“Superman Rebirth” (20 pages)
- Storytellers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
- Penciller: Doug Mahnke
- Inker: Jaime Mendoza
- Colorist: Wil Quintana
- Letterer: Rob Leigh
- Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
- Editor: Eddie Berganza
This comic was everything that it needed to be. It brought new readers up to speed on who this Superman is and why he is taking up the mantle once again. It was a character driven story with some fantastic artwork by Mahnke and Mendoza.
Spoiler Filled Review
I was going to kick this review off with a rundown of everything I disliked about what DC has done with Superman over the past two…maybe three… alright…ten years. I typed out five different introductions and two paragraphs into all of them I would run out of steam and just stop, read what I had just written and feel like it was wrong way to open things. No matter how poorly DC has managed Superman as a character and no matter all of the ill conceived and poorly executed the stories have been published over the last decade DC has recognized that there was a problem. At least that’s the public face.
And I’m really excited about it.
I’m also a bit nervous. This isn’t the first time DC has said they are fixing all of their problems. As much as I liked DC Universe: Rebirth (as you can read in my review over at the Superman Homepage) there’s this little voice in the back of my head telling me to be cautious. Actually it’s a little song. Every time I get really excited about what’s coming down the pike The Who’s We Won’t Get Fooled Again start’s blaring in my head. I really want to tip my hat to the new constitution but when you’ve been fooledd again and again it’s hard to really believe that this time it will be different.
If Superman: Rebirth #1 is any indication we’re at least on the right track.
For those of you that are first time visitors to this blog my favorite version of Superman is the one that existed from 1986 to 2006. I started reading the Superman titles back in the late spring of 1987 so this only makes sense. I like other versions and eras of the Man of Steel but while you can take the kid out of the Post Crisis but you can’t take the Post Crisis out of the kid. So you would think that with the return of what they are now calling the Pre-Flashpoint Superman complete with a wife and kid that I would be jumping up and down and doing an end zone dance and to be fair part of me is. I’ve missed a married Superman. I’ve missed that Lois. I enjoyed the Convergence: Superman two issue mini-series and the English language does not contain enough words to describe how much I loved the Superman: Lois and Clark mini-series that Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks produced. It was nice to see a Superman that was confident in his own mission. I just hated that DC felt that the New 52 Superman was so far gone that they had to kill him no matter how good his send off was.
What I’m trying to say is that there is some bitter with this sweet.
Superman: Rebirth #1 served as an epilogue to The Last Days of Superman and a prologue for the new direction. I wrote at the top of this piece that it was everything it needed to be and I meant that. Part of me was expecting to see a story where Post Crisis/Pre Flashpoint Superman spends the issue deciding he was going to be the according to Hoyle Superman again and while that’s pretty much what happened the manner in which Peter Tomasi got us there was very different than what was in my head. I was expecting a lot of soul searching and conversations with Lois and a dramatic last page where Clark puts on the new costume and stands, hands on hips, ready to embrace the role of Superman.
What we got was something that was just as good. Framing the story as a conversation between Clark and Lana works for me on a number of levels. First, it’s dramatic. You have the New 52 Lana heading to her Superman’s grave to keep a promise she made and that other guy is there leading to a moment of false hope. Lana is understandably hostile towards this Superman at first. One of her oldest and dearest friends is dead and here’s this guy that is wearing her friend’s symbol and, to her mind, pretending to be him. Greg Pak did an excellent job of establishing Lana as a character over the course of his run so all of this felt natural
Then you have Clark (which is what I am going to call the Post-Crisis/Pre-Flashpoint Superman from now on because I am getting tired of typing Post-Crisis/Pre-Flashpoint Superman) who is there because he’s convinced that since he came back to life after the fight with Doomsday that this other Superman will come back too. This led to a fantastic flashback that caught me completely by surprise for a number of reasons the first being that they showed Superman in his classic outfit with the red trunks. I’ve made my peace with the red trunks being taken away from the costume but that doesn’t mean I have lost my affection for that look. Second, the Death and Return of Superman story means a lot to me on a personal level and after five years of being told this never happened it was a bit emotional to see that it had.
