New 52 Review: Superman #1

Superman #1, George Perez (w), Jesus Merino (a) [Print Edition]

THE PITCH: It’s Superman. Do I really need to pitch you on this?

HOW WAS IT? I have a feeling this is going to be a divisive one for people, mainly because it jettisons the whole, “Let’s appeal to new readers,” thing, and goes straight for the nostalgic… And that has everything to do with George Perez. It’s also, I think, the reason I liked it so much.

A bit of a digression: a few years ago, as I was getting back into comics after a ridiculous span of time where I thought I was too cool for them or something, I decided to educate myself on every corner of the DC Universe I could. One character I knew nothing about? Wonder Woman. I started picking up Greg Rucka’s run on the title after reading the lead-up to Infinite Crisis – specifically the cross-over between Wonder Woman and Superman. I loved Rucka’s story, was bummed it fizzled out for a cross-over, but desperately wanted more. That led me directly to George Perez’s Wonder Woman, and to this day whenever I hear someone say they don’t “get” the character, I immediately ask if they’ve read Perez’s books. They invariably say “no,” and I direct them to the nearest bookstore.

The point of all this is, Perez gets the heart of what makes DC characters work, and its not that they’re dark and gritty, or clones of some other company: they’re earnest, they’re good, and they’re heroes. That’s what he does here on Superman, but again, with the line heading toward angsty teens rather than bright shiny super-people, this title feels out of place.

Second digression, and this will lead us directly into the actual plot: when I was growing up, my Father had a book of Superman comics, a huge collection that had three or four stories from every era of the Man of Steel. I honestly don’t know how many times I read that book, but between that and his collection of Little Nemo cartoons, they were probably the most read books in our household. In the middle of that Superman collection, though, there’s an era – I think it was the ‘70s – when Clark Kent worked as an anchor at a TV news station, rather than as a print reporter. The print section of the Daily Planet was going, but the TV was there too, and it always struck me as weird. There’s something about Clark Kent hidden behind a desk that makes his secret identity less non-sensical than if he’s one of the most well known anchors in the country.

So how does that lead us into the plot here? Welcome back, Daily Planet TV. This issue involves the old Daily Planet building getting torn down to make way for a shiny new skyscraper owned by media mogul Morgan Edge that hosts both the print edition of the Daily Planet – run by a barrel-chested Perry White – and the TV station version, which is taken over by Lois Lane at the start of the issue. As the issue goes on, Superman fights a fire monster from outer space, and we see how both new media and print are vitally important parts of the publishing industry, in a little bit of non-subtle meta-commentary.

Here’s the thing, just to keep tying back to what I said earlier: I bet a lot of readers will look at this take, and think its naïve at best, an old media titan (Perez) fighting for a dying medium, rather than embracing the future. The fight, too, is surprisingly old school, as Superman just straight up fights a fire creature, and finally beats it by being really strong. And then there’s the layouts, that often feature seven or eight panels a page, sometimes more; when pages today would be chastised for having more than five.

And all that would be a problem, if it wasn’t also really good. It comes down to the fact that I DON’T NEED TO PITCH YOU ON SUPERMAN. You know who he is, what he does, and all that matters is throwing him into an impossible situation, and watch him prevail as he inspires everyone around him. Perez gets that, and page after page, that shines through. Plus – like this would be a huge surprise – his panel layouts, even at seven or eight to a page, are supremely easy to read, and never crowded. Artist Jesus Marino does an admirable job of channeling Perez, and following his layouts, while making his action clear and dynamic.

Again, I realize I feel like I’m defending this book when you may not have even read it yet… But as a snotty, jaded comic book reviewer, the entire time, I was arguing with myself. “This is fun!” I would say. “Yes, but do you REALLY like it, or just want to like it?” I would say. The argument would go back and forth, a veritable Gollum vs. Smeagol… But end of the day it fell on the side of, comics should be fun, they should be readable, and they should be enjoyable. Is Superman #1 breaking new ground? Nope. Is it one the better made comics I’ve recently read? Yup.

Plus, it’s Superman. You know who he is. So make your decision at the comic book store accordingly.

BEST BIT: The way Superman beats the fire creature is pretty sweet and poignant.

WORST BIT: That random one pager that “ties into” Stormwatch? What? Huh?

EASTER EGGS: In a weird bit of time jumping, we get hints about how things pan out from where we left them five years earlier in Action Comics #1, from the final fate of Glenmorgan, to what happened with Clark and Lois.

ACCESSIBLE TO NEW READERS? Sure, as long as you know who Superman is… Which most people do.

WILL YOU BE PICKING UP ISSUE 2? I think so, yes.

RATING: 42/52