"Adventures of Superman" #43 is exactly what the series should be: action, excitement, character moments, iconic images of Superman, Clark Kent and the rest of the Daily Planet staff. It may only be their first issue on the digital-first series, but Ron Marz and Evan "Doc" Shaner handle it like they've already hit their groove with the character and concept. The installment is the first in a three-parter with color by Matthew Wilson and lettering from series stalwart, Wes Abbott.
From the opening image of Superman heroically straining to halt a locomotive to Lois Lane's playful teasing of Clark's "fluff" story, Shaner and Marz display a fondness for the character and a seamless collaboration that demands to be fully explored. For now, the opening chapter of "Only Child" is enough to whet appetites and continue the fine tradition that the digital-first "Adventures of Superman" comic has established.
Shaner's art is filled with cameos, (like the appearance of Joe Kubert and Easter eggs, alongside a very graphic nod to a well-known certain sailor), brilliant story details (like Jimmy Olsen's coffee-soaked shirt and his reaction to it) and iconic scene stealers (like Lois Lane's raised eyebrow as she strolls past art deco accents and framed news stories to chat with Clark Kent). Shaner's characters are brilliant actors, as much telegraphing Marz's script as reacting through it. Shaner is equally adept at handling the action sequences. Superman's fight with the giant robot is iconic and timeless, filled with great storytelling that provides a clinic on how to visually tell such a battle. Through it all, Shaner instinctively knows when to add details to the environment around the characters and when to let them tell the story. Lucky for him, he receives ample support from his colorist and letterer. Wilson adds as much texture and atmosphere to the story as he does temperature and tone. Shaner's work is clean enough that it would hold up nicely without color, but the colors from Wilson complete the visuals nicely. Abbott's letters, particularly the inclusion of the classic Superman logo into the word balloons, works so smoothly with Shaner's frame-embedded sound effects to unify the entire visual presentation and enhance the timelessness of this tale.
Marz's story doesn't take a second seat to Shaner's art, and the two magnificently compliment one another, playing to and emphasizing their strengths. Marz puts general concern in the relationship between Lois and Clark from Clark's side and no small amount of well-intentioned teasing from Lois towards her colleague. Marz doesn't waste time detailing out every staffer of the Planet, but gets out of the way for Shaner, allowing the artist to draw in who he wants and where. Marz gives the reader everything the reader needs to know about the city, the reporters, the competition between Lois and Clark and the duty Superman feels towards his city and adopted home planet.
Editor Alex Antone has been working spectacular magic on this series since day one, crafting amazing creative teams. "Adventures of Superman" #43 is the sterling example of the series' potential as a whole. The issue definitely raises the bar, and practically begs all future creative teams to bring their absolute best to the table. I bought it and read it digitally, but I'll be getting it in paper as well, not just for me, but for younger readers in my life who genuinely don't know what they're missing out on, especially when it comes to Superman. Now, if Antone could only assemble a similar roster of creative talent and find a way to bring readers adventures from the Silver and Bronze Age Justice League of America…