There’s spoilers for Superman #1 in this!
So DC have relaunched Superman, this time with the post crisis/pre-flashpoint Superman in place of the now dead New 52 Superman.
The story starts with Clark Kent moping over the grave of his predecessor, the New 52 Superman. It was bad enough in the Superman Rebirth one shot but to start a new run dry humping the old one for a miserable bit of drama makes me wonder if we’ll ever see Superman being SUPERMAN again.
I’ll explain what I mean in a minute.
There’s the foundation for a brilliant comic here but it’s like having a bowl of Cornish ice cream sprinkled with sawdust instead of cashew nuts, there’s too many little things spoiling it. After the opening first pages are wasted navel gazing, we see that Clark is married to Lois with a son and the set up echoes the one he had with the Kent’s in Smallville. Clark has a superb relationship with his young son, Jon but Lois is shoved into the background as a housewife. Jon has a moment where he accidentally fries his cat with heat vision, poignant but ruined by the gratuitous panel of the charred feline corpse. The first full page reveal of the new costume is buried in shadows and melodrama. All this with clumsy dialogue and artwork that’s too loose for the grandeur of the occasion makes it all feel like an analogue of the Superman paradigm rather than a celebration of the first superhero.
I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to be accused of “just not getting it” but it’s not that hard, they want to make Superman, the godlike alien from a parallel universe, relatable. It’s not impossible but it’s hard to relate to a power fantasy that can live in the heart of the sun. The real allure of Superman isn’t the wish fulfillment or the action, that’s all the icing on the cake, the true core of what makes Superman special is how he makes you feel.
I think it’s been about a minute…
I don’t even need to say anything the goosebumps on your arm are enough. That is the real appeal of Superman, he makes you feel better by being the best person on the planet, powers or not.
You can tell a “grim n gritty” Superman story, you can explore a gods relationship with a mortal, you can do many things with Superman and characters like him. Kurt Busiek’s Samaritan who dreams of flying without a crises to avert, Marvel’s The Sentry is a godlike being with godlike mental health problems, you can do these stories with Superman but sooner or later he has to do something…super. Doesn’t matter what it is, how big, small or who it’s for, the important part of Superman’s heroics is the reaction from the people he saves. John Byrne among other writers, understood this, people were in awe and amazed when this being caught them from falling with a smile and a disarming charm, I’ve got you, he said, and while you believed a man could fly…he made YOU think you could fly.
I love what they’ve done with adding the family, and I thought this Superman would come along and show them how it’s done, instead we get yet more navel gazing, and moping. After years of that I’d just like to feel like I could fly again.