Friday, June 19, 2020

Review:Superman #22

Superman #22 came out this week, the finale of The Truth arc in which Superman reveals he is Clark Kent to the world and accepts the role of Earth Representative to the United Planets.

Just like Mongul to come crash the party with Warworld.

This is one of those comic issues that really made me smile, yet another reminder of why I still read comics after all these years. As usual it is one of those perfect storms of art and words that make this medium so compelling to me.

We'll start with the writing. The book basically is split between a massive brawl in space between Superman and Mongul. Here, Superman's internal dialogue spells out his thoughts on Mongul and his people. He also recalls a Supergirl moment from (maybe) another continuity and respects Kara for her ingenuity. Perfect. While she isn't here, it is a Supergirl moment to shine.

The other half is a more pitched grounded battle of wills between Lois Lane and Cameron Chase as Lois deals with the fallout of Clark's reveal. It is both tense and relaxed in tone, a wonderful representation of the power and cool of these women.

And then there is the art by Kevin Maguire. It is brilliant. For one, the page layouts for the space battles are varied between long vertical panels, cramped horizontal wide screen panels, and splash pages. Each page of that fight is palpable and dynamic and the cramped or open layouts help add to the feel. Meanwhile, the Lois pages play out with more normal panel sizes, perhaps a cue to make us differentiate the two struggles. It is just fantastic.

And I would be remiss if I didn't also comment on the smashing cover by Ivan Reis, a sort of reverse homage to the loving protector of Earth cover of All Star Superman #10.

On to the book.

 In space, with Warworld looming over Earth, a rather angry Superman contemplates his battles with Mongul.

I love how even big hitters like Brainiac and Luthor never get under Superman's skin, never bring him close to the verge (I assume the brink of breaking his code against killing) like Mongul does.

That is such an interesting concept. Someone like Mongul, a more physical threat than others, might need to be put down. Intriguing.

And, as usual, Kevin Maguire is able to sell the moment with the expression of growing anger just as Superman throws himself into battle.

 Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Cameron Chase do some verbal dancing of their own.

It is clear that Chase has a message to deliver but she won't come right out and say it. And Lois plays a little cat and mouse of her own as she tries to assess Chase.

This quick exchange got me. Lois wonders, with all her credentials, Leviathan didn't try to recruit Chase. Remember, Chase's world has been leveled. Friend of hers have probably joined the bad guy or have died. It is a more biting remark than perhaps Lois intended. And Chase let's her know it. That isn't funny.

Maguire puts a stern and reserved anger look on Chase's face. But I wonder if this narrow panel adds to the feel that this is a short, pointed answer. This moment, by panel size at least, is brief. The response is curt. I know, perhaps I over read these things.

 And then, my favorite moment of the book.

With Warworld screaming towards Earth, Superman remembers a prior battle when Kara stopped the satellite. He remembers feeling 'professionally jealous'. He knows she would think of his copying her as a compliment.

He then flies out, u-turns, and like a bullet through a snowball burrows into Warworld's core.

Recently, Supergirl has really been treated awfully by DC. She became a villain in the DCU and even in her own book. The title was cancelled. So seeing Bendis treat her with such respect, having Superman treat her with respect and even admiration, made this Supergirl fan smile.

She isn't here ... but this is a Supergirl moment.

And it hearkens back to DC Comics Presents #28, a Superman/Supergirl team-up in the very first Mongul storyline. In fact, that 'bullet through a snowball line' above is lifted straight from that book.

If interested, here is my review of that issue from 9 years ago:

 As I said, Maguire treats us with varied page layouts. As Superman works his way to the core of Warworld, we are treated to almost claustrophobic, thin, horizontal panels. He has to work through defenses of lasers, tentacles, and drones. The page layout adds that feeling of Superman basically digging underground (undertech?) to get to the core.

And then, your favorite 'does he still have that power' ... the solar flare ... destroys Warworld from the inside out.

 On Earth, Lois finally asks Chase to just get to the point.

The message is simple.

'No more mistakes.'

The UN will agree that Superman can represent Earth in the UP. But if either he or Lois screw up, they both would be under 'massive scrutiny'. I guess this might be the world's questioning of journalistic integrity with the secret identity thing. Or perhaps just the world not liking Superman just taking up that mantle. Or both.

Meanwhile, the battle in space ends up on Venus. And it is a slugfest. If you are looking for beefcake Superman, Maguire delivers!

 We finally get back to that earliest concept of Mongul being the one to always bring Superman close to killing.

Here he realizes that he needs to humiliate more than murder. The Warzoons only understand conquering. So they need a message that they understand. And seeing their leader beaten to a pulp with a rather dark looking Superman looking down on them will work.

Great first panel really selling Superman in a back-lit, Batman sort of scariness.

After convincing the United Planet delegates that this battle with Mongul is exactly why the UP needs to exist, Superman heads home.

After such a rough and tumble, very tense issue, we get a couple of cool down pages with Lois and Clark catching up. It is the perfect palate cleanser. Both are exhausted and can barely keep their eyes open.

Lois is finally finished with her book ... you know the one that made her live somewhere else? I truly love how she won't let Clark superspeed read her laborious work. And I love even more his teasing her that he already did.

Just pitch perfect.

In fact the whole issue is just a fantastic. The two plots interweave and play off each other nicely. The art is spot on brilliant. And we even get a little Supergirl moment! It all makes me smile!

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Yes, this is a wonderful issue, the Supergirl moment was my favourite too. I’m so glad that later, Brian Bendis didn’t have Superman
thinking: ‘But that battle with Mongul never happened... yet somehow I remember it!’ It happened! Let’s leave the continuity crashing to Young Justice and (ugh) Dark Nights: Cracked Metal, or whatever it’s called.

In my head canon, though, Superman does call his cousin after a good night’s sleep and tells him she’s his inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Delightful and stunning. The large spreads with the earth, the moon or Venus are just beautifully drawn and colored. I have nothing against well colored explosions or GOOD splash panels, and these are especially good ones.

Maguire did some great detailed work on Venus, with the air filled with flecks of volcanic ash and some really cool looking black cross-hatched and smudgy areas.

I guess it's a good thing Superman has the shorts back. They came in handy this time.

In a way, Kara was the hero in the story - the inspiration for the victory. Bendis has always treated her well.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

I really like the last page, Clack and Lois are really a couple.

I can't wait to read the next action comic, i look foward to meeting of kara and krypto with the rest of the family.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

I've always thought that Superman looked a little bit like Stan Laurel on that cover for All Star Superman #10.

Looks like Bendis didn't get the memo saying that Supergirl should be treated "awfully". I wish more DC people had his attitude toward Kara. When written right, Supergirl's "existence" doesn't diminish Superman, it makes him better.

The upcoming issues of Action Comics should be good. Hopefully, the recent infected storyline will be forgotten-swept into the dustbin of history. I don't know what plans (if any) DC has for Supergirl beyond that, but if they were smart, they would call Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle about reuniting for a 4, 6 or 12 issue mini series-whatever they might have time for.

I liked it toward the end of Superman #22, when Lois tells Clark that she misses their "cute little boy" and Clark repliea "Great Krypton, I do too." When was the last time Superman said "Great Krypton"?

I still don't know why it was necessary to age-up Jonathan. I understand wanting a Superboy in the Legion, but they could have recruited Jon from a time when he would naturally be 16 or 17 years old, allowing him to grow up at a regular pace.

Bostondreams said...

I would love to see the folks behind the newest Amethyst run doing a Supergirl mini.