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.