Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: Superman #38

Superman #38 came out this week, the last issue of the Ulysses storyline and the end of the first arc by Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr., and Klaus Janson.

This story has been a sort of slow burn with big art. The overarching theme of Ulysses being a sort of Superman origin analogue looked through a mirror darkly was an interesting one. But the individual issues sort of moved things forward little by little. And Romita filled each issue with large panels, splash pages, and double splash pages. This could have been a 3 issue story if it was thumbnailed in usual page layouts.

For me, the most interesting parts of this arc has been when Johns' has looked at Superman's supporting cast, bringing things away from Lobdell's world and back to a more classic feel. And, luckily, this issue has a healthy dose of that. I wouldn't mind a couple of issues just of the Daily Planet crew!

But the big part of this issue was the reveal of a new power and a new confidante. And I am going to give both of these some time before I render a final verdict.

I think I have stated my opinion on Romita's art enough. It just doesn't work for me. And working mostly in large panels I think weakens his art.

Last issue ended when Superman convinced Ulysses to not slaughter Earth people for fuel for The Great World. The result of that was the destruction of Ulysses' adopted planet.

Back on Earth and in the midst of a brawl with Ulysses, Superman takes time to speak to the masses who thought they would be living in paradise. These people are griping about heading back to a world where they are sick or penniless. It is something of a sad commentary on humanity.

But Superman says that people need to look at themselves and this imperfect world for help and hope. It's a decent speech to remind people that we all need to help each other. Some classic Superman sentiment there.

One of my consistent pet peeves about the New 52 has been the underutilization of Lois. I thought Johns was going to work Lois more into the mix. We have seen her in every issue. But she doesn't do too much in this issue other than stand there and smile. And that panel with the vacant stare ... weird.

Superman does brawl with Ulysses, initially in Metropolis and then away from innocents. And then, when Ulysses threatens to destroy the Earth, Superman unleashes *his* new power - a super flare. In fact, Romita uses 5 pages to show us it.

One thing I sort of like about this is the Dragon Ball Z feel to this. This isn't a surgical attack. This is huge and seems uncontrollable. I guess 'Final Flash' was taken as a power name?

But is it a new Kryptonian power?

Kara has been doing it for two plus years.

Just like that, Ulysses is defeated.

So there is nothing but the wrap up.

Superman wakes up in the Batcave. Batman retrieved Superman's unconscious body. This 'super flare' incinerated everything in a quarter mile but also expended all of Superman's energy. Until he recharges, he is human and vulnerable.

I think that I will need to see just how often this is used before I comment. Will this be a rare power event, only used as a last ditch attack? Will this be overused so writers can write a 'vulnerable' Superman? Will we see him use this against lightweights?

The vulnerability is an interesting wrinkle ...

Ulysses has been taken to Stryker's Island and placed in a cell built for the Parasite, slowly siphoning off his energy. Ulysses knows Superman's secret identity. But for some reason, he is staying tight lipped. If he was that angry at Superman ... why not ruin his life? Instead he tells Superman (who comes as Clark reporting) to leave him alone.

I did like that Clark does bring Neil's parents to the cell. Putting Clark in shadows is a nice touch. Clark still misses his parents ... both sets. He doesn't want anyone suffering as he does.

Then it is back to work.

Nice touch that Clark wants to talk about the tragedy of Ulysses while the paper labels him a menace.

Clark sees the best in people. He doesn't want to label anyone.

I do like Perry here. Johns has a nice voice for him. I thought for sure that Clark would confide in him!

And Jimmy, made a billionaire by Lobdell, is suddenly the young hungry broke photographer again. Jimmy was inspired by Superman's speech to help all the people shut out of the Great World. He emptied his parents' trust fund.

That is impressive ... even if a slightly unbelievable. It does show the power that Superman has as a role model. And it shows us just who Jimmy is.

I like a slightly younger, hungry, motivated Jimmy. Let's see Mr. Action.

It leads to this reveal. Here is Superman's new outfit, including gloves!

But more importantly, Clark reveals his identity to Jimmy!

I have to really mull this one over.

Jimmy is Clark's best friend. He trusts Jimmy. This is the ultimate signal-watch.

I would have preferred Perry White, an older confidante ... a father figure. Perry is a more mature person, someone maybe who can keep it in the vault a bit more.

I would have preferred that the person who he would reveal this to be Lois. But they aren't there yet in this universe. It wouldn't have felt right for a Lois and Clark moment. We just haven't seen them be close.

I will have to see how this plays out.

But remember, we had someone observing all of these ongoings, talking like a father, walking with a staff that feels like a shepherd's crook. Who is this guy? A Jonathan Kent clone? The Eradicator? A rogue Kryptonian?

I thought at first this person was an integral part of the Ulysses storyline. Now it looks like he was just observing.

I can't say that this has been a great storyline by Johns. But it is way better than the Lobdell stuff that preceded it. In fact so much of this feels like an effort to move away from all that ... back to the Daily Planet, new costume, new power, new secret partner. Superman fans who left because of Lobdell can know this is new.

But are these changes better?

I don't mind them right now ... but I have to see how all this is utilized before I grade them.

Overall grade: B


mhunt said...

the new power mimics that of SG's..

