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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Superman #1

As mentioned by my last comic-related blog post, DC has released a whole new set of comics, basically starting most of their line over again. I don't usually stray too far into the DC universe, wading only as far as Superman and Batman, usually. Not to say that other characters aren't amazing, but those two have been my superhero parents, good cop, bad cop, since the beginning.

A couple of weeks, I blogged about Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #1, the first about Superman, the second featuring Batman. A few days ago, I picked up some more newly released, and here is what I think:

Superman #1 was not good. Now, you have to understand the enormity of that statement. First off, I try not to judge anything too completely, leaving room for doubt, acknowledgment of bias and so on. Secondly, I love Superman. I have every Superman comic, digitally, from 1986-2006, several graphic novels and single issues. I have a Superman blanket, some posters, a mug, toys, trinkets, PEZ dispenser, all the movies, and a mixed CD featuring only songs entitled/about Superman. So for me to say that it was not good, is not only entirely uncharacteristic of me, it is quite unexpected.

But Superman #1 was not good, in any way.

Spoiler alert, by the way. The story begins with a voice-over, featuring a Metropolis skyline with the Daily Planet globe shining in the foreground, a tribute to the very first of comics featuring Superman where the Truth, Justice, and American Way motto applied not only to Superman, but to the Daily Planet and thus to America itself. The voice-over turns out to be a speech, delivered upon the demolition of the Daily Planet and the commencement of the new corporate Galaxy News Network.

The story continues with Lois Lane and Perry White arguing about which is better, the good old days, or the way of the future. Clark Kent comes into the story and argues with Lois, saying that by selling out, they've sold their integrity. She asks him to stay, he storms off.

Then, a fire breaks out, a mysterious, supposedly alien fire, and it's a job for Superman! The bulk of the comic then features Superman saving the city while a fancy type-face describes his actions in every journalistic detail. The fire, and Superman's attempts, wrecks the computers of the new Galaxy News Network, but Perry White saves the day by printing the story (on paper no less!), on some old Daily Planet printers.

Next, we see Clark apologizing to Lois, but his apology turns awry when he notices that Lois is not alone, as the president of the Galaxy News Network joins her, shirtless, at her door. The story ends with Clark, shoulders slumped, descending in an elevator, overhearing Lois' conversation with his super-hearing, as she describes Clark as a "loner", someone who "never lets anyone get close to him".

*Sigh* Okay, sorry about that, but now let's rip this awful attempt apart. I get what they are trying to do; there are several things going on. First, the paper vs. digital issue. We are surrounded by the digital nature of things. You are reading this, not from a newspaper but online. Comics sales have been up and down, and many blame the ease with which reading material can be obtained via the internet. I will admit, I have read many comics from a digital source, but I personally treat all reading as such: I will read a borrowed, or digital copy of something, if I really like it, I will buy it. Sure, maybe I shouldn't be entertained for free, but I prefer this to supporting writers and artists preemptively, only to be disappointed. Anyway, yes, paper good, this comic heavily says.

Next, there is the issue of the "new beginning". Not only is DC revamping their line of comics, but they are going about it quite openly by destroying the Planet and opening the new Network. It's an obvious display, trying to start the series on a fresh foot. Unfortunately, this trope, of starting things off with a speech and the unveiling of a new building/structure is so overused that it's not fresh. Not only have I seen it several times in other forms of media, but as you will see from my next blog, it's overused even in DC start-ups.

Then, Superman flies around the city while his every action is being described to us. First off, that's why there's art, in comics, so we can see what's going on. Instead of providing us with a new perspective or even commenting on Superman's powers, this narration bored me. It boiled his abilities down to a boring analysis. It didn't speak to Superman's greatness, it just described his action, in painful detail. It didn't help me relate to the hero, instead it separated the reader, made the hero too alien. I found this whole section to be boring, uninspiring, and pointless, which is really sad to say.

Finally, the story's conclusion makes me upset. Again, I know what the writers are trying to do; they're trying to humanize the main character, show he has personal problems, and that not all's right in the world. But, it's depressing. Maybe next month's issue will feature Clark trying to fix his problems and make things better, but for now, you're left with what he has: a sad, meaningless conclusion. There has been a running theme with Clark Kent/Superman stories where he feels alone, abandoned/orphaned/last of his kind, plus having to hide his secret, Clark struggles with loneliness. But, to end it this way, it just comes across as pitiful, not a burden to overcome, but a slow spiral of depression. I know I take things too far, but so too, I felt, did this comic.

Here's the thing, I understand what they were trying to do, but the writers went about it in a bad way, in my opinion. Yes, you have to humanize Superman. If you don't, people cannot relate. That was the problem with the Superman of the 1970-90s, he became so powerful that no one liked him. Superman's reputation still hasn't recovered, really, since the early '90s, because people find that Superman's either too good and pure, or too powerful to cheer on. I get that, I understand. That's why you feature more of Clark Kent. But, his presence early in the story looks more like a childish rant than a comment on the digitization and selling out of the time. His presence at the end of the story was sad, and didn't leave me liking or even caring about the main character.

Also, where the heck did that alien made of fire come from? There was no explanation for that, and it bothered me. I know the Superman mythos, and the universe itself, is so huge and extensive that sometimes even I lose track of who comes from where, but when you just throw a random creature at Superman, one that wasn't even created by accident or for a purpose, and one who doesn't have any sentience at all, well that's about as lazy as you can get. Additionally, the art wasn't very good. It was okay, and I am no artist so maybe I shouldn't talk, but they made Superman look almost comical in his attempts to be heroic.

I feel like this comic should have come from an independent source; someone trying something different but not too concerned about their success. I feel that DC let me down here and I'm hoping Superman can overcome his current shortcomings.

1 comment:

  1. Makes me think they should do a story exploring what happens if Superman were to get TOO depressed and lonely. Or maybe they did, and I missed it. You would probably know. I do remember that featuring into Kingdom Come, and it was important to the plot, but it wasn't a book only about Superman.