I've enjoyed Aaron Kuder's art on "Superman" lately, so knowing that he was writing and drawing "Superman" #23.4 made it a must-read. While the character of the Parasite has never seemed all that engrossing, the attraction of Kuder's art and the curiosity of how he is as a writer was enough to draw me in. "Superman #23.4: Parasite" is not a bad comic, but it seems like Kuder bit off a little more than he could chew.
First, the part that works perfectly: the art. Kuder's art is breathtaking, drawn in the tight-lined, heavy detailed style that artists like Geof Darrow and Jose Juan Ryp are known for. I love the two pages of Joshua zooming around Metropolis on his bicycle; there's an energy to those pages, as Joshua whips around a corner yelling at fleeing pedestrians, you can actually feel the speed that he's moving at. The tight focus on his confused face shifting to the next panel with the car bumper, hubcap, and more flying through the air at him is great storytelling too. We get the reaction, then the object causing the reaction and it builds and connects perfectly. Even something as simple as Joshua sprawled on the ground with his bike looks great; it's not stiff or posed, but instead feels very natural as he rears back as best he can while still lying on the ground. And then, when he's finally transformed into the Parasite, he looks wonderfully alien and horrifying. Not only does he look like an actual parasite, but there's something instantly off-putting about his appearance. For this alone, "Superman" #23.4 succeeds.
There's a lot of great visual storytelling here in the way that Kuder lays out his pages. The long vertical panels of the Parasite's plunge down the side of the building, separated with little flashes of what he's been up to works quite well. It gives the reader a different way to read the page, and it's fun. I also like when words become part of the art, like the, "FIRED" and "DUMPED" panels as Joshua's life falls apart. It helps us get inside the head of Joshua, and explains a bit more about what's going on and how he sees the world.
As for the story itself -- it's not quite there, but it's close. By the time Joshua is transformed into the Parasite, readers see him for the awful, slightly icky person that he was as a normal human. The story moves at a good pace, and when the Parasite finally encounters Superman it feels like we're hitting all the right spots. And then, with no warning... it's over. I understand that it's supposed to lead into "Forever Evil," but "Superman" #23.4 still feels like it stops so abruptly that it ultimately undoes a lot of the good will. We end up with three-quarters of a full story, but not one that quite comes together. It's possible to tell an origin story that leads into something else that still feels complete, and I feel that's the one thing that Kuder needs to work on next time.
Still, overall, "Superman" #23.4 is good. The art is amazing, and there's enough that does work in the story that you finish with a nice feeling about the comic. I'm looking forward to lots more Kuder art down the line, and if he writes another comic for DC, I'll certainly check it out.