(Before I get comments from certain parties that obviously it happened because I still have the comics in my collection let me just stop you right there and say I know that. Rationally I know that the story was published and it was in continuity for about nineteen years after it was published. Emotionally, though, it was a blow that all of this was taken away. I further realize that the fans of the Pre-Crisis Superman went through the same thing when Man of Steel was published in 1986. So…yeah. I acknowledge all of that so let’s move on.)
The flashbacks served another, more important function. There are people that are coming to this comic who never read the death and return story and are largely unfamiliar with this version of Superman. So going over his battle with Doomsday and his return with the black costume gives them that information in an entertaining and natural way. Clark seems to think that New 52 Superman is coming back. Lana wants to know why. Clark tells her about his own resurrection. Peter Tomasi doesn’t spend a whole lot of time dwelling on this but he makes good use of the five pages by focusing on Clark’s thoughts when he was fighting Doomsday as Doug Mahnke and Jamie Mendoza draw the hell out of that fight. So for an old time fan like me it’s a fantastic call back to an important story with some new insight thrown in and for a newer reader it serves to tell them why this was an important event.
Cake was served and we got to eat it too.
The rest of the issue played out nicely. I liked seeing Clark and Lana head to the New 52 Superman’s Fortress. Once again Tomasi makes the meeting between the two characters necessary with Lana knowing how to get there and Clark having the ability to get into the joint. Clark looking at the statues and seeing not only Jor-El and Lara but also Jonathan and Martha was great because it was something that didn’t occur to him. To be fair Jonathan and Martha were still alive in Clark’s continuity until the Brainiac story when Jonathan died of a heart attack, so having statues of living parents next to dead parents was a bit unnecessary but I can see where he would like the idea. Seeing Clark’s reaction that this Superman isn’t coming back was sad as was him helping Lana get the remains back to Smallville but Tomasi gives us a moment of levity with Lana telling Clark that he’s going to say something that is going to make her brain hurt. Between that, Clark building the statue to the New 52 Superman and his resolve that this would will have a Superman the issue ended on a hopeful note and I had a big smile on my face.
Oddly enough the only “complaint” I have with this issue is the cover. Superman: Rebirth #1 is supposed to be the kick off to this new era that is all about bringing back the hope and optimism of DC’s past. Why them would you lead off with an image of Superman flying towards the camera with the Angry Red Eyes of Anger glowing? It’s aggressive but more to the point it’s a cliche at this point and not a good one. It obviously didn’t ruin the issue for me but it did put me off as did the house ad with the little kid staring up at a supposed billboard of the image. I think it sends the wrong image even if it’s great that Superman is so front and center with this new initiative. I preferred the variant cover but take that from an over forty comic fan complaining about these kids with their hoola-hoops and Dan Fogleberg records.
The ads for the other new Superman related books were nice to see. New Super-Man looks very interesting and Supergirl seems to be a nice mix of the New 52 and television version of the character, which is something DC should have done back in October of last year but in the spirit of everyone getting along I won’t harp on that. Superwoman is the one I am most interested in partly because of the premise (New 52 Lois with super powers that are killing her) and partly because it is being written and drawn by Phil Jimenez. While it’s not mentioned the new Red Hood and the Outlaws title has a lot of potential as it will feature Red Hood (obviously), Bizarro and Artemis, making it the Anti-Trinity book which is just freaking awesome.
I’m also looking forward to this.
Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent as the Super-Sons.
It would take a lot for them to screw this one up.
So here we are at the beginning of a new era and, as I wrote at the top of this thing, I am cautiously excited. Superman has been marginalized for so long that it’s nice to see him headed in the right direction. I would have preferred a step back to a more traditional version of the character with Clark Kent and the Daily Planet and the whole Lois/Jimmy/Perry supporting cast but I recognize that DC is trying. There’s also the mysterious comments by Mr. Oz in DC Universe: Rebirth which make me wonder how long this new era is going to last but for the moment I am satisfied. If the quality of the stories we get in Action Comics and Superman match what we got in this special then we’re in for a great ride.
And hopefully we won’t get fooled again.