Friday, May 18, 2018

Review: Superman Special #1 (2018)

With the Bendis era around the corner, DC has allowed the current Superman creative teams a little breathing room to wrap up some storylines.  Earlier this month we had  Action Comics Special #1 , an extra issue to let Dan Jurgens finish one of his ongoing plots, the complex recent relationship between Superman and Lex Luthor.

This week we got Superman Special #1 which allows Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason one last chance to showcase the super-family as well as close out a lingering plot point, the destiny of Captain Storm.
As this is a special, we also get a couple of short bonus stories, perhaps inventory left unpublished before now.

I have touted the Tomasi/Gleason run since it started so no surprise I love their story.  It is a nice amalgam of the father/son relationship we have seen grow in this book, a wonderful representation of Lois (something missing before Rebirth), and a nod to heroes of all ages. It ends with a literal closing of the door, a symbolic way for the creators to show that their time here is done.

The art on the main story is done by Scott Godlewski who brings a nice feel to the piece, bring a little Darwyn Cooke and a little Wayne Boring to the proceedings, totally appropriate for an adventure on Dinosaur Island.

But the key thing is that it made me once again realize that despite firing on all cylinders, this team is being nudged out. I am hopeful that Bendis is bringing something phenomenal.

On to the book.

The book starts with a nice internal narrative from Jon about responsibility. The wooden leg of Captain Storm has been in his room since their adventure from a while ago. They promised Storm they would return for him and they haven't. Now the leg is a reminder, and a nagging one. They have to do what's right. They have a promise to keep.

What I like about this is how mature this is of Jon. He has grown over his time in the main DCU. He is the Superboy of this universe. He knows what a hero does.

He tells Superman they have to go. And just like that, they head to the Fortress to get the job done, leaving Lois a note saying where (or is it when) they are.

 In the Fortress, the teleportation cube from Manchester Black is fired up and ready to bring the two back to the island.

With the trip imminent, Jon remembers the dangers. Then we get some classic Pa Kent wisdom. Something things that are worth doing are hard to do. Being good sometimes is difficult.

In the end, Jon knows the answer. They have to go.

We then get to the island where Storm is using ammo to try and kill some dinosaur to eat.

In a rather grossly humorous moment, the two Supers teleport inside a Tyrannosaurus, exploding it from the inside. Yeesh ... look at all that blood.

I love how unfazed Storm is. Weirdness on Dinosaur Island? Business as usual for the grizzled veteran.

 Storm agrees to return to reality this time (he covered the heroes escape last visit). But before he can go, he needs to get the dog tags of his comrades from the cave he has called home all this time.

In an interesting wrinkle, it turns out that many of the monsters here are now mutated and undead dinosaurs. I suppose that gives the creators a little bit more free reign to have the supers punch and burn their way through them.

But we also see that Storm has a new dinosaur leg; it is implied that a bite from the zombie made that happen somehow.

I don't know if I needed this piece of story, especially the odd leg bit.

There is something so Wayne Boring about Godlewski's barrel-chested he-man Superman. Love it.

 They make it home. And just like Jon and Clark had a mission, so does Storm.

Outfitted with a snazzy cybernetic leg, and privy to Clark's secret identity, Storm heads off to return the dog tags to Johnny Cloud and Gunner Sarge's family. Since he has no family of his own, he gives his dog tags to Jon to remember him by.

Clark gives Storm the info on his comrades' families, obtained by a detective.

We see Storm make his way across America, getting used to the new times and saying a final goodbye to his friends. It is a nice story and closure for his character. And I feel it is as much a sequel to the Dinosaur Island story as the honoring of America's past story that Tomasi and Gleason wrote.

 Back in Metropolis, Clark says that Storm was basically sad that war and conflict still exist in this world despite the sacrifices his generation made, they lessons his generation learned.

Again, we see how Jon's upbringing and Clark/Pa's wisdom bears fruit. The Kents fight for what's right and defend those who can't. They are soldiers in the never-ending battle.

