16 Jun 2016

Cover To Cover: SUPERMAN #1

SUPERMAN #1
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Art: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray & John Kalisz
DC $2.99


Stewart R: Following the Superman: Rebirth prelude/one-shot from a few weeks ago, Tomasi and Gleason now drop the series debut proper in our laps, establishing this 'other', pre-Flashpoint Clark's current status quo in a world that has recently lost its Superman to 'fighting the good fight'. This writing duo take the threads of Tomasi's 'Final Days Of Superman' and Dan Jurgens' recent Superman: Lois And Clark series, and weave them together with the dark, yet colourful family drama that made their Batman And Robin run a hit a few years ago. So just how super is this book? Can old themes and new ideas be found to rejuvenate the character? Or are we perhaps looking at a kryptonite-weakened level of return?

The superb cover from Gleason, Gray and Kalisz delivers an instantly recognisable perspective of the hero we know, but hints at how in this Rebirth Clark's secret identity, and that of his family, is paramount in his mind as he seeks to protect the ones closest and most dear to him. The swirling, colourful chaos also hints at the looming danger to come and that's where the excitement will surely draw from over the coming arc. Once inside we are treated to yet another look back at the iconography of the Man of Steel as TnG (had to abbreviate this creative duo at some point!) look at the limits of the Man of Steel and the symbolism behind his ideal before dropping us into familiar farm life territory.

It could be argued that repeating the riff of Clark's upbringing isn't the most novel of conceits, but for a family trying to keep relatively hidden in a world such as this, the rural backstretches of the US make as good a sense as any hiding place and it's clear that - just as they did with Bruce and Damian's relationship - TnG are going to be establishing the finer differences between Kryptonian father and his half-human son. Unlike Clark's upbringing where he felt different to everyone around him, Jon has a similar chaos churning within his young frame AND the powerful figure of his Dad to live up to.

That turmoil and power is portrayed with a terrific sense of care by Gleason, Gray and Kalisz. This veteran team really are one of the best artistic triumvirates in the business, each member contributing to imagery that almost feels as if it's fluid upon the page. With TnG's occasional forays into the body-horror reality of the superhero condition they are the perfect fit to show the palpable contrasts that exist in this rich, vibrant comic book world. From the splash of the Superman logo - so bold, prominent, simple - to one of the most menace-filled panels involving DC's Trinity you may ever see, Superman #1 is simply a visual treat from start to finish.

Returning to the written side of the page, it's actually interesting to see how much of this debut's focus falls on young Jon's shoulders. Perhaps this is to be expected where much of the fresh storytelling in regards to Clark will come from his familial responsibility, interactions with his loved ones and the clashes it may bring with his duty to the planet and its populace. The formula is of course familiar to this creative team, but it's evident that things are being approached from a different perspective and the shift will move more to Clark and Superman when the danger intensifies.

As it stands, Superman #1 is one of the best opening chapters from the publisher that I've read in quite some time. Yes, there is the feeling that something of a worn path is being walked once more, but this is clearly necessary to establish firstly, that this is clearly and unabashedly a Superman title, and secondly, that it fits in with the Rebirth sentiment. Tomasi, Gleason, Gray and Kalisz clearly have their finger on what it takes to bring the Clark Kent that we know from the pre-Flashpoint years to this Rebirth universe, capture the striking visual aspects that evoke those glory days for the character yet weave their own, shadowy threads amongst the distinct story of farm living, alien sons and greater threats on the horizon. It's strange to say, but the based on Superman #1 the future is both bright AND dark... and gloriously so! 9/10

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