Monday, May 22, 2023

Review: Superman #4

Superman #4 came out last week, another crackling issue in the latest run by Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell. I have been pretty impressed with the book so far with its revitalization/reimagination of some classic Superman villains mixed with the ongoing Lex and Superman team-up plot.

Williamson is doing a great job juggling all of these plotlines. The Lex/Superman alliance (?) is the backbone on which everything is being built. I will tell you still struggle a little bit with this one. I still don't know if I quite grasp what Lex is looking for Superman to do. Even if I take Luthor at his word, he wants Superman to elevate humanity somehow? Hmmm.

Bolted to the Luthor story is the Dr. Pharm and Dr. Graft vengeance tour against Lex. So that also is simmering away monthly. Why do they hate Luthor? How far are they willing to go since, in essence, Lex has lost his freedom during this incarceration. To achieve their goals, they are releasing Superman's rogues to wreak havoc. So that feels almost like a 'done in two' old school fight against supervillains. 

So this layered story telling is working well since every issue feels like its own story but as part of a bigger arc.

If only I understood the Lex part better. Perhaps it'll become clearer.

Jamal Campbell's art is really luscious and alive. I have really enjoyed the work on the book so far. Superman looks beefy and tough. The supporting characters are expressive and fun. The villains are monstrous. I know Campbell doesn't usually stick around long on monthlies but I wouldn't mind a 6 issue on/6 issue off staggering to keep him on the book for a bit more.

As for this issue, Lex and Superman discuss Pharm and Graft. The villains send out Silver Banshee. And we get a little backstory to what has been happening in Metropolis. So the pattern continues in a good way.

On to the details.

We had learned in the first issue that Jimmy had moved in with someone. Given solicits, most people guessed accurately it would be Silver Banshee. 

Turned out, this time we were right. We learn she has completely reformed.

But she seems downright loving making breakfast pastries adorned with heart shaped icing! I love how she calls Jimmy 'Turtle-baby' because he is so sleepy and slow-moving in the morning. Of course, it harkens back to his classic 'Turtle Boy' persona. So fun!

In waltzes Dr. Graft (or is it Pharm??) wearing a Freddy Krueger style glove with different Kryptonite claws. The Banshee readies an attack. (Campbell's Banshee is gorgeous!)

Using the different energies she forces Siobhan to revert to human form and dominate her will. 

Graft wonders what effect K has on metahumans, especially when the radiations are mixed and amplified.

Outside of Lex's cancer 2 (or is it 3) continuities ago, I don't think Kryptonite has ever effected humans. I do like the claw gauntlet more than Luthor's Kryptonite Infinity Gauntlet from years ago.

Do you like Kryptonite working on all metahumans?? Or is it like magic ... an easy explanation for stuff? How did Graft know that Kryptonite would be able to transform Banshee and control her?

It also made me remember Supergirl #35 where Sterling Gates explained away all the terrible nonsense that Kara had been doing in the first 3 years of that book as 'Kryptonite poisoning', an array of symptoms and conditions because Kara was exposed to low level radiation from multiple types of Kryptonite during her voyage to Earth.

The Superman/Lex story takes over the bulk of the book.

In the prison yard, Lex shows Bullseye like accuracy, flicking an acorn into the airway of an inmate trash talking Superman. 

I don't think I needed that. It seems to me that Lex would have another inmate pummel the guy. But that's a personal choice.

Again Lex talks about how he needs to help Superman achieve the greatest good. We get a quick rundown of 'adventures' that Lex has helped Superman on in the recent weeks.

'The Sword of Imperiex'? Now I hope that is a seed for a future arc. I'd love to see an Imperiex story in the new DCU. 

But I suppose all those panels could either be throwaway ideas of hints at upcoming stories.

Beautiful art on these snippets.

Superman presses Lex for information on Pharm and Graft. We get a flashback story with art by Nick Dragotta.  I don't mind the art switch since it is within the flashback.

Years ago, Lex arrived at Metropolis. I always like when we see shots of Metropolis before Superman it the city looks a little more dismal. Here we see Lex wander down dirty streets filled with homeless people. Not exactly the bright city of tomorrow we have now.

Now in a new wrinkle, Williamson has Lex try to become an action scientist super-hero, using his tech to try and uncover why so many homeless are disappearing. 

Snazzy suit!

But Lex as hero? I think we are trying a little to hard to rehabilitate him. Or make him have a sympathetic history. I like evil Lex to be evil.

That said, he stumbles onto a lab where Pharm and Graft are experimenting on vagrants they have lured with shelter and food. 

The two are able to escape. 

But it is this offense that has led to the villains' wish for revenge.

It just seems odd that it has taken them this many years to mobilize a plan. That well-coiffed Luthor has to be years and years ago. So I hope some sort of timeline comes into play.

Lex sends Superman to that lab he discovered all those years ago only to find the Banshee, somehow augmented by a Phantom Zone projector, waiting for him. 

Cool power and love the art of these ghosts being part of Banshee's scream now. Way more horrific!

I have always been a big fan of the Silver Banshee in all her forms so good to see her again. 

The fight spills into the streets, coincidentally where Jimmy and Lois are walking. 

I like the cliffhanger. Jimmy knows Siobhan was the Banshee and he loves her. Nice they have an honest relationship with no secrets!

Whew! Even though the issue felt like a quick read, there is a lot to digest there. Lex's dreams and the timing of the Pharm/Graft revenge are things I still want to learn more about. But overall, this was a meaty, fun, and beautiful issue.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Dick McGee said...

Okay, the heart frames in that last panel are an adorable touch.