Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bullet Review: Justice League Darkseid War Superman

The Geoff Johns Justice League book has been a very pleasing read in the last few months. The Darkseid War, a story where Darkseid fights the Anti-Monitor, has had a grand scope and has felt like a great company wide crossover. I had dropped the Geoff Johns Justice League book right around Forever Evil feeling it had completely lost its way. The Darkseid War feels like we are approaching something great, even if it was couched in the dark violence of the current comic world.

The last issue had Darkseid being killed and his God-Force being transferred to some of the League members. The Flash has become the God of Death. And Superman has become the God of Strength.

To play off the popularity of the arc, DC has released individual issues focusing on the characters. Justice League:The Darkseid War Superman shows us what a Superman disconnected from humanity would feel like. Written by Francis Manapul with art by El Dazo. This'll be a quick review.

Frankly, I would have enjoyed this issue much more if we, as readers, haven't drowned in the deconstruction of Superman over the last 10 years. He has embraced his alien side in World of Krypton. He walked around like an arrogant observer in Grounded. Almost all of the New 52 was an abomination of Superman, twisting him into Doomsday and now a depowered angry thug. All we have seen in recent years has been a Superman who is disconnected from the heroic ideal.

Now this lost decade of Superman is a shame. It cheapens the character. And it lessens the impact of this story and this beat in the main arc. Because we have read all this before, although maybe not with this quality.

Superman has been missing from the planet because of the war. Here we see that he is coming back to Earth, smashing into an alien in a sort of Robotech-style mecha suit.

But there is a bunch of meta-textual vibrations here.

My guess is that Perry White's speech has been said my many of the upper level editors at DC.

"We are in a new world. People like to be outraged and if I can't have headlines and photos of the Man of Steel saving the day, outrage and cynicism will sell papers."

Or ... if the modern reader can't understand a Superman who is inspirational, who uses his powers for good because he should, then we will give them a cynical Superman who veers to darkness. That'll sell books.

It's sad.

Now this negative-Superman is hungry after his battle and heads to Melvin's Diner, his place to get coffee and pie.

When the staff try to get chummy, Superman shows that he isn't the nice guy he was. He bangs on the counter and yells for his treat. It sort of reminded me of the bar scene in the Superman III movie.

All this said, this isn't an aloof Superman floating above the city and physically being apart from people. Even at his angriest, he is still sitting in a diner asking for pie. That isn't something a god would necessarily do.

I think it shows that Manapul gets Superman a bit. Even angry disconnected Superman isn't that disconnected.

The alien Superman defeated in the opening pages abandoned his suit and escaped. But the suit begins oozing a black sticky tar which slowly envelops all of Metropolis and its people.

Throughout the story, Jimmy has been trailing Superman and begging the Man of Steel to revert to the hero he was. Here, slowly being coated by the substance, Jimmy calls on Superman's humanity, reminding the hero what he loved about the people.

Jimmy is portrayed as a fan, someone aspiring to be like Superman. He isn't Superman's equal here. He is more of a follower. For this story, he is the right voice. He is giving a 'say it ain't so Joe' speech to Superman, begging him to come back to the light.

Now you could have written this story with Lois in Jimmy's place. But you would need to change the tone completely. Jimmy is coming at this from hero worship. Lois would be talking to Superman as an equal. My guess is Lois would be a bit more blunt about how Superman needs to stop this descent.

Eventually the alien tar coats the whole city making it akin to a graveyard.

It is only then that Superman realizes that he misses life, interaction, humanity.

You see him briefly revert a small part back to his human form.

Superman knows now that this life isn't for him.

He needs help.

So not a bad little story showing the dizzying effects of sudden godhood and how Superman's upbringing and humanity might help him shed it or temper it. And maybe if Superman acted like ... I don't know ... Superman in his own comics, this sudden turn to ill-tempered aloof god might resonate more. I actually thought this story was sort of uplifting for a Superman who didn't ask for the title God of Strength, and probably wouldn't have accepted it if it was offered.

But this has to taken in the context of years of DC dragging Superman down, making him cynical, aloof, or monstrous. In this comic world, this isn't unique. It is the norm. And as such, it loses some of its punch.

I haven't mentioned the art which I thought was vibrant and energetic. I haven't seen Dazo's work before. He has a nice line and style and brings a kinetic feel to the proceedings.

Overall grade: B


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anj, I sm enjoying the heck out of The Darkseid War. I love your reviews, but I am not buying any of the Super-titles (except when Supergirl was published). Being a geek, I love that they are finally getting rid of the name Anti-Monitor and the supposition of him having the chair before Metron is great.

But what I really like about the book are the quick changes in scenes. Even with the splash pages, we still get a lot of text. The tie-ins are good, I didn't read this one as I'm picking up the comic tomorrow.

The current storyline feels like a real event comic, not something slapped together for trade. Keep up the great reviews.

Anonymous said...

Man what a waste of a tie in comic in my opinion. Unlike the Batman or Flash tie ins which actually told a story and a character arc of Batman and Flash's individual experiences of becoming a 'New God' this felt like just another reminder of the gritty and 'edgy' update Superman has gone through recently. I really didn't like how Perry was willing to write a cynical headline story of Superman, Perry's never been a sensationalist journalist, he's been the unrealistic in this journalistic climate of a respectable and credible journalist. 2015 has not been kind to Perry White as a Superman supporting character it seems.

Also, Superman Nega-Man at the diner was a total riff on that infamously ridiculous bar scene from Superman III. When a writer is riffing on something from Superman III, especially the alcoholic Superjerk instance, that's looking for inspiration in the wrong place.

A solid review as always Anj, you make a good point about how this isn't unique anymore but the norm for Superman comics concurrently and becomes even more of a bore than it already is. More people should realise that.


Uncle Screensaver said...

In other news, "Supergirl's" ratings have slipped again, in total the ratings are now 45% below the premiere. This may be a reason for a Digital First comic because if the show gets cancelled, they can easily cancel the comic and send that version of Supergirl the way among most others, limbo. If the show ends, aside from "DC Super Hero Girls," and "DC's Bombshells" and "JL3001" surviving, I can see DC not wiping her away completely as they did 30 years but I can see them no longer having her solo or around much at all. :(

Anonymous said...

Because I'm a total geek, I decided to use a spreadsheet to estimate Supergirl's eventual ratings. Assuming an exponential decay to model Supergirl finding her audience, from what we have seen, we should have about 7.2 million steady viewers (plus or minus 0.4 million). That range gives a result R^2=1. The numbers should flatten out from episode 8 onwards assuming OpenOffice isn't lying to me.

For the record, the best fit I found was for 7.3 million viewers, f(x) = 5.63*x^(-1.82)+7.3, where x is the episode number and f(x) is the number of viewers.

Of course, that depends on the quality of the show staying consistent. If it keeps improving, for example, it could retain more viewers than expected. If it falters, it could start losing its "core" viewers.

Hopefully, things turn out for the best.

KET said...

I'll wait to more fully comment on this whenever Anj posts the episode recap review, but most of the articles covering this week's ratings are mostly sleight of hand misreadings of Supergirl's total audience share. They're only looking at one demographic instead of the real picture. The show still drew more than twice the viewers than Gotham did.

However, just wanted to pass along the information that Supergirl has been nominated for Favorite New TV Drama for this year's People's Choice Awards. So now's your chance to make a difference:



Martin Gray said...

Supergirl ratings? Wrong post, guys.

Great review. I didn't bother with this because, well, dark Superman again. Sounds like it was well crafted, for what is is.

Perry White should so come to Earth Prime and sue. Not in a million years would he be nasty rather than supportive.