Friday, August 11, 2023

Review: Superman Annual 2023


Superman Annual 2023 came out this week and was phenomenal. I really feel like we are riding a wave of superb Superman stories and this annual was a near perfect reflection of that. In writer Joshua Williamson (and Phillip Kennedy Johnson) I feel we have someone who understands the character, respects Superman's history, and wants to move forward with fresh new stories. 

This Annual isn't really a Superman story. He is on the periphery of this story. Instead we deep dive into Superman's supporting cast, both allies and villains. There is a page that was an emotional gut punch for me. And we end on perhaps the most delicious cliffhanger I have read in a while. There are a couple of new faces to boot, adding new spice to the delicious mix.

We have callbacks to the modern era and Cat Grant. We have callbacks to the Bendis era (I feel I am a bit of a Bendis apologist here). For someone like me, this shows respect for those that came before. 

Add to that a heady mix of excellent artists and you have a winner. Jack Herbert brings his fine-lined detail here. Edwin Galmon has a sort of water color panache. Caitlin Yarsky brings a solid look to Mercy Graves. Max Raynor is ... well .. Max Raynor, bringing energy and polish. And old Supergirl friend Mahmud Asrar is here. I do wish that the book was separated into chapters with each artist getting the credit they deserve. Or give us old school page numbers and list which artist was on which pages. They deserve people to know.

I outright loved this book. It was joyous and raucous and sad between the covers. Brilliant.

On to the details.

Superman is out fighting a giant Toyman robot, one looking suspiciously like the masked version in Superman The Animated Series. While our hero is busy, Editor Lois Lane screams at her staff like the old Chief, Perry White. We see the staff. Stalwarts like Jimmy, Cat, Ron Troupe, and Steve Lombard are all there. Maggie Q from the Bendis era is there. (Cat is on entertainment; Maggie on gossip.) 

But we also get some new faces. Lisa Lombard, Steve's sister, is on tech. Erica Edge is on crime reporting.

Lois is bored with the ideas they give. Or at least bored thinking of them written by these. She shakes things up, sending a different reporter out to cover one of the other's ideas. I don't know if this would actually happen but it shakes up the plot here.

I am a big fan of the Planet and their staff so seeing old timers and new timers and even newer faces makes me smile. And Williamson gives them unique voices.

Of course, historically Cat Grant's son Adam was killed by the Toyman so Lois makes sure Lois is okay.

But Cat seems sound as a pound. 

I am pretty sure Geoff Johns retconned Adam's death, making a sentient Toyman robot duplicate the killer. I'm also pretty sure that in some recent storyline Toyman became a good guy. But I love this call back. 

Cat sure seems to be unruffled but even here I was wondering if she was protesting too much. 

I'm pretty sure this is Edwin Galmon's work, a sort of water-colory stylized take on things.

With the new assignments given by Lois, the troops disperse.

Lisa Lombard and Jimmy head to Supercorp to interview Mercy Graves. 

We hear that Mercy wants a puff piece, something to show how benevolent the place is. But I like Lisa's sass here, calling out Mercy's merciless past. Even Jimmy is shocked.

After all, Lisa is a tech reporter, not an investigative one. Perhaps some of Lois is rubbing off?

Caitlin Yarsky really shines here, bringing some action with a rehabbed Parasite. 

When Steve Lombard cannot bring home anything from a Livewire interview, Lois goes instead.

We see relatively new friend Red Cloud, a major bad from the Bendis era. And she isn't happy to see Lois at all. 

A prison brawl unfolds with Livewire suddenly becoming a friend in the 'enemy of my enemy' way. She melees with the Cloud to protect Lois, subduing the villain. 

I really love the voice Williamson gives Livewire. "Like and subscribe" made me laugh. And think Leslie Willis just wants a platform for people to hear her opinions. Lois gives her that opportunity so righting the Red Cloud makes sense. 

And bringing back Red Cloud makes me happy. She was a huge bad and a major threat in the Bendis times. Glad she is still around.

The art in this section is just gorgeous, no surprise. 

And then the gut punch page.

Cat is doing a ride along with Police Chief Kekoa. They get wrapped up in a shoot out which is ended by Marilyn Moonlight, another interesting addition to the book. 

Cat asks for a video and in it we see her open up just a little. She talks of how she lost her son, how everything reminds her of him, and how she is in therapy to help overcome it. You see the pain on her face.

But then, when the police chief comes, she's all coquettish again, asking to be called Cat and sporting a killer smile. It's a facade. And all that sexy energy just made me feel sad knowing she is dying on the inside.

A fantastic moment just sold by the words and art mix. 99% sure this is Jack Herbert's work and he always brings it.

And then we get three seeds planted for future stories.

We learned in an earlier issue that Lex tried to be an action scientist when he arrived in Metropolis, even fighting Pharm and Graft. No one knew this history.

It turns out the stories were buried in the past by ... Perry White!

Sliding in a brief hero stint into Lex's history is an interesting wrinkle. Making Perry an accomplice or adversary (hard to know yet why he squelched the story) is also interesting. Is this going to make Lex sympathetic and Perry a bit sullied? 

So much gray!

Pharm and Graft have not only somehow captured Lobo, they have obtained his blood for their experiments.

Will we see a Superman vs. The Main Man fight? It feels like it has been too long.

And then a truly ka-pow closure.

Brainiac is back!

Brainiac has a bottled city of Czarnia. 

Brainiac has what looks to be Doomsday dogs!

But most importantly, Brainiac is back! Yes!

This looks like the Johns/Frank design. 

I don't think I can say how much I loved this immersion into the Superman universe. Great moments for just about everyone. A nice mix of humor, pathos, action, and suspense. I love the hints at the future storylines especially Brainiac!

Kudos to Joshua Williamson and all the artists!

Overall grade: A+

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

A suitably gushing review for a wonderful comic. I love the Daily Planet too, so it’s wonderful to see the reporters just getting on with stuff rather than writers worrying about the death of print journalism. I hope that soon we’ll see more of Maggie Q and new snapper Miko.

I’m glad the Adam tragedy is back in business, it was such a powerful, longterm storyline for Cat that wiping it away or simply never mentioning it does her a disservice.