New 52 Review: Superman #1

The Man of Steel takes on a fire creature and too many caption balloons.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

There's a certain audaciousness to opening up a new era of Superman by destroying the old Daily Planet building in favor of a new one. And DC certainly seems to want a thoroughly modern Man of Steel to go along with Grant Morrison's retro take in Action Comics. It's not quite the Superman that most of us grew up with, but he at least resembles himself. 

With George Perez involved with the art, it should come as no surprise that the new Superman #1 has some terrific pages. Using Perez's layouts, artist Jesus Merino delivers one of the more polished looking superhero comics this month. And it's probably Perez's influence that allows Merino to consistently use more than five to six panels per page; which has become an industry standard… or a crutch.

The result is that the book feels as if it came from the late '80s or early '90s before the Image style became so wide spread. When it comes to the art, I don't mind that at all. However, Perez's writing style also seems to reflect a previous era in comics as well… and to a much lesser effect. It's easy to forget that Perez has had memorable writing stints before, particularly on Wonder Woman. Perez can deliver some impressive visuals, but he doesn't always know when to step back and let the art tell the story.

Most of the issue's major action sequence pits Superman against an alien being made up of fire. And while Superman tries to stop it, we're bombarded by text captions of the eventual newspaper report written by Clark Kent himself. The Kent captions spend a lot of time telling us what we can already clearly see and it assumes Superman's thoughts as he battles the creature.

Obviously, Kent is Superman, so of course he would know what the Man of Steel is thinking better than anyone. But the captions felt like no piece of journalism that I've ever read nor a first hand account of the action from Superman; which is what the headline later tells us.

A good deal of the issue deals with the Daily Planet; which is reimagined as part of the corporate media empire of Morgan Edge (who is black now, but we'll get back to that). I believe that Perez is trying to make the argument that print media is still vital in the digital age. But when he resorts to lines like this (from Perry White), I have to wonder if Perez even understands what he's talking about: "Troupe, how fast can you get down west? I want the kind of detail and analysis on this only print can offer!"

I'm sure that line wasn't meant to be funny, but I still laughed. DC actually made Lois Lane and Clark Kent TV anchors in the '70s during one of the company's other attempts to modernize the franchise. So this trick of putting some of the characters on television has been tried before. The truth is that print is no longer the gold standard of journalism and that most newspapers have added a large web presence to help stave off their inevitable decline. That's really all the Daily Planet needed here rather than a long series of pages to set up that new status quo.

Perez also seems to favor heavily stilted dialog to get story information across. Here's a good example from Lois Lane: "Edge is not his predecessor. He is not a criminal like Glenmorgan."

Getting back to Morgan Edge for a second, he's almost always a villain when used within Superman. I doubt that's going to change here. His portrayal in this book sets up Edge as the Black Rupert Murdoch. There's nothing wrong with that, but changing Edge's race didn't really add much to his portrayal either. There is a concerted attempt to diversify Superman's supporting characters, for example, Jimmy Olson now teams up with an Asian girl named Miko who can effortlessly hack computers when needed. I don't mind that, but I was definitely horrified by Jimmy's Justin Bieber style haircut. Why, Perez, why?

Perez's portrayal of Superman himself is a little curious. A few times in the book, Superman comes off like a super dick while dealing with an armored car robbery. I didn't hate Superman's new costume as much as I thought I would, but that popped collar and armor lines really look strange on him. His Clark Kent persona also seems to have melted back into the "Charlie Brown never got the girl" type of guy as he slinks away from Lois and her new boyfriend. That gave me the same feeling I had when Peter Parker went from being happily married to a nearly 30 year old man living with his aunt again. I understand that DC felt the new to revert to the old Superman, Clark and Lois love triangle. But that needs a truly fresh spin to ever work again. And it didn't work here.

On a side note, there is a one page tie-in to the first issue of Stormwatch which makes absolutely no sense in the context of this issue.

It's still enjoyable to see Perez and Merino depict Superman in action and I'd read this book again just for the art. But this "modernized" take on Superman has left me pretty cold.

Crave Online Rating: 6.2/10