Btw,, it appears Supergirl book is cancelled.

Anonymous said...

Seems such a shame to cancel the current series considering how much it has improved since Tony Bedard and the latest team of Johnson and Perkins.

Loving Emanuela Lupacchino's art on this series. Looks like she's moving over to the new Starfire solo series.

Bit strange that they decide to cancel the current Supergirl series considering how much buzz is going about the new TV series. My hope would be that as the new TV series nears it's premiere, the Supergirl comic itself would see a relaunch.

Nobile said...

I've been reading... No, I had been reading Superman comics for 40 years - I just can't dig the New 52's Clark - and I've always asked myself WHY he would not tell Jimmy who he really is, besides being a jerk to him, that is ;-)
Superman not trusting Jimmy is like Bruce not trusting Dick, so it's a due move, to me.

Ah, Romita's Perry is J.J.Jameson! Just add moustache.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I thought the numbers were solid compared to some of the other jobbers DC persists in publishing...This must have something to do with the TV series...but it seems an awfully bizarre decision given the still hazy nature of the proposed show. Is it DC's intention that a notional SG book has to follow the program's storyline closely?? FIne....but what if the show is a BUST??

Deeply disconcerted.


Anonymous said...

On this new reboot will they change her age from 16/17 yrs old to a 24 yrs old woman? Then bringing jimmy olsen as a love interest? My god I hope nothing drastic changes like these.

Martin Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Gray said...

(Banged into the Publish button, sorry!)

Great review, I disagree with you only in our opinions on Clark being so blooming soft about Ulysses. I don't see him as misunderstood so much as a manipulative killer of millions.

As for the cancellation of Supergirl... I shall wait until you post!

CaptainMarvel4Ever said...

Perfect finale to an absolutely amazing arc. Plus I've been saying for years Jimmy should know Clark is Superman, so it's very cool they decided to do that.
Also sorry about Supergirl, we all feel awful about it especially since it's been so good and since DC has been trying so hard with it. I'm sure it will be back when her new show hits.

Jay said...

Decent ending. Enjoyable arc, though nothing that makes me particularly sad to find out that Johns is leaving. It just seemed he was by the numbers to me. Bring on someone whose heart is really in it to work with JRJR. Hopefully Mr. Yang is that guy.

In regards to Supergirl, the one dark spot in an otherwise fun day of news for the direction at DC post-Convergence. I only have one hope: that she's going to move over to this very title for a while until she gets her own back in a future wave. Clark, Jimmy and Kara. That'd be fabulous.

Anonymous said...

"It wouldn't have felt right for a Lois and Clark moment. We just haven't seen them be close."

And we've seen Jimmy and Clark be close? Think back to Batman/Superman, Unchained, Doomed, etc. and compare the level of closeness and involvement Jimmy had in those key events and emotional experiences versus Lois. Also, the purpose of telling the secret was to increase closeness not reward it. That said, I do agree that if it had been a Lois/Clark moment, it would require more than just a page. Where do these stories go from here, though? Clark no longer has any legitimate reason to keep Lois in the dark, and the longer he lies to her the worse the storytelling logic degrades and Clark's characterization suffers. I'm happy that Jimmy knows, but Lois should know too. All or none, because the storytelling logic doesn't support one and not the other. -Libby

Anonymous said...

I agree that the story telling logic doesn't support this. I also think there hasn't been much of any story telling logic since the reboot.

Why? Because of what has been well documented editorial interference. Writers have complained before they've been asked to change direction midstream even when it makes no sense at all. There has been build up and then plot points are discarded with no thought.

This is hurting the story, because while the writer can't break the fourth wall and have Clark turn to us and say "Hey, I know this is stupid, but Dan won't let me tell Lois" the real world politics is very much in play.

Hearing Johns was leaving the book made me wonder if he was asked to leave it with Jimmy knowing? Because it came out of the blue for me.

I think there is a powerful case to be made that the publishers restrictions around Lois (not romantically, I'm not talking about that at all) in almost every role that she used to fill be it pre crisis, post crisis is crippling the story.

I would have much rather Perry White be the one who knew but I also think they wanted a contemporary and because it can't be Lois, Jimmy was tagged.

My two cents for what it is worth.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments. I agree that Perry seemed the obvious choice given how the story was being told.

Jimmy and Clark have some history in the New 52. They've been roommates. I will agree that there hasn't been much shown of the classic supporting cast in these books. No one has been shown enough to make this reveal make perfect sense.

We'll have to see what it all looks like in the post-convergence world.

Jay said...

I don't see how Clark's characterization suffers for choosing to tell Jimmy but not Lois. Its his decision who he tells or doesn't tell, no one else's. If he has his reasons not to tell him, then he has his reasons. It doesn't make him look bad for it, as long as they don't go to some extreme as to say "Yeah I don't like Lois much, nuts to her." But that's not going to happen. As it stands now there's something that makes him more comfortable telling Jimmy than Lois. Maybe we'll even get into those reasons. And if so, I'm sure they'll be respectable. Just being upset as a fan that its not Lois doesn't mean it automatically makes Clark look bad for not telling the character some fans wish he would have told. It depends on his reasons. Which I think they should go into, but its not like I can guarantee they will. But if they do I'm sure it won't make Clark look bad.