It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s a pterodactyl? I guess this means your Major Spoilers review of Superman #8 is about to begin.
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Colorist: Wil Quintana
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously in Superman: After defeating the Eradicator, Superman and Superboy ditched the capes and tights to join Lois for a normal night out at the fair. However, by the end of the night, Clark made it clear that there is no such thing as normal when you’re a superhero.
Issue #8 of Superman is the first chapter of a two-part tribute to the late Darwyn Cooke. Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, the issue begins with Superman and his son, the recently dubbed Superboy, Jon Kent, working on the latter’s science experiment. After the experiment is exposed to Kryptonian technology within the Fortress of Solitude, the duo suddenly find themselves on the shore of a mysterious island. Those familiar with Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier should have no trouble recognizing that the Super father and son are on none other than Dinosaur Island. Throughout the issue, Tomasi and Gleason pay homage to Cooke’s out-of-continuity tale that bridged the gap between the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. The inclusion of ferocious prehistoric reptiles is the most obvious inclusion, but we also see some slightly more subtle Easter eggs. The dilapidated military equipment, the remains of The Losers, and John Cloud’s dog tags are just a few that will certainly stand out like sore thumbs for DC buffs.
What I find most appealing about Tomasi and Gleason’s scripting of the Man of Steel is his overall characterization. This has been a prevalent point of praise throughout their whole run. However, in this issue in particular, specific moments caught my attention in which Clark Kent really feels like the Big Blue Boy Scout readers so sorely missed during the New 52. When Kal-El is swallowed by a massive, carnivorous fish, he opts for a quick squeeze of the creature’s heart to allow for his escape, rather than turning to his fists or his heat vision. Likewise, the dialogue feels incredibly true to the character’s classic, idealistic mannerisms. When Clark and Jon discover a soldier’s remains inside a wrecked tank, Clark uses his heat vision to seal the lid shut before remarking, “let them rest in peace.” It’s a simple line of dialogue, but nonetheless, it serves as a prime example of Tomasi and Gleason’s understanding of who Kal-El truly is at his core.
The father-son dynamic between Clark and Jon was another highlight of this issue for me. Much like issue #7, the bond between Superman and Superboy is further developed through subtle character moments throughout the entirety of the story. Little things, like Jon asking Clark questions about all the amazing things they’re discovering, really stand out, and I’m sure this is something any father out there can relate to. I also love how much page time Krypto is given in this issue. The idea of a man, his son and their dog on an epic adventure is a page straight out of the book of time-honored storytelling, which is truly befitting of this narrative.
As the issue concludes, the search for the transporter that brought Superman and Superboy to Dinosaur Island leads them to a cave-turned-military bunker. Unfortunately, the energy signature of the device seems to have been lost. On the final page, Tomasi and Gleason plant the seeds for the next chapter of their story. I won’t spoil exactly what Clark and Jon find, but let’s just say that the writing is on the wall.
The art team for Superman #8 consists of Doug Mahnke on pencils, Jaime Mendoza on inks and Wil Quintana on colors. Mahnke’s tight, clean lines grace the page to form picturesque imagery that can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the comic book industry. His ability to draft such striking features in the characters on the page is profound. The hard, chiseled face of Clark depicts a man who has seen more than his fair share of trouble, but has never let it compromise his altruistic demeanor. This is juxtaposed with the bright, curious eyes of Jon, which are full of hope, astonishment, and love for his father.
When the action picks up, Mahnke seamlessly switches gears, delivering incredible aesthetic intensity. The dinosaurs look every bit as fearsome as one would expect, with no expense spared in terms of viciousness. Every time Superman’s eyes light up with his heat vision, Mahnke’s lines begin to radiate off of the page thanks to Quintana’s captivating color selections. When Superman is inside the belly of the prehistoric predator, the deep red tint is complemented by a vibrant magenta hue within the gutters. The earthy palette of the forest contrasts brilliantly with Clark and Jon’s suits, which convey vivid depth thanks to a beautiful blend of light and dark blues.
Mendoza’s inks are the ideal consistency, and pair perfectly with Mahnke’s line work. They’re thick where they need to be, yet still delicate enough to elevate Mahnke’s intricate cross hatching.
What I appreciate the most is that no one on the art team attempted to mimic Darwyn Cooke. Cooke had a style that was very much his own, and to see someone attempt to recreate that unique style would have almost certainly fallen flat. As different as Mahnke’s style is, it works perfectly for this story.
BOTTOM LINE: A PERFECT TRIBUTE
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason do a superb job paying homage to Darwyn Cooke and DC: The New Frontier in Superman #8. It’s done in a manner that is easily accessible to those not steeped in DC lore, with plenty of added bonuses for longtime readers. The art team of Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and Wil Quintana are perfectly in sync, providing stunning visuals that fit the narrative without feeling derivative. This is a book that I highly recommend getting your hands on.