Friday, July 8, 2016

Review: Superman #2

Superman #2 came out this week and continued to forge a new and more optimistic trail for the Man of Steel. Writer Peter Tomasi picks up the threads he started in the 'Death of Superman' arc from before Rebirth and really brings us a classic interpretation of Superman. Gone is the dark viewpoints, the mistrust, the brutish Superman. Instead we have a someone who is here to help. And that is who Superman is for me.

I also love how this character embodies both Superman and Pa Kent. A big part of the character is that he is now a father, leading his son Jon into a new world. And with Jon's powers starting to manifest, the need for wisdom and nurturing is that much more crucial. This is a Superman who has lived through this awkward time. He can speak from experience. But he also has that Middle America, 'you aren't here to score touchdowns' approach to teaching. I really love this side of the book.

Now the book isn't perfect quite yet. Last issue, we saw Jon immolate a cat. This issue we see Clark uncharacteristically lose his cool. But these are minor hiccups when compared to the whole feel to the book.

The art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray is both inspired and uneven. There are panels where Gleason seems to have this wonderful mix of McGuinness and Mignola with a nice polish. The vast majority of the book is gorgeous.  Even the cover, of a Superman bathed in clouds, is wonderful. But occassionally the art veers to that odd Rankin/Bass look. There is a panel of Lois which is just jarring with her big eyes and pointy chin.

The colors by John Kalisz are vibrant and again seem a way to scrub away the darker tones of the New 52.

On to the book!

The book starts out with Superman bringing Jon out on patrol. It is a chance for Jon to observe his Dad in action and get a sense of what it means to be Superman and be a hero. An opportunity arises when Superman has to save a Russian nuclear sub from being stranded.

What I like is that initially the crew wonders what Superman's motives are until their Captain says simply that Superman is there to help.

I love this panel. This is a classic Superman, barrel chested, lantern jawed, powerful. But he also is just shaking hands and saying he is just doing his job. The colors here are primary, bright blues and reds. The only shadow is where the red trunks should be. Just bring them back!! Glad Kalisz uses this palette.

But that *is* Superman.

While that rescue mission seems over, things have just begun. A massive kraken with embedded technologic components tries to engulf the sub. Superman tries his best to control the squid but it is too massive to easily corral. Superman realizes that destroying the main electronic component will stop the attack and free the innocent animal from someone's control. He asks Jon to fire away.

Welcome to lesson #1.

It would have been easy for Superman to just vaporize this thing. But this is a chance for Jon to again use his heat vision, learning how to activate and deactivate it, as well as hone its focus. At first, Jon's wide beam blasts Superman more. But slowly he gets the hang of it.

The mystery of the squid is one I'll have to mull over. But the idea of making Jon use the power that torched Goldie is a bit of tough love. But I liked it.

Clark keeps spurring Jon on to do the right thing. Finally, full of determination, Jon sheds his coat revealing his 'Superboy' costume beneath. He uses his heat vision to blast the device allowing the squid to return to the sea to lead a normal aquatic life. When all is said and done, father and son admit that was kind of fun.

I love this panel, tongue out, S-shield visible, sort of red eyes, skinned knee. This is a kid trying to make his dad proud and take a little step towards adult responsibility.  I love the interaction between father and son here.

And the 'costume'? A shirt picked up at a secondhand store. But I like it ...

It reminds me of some of Kon's costumes. And the red shoulders bring back thoughts of Supergirl's Crisis era costume.

In other words, it leans on the history of Superman, especially legacy characters. And that is great.

With the exhilaration of the rescue over, Clark takes the time to give that Pa Kent wisdom. He reminds Jon that the S-shield means something. It represents character. It means doing the right thing. It means taking responsibility for your actions.

Jon spills the beans of the Goldie accident. Clark knew all along but wanted Jon to be the one to reveal.

With this lesson learned, Jon says they should head home so they can tell Lois what happened. Clark promises that Lois will be proud that Jon will be telling the truth.

Then we get this panel, a splash page no less.

Big moments deserve big art. And this deserved it.

