Superman has been called The Man of Tomorrow. In Superman #1, writer George Perez is focused on transforming him into the Man of Today. He’s back in his own #1 issue by virtue of DC’s new relaunch. Clark Kent is much younger than we remember, and his place in the world in and out of the costume is different in this new continuity. How successful is Perez at bringing Superman into the world of 2011? Take the jump and be prepared to share in my disappointment.
Script & Breakdowns: George Perez
Pencils & Inks: Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: George Perez & Brian Buccellato
Publisher: DC Comics
Previously in Superman: Honestly, we’re still trying to figure that out. Justice League takes place a year ago and Action Comics happened (is happening?) 5 years ago. The world introduced in Superman #1 actually features Clark Kent as Superman in the present day. He’s much younger than the version we knew prior to the reboot. Many familiar ancillary characters appear to be in this continuity, but the relationships are different. Sometimes the differences represent significant changes.
A LOT OF STORY FOR YOUR THREE BUCKS
Of all the New 52 DC Comics I’ve read for this relaunch, Superman #1 easily took me the longest to read. Writer George Perez clearly spent some effort piecing together Superman’s new world, filling 20 pages with a lot of dense storytelling.
The book begins by telling us the rich tradition of Metropolis’ very own Daily Planet Newspaper. As part of the ‘new and improved’ media presence in the world today, the old Daily Planet building is the target of some dramatic urban renewal; the entire building (including the famous globe) is blown up to make way for the new owner’s vision. Now the Daily Planet is part of a media conglomerate, dubbed the PGN – The Planet Global Network.
Clark isn’t willing to ingest any of the sugary, flavored water. He turns down Lois Lane’s old job, who has just been promoted to the title of (get ready for this) PGN’s Nightly News Division & Executive Vice-President of New Media. With a title that elaborate, it’s almost certain that she isn’t paid particularly well. You either get the impressive-sounding title, or the cash…seldom both. Oh my, we seem to be digressing a tad.
UGLIES SHALL BUMP IN THE NIGHT
A threat arrives upon the city and the only one who can stand up to it happens to be the guy with the mighty red ‘S’ on his chiseled chest. In the meanwhile, political intrigue takes place among the players within the PGN. We get a chance to meet the new and physically fortified Perry White, Lois, and Jimmy Olsen. The biggest difference in the character interaction is between Clark and Lois. For those who haven’t been following the latest, marriages are very much passé within the comics publishing industry. Lois and Clark’s unattached status is just the latest example of how marriage just simply isn’t cool in the world of comics. However, Clark feels affection for Lois but she has other plans, including bedding down with another guy to celebrate her team’s successful coverage of the Superman battle.
Clark not only gets to find out about her relationship, but is clearly told that they’re making the beast with two backs, spurred by the adrenaline rush that Superman’s evening exploits created for the PGN news team. That’s going to leave a mark on the psyche, folks.
GREAT ARTISTS DON’T NECESSARILY TRANSLATE INTO GREAT, GOOD, OR EVEN AVERAGE WRITERS
DC has been loose with handing out writing duties to some of their most popular artists. David Finch, J.H. Williams III, Tony Daniel, Ethan Van Sciver (teamed with Gail Simone) and now, George Perez. I’m not sure if this is a negotiation tactic to retain their artistic talent, but based on everything I’ve read over the past few months, it doesn’t seem to be based on merit.
Perez is a living legend. His highly detailed, intricately rendered pencils have delighted readers for decades. He has forever etched a place in the marble-coated pantheon of Comics Greatest Creators. But in the display case, encapsulating his contributions, there will likely not be anything he’s written from Superman #1. There are boxes and boxes of meandering, self-indulgent, often clumsy, and hugely expository narration. The lines ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ and ‘able to leap tall buildings’ are used in this story. This made me wince, but not as badly as the dozens of boxes of ‘news story’ that took place on the page as Superman faced his nemesis.
SOMEONE NEEDS TO TAKE A FIRST SEMESTER JOURNALISM COURSE
Almost every time a comics story focuses on journalism, it gets sketchy for me. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in newsrooms over the years, and I had to work very hard at learning exactly what JOURNALISM is. It’s not creative writing – it’s REPORTING FACTS and quoting others to infuse color into the story. Clark Kent’s front page story is some of the worst news journalism writing I’ve ever read.
Most of the artwork from Jesus Merino is quite nice to look at. Not as nice as the Perez-penciled cover to the issue, but still reminiscent of the legend himself. Some of the panels have Perez’s influences imbued in the pages. This is especially obvious when there are piles of rubble, each piece of rock clearly defined in the refuse. I’ll tell you, nobody does rubble like classic Perez or Byrne. Having said that, Merino has strong chops and has helped fashion one of the nicer looking books on the stands.
BOTTOM LINE: Pretty To Look At, But The Writing (Especially The Journalism) Makes My Teeth Hurt
The story is interesting and it seems clear that the creators are putting a lot of effort into making these 20 pages a worthwhile reading experience. Unfortunately, Perez’s writing chops are nowhere near as strong as his pencils. A good editor could probably spend a good chunk of time trying to mold him into a more competent scripter. But, with so many brilliant writers in the world of comics, I have to wonder why DC Comics would set up a living legend to fail. Superman #1 barely earns 2 out of 5 stars.