Saturday, 5 July 2014

New Beginnings - Superman #32

by Stuart Mulrain

Okay, cards on the table time. I’m a Superman fan and have been for a very long time. The first superhero comic I bought was a UK edition Superman comic that featured the second part of John Byrne’s Man Of Steel miniseries. The first American comic that I bought - from an actual comic book store (the long-passed Hobbit Hole in Gloucester) – was Superman #82. I then spent most of my teenage years buying as many issues as I could get my hands on, from the Man Of Steel miniseries up to that issue and beyond.

At a point where most teenagers were getting into the darker comics, I was binging on Superman comics, as well as episodes of Lois & Clark on TV and obsessive listening of the Dirk Maggs BBC Radio Superman movies. At a certain point though, the Superman comics stopped being of interest to me, partly because the creative team began to change - and Mike Carlin moved on as Editor - and partly because I’d decided it was time to start looking at other types of comics and comic book heroes.

I did dip back into Superman occasionally - Jim Lee’s run on the character in the mid 2000’s in particular - but they just failed to grab me like the comics did in that first post-Infinite Crisis decade did. And then came The New 52...

There was very little about The New 52 that grabbed or excited me, but on a whim I bought the first trade paperback edition of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run and while I quite enjoyed it, I have yet to get round to picking up the rest of the run. And that was it for me and Superman until this very issue I’m here to review.

DC are clearly excited to be putting this book out, even going so far as to give it its own title credits sequence that boldly declares that “DC Comics Proudly Presents” before listing the names of all involved in creating the book. They clearly think they have found a winning team in Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.

It’s true that any new arc that has Geoff Johns’ name on it is something to get excited about. Following the huge success he garnered following his Green Lantern: Rebirth series in the mid 2000’s, Johns has been the go-to-guy for reinventing characters that have fallen out of vogue, making them new, exciting and relevant again. He’s essentially to DC what Martin Campbell is to James Bond.

But given Johns' pedigree for making an event title out of reintroducing/reinventing old or stale characters, it’s a shame that this first part of his Superman is something of a nothing issue, taking a very casual approach to the way it tries to set up future issues and doesn’t really concern itself with trying to hook you in for future issues.

So what about the art?

Well, I know that he has his fans out there, but I’m personally not keen on John Romita Jr’s art and there’s nothing about the cover of Superman #32 that made me feel any differently about his work and it didn’t fill me with confidence about what I could expect on the inside. It’s a pleasant surprise then that after the first few pages you are greeted with a nice splash page of Superman fighting Titano.

There just seems to be a lack of depth to some of the panels, while others look like Romita Jr. sketched them out on the bus on the way to handing them in. While his rough art style works fine in a book like Kick-Ass, it lacks the sheen and polish that Superman deserves that somebody like Dan Jurgen’s would bring to him.

It’s odd then that, despite my issues with this first instalment and its seeming lack of effort to hook me in, it has actually succeeded in making me curious enough to want to pick up the next issue and see if and how this arc is going to move forward.

Stuart Mulrain is at Proud Lion this Saturday for True Believers Day!

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