Friday, December 2, 2022

Review: Superman Kal-El Returns Special #1

The Superman Kal-El Returns Special #1 came out this week and was an entertaining anthology of stories looking at Clark's return to Earth and his touching base with some of the important people in his life.

As I have said in my Action Comics reviews, writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson has been doing a solid job bring the supporting cast of Superman back into the book now that Superman has come back from Warworld. I happen to think that Superman has a solid cast that should be spotlighted in his books. 

In this issue, we have different creative teams looking at some of the most important people in Superman's life and how his arrival on planet has impacted them. 

In what I think is the best story, Mark Waid and Clayton Henry give us a World's Finest story set in the present day. Waid has a solid handle on these two and their camaraderie. They are easy and old friends who immediately team up to fight a villain. There is just a natural amicable feel to this story that just sparkles.

Sina Grace and Dean Haspiel look at Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. It is a fine story of Superman being inspired by humanity as much as he inspires. 

Legend Marv Wolfman teams up with artist Jack Herbert to give us another look at Jon taking on Lex, but this time with his father giving him some advice. This story also gives us a look at the Lois and Clark reunion and how the two took some time to get romantically reacquainted. This was a lot of fun.

And finally Alex Segura and Fico Ossio have Superman reuniting with the League and teaching Naomi how the life of a Leaguer is one of sacrifice. This one has one little continuity curve ball in it that has me scratching my head.

I would have loved a reunion story with Kara. Too bad that isn't here. Still, this is a solid book building on the Kal-El Returns arc by filling in some gaps.

On to the book.

'The Concert That Ate Gotham' is written by Mark Waid with art by Clayton Henry. The title is a nice nod to Grant Morrison's classic Doom Patrol story 'The Painting that ate Paris', appropriate given the villain of the piece is Mr. Nobody. Henry really embraces the weird here. Nice art throughout.

After returning home, Superman heads to Gotham to tell Batman. 

No grim nods. No begrudging respect. 

These two are fast friends and they hug. Batman has missed his friend.

Mr. Nobody is using the baton of Pierre Monteux to bring a riot from 18th century France into Gotham. 

When the World's Finest stop that, Nobody uses his surreal powers to trap the pair in a comic panel.

I love this page, the current pair surrounded by panels from their prior first meetings and other team-ups. 

Waid loves to lean into DC history.

Our rational heroes defeat Nobody when they become irrational.

The story ends with Bruce and Clark having breakfast at Bruce's new digs. Again, this is such an easy friendship. Here Batman ... of all people ... makes a joke about learning cooking to help him fight crime.

That's what buddies do. They crack wise with each other.

'A Friend, In Need' by Sina Grace and Dean Haspiel has Superman catching up with his pal Jimmy Olsen. 

Jimmy keeps trying to come up with the perfect picture to commemorate Superman's return. In that pursuit, Jimmy shows Superman pictures of all the people who have been acting as ordinary heroes in Superman's absence. A couple are even sporting the s-shield. 

It is great to see pictures of humans inspired by Superman. It is even better to see Superman inspired by them. 

Not a bad little story.

'Distractions' by Marv Wolfman and Jack Herbert looks at the Kent family.

We start with Lois and Clark reuniting in Venice. 

But rather than try the local cuisine, they'd prefer to have a quiet night together. 

It is always good to be reminded how much in love these two are.

Meanwhile in Metropolis, Jon thinks he has stumbled onto a Luthor-led weapons exchange.

But when he breaks into the building to catch Lex in the act, he sees that Lex has pulled a fast one. The site is a charity Lex has set up.

It gives Lex the perfect opportunity to denigrate Jon on live TV.

This time though, Superman is present. He talks about how Lex has tricked him in the past by setting him up. Deceiving him with feints. 

In the end, Lex pulls another fast one on Jon.

This time, knowing what Clark has told him, Jon confronts Lex and makes Luthor thinks he knows more than he does.

I like Jon using Clark's wisdom in his heroing. 

But I really love how excited Lois is when Jon says he tricked Lex. That 'YES' with the big smile and clenched fists is wonderful. It is especially powerful given Clark's more staid expression.

Jack Herbert is a great penciler with a nice fine line. I'm always glad when I see him on books.

The last story is 'Home' by Alex Segura and Fico Ossio.

Superman heads to the Hall of Justice to tell his friends he is back. J'onn, Wally, and Naomi all are thrilled to see their friend and hero back. It is great to see this group just eat lunch and reminisce and reconnect.

They are in the HoJ mess hall where there are some memorials in place, reminding Superman to tell Naomi that life in the League can be tough. A hero has to be ready to sacrifice themselves.

Look at the statues! A Supergirl from Crisis on Infinite Earths??? The current Kara is not that one. In fact we see Barry from COIE, Batman from Final Crisis, and Kon from Infinite Crisis. Is this a mark of the Omni-Verse where everything has happened?

Anyways, this is the only sniff of Supergirl in the whole book but at least it reminds us of her own heroic sacrifice. 

This was a great way to end the book as it is a lot of Superman wisdom to Naomi. I love Superman as the role model for young heroes!

So four solid stories bolstering the return of Superman by showing us some stuff on the periphery of his life. But they really had me at more Mark Waid World's Finest.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

I’m with you, this was a pretty good comic with one outstanding story. And I agree, the Hall of Justice was a bit confusing, for me it was in terms of the order of Superman’s comings and goings. Also, the theme of the book seemed to be ‘hurrah, he’s back’ whereas the final story was all, ‘oh, he’s gone again’.

I wonder if this is the last time we see Naomi.

Anonymous said...

Ever notice how the Bronze Age Supergirl is depicted one of three ways these days… either she is a statue, a corpse or well on her way to being a corpse. Just because the fridging is celebrated, doesn’t stop it from being a fridging.