As far as free comic books go, DC set the bar rather high last year with "Blackest Night" #0, which was followed up with the eight-part "Blackest Night" series. This year, "War of the Supermen" #0 precedes a four-part series of the same title.
This story falls a little bit short, however, as the scope doesn't seem as large as that in "Blackest Night." This is very much a Superman versus General Zod story at this point, and it seems as though the other players in the story will be role players.
That said, Robinson and Gates put forth a solid effort to introduce new readers to the goings-on within the Superman corner of the DC Universe. After all, with retailers across the country offering up dozens of free comics, it is probably safe to say that a few people will be drawn in by seeing the Superman "S" on the cover of a free book.
Once they are drawn in, however, they will discover a gritty Superman drawn by Eddy Barrows. This is not going to be a clean fight between Zod and Superman, as clearly evidenced in this issue, and Barrows' art is anything but clean. Barrows has a way of employing heavy shadow for effect, but the overall appearance of Barrows pages is much darker than pedestrian fans may expect from Superman comics.
This book is split into two parts. The first is the thirteen-page precursor to the first issue of "War of the Supermen" set to debut on Wednesday, May 5. The remainder of this issue is a peek into the journal of Lois Lane as she recounts the events that have occurred recently in the life of the Man of Tomorrow. This second half is drawn by a myriad of comic professionals, from Aaron Lopresti to Ethan Van Sciver and David Finch. It serves as a nice, tight summary of the events of the Superman comics for the past two years or so.
This issue is a good hook for new comics readers, or new Superman readers, but I am concerned that it may not play up to expectations regarding the Man of Steel. It is a solid enough story in its own right, but it is also a potential divergence from the preconceived notion of Superman. The story itself has brought me back to the Superman titles, as I grew weary of the extensive crossover flowthrough of late. I am anxious to read what happens next, but wary of what awaits Superman and his supporting cast as DC has set this issue up with some pretty heavy foreshadowing and seemingly insurmountable odds against Superman.