Sep 30, 2011

The Comics Cube! Reviews the DCnU: SUPERMAN #1

This week's sampling of the DCnU's "new 52" is SUPERMAN #1 by George Perez and Jesus Merino.

Longtime Cubers know that I am and have always been a fan of George Perez. From the time I was four, he was my favorite artist.  So when he was rumored as working on Superman for the DCnU relaunch, I was very excited. However, my excitement floundered when it was announced that he would be doing only the cover and the layouts, for Jesus Merino to finish. It floundered more when I saw the preview pages, featuring a mopey, miserable Clark Kent walking away as he overhears Lois Lane about to have sex. It floundered even more when I saw George drawing Superman in armor. Why in the world is Superman in armor? I still don't get it. It's like putting the Flash on a bike.

Oh. Uh... scratch that.

ANYWAY, to the point, I got the comic anyway, because if there are any two creators I will always give the benefit of the doubt, it's Alan Moore and George Perez. So yes, be warned. There will be MINOR SPOILERS in this review.

So, the comic tells two stories at once. Morgan Edge has just bought the Daily Planet and is converting it into the publishing wing of his media company, promoting Lois Lane to vice-president in charge of the news. The one Planet staffer not there is Clark Kent, who is vehemently opposed to the move and is also out patrolling the city as Superman. He then gets into a fight with a big fire-monster.

First, I want to talk about the art. Look, here's the thing. The art isn't bad. It doesn't suck. It's not horrible. It's just ... look. If you saw that cover above, and you saw two names, "George Perez" and "Jesus Merino." You see the George Perez cover, and if you're not the type to follow the comics news slavishly, who would you think drew it? And it's depressing, because you can see the Perez in the layouts. You can see it in the way he puts panels together, in the way they are interspersed, in the way that the story is told. It is so obvious, so blatant, that as a George Perez fan, I could not help but HATE (in capital letters) the finished artwork, as I could not help but see what could have been. To worsen matters, George is inking Dan Jurgens over on GREEN ARROW, so I don't quite understand why they didn't just put him full-time on this book.

One thing about it though is that there is no way I can possibly call this book decompressed! There are three stories going on simultaneously: the sale of the Daily Planet, Superman fighting the fire-monster, and Lois covering the news. I think this issue took me 20 minutes to read, which is nice and goes a long way to making me feel like my money was worth it.

The dynamic between Lois and Clark is intriguing as well, and is new, because I think this is the first time the two of them are clashing head-on. This is not the bumbling Clark Kent, nor is it the Clark Kent like in the Byrne version who, while competent, still goes out of his way to be nice and diplomatic. Not here. In this version, Clark speaks his mind and isn't afraid to be heard. Unfortunately, this characterization is carried over to Superman, and it seems that in Perez's attempt to make Superman "new" and "badass," Superman is now a brooding, scowling figure who flies over Metropolis, literally looking down on its citizens. It's, again, a valid interpretation of Superman, but it's not mine.

The weakest part of the entire issue is the dialogue. Not only does Superman spout off really hokey lines (to the point of lameness, not awesomeness) like "Enough is enough! Time you got snuffed!" and unbelievably redundant lines like "a Tower of Babel of indecipherability," but Perez does something that I never thought he would do: he goes off and tells instead of shows. The characters spout off the explanations of what is going on in the scenes. That's not just outdated. It's hokey and lame. It's odd that Perez, an artist who always showed and never told, doesn't seem to have the faith in his artist to convey the action.

In contrast to the other DCnU books like CATWOMAN and RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS, there is only one small reference to sex in this issue, and it's relatively subtle. I still think that it's unnecessary, because I still think I should be able to give SUPERMAN to an eight-year-old. Issues of appropriateness aside, the thing is it's used as the ending for the book, and I can't see anyone thinking that this is an exciting ending for a Superman comic that would make them buy the next issue. But that may just be me.

Overall, I'd have to say I'd give the book a passing grade, but just that. I wasn't blown away, and I'm in absolutely no hurry for the second issue, and frankly, I doubt if I'll get it. But in terms of being a good comic, I'd have to say it's passable. And some people may love it.

50/50 on this one, folks.

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