Monday, February 6, 2012

Comic Review: Superman #1-3 / George Perez, Jesus Merino, Nicola Scott & Trevor Scott

Superman #1: What Price Tomorrow?
Okay, comments about the new costume aside, I’m not sure this is a very promising cover to open the series with. Superman, glow-eyed hovers above a mass of flames, the crumbling Daily Planet sphere held up only by his intervention. Action-y? Yes, but it feels a little too apocalyptic for my taste.

So, a few things about this particular reboot. We’re in the modern day, as the “old” Daily Planet is making way for a more modern, digital media-savvy Daily Planet. Clark secretly pines for Lois, who is oblivious to both that reality and the fact that Clark is Superman. I suppose this yet another inevitable use of the reset button for the purpose of reintroducing some tried and true dramatic tensions that are a hallmark of this mythology, but I couldn’t help breathing another sigh of resignation. How long before Lois finds out and we have to have “that” conversation again?

I don’t really know what to think of Clark in this issue. He seems more sullen and brooding than I remember him, and I don’t think it really fits with what we know of Superman’s character. I know they’re giving him a more or less plausible reason for it, but I still can’t help thinking that Clark wouldn’t really behave in this particular manner, even if faced with the closing of the Daily Planet he knew in this way.

The villain of this issue, a fiery entity that may or may not be security guard from the Metropolis Astrodome, is mildly interesting in its speaking of an alien language that Superman can’t translate, except for the word “Krypton.” I also enjoyed its ability to force Superman to play defense during most of the fight, a pretty smart tactic when you can’t just make someone pound the guy into the ground toe-to-toe.

Art-wise, it’s pretty standard, high-quality fare you tend to see in these kinds of comics. Jesus Merino draws very attractive and expressive human characters, and gives them plenty to do. He also draws a LOT of fire and flames in this issue, which gets a little distracting, even if the entity itself looks pretty neat. I’m not crazy about the new costume redesign, but I imagine I’ll get used to it.

Overall, it’s not bad, but I wasn’t terribly impressed either. I’m not the biggest Superman enthusiast, but even I expected more here. It feels a little too whiny overall, with only a mildly interesting plot so far. I’ll stick around to see how this develops, but I hope things pick up. Recommended.

Superman #2: Flying Blind
I actually liked this cover quite a bit, and it’s not just the fact that Superman’s getting slammed into a building. It’s also the invisible monster doing the slamming, which you have to admit is pretty well done. There’s also not one intense color dominating most of the cover, and with it Superman’s new threads. A definite improvement over the last one.

We’re still seeing a moody, broody Clark on the civilian side of this issue, which I’m beginning to suspect the reason for, but without more context am still not crazy about. Superman, on the other hand, is up against a foe he can’t see, which is made more interesting by the fact that he’s apparently the only one who can’t see the creature. Lois Lane eventually realizes what’s happening, and uses her media skills and influence to keep Superman and the creature in the view of as many cameras and viewscreens as possible so he can fight it, making for a refreshing reversal of their traditional relationship.

I wasn’t so crazy about Lois’s father, not because of his personal dislike of Superman, but basically because he seems like a slightly more cuddly version of Thunderbolt Ross from the Hulk comics, military rank and all. I know there’s no such thing as complete originality, but this was so similar as to be blatant. Finally we’ve got a weird Hispanic homeless guy, who, by issue’s end, appears to be connected to the invisible monster Superman was fighting in the same way the Astrodome security guard was connected to the fire entity from last issue. Their meeting and association links the creatures, and presumably more that will follow, but not in a way we immediately understand.

Visually, I enjoyed the panels where Superman was completely blinded against his adversary. Merino did a good job of depicting Superman struggling against an invisible foe, giving him realistic grips on apparent air, showing impact points from different sides, and just putting poor Supes through the grinder for an issue. The parts where Superman starts using the cameras to his advantage to see the creature while he fights it also make for an interesting perspective.

Overall, things are getting better. The action was a lot more engaging this issue, and as the connection between these adversaries becomes more apparent, it should make the overall arc more engaging. The writing is clever for the fight scenes this time, as is the action depicting them. Highly recommended.

Superman #3: A Cold Day In Hell
I get that the idea with these covers is to feature the villain of the month for a while, which I think I’m cool with for now. This cover is actually pretty nice; the starkness of the white contrasted against Superman’s colorful costume actually emphasizes the threat of this issue’s villain in a big way. Also, the people frozen in the ice look like they’re “running” slightly, implying even more menace.

There’s slightly more explanation for Clark’s personality in this issue, namely that his Earth parents are dead by this point in time, leaving him with presumably less connection to humanity. I wish there’d been some elaboration on how recent the loss was, as its proximity in time should give us an idea whether or not Clark has dealt with it properly.

The connection to this issue’s living ice villain becomes a little more personal when it takes over the body of Clark’s co-worker, reporter Heather Kelley, and also when it freezes a good chunk of the city. Clark’s personal crisis about whether or not he killed Heather by trying to sever her connection to the entity is about what I’d expect in a reaction from Superman, but it gives way (for the reader at least) to a more immediate problem: the aliens, in conversing with each other in their human hosts, seem to be making a connection between Clark Kent and Superman.

Art-wise, you can see a change in the pencilers with this issue. Nicola Scott’s work isn’t any less quality than Merino’s--in fact in some ways it’s better--but I’ve never been a fan of switching out creative teams in the middle of a story. With that said, Scott does a fine job of carrying on the visual support of the narrative, from drawing lots of snow and ice to a somewhat amusing short montage of some of Supes’s past skirmishes.

Overall, I’m still along for the ride, but I hope we pick up more steam from here on out. I understand the need to build a big arc, but without a little more connection or action, it’s easy for your readers to start losing interest. I’m not saying we’re at that point yet, but things really need to kick into overdrive soon or I’m going to be left not caring what happens in this arc. Recommended, with some reservations.

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