Forgiveness, pride, happiness, love ... it's all there in the wonderfully dappled yellows of the sunset.


One of my biggest complaints about the New 52 was the utter lack of Lois. This new Rebirth universe at least has this Lois be a force.

This Clark and Lois are clearly a team. They know that Jon is going through serious changes. Clark has lived through this and will be able to lean on that history. But Lois tells it outright. She is the best Earth has to offer and will be able to bring her wisdom too.

That second panel, both Lois and Clark's heads of similar size and prominence tells up visually. They are equals here.

Hmmm ... and maybe the other Lois is going to impact this title too.

Lois Lane sends something to Lois Smith.

How does Lois Lane know where they live? Because she is Lois Lane.

And then on to my one quibble of the book.

Jon and neighbor Kathy Branden are sitting on a tree branch talking. It is a warm moment, evocative of Clark and Lana. Kathy knows of Jon's powers but felt like it is a secret she shouldn't share. But then the branch breaks and Jon falls. He is knocked unconscious.

Mr. Branden carries the limp body to the Smith house and asks if he can help. Clark angrily confronts Mr. Branden telling the old farmer to hit the road. It is scary and out of place, especially given the sweet Superman we have read the whole issue.

Lois thankfully chastises Clark for his rudeness. I don't quite get that response from Clark. He could have shooed Branden away and be polite.

But Jon's power levels seem erratic. He has mega-heat vision capable of scalding Superman but can skin his knee and get a concussion. I guess his hybrid nature won't be easy to figure out.

That hybrid genome gets the attention of something else too. Jon's blood from the squid rescue has been scooped up and analyzed by .... The Eradicator. We see the Eradicator formed from mass in the Fortress of Solitude (Clark's glasses are folded into the body, creating the goggles) and the blood.

As a fan of the Eradicator, I'm happy to see him back.

I was for the most part very happy with this issue. The father/son scenes really played out nicely. The family moments with Lois are heartwarming. The colors are eye-popping. And the art, for the most part, is fantastic. The occasional odd panel and the one angry Clark moment are just two small speed bumps in an issue that really sped the plot forward and was infused with character moments.

So far #Rebirth, so good!

Overall grade: A-


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

They almost had the address right. Pre-Flashpoint, single Clark Kent lived at 1938 Clinton Street. Still, a nice touch.

If you get a chance, read JUSTICE LEAGUE Rebirth. Unfortunately, it shows how Pre-F Superman meets up with the JL and makes himself known and it contradicts Action Comics and the encounter with Lex Luthor. Instead of rushing off after shaving his beard, in JL there is more dialogue betweent Pre-F Superman and Lois.

This is a failing I think hurt the new52. No one took the time to write up a concordance for the characters. An easy enough way for references to how we meet pre-F Superman and an old-timey [see Action:Rebirth for more details]. I'm sure it doesn't matter for those who don't read all the titles, but sooner or later, inconsistencies will snowball since the editors seem to do nothing at DC.

There are two different groups of characters Batman is training in Batman and Detective, though the latter he lets Batwoman take lead. I know DC wants the readers back, but I hope the Super-books don't fail as they did before Rebirth. (Fail as in Batman becoming the best-selling book.) Fingers crossed.

Martin Gray said...

What a terrific issue. I'm OK with Superman losing his rag with the neighbour because he's so worried - but he'd jolly well better take that man a big bowl of boeuf bourgignon as an apology.

I hadn't actually realised that parcel was from younger Lois, I thought it was forwarded mail, but of course, older Lois hasn't been Lois Lane on this world. Duh. I did notice the nod to Dana Delany, though.

Anj said...

Hanks for comments.
Wayne, it is odd that we have seen a number of stories where the JLA meets this Suoerman. I guess DC wants to make sure people who don't read a ton of titles see that moment. But as they are all a bit different. In tone, it is jarring for those of us who have read them all. The good thing is, they are all decent stories.

I do hope Supes apologizes to old man Branden. Another learning moment. For Jon.

Anonymous said...

Delaney Court has to be a tribute to Dana Delaney, who voiced Lois Lane in the DCAU.