Look, I’m going to go on record right now and say, I am not a Superman fan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if there haven’t been any stories about The Last Son of Krypton that I’ve enjoyed. Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman was great; Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? was years ahead of its time; and Mark Millar’s Superman: Redson is one of my favorite “what if?” superhero tales. But for the most part, ol’ Supes just doesn’t do it for me.
It took me a long time to really pinpoint where my stern disinterest for the character came from, but after reading Superman #1 from DC’s REBIRTH line, it’s become clear as day: Superman is boring. There is never any real sense of danger for the guy. And yes, I know that can be said for just about every single superhero out there, but Superman is truly bulletproof, figuratively-speaking.
Let me explain. If something happens to Clark Kent, the mantle of Superman can’t be passed on to anyone else for very long. I mean, we’ve had damn near a half dozen Batmans over the last twenty years and some of them have spent a significant amount of time under the cowl (big ups to Robo-Jim Gordon!). But since Superman is the true identity of this hero (Clark Kent being the façade), only Kal-El himself can fill that void, so there’s never really any room for him to be absent (with the exception of that dark period after the Death of Superman run during the ‘90s comic boom, a catastrophe that I’m still recovering from). How often do we read Superman comics and wonder if he’s going to survive whatever disastrous situation he’s in? Never.
Luckily this new run on Superman appears to have done something truly interesting with the character: it’s made him ever more boring and in doing so, made him far more fascinating. This comic has ostensibly stripped Superman of all his heroism and relegated him to living undercover on a farm with Lois Lane and his half-Kryptonian son, Jon.
It’s a smart play, because in forcing Superman to put his nose to the grindstone, the creative team of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have made The Man of Steel more relatable than he’s ever been. Incognito Clark Kent doing some backyard wheeling and dealing is far more enjoyable than his fly and punch a villain in the face counterpart. And the fact that his family is stuck with him, gives the character some detrimental stakes to deal with, not just the old “oh, I hope someone doesn’t have any Kryptonite on them” worry that always plagues him.
There are lives on the line in this book. And those lives are the most important ones to Clark. There is a true sense of danger here, maybe not to Superman’s physical being, but certainly to his emotional core. And that’s interesting. Anyone can make a man bleed, but it takes a lot of work to make a man break.
Tomasi’s script is well-plotted in this first issue. There’s enough in it to make me want to continue the series (something I’ve never said about a Superman book before). He’s coy in not showing his hand right away, which I appreciate. Keeping the reader guessing from the get-go is a great tactic to draw in non-Superman fans.
While it may not necessarily be anything stellar or groundbreaking, Gleason’s art is tight and works nicely to illustrate this new chapter in Clark’s life. There are a few solid action sequences that look great particularly a barn burning scene early on that really evokes a sense of peril, but the character models are a little too generic for my taste but I guess there are only but so many ways to draw Superman, right?
Superman #1 is a good start to something that could potentially become great. I have no idea where the creative team is going with their initial setup, but this issue has piqued my interest, and that’s coming from someone who is not a Supes fanboy.
- Interesting beginning
- Solid script and art
- Real stakes for Superman
- Too early to tell if this will be worthwhile in the long run
- Our titular character could have used a little more shine