Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Superman #3

Superman #3 came out last week, the latest chapter of the new Superman 'current' continuity. Unlike the '8 years ago' storyline unfolding in Action, this is the Superman in the now, an established hero with everything that comes with that. It is interesting therefore, that writer George Perez is starting off this new chapter in Superman history with an arc about how people distrust the Man of Steel. That is already being played out in Action and has just been examined back in 'Grounded' in the old DCU.

While this isn't exactly the story line I would have chosen either to reinvigorate the Superman mythos or bring in new readers, I will commend Perez on writing the more dense comics on the market right now. There is no decompression here. Instead we have a lot of story, a lot of dialogue, a lot of mystery. And that makes me happy as a reader. I feel as if this is a comic where money is well spent.

This issue also marks the first issue with Nicola Scott on as art. Scott seems to be aping the prior issues by Merino, or is following Perez's layouts closely as this has the same feel as the first two issues. That isn't a left-handed compliment. The book is beautiful and I like when there isn't a jarring change in art styles in one arc.

One thing that has not been clearly defined yet in this new DCnU, is Superman's relationship to the Kents. All along I have said that it was the Kents that made Clark Superman. It was their upbringing that made him who he is. We know they aren't alive in this new universe. And we know that their lack of presence makes Superman 'edgier' in Action. But my hope was that Morrison or DC in general weren't going to downplay their impact on Clark.

So this opening scene, with Clark visiting his parents' grave (all as we hear reporter Billy McCoy talking about Superman's mysterious past and lack of history) made me happy.

But we then are brought to the PGN war room where McCoy is trying to convince the staff to produce a piece discussing the dangers of Superman to Metropolis. His conclusion is clear, villains come to Metropolis to make a name for themselves by defeating Superman. And the collateral damage is not worth the price.

I did like this panel where we see 'Professor Fleischer' and his giant robots. It has to be an homage to the Fleischer studios cartoons and their first episode 'The Mad Scientist'.

McCoy continues that the deaths from these super-villain attacks are Superman's fault. Despite the good that Superman has done (including a quick recap of the events seen so far in Action Comics), McCoy thinks the cost of life is too high. You only see a snippet of the panel with the face pictures of the dead, a nice panel driving home the point.

But I did like that the other PGN staff, especially Lois, defend Superman. I am glad that the cynicism against heroes hasn't completely invaded the DCnU.

The latest victims of Superman are the homeless person and security guard 'possessed' by the fire demon and invisible alien from the first two issues. Lois and Perry are hoping that Clark might recognize the homeless man (seen walking with the security guard out of the hospital where the guard was being held).

Lois and Perry both know that something is wrong with Clark and I liked that Perez writes a short but thick scene where the two talk about their worries about their friend. Is it simply that the Planet has linked with GBS? Is it more than that? At the very least, this shows the depth of these relationships, something not spelled out quite yet in the DCnU.

In the meantime, Clark streaks back to Metropolis because he is late for a piece he is shooting with Heather Kelley about the destruction of some low income housing.

Kelley has romantic feelings for Clark and is trying to find a way inside. In some ways, I thought this was the most interesting part of the issue. A new character with romantic feelings for Clark? While it might be cliche, I think it would feel fresh to see how Clark would react to this, especially given his unrequited feelings for Lois. We haven't seen a different love interest in Superman books in a long time. While I miss the Clark/Lois marriage, this could have been interesting to watch play out.

I don't know if we will see it. At Kelley's site, just as Superman arrives in the town, an ice entity erupts freezing everything around it. And it's voice, while spouting alien gibberish, is Heather's. She has been 'possessed'.

And her powers are immense, not just freezing the people in her wake but actually turning them to ice!

Again, it is a vestige of the older universe but I love that with a major chunk of the city frozen, with countless citizens turned to ice, Superman still checks up on Lois individually.

He's got it bad!

Heather is actually at the base of a winter tornado which is topped with the ice woman. So she isn't exactly the demon ... maybe just channeling her? Anchoring her to this reality?

Whatever she is, she says Krypton just like the prior aliens who have attacked the city.

Without any better idea, Superman decides to sever to connection between Heather and the ice woman with heat vision.

You know what I loved here? Superman saying he won't kill. Wonderful.

The tactic works. And with the connection severed, everything goes back to normal. The ice disappears. The people become people again. None of the destruction seemed to have happened ... the same as with the fire demon from issue one. That is perplexing.

But even with the ice demon gone, Kelley remains possessed. And now she has joined up with the other humans effected like her. And now they aren't just saying 'Krypton'; they are saying 'Clark Kent'.

So I am intrigued by this alien storyline. It wonder how all of this will come together, who these things are and why they are attacking Superman. It seems strange that they have such different powers. And why do their efforts disappear when they are repelled?

The undercurrent of a gloomy Clark and a distrusting city populace is the part I am not that interested in. Think about the last Superman reboot, the Byrne stuff. Those earliest stories had Superman settling into his new history, meeting and defeating his rogue's gallery, acting heroic and being accepted. I thought the energy in those issues was palpable and Byrne made Superman exciting and meaningful again. I don't know if playing up this element of Superman is the way to go.

We are halfway through this arc and I seem to be enjoying it more as it progresses.

Overall grade: B


Diabolu Frank said...

I'm getting confused. Is Superman on a confirmed eight year timeline now? Do we have dates on Batman & Robin? Did DC ultimately just claw back four years and Earth Two?

It amuses me that they've been trying to bring Clark Kent into television journalism since the '70s, it's a good idea, and I still am not sure it will stick even amidst the international death knell of print.

I can see the Byrne parallel, but my perspective is different. "Man of Steel" was an exciting new look at Superman's early days, but "Superman" was the one with the cheesy handling and awful new villains. Rampage? Bloodsport? The Host? All justifiably forgotten. In retrospect, I vastly preferred Action Comics allowing Superman to meet all those DC co-stars as drawn by Byrne. So pretty!

Isn't it ironic that George Perez is the old school writer being eclipsed by the hot young things with only a few decades less experience when he was in the exact opposite role in the '80s?

Anj said...

I am pretty sure Action is 8yrs ago, JLA is 5 yrs ago, and SM is now. Although I don't think there has been any 'Eight years ago' text in the comic.

I agree that some of those early Byrne villains haven't stuck around. But the 'new Metallo', 'new Brainiac who became the old Brainiac', Mr Mxyzptlk ... all those new versions worked.

I think Byrne's stuff was great.

Diabolu Frank said...

I didn't dig Byrne's first year on the eponymous title, but it got better in the second with more classic villains and set-ups. I still miss the old Metallo, and they made a mess of Brainiac for a while there, but Mxyzptlk was fun and Silver Banshee was a swell addition.

Martin Gray said...

Eight years ago would make sense, as the Superman in Five Years Ago JL is certainly not the same guy as the Action Comics version in terms of look, experience and development of powers.

I agree, this was the best issue yet. I love that Perry is already back to his classic look. Maybe next issue Jim will be a ginger again!

Anonymous said...

Coverwise who knew Superman had a keister?