Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: Superman #1

Superman #1 came out this week and continued to the transition to the post-Rebirth super-family and their stories. Last week's Action Comics focused on Metropolis. This week's Superman focused on the home life of the Smiths, the current last name of the Clark and Lois.

With Lois maintaining her life as Author X and Clark now out as Superman, the family has moved to Hamilton County, upstate from Metropolis. Some of this seemed there to inform people who didn't read the Lois and Clark mini-series. Other parts did start or move existing plot lines along.

But overall, this seemed to slightly miss the magic of the recent months. While so much of 'The Last Days of Superman' and Rebirth has been about reclaiming some of the magic of the past, this issue seemed to lean a little bit more towards the New 52, a grimmer world. And it all hinges on one gruesome scene.

Storytellers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason do hit on some nice moments. In particular, the interaction between 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' feels so natural and loving. The art is a little wonky for my tastes, a sort of mix between manga and Rankin/Bass Lord of the Rings movies.

Still, overall, I thought this was a decent start. Something of a double rather than a home run.

 The issue starts with Clark mourning the passing of the New 52 Superman, paying his respects at the Kent family grave site. I was very happy to see this. This should be a big deal. It shouldn't be simply swept into the past. This Superman is probably going to try to honor the memory of his doppelganger. This sentiment of thinking of the legacy of that Superman should be touched on every so often, but especially in this immediate aftermath.

This Superman knows that the world needs to know Superman is around. It is time for the primary colors to fly. Very nice.

Now there is a mystery here. When Clark touches the ground, he leaves a glowing blue hand print. He talks about Mr. Oz. What does this all mean?

Could this be a clue about the true nature of these two Supermen?

And so this Superman puts in the primary colors and flies into action.

I liked this double splash showing scenes from the past. Much like the Wonder Woman mirror smash, we see a bunch of scenes. Some look like they are from Morrison's run. One looks like a Fleischer cartoon. That spaceship is definitely the New 52 cradle. So I don't know how many of these are from this pre-Flashpoint Superman's life?

Or is this just another way to honor the past?

The rest of the issue is told from the viewpoint of Jon Kent who is still adjusting to the knowledge that his parents are Superman and Lois Lane. He is still learning about his own powers.

But there is definitely some hero worship here. Jon sees his dad dealing with a barn fire and is thrilled his dad is Superman. He is just a boy, complete with broken action figures. But he is more.

It was here that the art seemed a little to odd. I wanted to start singing 'The Greatest Adventure is what lies ahead ..."

Am I the only one who thought this?

Maybe it's me.

Jon is all excited with his new found super-hero dad and his own burgeoning powers. He is excited to help his dad rebuild part of the barn. And he promises only to use his powers when his father is around. That is asking quite a lot from a kid.

Unfortunately, Jon's powers are just coming to fruition. He has no control. When he sees his cat Goldie being flown away by a hungry hawk, his heat vision activates on its own. The result it is that he burns his pet cat to a crisp.

This is pretty horrific. I mean, do I really need to see this charred skeleton? Of the pet cat?

Did I need there to be some tragic lesson for Jon? Gone is the smiling kid with the toys. Things got grim. This moment made me gasp. It felt a little New 52.

This wasn't intentional. Just sad.

 The whole macabre scene is witnessed by a Kathy Branden, the new neighbor.

Is she scared? Does she see how devastated Clark is? Will she be a Lana? Since she knows Jon's powers, will she be more like Pete Ross?

I like this idea to add a supporting cast for Jon, the super-son. And her seeing this event adds a nice wrinkle.

Later, she visits the house to introduce herself. The interaction between her and Jon is completely awkward.

 Jon is carrying the burden of killing Goldie on his shoulders. He is too ashamed or scared to tell Clark and Lois what he did. He begins to question why they need to hide their powers. He is angry ... but some of this must be a reaction to what he did.

When Jon screams at his parents, he is sent to his room.

Again, it is asking a lot of a 7 year old to hide his powers. He is being told he needs to be honest and true but then he is told to lie about who he and his family are. It's complex. So who can blame Jon for being confused.

So much of this must be fueled by the tragedy of the afternoon. There is just too much for Jon to work through.

The issue ends with Jon sulking in his room and seeing the reuniting of the Trinity ... together again for the first time!!!!

Don't ask me why Wonder Woman as her sword drawn. Can't it be sheathed?

