When Bernard Chang became the new regular artist for "Superman" last month, I was pleased. He's been an artist who started out strong back in the old Valiant Comics days, and has continued to hone his craft over the years. In the case of this month's "Superman," though, he seems to have shifted his style in just one month, and I whole-heartedly approve.
In "Superman" #696, Chang has gotten rid of some of the rounded edges from his style. Everything is slightly angular now, with sharp lines along people's noses and jagged pieces of hair jutting out. With this issue also dealing with the aftermath of an explosion in "Action Comics," Chang uses a lot of cross-hatching to make everything look slightly dirty and grubby. Even the rubble of the detonated building looks great, with charred metal and other construction scattered everywhere, looking as cluttered and chaotic as a scene like this should be. It's a great overall look, one that still fits the general style being used by "Superman" family of books but providing Chang's own special take.
The story itself is a little slow-going, but here Robinson makes that pace work. Maybe it's because the confrontations between Mon-El and General Lane keep our hero from rolling over and playing dead (like everyone else does around General Lane these days), or maybe it's because it's starting to feel like the current batch of storylines is moving towards a conclusion. Either way, the slow amount of progress feels acceptable here, like we're getting just enough that I want to read more next month.
There's even a slight surprise waiting for readers at the end of the issue; it's a thread that's been cropping up here and there throughout all of the "Superman" books, and with each re-appearance of that storyline it's becoming increasingly clear that we're heading towards something big. It's a nice way to tease out a new story, and it has never felt forced in its execution.
"Superman" has had its ups and downs over the past 20 issues with Robinson on board as writer, but I think this issue is one of its ups. Here's hoping that with a new regular artist on board and the current stories starting to wrap up, it's a new burst of energy for the title. Right now, it feels like that kick is just around the corner.