“I just don’t get DC’s logic here,” my local comic shop guy said as he was ringing me up today, “they’re targeting an audience that doesn’t care about Superman. This is for teenagers and girls. They’re not interested in Superman.” I shrugged my shoulders, told him I’d let him know what I thought, paid for my books and zipped home.
This book challenged me. It challenged me to stay dialed in, to ignore the world around me and to keep on reading. My editor, Augie De Blieck, said, “This is the book that they need to get out of the way to start getting to the good stuff,” in his Pipeline column this week. Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean that this book couldn’t have had a little more of the good stuff. Three separate times during the reading of this book, I was unable to accept the challenge the book was putting down. Three separate times I walked away and came back. One of those times was to get a cookie. Yeah. Bored hunger trumped this book for me. Still, the book is not completely without merit. It is a story about Superman, the most iconic hero in our world.
The problem is that Straczynski’s Superman doesn’t feel very super. The circumstances and rationale for why he chooses to do what he does seem less about the core of the character and more about the environment around him forcing his hand. Over the past decade, there have been numerous retellings, reimaginings, and revitalizations of the Man of Steel. This is another one. Aside from the trendier look to the character and direct-to-hardcover original graphic novel format of this release, I’m hard-pressed to find what will make this interpretation memorable for me.
It might be Tyrell, who is the raison d’être for Clark Kent to don the colorful garb lovingly stitched by his mother. The new foe – created specifically for this tale – may well be one of the most underwhelming characters I have ever seen in comics. His appearance is a cross between Lobo and David Bowie, but without any of the positive qualities from either of them. I realize that most perceive Superman’s primary weakness to be a collection of foes who do not measure up to the hero, but Tyrell fails to break that mold. A week from now, I’m not certain I’ll recall Tyrell as much more than a lame villain. Heck, it’s been a matter of minutes and I can’t retain the homeworld he lost.
The most interesting aspect of this book for me was Clark’s search for a purpose in the beginning of the book. A small town boy, Clark makes his way to Metropolis to try and figure out what exactly it is that he wants to be when he grows up. When you can be absolutely anything in the world that you want to be, what is it exactly, that you want to be? There are some interesting choices presented here as well as some great insight into why Clark is super even when the cape isn’t on his back.
Shane Davis’ art is emphatically photo-influenced if not hideously photo-traced, right down to the sudden shift of a bespectacled Clark Kent looking more like a mirror image of Tom Brady than Christopher Reeve. Up to that point in the book, Clark resembled someone else, who wasn’t distinctly not Brady. Does this mean Lex Luthor (once revealed) will be based on Peyton Manning? Taking it a notch farther, there’s more than a passing resemblance between he who would be Jor-El and Abraham Lincoln.
While updating the story, Davis also tweaks the costume, making some visual changes that appear to be changes made for change sake. The lines of the Superman costume are illogical. There are seams that just don’t work right. They give the costume more of a onesie appearance than a uniform or suit of armor. Davis’ Metropolis doesn’t shine with splendor nor is it rising tall above the horizon. Instead, it projects itself very much like Cleveland, which is a nice tribute to the creators of the Man of Steel, but not a big selling point as to why the city itself is important. Metropolis should be big and bold, like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is DC’s way of trying to freshen up their flagship character for another run at the silver screen (especially when the first intersection we see in Metropolis is Donner Place and Swan Street), but I don’t think this really succeeds at anything more than being a pitch book. The classic characters are spruced up and made trendy, but they don’t feel like characters I can really care about. After the recently completed “Superman: Secret Origin” this story pales in comparison. This is the start of the “Earth One” line, but it’s a pretty slow start. I certainly hope the next installment rises up to meet the hype a little more strongly.