Just like I love seeing those sepia-toned Pa Kent/Young Clark scenes, I love seeing these older Clark/Jon scenes. These are ideals to be taught and retaught.

 So that was a great story with a nice lesson about fighting the good fight and honoring those who have fallen.

But then Tomasi and Gleason stick the landing.

Turns out Lois was the detective who gave Clark the info for Storm. Don't lie ... you thought it was Batman didn't you? I did too. It shows how much this team loved Lois. Even Clark says she is the best detective in the world.

And then they kiss, turn off the lights, and close the door.

That's all folks.

Great ending to a great run. Perfect.

We then get a story by Mark Russell and Bryan Hitch. In it, an exhausted Superman, nearly drained of energy, has to fight off a sea creature. Rather than kill it, he remembers when Pa took in a stray. Pa reminded Clark that all creatures deserve love and respect. With that in mind, Superman just incapacitates the creature and sends it back into the ocean.

Afterwards, and still fatigued, Superman helps with an apartment building on fire, saving an old man but unable to save the old man's wedding photos. He offers the old man a stray dog to care for, a way to look forward and to love.

I liked this story much better than the political sermon Russell gave in the Action Comics special. This is a story with a message, not a message trying to be a story.

The final story is by Ian Flynn with art by Kaare Andrews.

In it, the Atomic Skull is sent to bring in his old partner Shockwave. Superman is on hand 'just in case'.

In a crucial moment, Skull does the right thing and takes down Shockwave instead of joining the villain in killing Superman. In that moment, he thinks of Maggie Sawyer, perhaps his inspiration for being a team player on the side of right. Superman praises the Skull for doing the right thing. But then, in an odd twist, the Skull chastises Superman for being the root cause of super-villains, a rather Luthor thing to say. What could have been a feel good story about inspiration becomes a possible heel turn. Fascinating.

That said, the best thing about this story is Andrews' art. I love his style and that middle panel with Superman punching and Shockwave being all discombobulated is palpably spectacular. Love it.

So bring on Bendis. The lights are officially off on Rebirth.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised Tomasi revisited that particular story. I didn't think it needed closure.

And yes, I totally thought it was Batman.

Martin Gray said...

Terrific review. I thought it was Batman too, and loved that it was Lois. These stories of Clark, Lois and Jon have been so very good, overall, Gleason and Tomasi really convey the vibe of a loving family. I’m simply not ready for them to end...

...sorry! To the comic in hand, I enjoyed all three stories hugely too. I do think a return to Dinosaur Island was needed, Superman doesn’t leave people in danger if he can help it. And when is fighting dinos not fun?

The second story was a wee gem of action and characterisation, a reminder that even Superman can’t solve everything, but he can find the sunshine after the storm.

I do wish the Atomic Skull didn’t have conflicted feelings about Superman, but maybe Ian Flynn has a plan

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed all 3 stories. It’s an interesting irony that the final issue of these runs of Superman and Action (but also some other titles that are getting revamped) are being called “#1.” I guess that is better than numbering them #99999999999.

It was pretty funny watching Superman and Jon give each other super-breath “showers” to blast off the T-Rex gunk. The whole idea is funny to begin with, all the more so as Superman effortlessly practically blows Jon’s head off, while having only a mild reaction to Jon’s whole-body effort.

There was some interesting coloring - like the uninked golden silhouettes as they FAAAASSH over to Dinosaur Island. That panel pops right off the page.

And Kaare Andrews’s art in the final story “Decison” struck me as different. It seems to me when artists color their own work, they may go lighter on the inking. They can just finish the art with their own color. But his inking is very bold - except, perhaps, for the wisps of purple smoke that emanate from Atomic Skull’s... skull and, for some reason, his morning coffee. (Which I guess means he heats his coffee organically.) Loved his bunny slippers too.

All in all a nice set of stories. Thanks for the review. Looking forward to the large number of upcoming dissections of Man of Steel.