really sense the speed of Superman trying to get there by having him fly in from outside the panel. There is something very kinetic about that.
And then the deliciously evil ending.
Luthor, back in jail, says that his defeat is actually fine. Superman was too busy too help someone and that leads to more enemies being created.
Why does this work? Well, for one, the young brother in these panels suddenly looks like Lex! Subtle but slick.
And this reminds me of the early Luthor origin where Superboy is too late to help Luthor from a botched experiment leading to him being bald. He was too late then. He is too late now.
The last panels are of the boy ripping Superman posters off the wall, angry and filled with hate.
So two very different stories. But both so fantastic. This book has yet to disappoint!