Superman #32, the first issue by the creative powerhouse team of writer Geoff Johns and artist John Romita Jr, came out last week and began the reclamation project of Superman and his supporting cast. After languishing a bit during Scott Lobdell's tenure, Johns comes on board to reset things and try to bring some greatness back to the ultimate super-hero. Adding a name like Romita, especially as a poach from Marvel, adds another element of excitement to this run.
And Johns races out of the gate, reestablishing a sense of normalcy for the characters by looking back at more classic representations, adding a new character to the mythos, and maybe revamping an older character as well. Johns hasn't completely refurbished the Superman mansion but he has started to rip down the ugly additions that the New 52 tacked up.
As for Romita, I have simply never been a fan of his style. His style seems a bit too blocky and stiff for me. But Johns' script does give Romita the chance to stretch his legs here, including a multi-page nearly wordless fight sequence with huge panels and splash pages.
It is a good first step into a new vision ... but we have many miles to go before I'll sleep comfortably.
The issue starts out with a great riff on Superman's origin.
Years ago, in a doomed laboratory, desperate scientists send their son, their last hope, off to dimension 4. This new dimension is filled with energy that could empower his physiology. The father thinks he will be accepted. But the mother says he will never be one of them.
So this is the reverse Superman origin, rocketed from Earth to an environment where he will be a superman. But this sentiment of the mother, of never belonging, is concerning. Concerning because I think that Johns is going to latch onto that about Superman.
Still ... interesting.
Meanwhile, back in Metropolis in the present day, Johns begins scrubbing away the Lobdell detritus.
Superman fights a giant version of Titano while Jimmy 'Mr. Action' Olsen snaps pictures. Everything old is new again!
And billionaire Jimmy Olsen? Gone. Jimmy is living an austere life because he knows his parents will simply return one day and ask for their money back.
Jimmy Olsen back as young, up and coming photographer? Check!
Meanwhile, Perry has invited Clark back to the Daily Planet. He asks Clark to give up the blogging idea and return to where he belongs as a reporter for the Planet. Clark doesn't answer ... yet.
Superman "disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper"? Check! This page is more than bringing Clark back into the fold.
For one, Perry talks about the insanity of the New 52. Bad guys are good. Good guys are bad. Weird for Johns to be talking about this since his Forever Evil was the poster child of that idea.
But more concerning, Perry talks about how Clark is constantly running away from people. How leaving the planet was a way to run away from people close to Clark. Here is that 'never one of them' sentiment. I am one of those people who think that the Kents raised Clark to consider himself a citizen of Earth, one of us, a regular person blessed with gifts who can help people. Superman and Clark should never feel isolated.
And this continues on the next page.
We see Lois and Steve Lombard at a bar. We see Jimmy in a legal meeting.
And Clark? He is alone in his tiny apartment, cooking a steak with heat vision, looking through old photo albums. Shouldn't he be out with friends too? Not moping in his apartment?
Anyways, I include this panel because it is the return of J. Wilbur Wolfingham, a little known Golden Age Superman character and perhaps, the most needless character to get a full page spread in the late 80s Who's Who book.
Luckily (?) Clark's super-hearing picks up an emergency. A black obelisk-like ship has appeared over Metropolis and is blasting away.
And inside (I presume), someone who seems to know Clark ... who claims to have taught Clark ... watches closely.
I think I know who it is.
And then a warrior comes from the ship and engages in hand-to-hand.
Firing hand beams and wielding a shield, he not only is able to engage Superman effectively but can also somehow shortcircuit heat vision and cut purportedly invulnerable skin.
These pages are brutal and flashy and big, an action sequence that Romita can sink his teeth into.
And then out of a wormhole comes a strapping young lad who joins the fray. With surprising ease, Superman and this new combatant double-team the fighter, laying him out. Nice double page spread by Romita here.
We learn that this new hero is Ulysses, the baby from the early scene all grown up and powered.
I like Ulysses as a name, invoking the Greek/Roman hero who was lost at sea just trying to get home.
And after the introductions, Superman tells Ulysses he is on Earth. Suddenly Ulysses knows he is home ... and no longer alone.
And so we see the reflections up close. Here is Ulysses, who probably felt alone in Dimension 4, and is now among his people. This might rev up Superman's own feelings of isolation. Or it might make him realize that he is more at home on Earth than this guy. It will all depend on what direction Johns wants to go.
But he also mentions Klerik, someone who claimed to have destroyed
Earth. Klerik? A version of the Stern/Mignola Cleric? That has to be the
man in the ship from above. Looks like a back issue review is in order!
Anyways, big action, Clark at the Planet, a non-Brainiac'd Lois hanging with friends, Jimmy as a young photographer, and a reverse-Superman in Ulysses? It's a good start. Let's just get Superman out of his apartment and out with his supporting cast! Let's get him to embrace Earth!