With Superman #32 being the start of a brand new run by the creative team of writer Geoff Johns and artist John Romita Jr., DC Comics gave me a sneak peek of the upcoming issue. But for y’all I first want to share some never-before-seen artwork from the upcoming issue:
While I’m not allowed to give any plot-specific details away, I am free to give my first impressions of the book. This is a pretty rare thing to happen, so what’s the hubbub about? In case you don’t know, let me give some background before I get to the goods.
First things first, John Romita Jr. has finally come to DC Comics — as IGN reported back in February. JRJR is a longtime Marvel Comics veteran like his father before him, so this is his first big DC project. And for that first project to be the granddaddy of all superheroes, well, that’s just something special.
Speaking of Superman, if there’s any big DC superhero that needs a shot in the arm, it’s him. And it’s clear to see that DC knows that. The critical and fan reception to most of Superman’s comics since the start of the New 52 (and sometime before that) has been, as a certain movie website would consider it, rotten. Batman and Wonder Woman, the other two of parts DC’s Trinity, are currently seeing classics-in-the-making, both winning IGN’s Best Comic Series of the Year award. Superman, on the other hand, wasn’t even considered.
A new Action Comics creative team and the launch of Superman Unchained were the first steps to right this wrong, and now it’s Johns and JRJR to the rescue of the main Superman title. So how was the first issue? In a word, good.
The issue focuses on a familiar story, one of someone with more than a few similarities to Superman crossing paths with him. Johns and JRJR certainly make their take on the concept a compelling one, but unfortunately the idea of “another Superman” has been done before. A lot. So many times that even before reaching the end of their issue, I felt like I was treading well-worn ground. Heck, Superman Unchained is currently using pretty much the same conceit.
This is, of course, only the first issue, so Johns and JRJR have plenty of time to make their stab at the concept a unique, compelling, and entertaining one that sets it apart from the rest. Time will tell.
As far as the cast of characters goes, a nice balance of Superman, Clark Kent, Perry White, and Jimmy Olsen is seen. Jimmy in particular seems like he will have a starring role in the series, and given Johns’ knack for making underutilized characters shine like never before, he will be the character to keep an eye on.
If Johns is known for anything else, it’s his love of teasing readers. He teases the villain here in a quick scene, but it’s done in that Johnsian way where, even though you only got a quick tidbit, you just can’t wait to find out more. We do see a minion of the villain up close and personal, though. He was on Superman’s power level and could even make him bleed. For those worried that Superman is “too powerful,” rest easy because he needs help to deal with just this one crony.
Johns also makes a clear effort to acknowledge certain aspects of the New 52 Superman status quo while at the same time “undoing” a few of them. He finds a way to get around Clark not working at the Daily Planet so he can still interact with characters like Perry and Jimmy. I got the feeling that Superman will be reverting back to his classic status quo in a lot of ways, which I’m sure will make more than a few fans happy.
By addressing different aspects of Superman’s life, Johns provides just enough setup and context that this could be your first issue of Superman in the New 52 (or otherwise) and you wouldn’t have an ounce of confusion. New-reader friendly — check!
But we’ve seen Johns write Superman before — I still get misty-eyed thinking of that blasted Brainiac story — so it’s a safe bet he’ll deliver on the narrative front. So how about JRJR tackling his first big DC hero?
Overall, it’s pretty solid. JRJR’s style is known for its characters with strong features, thick limbs, and burly chests — no wonder he’s so good at drawing superheroes, right? — so his Superman has an iconic weight to him from the first time you see him mid-punch in a glorious double-page spread.
That said, while his character work is everything you’d expect, a few beats of his action scenes aren’t as smooth as they could be. There were a couple panels where I had to stop and stare to figure out what was happening, and others that just had odd presentation that took me out of the moment. For example, the bottom left panel of this page:
But I will say that that he makes up for it with a few unexpected creative flourishes that show you, even though he’s been in this business a long time, he can still come up with new, exciting ways to tell a story. I hope he continues to make more departures from his typical work — if he’s going to DC, then it would be nice for the work to truly stand apart from everything that has come before.
His fellow artists — Klaus Janson on inks and Laura Martin on colors — do a top-notch job. JRJR uses lots of lines in his drawings, all of various length and width, so Janson certainly doesn’t have it easy, but he’s able to focus on bringing out the best in JRJR’s work. Martin has been doing A+ work on every comic she touches for years, and she turns in more stellar work here. There’s a restraint to her colors in this issue, where she uses large amounts of the same color to provide stark contrast. This helps in the latter half when we see the “other” Superman and makes him stand apart.
The verdict? This looks like a solid first step for the new beginning of Superman’s latest saga. It’s easy to get excited about the creators involved — these are two A-listers who have produced multiple must-read comics over the years — but it’s nice to know that the actual product holds up to expectations. While I do have reservations about the originality of the story as well as some quibbles with the art, it’s nothing to stop me from recommending this to anyone who wants to give Superman a try, or really anyone who wants to see Supes punch a giant robot monkey.
Superman #32 goes on sale June 25, 2014 for $3.99.