Superman is the original superhero, and there’s a lot of debate about the character. There’s no denying that he works best as the pinnacle of humanity, a pure icon of hope and goodness that we can aspire to. As cheesy as that sounds, the past year of Superman stories have proven one thing- that it works.
Superman is MY hero. Every geek has the hero they most identify with. For Superman, it’s his simple desire to HELP. He is genuinely a good person and that’s what makes him work best.
So with that said, welcome to the Fortress of Solitude, a companion piece to the Bat Cave, which is coming again very soon. I’ll take a look at the core Superman books, recap and review them for your benefit. So let’s roll!
Action Comics #979-980: We are just getting closer and closer to that first ever four-digit milestone, aren’t we? In this great arc, with the timeline at least partially restored after Superman Reborn, several of Superman’s greatest enemies unite as the Superman Revenge Squad. The arc has actually been a little Superman-lite while focusing pretty heavily on Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman. I actually ADORE Henshaw, and think he’s one of the best Superman foes, and pairing him with some of these other personalities, like Mongul and Eradicator, has been a highlight of the arc. Dan Jurgens created the villain, and is writing him better than anyone else has in recent years.
Patch Zircher’s Action work is still stellar. Although he’s been paired with a colorists who didn’t compliment his line in the past, here his art is popping off the page with Hi-Fi’s great color.
I do have two small complaints- Metallo has really done nothing but fill space on the page. The New52 version of Metallo is one of the better version of the character, so I hope that’s shifting soon. Also, the Revenge Squad is STACKED with villains with close Kryptonian ties- Cyborg, Eradicator and now with #980, ZOD. I would have loved to see a little more variety to the group, so as Parasite and Silver Banshee.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Superman #22-23: To date Superman by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason has been the stronger of the two core Superman titles. The adventures of Superman and son have sparkled and really elevated the Man of Steel back into what he should be. Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling this arc as much as past stories, and I think I know why.
In these issues, the mystery of Hamilton County deepens, as Superman, Superboy and Robin all try to seek out what’s going on and stop it. Then the entire situation explodes as Hamilton County is overrun by monsters and its citizens are transformed into super-powered beings. And then the mysterious mastermind is revealed- the powerful psi Manchester Black.
I have two problems with this arc. The swerve towards the dark heart of Hamilton County came pretty fast. It had been hinted at a bit, particularly in the Frankenstein arc, but for everything to turn so hard and so fast against the Kent family was a shock. Really, outside of Jon’s best friend Kathy, no one in Hamilton had really been developed enough to care about their heel turn either. And something about the mastermind of this story feels off. The weirdness of it all doesn’t feel like Manchester Black. It’s more like a Lord Satannus plot to me.
That said, this is still GOOD, it’s just not as great as the previous arcs of the title. The thing that elevates it the most is Doug Mahnke’s art. It’s just perfect work. I’ve loved Doug’s take on Superman since his Man of Steel run in the late 90’s and it’s still a fantastic take on Superman, Lois and the entire Super-family.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Superwoman #10: I really enjoyed the first arc of Superwoman, despite some decompressed storytelling that drug it out a bit longer than it should have gone. Really though, Lana Lang’s shift from supporting cast member to hero was one of last year’s best stories. This issue really begins the second run on the series, with new creative team K. Perkins and Stephen Segovia (although #9 was by the same creative team, it was more of an epilogue to Superman Reborn).
At the end of her previous story Lana was left powerless. In this issue, she learns that the Insect Queen armor, which she wore as Superwoman, retains those powers or somehow gives her access to the powers. She then takes action to bring in some of the super-criminals freed by Ultrawoman in the series first arc.
So far, this story isn’t as strong as the first arc by Phil Jimenez, however, Perkins has a lot of ground to cover. She has to get Lana back into action somehow, and she does a solid job of reaching that endpoint in this issue. I think next month’s #11 will be a stronger indication of the series new direction and potential moving forward. Segovia is a great partner, here, providing extremely good depiction of what Lana is going through, and her return to superhero life. I’m going to give the series a few more issues, so I certainly hope for improvement.
Rating: 6 out of 10
New Super-Man #11: Gene Luen Yang is joined by Billy Tan at the beginning of the newest arc of the most unique title in the Superman line. I’ve found New Super-Man interesting every time I’ve picked it up, but it hasn’t quite taken the leap into a subscription. This issue continues that trend. It’s interesting but it’s not grabbing me like the other titles in the line have.
Kenan Kong has slowly been gaining more and more power, and in this issue, he gains a key one- super-speed. This results in a race against Audrey Ho, the newly minted Flash of China. Meanwhile, a group of villains resurrect an ancient Chinese sorcerer by injecting him with a virus derived from a Superman villain- Doomsday. This results in a fight with the sorcerer, who has become a Doomsday Turtle. Meanwhile, AManda Waller takes an interest in Kenan, and Dr Omen’s experiments come to light.
New Super-Man has one big fault, and that continues here- Kenon Kong just isn’t a very likeable character. Several times through the story he’s just a jerk to Audrey or Wonder Woman. The plot is interesting and the continuing development of a Chinese Justice League is a lot of fun. I really hope that if New Super-Man ends in the near future, it’s only to transition from a title focusing on Kenan to the entire JLC.
Tan’s work has grown a lot. He’s a great companion to Yang’s story. The action is a lot of fun, and he gives a great illusion of superspeed throughout the issue. His design for the Doomsday Turtle spirit is FANTASTIC too.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Super Sons #4: Jon Kent and Damian Wayne are comic book peanut butter and chocolate. Since they first teamed up earlier this year in the pages of Superman, I knew this series was going to be something special. And I’m right.
Kid Amazo has captured Jon and Damian, and the two have to fight their way free while trying to keep their bickering from getting in the way. With the help of Lex Luthor and Sara, the Amazo-powered sister of the villain, they are able to defeat Kid Amazo and save the day.
Peter Tomasi has done more for both of these characters’ development than anyone else, so he has their voices down perfectly. It’s only natural that they won’t get along as well. It’s just perfectly written. Jorge Jimenez’s kinetic art style is a great companion to the script. Jimenez is drawing kids who look like kids (not short adults), and the action is stylized just enough to make it feel incredibly animated.
Rating: 8 out of 10