Friday, November 5, 2021

Review: Superman '78 #3

Superman '78 #3 came out this week and remains this perfectly charming, perfectly nostalgic title that I need right now. 

I saw the first movie in the theater as a young child and I unabashedly love it. I was hoping that somehow this title would capture that magic. I wanted to be transported back to that young Anj who suddenly believed a man could fly.

As I have said before, writer Robert Venditti and artist Wilfredo Torres are doing just that. This comic is such a cleansing deep breath, going back to a simpler time where maybe heroism is still sort of black and white, but also giving me a wonderfully entertaining story. 

There are homages to the movie and Silver Age comics. There is self-sacrifice on the part of our hero. And there is excellent Brainiac action, something we all hoped to see back in the day. It is a joy to see this Superman interacting with  his parents and his Kryptonian culture. But most of all, it is great to see the conniving Hackman Lex Luthor, such a deliciously captivating character.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great cover by Amy Reeder, a favorite of mine. I love the reflection of Jor-El and Lara over the shoulder of Superman and his surprised face. Great visual.

On to the book.

Last issue, Superman surrendered to Brainiac.

This issue starts with the citizens rallying around their hero, picking up anything they can as a weapon to brandish against the Coluan. 

I like the 'all of us come from someplace else' line.

And it echoes the response we saw (or I guess will see in this timeline) in Superman II when the people of Metropolis take up arms briefly against the Phantom Zone villains. 

Superman won't let the people sacrifice themselves and once more turns himself over.

I did like this moment where he singles out Lois' heartbeat and says a soft and distant goodbye.

This isn't the first time we have seen this. He located her heartbeat at the end of Superman The Movie. 

This is just as emotional a moment. And played so well by Torres. You feel his pain in that last panel.

In my time reading comics I have seen Lex be a scientist, a businessman, and a mix of those things. But he has always seemed cold and clinical in his malevolence.

That is different than the Hackman Luthor who has a little bit of con man, a little bit of slime, and a little bit of joy in him.

I mean, we have all read enough comics to know this pat on the back with a sound effect means he planted something on Superman. I like that this Superman is still oblivious to Lex's shenanigans. And I love that Lex did whatever this is surreptitiously. If it is a helpful thing, he could have palmed it to Superman with a handshake or whisper something. 


Not what this Lex would do.

Taken to Brainiac's ship, Superman sees other bottled cities including one that seems to be from Thanagar.

Then in a striking couple of pages dripping with red ink and grimaces by the Man of Steel, he is shrunk and sent to Kandor.

Suddenly, for the first time since Krypton's destruction, Superman is face to face with his birth parents.

Hopefully this Jor-El is more stable than the recent Mr. Oz resurrection. 

Earth meanwhile mourns the loss of their hero.

It seems to take Lois a bit longer to get this story out as she is pushed to get it out before deadline. 

She didn't get the chance to say goodbye back in person. I suppose this will have to do. That headline is a bit personal. It could have been 'Superman taken' or 'Superman surrenders'. But Goodbye Superman sounds like her talking to him.

I am an old curmudgeon. So when a comic moment moves me, I have to share.

Clark gives up the red and blue to don a more classic Kryptonian shroud.

And then he tells his mother about the Kents. We see the famous moment where the toddler Clark hoists the truck straight out of the movies. He talks about how they taught him everything he knows of goodness.

But that second panel, when he tells his birth mother 'that's how my parents raised me' just made me well a little bit. Such a simple but incredibly moving line. 

Kal is led around Kandor by his mother as she shows him how they are ageless and timeless in this city. They are basically a zoo.

She then takes him through the actual interplanetary zoo that remains on Kandor. We get a Thought Beast sighting!! I miss the triceratops looking thing with an anatomic screen. These ones seem to just manifest holograms. 

Of course Clark's thoughts are on Lois. Nice homage to the flying 'can you read my mind' moment in the movie. Huh, so the beast reads his mind and shows a scene from 'can you read my mind'? Like inception!

It is clear though. Clark loves Lois. 

In Superman The Movie, the teenage Clark is taught by AI Jor-El of everything in the 28 known universes. Here, a rather exhausted Jor-El says he has used all his knowledge to try and figure a way out of this Kandor city. But he has come up empty.

The emotional punch of this is how Venditti shows that Jor-El is just defeated. He knew it all or knows it all. But he has 'led' this trapped city for around 30 years our time with no answers on how to return to normal. He is done. That is a vastly different Jor-El from the very confident one we see in the movies.

He asks Kal to take over. Fascinating. 

The book ends with Lois receiving an anonymous message that someone knows where Superman is. 

It turns out to be Lex.

Now here is some arrogance from Lex. He knows where Superman is and he will help Lois get him back.

But the body language, the word devious, the self-reference as 'Lex baby' are all just too scrumptious. I love this Lex who wants to prove he is the smartest guy in the room but also is sort of a snake-oil salesman. It is clear the slap on the back put a transmitter on Superman.

And I guess he doesn't want Superman gone because he wants to be the one to defeat the hero. 

So yes, I loved this issue and everything about it. I loved it so much I read it a second time before I reached for an unread new comic.

Halfway done!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Luthor offering Lois Lane a Cuban Cigar as Superman is imprisoned in an Alien Zoo, has to be THE MOST Hackmanesque moment of the entire series so far, and the series is far from over. Lois Lane's stricken reaction remains the Most "Kidder-esque" as well.
Oh and slapping a transponder on Superman's cape...lifting a move from Mister Spock's repertoire circa "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country"....truly, is Kandor, RuraPente? :)
Normally resurrecting Jor El & Lara is a red flag with me, (I mean someone has to stay dead in the DCU it may as well be them along with The Waynes) but I'm gonna see how this turns out they may well actually add something worthwhile to the 1978 film's shimmering mythos.
I wish Margot Kidder & Chris Reeve were alive to see how much fun they are still giving us...


The Film Historian said...

I love Richard Donner's first Superman film. That movie is amazing.