Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: Superman #30

Superman #30 came out last week, the next story in the Phillip Kennedy Johnson era on the books. 

Once more, Johnson gives us a story involving Superman and Superboy, leaning into the relationship of a father has with a son. Johnson has already showed us how this is going to be a theme in his works starting with the 'Golden Age' discussion of when a child realizes their parents are vulnerable. Here it is Superman trying to hold onto the memories of good days, trying to work towards a day when every day can be perfect. As a dad of 'kids' who are now basically adults, this resonates. But if we keep heading to this emotional well, I wonder if it will start to feel trite. 

The story also takes us off-world where we see that Superman is a universal legend, helping a far off planet rid itself of a planetary threat called the Shadowbreed. In some ways, this reminded me of Bronze Age stories I read as a kid where Superman was a presence seemingly everywhere with alien races recognizing the S-shield and knowing how he is a hero.

The Shadowbreed sounds like a serious threat, a sort of smaller version of a Suneater. Will this mega-threat feel a bit more long lasting than any of the others which we have seen recently? Or will seem to fade in my consciousness once the story is over like Ulysses, Rogol Zaar, Synmar Utopica? One thing that I find a bit interesting is that Superman seems to willing go along with killing Shadowbreed. That seems like a sort of misstep.

The art is done by Scott Godlewski and is vibrant. Godlewski is a rising star in my mind. He certainly conveys the alien environment and their rituals dynamically. But for me it is the quiet scenes on Earth that really sparkled.

Finally, on to the book!

We start with an entry from Superman's journey talking about a great adventure he had with Jon before he left the planet for what he thought was the last time.

The page is a nice progression of Superman being engulfed in darkness so it has some bleak overtones. Nicely laid out by Godlewski here.

But the last story hinted at Superman dying or being lost. Now this opens up with this hint of Superman being of planet). 

I guess I need to be patient. I suppose I understand that Johnson needs to let this 'Superman going off world for a while' breathe a bit. It all seems to be pointing to that Warworld Future State timeline.

But then we flash back.

There is a very fun scene of Clark, Lois, and Jon out playing mini-golf. It is a funny scene with Lois complaining at Clark and Jon's skills. 

Clark is able to take a step back and realize that this is a perfect day. And this is what he fights for.

I love small scenes like this. It reminded me very much of the Tomasi/Gleason run and that is high praise. I love seeing this side of the family. And it is drawn so beautifully by Godlewski.

The day is interrupted when Superman's super-hearing picks up a message from deep space from an old friend. It's a vague warning - 'Come back. It's not the end.'

Superman knows he needs to answer the call and this time brings Jon along.

This theme of father and son growing in their relationship was evident in the first two issues of this era and looks like it will be a running idea. Here Superman lays back a little so he can marvel at the miracle Jon has become all while remembering and missing the days when Jon was a toddler and Jon would rock his son to sleep.

A little of this goes a long way so much like the impending 'Superman is near the end of his life', I hope we don't go to the well to much or too deeply.

The land on Thakkram, home of Qarath O Daanim, an old ally of Superman. It was Qarath who sent the message.

It feels like an alien world. Superman says their language is complex so translators might be off. We learn their family culture is very different from Earth's, with parents and children more like rivals. And Qarath doesn't sound like a buddy of Superman, more like people thrown together on a mission.

The natives attack immediately but are easily turned away. I really like that Superman tells Jon to be gentle when they defend themselves. No need to punch down.

And then another old friend Faldr Poornim, another friend and ally, shows up.

But there is a mystery afoot.

Qarath recently died.  He couldn't have sent the message.

After witnessing a sort of funereal ritual where the inhabitants sing the praises of Qarath and how he, Faldr, and Superman defeating the 'one who fell'.

But this thankfully smells suspicious to Superman who decides the need to check on the 'one who fell', an alien 'corpse' infected with a 'hive mind parasite' which absorbed light, heat, and energy. This is the Shadowbreed and it sounds like a mobile black hole which would have consumed the planet.

Here is where I get a bit confused and also a bit curious if there is an editorial hand here.

Faldr wades in with the other two with a radiation bomb which destroys the Shadowbreed. 

Is Shadowbreed alive? Did Superman know this was a killing mission? Was he complicit with the plan to kill it? 

It makes it easier that the alien host was a corpse, so we know that Superman didn't kill that thing.

But I did read and reread this to try and understand.

Heading down into the cavern of the fight, we see the alien corpse which Jon says remains dead. Which again makes me curious about the first encounter. Was this like a zombie? Dead but moving around, the Shadowbreed controlling it?

Did Superman just kill something? Maybe I am perseverating over this too much.

They spy the communicator that Superman gave Qarath as an emergency signal, the thing used to send Superman the message earlier.

And they also see, in the cracked carapace of this thing (although it looks more like a smashed window as if this thing were a ship), a broken container of some sort.

I do like Superman working together with Jon.

But the communicator and the container make Superman realize something else. Qarath didn't say 'it's not the end'; he said 'it's not dead'.

Shadowbreed is alive, inside Faldr, and now it has taken over Qarath's son, Qarath O Bakkis.

That is a nice hook to head into next issue on. 

This was a decent issue. I worry that the themes of parental love and parental loss are being slathered on a bit too heavily but if they are core to the arc I guess Johnson has the need to make his focus known. I think Shadowbreed as a sort of black hole/suneater which also is a zombie-maker is a new sort of threat. And I like Superman being a galactic presence, a hero known even on this very alien world.

I really love the art here. Godlewski is at home in an amusement park and an alien funeral. And Superman looks great.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

Great review. I’m already bored with the constant father/son reflections and seemingly inevitably arrival at the Future State business. And space aliens.