Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: SUPERMAN!
The Concept and Characters: Superman. He’s kind of a big deal.
The thing about Superman, though, is that not only is he the first super-powered, costumed character in comic book history, the one that kicked off this whole genre, but he’s also a character who remains somewhat of a cipher. Or, if not a cipher, then a character who acts as a mirror, reflecting the hopes and dreams of whatever generation is currently shepherding him through his adventures. To some, he’s a working class hero, a farm boy making his way in a world of secret cabals and duplicitous corporate fat cats. To others, he’s a sci-fi adventurer, a man from the stars, both a stranger in a strange land and a Flash Gordon with super strength and ray guns built into his eyes. Some might see him as a boring icon of grandpa’s status quo. Others see him as a Christ-like savior. Yet others imbue him with their own sense of right and wrong, and watch as he tries to do the impossible.
He’s both an outdated relic of the past and a vision of the future.
Superman’s a tricky character to get a handle on, and that’s part of the power of his myth.
So this new Superman series will be less about what Superman is than it will be about what writer George Perez thinks Superman is. That’s a statement so obvious it’s almost not worth saying, but it’s important to point out that this fall gives us two Superman comics with what will likely be two very different interpretations of the character. Perez writes this one (and provides page layouts for Jesus Merino to finish), while Grant Morrison writes the other one. Morrison, in Action Comics, will tackle the younger Clark Kent, in his early days as Superman. Perez, in this series, will write about the Superman of today. It’s a rebooted Superman, no longer married to Lois Lane, and his costume has been described as some kind of Kryptonian battle armor.
Perez isn’t doing any interviews about his plans for this Superman series, but his interpretation of the character seems to be this: he’s a good guy who works as a reporter for the Daily Planet in his civilian identity, and he fights monsters and villains all the time.
There doesn’t seem to be any high-concept reimagining of the character here. This one seems to be generic Superman. It doesn’t seem to be all that different from what Perez did when he briefly wrote and drew (or provided plots or layouts or all of the above) Action Comics and Adventures of Superman in the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Generic, traditional Superman stories may not seem particularly interesting, but Superman has had surprisingly few regular-old Superman stories in recent years. He’s been working as a super-cop in civvies on the planet of New Krypton. He’s been part of a War with his own race of Kryptonians. He’s walked across America and acted like a schlub. This George Perez-helmed return to classic Superman action will actually be a refreshing change of pace for the franchise. Exciting even, especially when you’re dealing with the world’s first and best superhero.
The Creative Team: George Perez writes and provides the layouts. Originally it was announced that he would be pencilling the book, but with DC’s emphasis on getting comics shipped on time, monthly, Perez providing just the page layouts is about as good as we’re likely to get. He has proven that he can maintain a monthly schedule in the past, but he’s proven far more often that his pencilling work tends to lead to prolonged delays.
As a writer, Perez has never been a top-notch talent, but he’s been close. His strongest work is his Wonder Woman reboot of the 1980s, where he presented one of the few vital interpretations of the character since the character debuted, over 40 years earlier. Perez’s writing shows his ability to balance action and melodrama, and his craft at pacing short-term conflicts with longer-term mysteries. That’s the approach he seems to be taking with Superman, based on the solicitations for the first few issues, and that should make each issue a satisfying read on its own, and yet still have something long-form for the dedicated readers.
He’s not subtle, though. In his art or his writing. And that can sometimes make his stories a bit off-putting. Overwhelming perhaps. Or, as I see it, charming in their own way.
Jesus Merino is a great fit as inker/finisher on Superman. His long-time collaboration with Carlos Pacheco (and their subsequent independent work) has shown him to be a meticulous craftsman who can bring out the best in the artists he works with. He doesn’t quite have the noodly-detail oriented approach of Perez when Perez inks himself, but Merino always does a nice job rendering humans and superhumans, and shows that he’s at home in both worlds.
Recommendation: Buy it. Yes, this comic will be a throwback to an earlier age of superhero comics, and it won’t look as cool or edgy as Suicide Squad or Deathstroke, but it will hit all of the classic superhero buttons: secret identity, mystery, romance, action, nasty bad guys, cliff hangers, and costumes. If you’re only getting one Superman comic, Action Comics is clearly the superior choice, but this George Perez Superman series is a worthy runner-up. It’s Superman without any ridiculous high-concept tacked on. And sometimes that’s enough.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.