Putting the Super back into Superman

superman32This week sees a new era dawn for the New 52 Superman book. Not only has Geoff Johns returned to writing a character that he has given us some of his best work but this time he is also joined by superstar artist (and my personal favourite comic book artist) John Romita Jr.

Superman #32 hits the ground running and delivers to the reader a fun and action packed Superman comic. Which is great because since the New 52 started Superman has been a very mixed bag of a book. Constantly brought down by crossovers and ill thought out stories. So it is great to see the character back on form doing what he does best, saving the day.

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As first issues of a new creative team’s run goes this is fairly standard. It is all about introductions and scene setting. We get the current status quo for Superman to get lapsed and new readers up to speed and in case you missed it here is the current state of play:

  • Clark Kent no longer works for the Daily Planet he is now an independent new blogger (good for him!)
  • Superman is dating Wonder Woman (good for them!)
  • Lois Lane is with another man and her and Clark have never had a relationship (good for her!)
  • Jimmy Olsen’s parents are missing/presumed dead and he has inherited millions of dollars from them (sort of good for him!)
  • Batman doesn’t answer phone calls because he’s Batman (BATMAN!)

This is all conveyed to the reader in the typical Geoff Johns manner of character moments that happen around the action. Which is great! The temptation with Superman is to just keep throwing him at bigger and bigger enemies and never slowing down to actually let him be a person. (See Superman: Unchained for a good example of this) Here we get to see how everyone is doing and how Clark handles being alone while surrounded by people he cares about. Then when duty calls and the day needs saving he jumps straight into the action.

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The actual story for this issue and first arc revolves around a new character that mirrors Superman in interesting ways called Ulysses. (No not that Ulysses) He is a human who was sent to an alternate dimension as a baby by his parents so he did not die in a horrific explosion. The make up of said dimension gives him super powers and allows him to be a god amongst men. At the end of the issue he appears in Metropolis and helps Superman save the day. Then in a nice twist it turns out he does not realise he is on Earth because he thinks Earth has been destroyed.

Ulysses design is purposely devoid of the colour and flash that DC heroes tend to have. In fact it seems a lot more militaristic and combat focused. His long blonde hair and bright blue eyes give him a touch of the Aryan Übermensch that Superman as a character is often seen as being the American equivalent of. Still so far in this brief taste of him as a character, he seems (the key word here is seems) like a heroic figure like Superman just created under slightly different circumstances.

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This issue also sets up a few other things that will pay off over the next few months. We have aliens invading from another dimension, who seem to cause Superman’s powers to behave oddly. We also get the brief appearance of hooded figure with an interesting staff watching the action unfold on monitor screens. This mystery man also knows Superman’s secret identity and claims some sort of ownership on helping to shape Superman into the Man of Tomorrow. It is all shaping up to be a good mystery story in the atypical Superman mould of big action, big ideas and big characters.

The thing that really makes this new story arc and creative team special is Romita Jr’s magical art. Romita Jr has always been a favourite artist of mine. I grew up on his Spider-Man work and as such he holds a special place in my list of favourite comic book artists. His blocky and somewhat Kirby-esque art style has gone from strength to strength over the years and it seems with this book that he is stepping up his game yet again. Delivering a dynamic Superman full of detail and power. It makes the book pop and stand out from everything I have read this week.

If you are on the fence about picking up this issue do not dally any further and go buy it now! It is the starting point of what promises to be the next great Superman run from Geoff Johns and this time he happens to have one of the best artists in the business at his side to help shape the story. This is Superman as it is meant to be, exciting and at the top of my to read pile.

It is so good that the book is back at this level of quality again!

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