But this is a new Superman. It makes sense for Diana and Bruce to seek him out, ask him questions, figure out what his deal truly is. It's a whole new world. And Jon is part of it.

So overall, I liked the Clark/Lois interaction. I liked the opening scene a ton. I love this ending which makes sense.

But that cat scene is such a downer. I was hoping that Jon would go into the Super-Sons book untarnished. He would be the bright, sunny foil to the brooding Damien. That bloody pet death just soured my feeling for the whole book a bit. It seemed an unnecessary plot point to move Jon's story along.

Overall grade: B


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

With Jon killing the cat, I wonder how badly The Super-Sons will be?

Still wondering on the new Clark Kent. If it were the new52 Superman with amnesia or Flare-Superman or Sand-Superman,it would be interesting since that Clark Kent would be years younger than the current Superman.

I don't think any of my guesses are right, but it would be interesting to have a young Clark be the easiest solution as to how both characters can appear together.

But, yea. Let's kill a cat. Why not burn a tree or just spook the cat with a little spark to its tail?

Martin Gray said...

Well, you know how I feel about the cat business...

That made me laugh, about the hobbit artwork. I really liked it.

Anonymous said...

The cat incident shows that super-powers are a double-edged sword. In his anger Jon lashes out at the hawk, not realizing that it could affect poor Goldie. So Goldie becomes collateral damage and Jon is possibly traumatized. Will this be a hard lesson learned that you have to control what you do or will this be childhood PTSD? Or should I resort to the famous Spiderman line "With great power comes great responsibility?"

Godzylla said...

The intent of the "cat incident" is obvious. I think we all got it. We're thinking it was just too much, especially with the on-panel gore. I would have preferred to see Jon's heat vision flashing, but rather than killing feelings and fowl, terrifying them to the point that Goldie will no longer go near him. He learns to respect his powers without having to go through the extreme trauma of killing his own pet. And I think it's a trauma they will wind up ignoring, rendering it moot.

Godzylla said...

The intent of the "cat incident" is obvious. I think we all got it. We're thinking it was just too much, especially with the on-panel gore. I would have preferred to see Jon's heat vision flashing, but rather than killing feelings and fowl, terrifying them to the point that Goldie will no longer go near him. He learns to respect his powers without having to go through the extreme trauma of killing his own pet. And I think it's a trauma they will wind up ignoring, rendering it moot.

Godzylla said...

Anj, I see your point on the Rankin-Bass comparison. It wouldn't have occurred to me because I'm not really familiar with them (aware, yes).

I'd like to have had the name change explained. My first reaction was that the Smiths were someone else. Then I thought it was an error. It also doesn't make sense that Lois would have welcomed the "new neighbors" who moved in weeks ago when they themselves just got there. Do we have Action and Superman on slightly different time scales again?

I liked the art, though. Not too cartoony, not like the "balloon people" artist of a decade ago. It was a nice vignette, but not much of a story. I hope it picks up next issue. But so far I'm enjoying the Superman titles!

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I think you could have made the same point if he singed Goldie's tail. Even if they felt they had to go with the death scene, we didn't need to see the charred husk. Have the cat simply be incinerated.

But a near catastrophe could have taught the 'great responsibility' piece. We'll have to see how that plays out.

As for Smiths. I was hoping for something more. But I guess Smith is as generic as you could be.

I don't mean to rag on the art. It is fine. It just seemed a little wonky in places for me.

Uncle Screensaver said...

I suppose the gore was to give a sense of what this child would see, and give additional weight to the tragedy, but it would have been just as effective to not show it.

I realize that all children are different, and that he's already upset because his parents lied to him, but instead of leading to a possiblity of a jaded, disturbed Jon, have him run home and sobbing. Have him be upfront with his parents. Have Superman tell his son that it wasn't his fault because he doesn't know how to use his powers well, and have him immediately start helping him develop him.

Or, even better, have that seeing Goldie being taken away by the eagle, Jon finds himself flyiing/ "leaping tall buildings in a single bound," grabs Goldie, saves her and then falls with her on his back with a great thud. Clark and Lois run out to see what's wrong, with Jon holding Goldie in his arms ands declariing, "I flew!"

I found the whole incident to leave me wanting to no longer get the title, despite my longing to support Superman right now.

As for the name change, could it be because of Intergang finding out about "Lois White"? The lack of explanation, as well as any recap for a new reader picking up the book, has me sighing.