Welcome back fan-boys and fan-girls, (assuming anyone found part one of this blog interesting enough to read the conclusion) it’s time to wrap up this blog about Superman’s 75th year, so get a snack or a drink and settle in because we still have a few things to cover before we’re finished.
First off, at the end of part one I had begun writing about the release of the feature film Man of Steel and my concerns before seeing it. Now I’ll tell you my thoughts after having seen the film twice (I may get a copy of the DVD for Christmas and will no doubt raise that viewing total substantially in the months to come). Obviously I liked it a lot, even more than Superman Returns but not quite as much as the original 1978 Superman film.
The cast was as close to perfect as you could hope for. Henry Cavill doesn’t just look the part, but he also gave us a sincere and layered performance as the Last Son of Krypton. Some folks complained about his not being the Clark Kent we all know and love (glasses and a suit, working at the Daily Planet, etc.) until the final scene of the movie, but that didn’t bother me. I liked the idea of a wandering Clark who is trying to hide his powers from a world that fears the unknown and the different, while still unable to ignore anyone who needs his help.
Clark’s acts of secret heroism left a trail that intrepid Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (played by the lovely Amy Adams) was able to follow back to the unassuming farm boy from Kansas. It was nice to finally see Lois figure out Clark’s secret right off the bat instead of being unbelievably ignorant of it for years on end. There was no romantic nighttime flight between Superman and Lois in Man of Steel as there was in the original 78 film, but it wasn’t needed. Cavill and Adams had such strong and believable chemistry without any such a contrivance. The strongest moment between them being right after Superman had been forced to kill Zod to save the Earth and Lois was there to give him comfort in a much needed embrace. Later it was great when Lois welcomed Clark Kent “to the Planet” on his first day of work. The double meaning of her words and secret exchange shared between them was perfect.
As I just mentioned in the above paragraph, Superman killed Zod. Sorry for the spoiler but I’m assuming anyone willing to sit down and read this long winded two part blog already knows this plot point. It was the most controversial moment in the film for sure. Fans are still deeply divided on it. I speak for everyone at Hold 322 when I say that I had no problem with it and don’t feel it made Superman any less of a hero. He was placed in an impossible situation where the only thing he could do was the last thing he wanted to do. Anyone who says he was too willing to take Zod’s life was obviously watching a different film than I saw. It was clear from how devastated he was after killing the only other living Kryptonian (not in the Phantom Zone) just how traumatic taking such an action had been for him.
One critic called Man of Steel joyless. It was not a bright and shiny film by any means, but to say it was joyless is untrue. The film managed to have moments of humor and hope and I can’t wait for the sequel. On a related note and just because I like being contrary to the outspoken critics out there, I’ve gone on record as saying and I’m about to state it again that I believe Ben Affleck will give a very good performance as Batman in the next film. I don’t expect to convince you of that here in this blog if you are one of the thousands of Bat-fleck haters out there, but I still ask you to just reserve judgment on his performance until you’ve actually seen it. Do we have a deal?
Now I’d like to move on from Man of Steel (which was no doubt the biggest event for Superman this past year) and back to the realm of comic books. As I told you in part one I stopped reading the New 52 Action Comics around issue 6 or so. I don’t want to disrespect Grant Morrison by calling him a bad writer, because he’s not. I just feel his vision for revamping Superman was too far afield from what I was looking for and so I had to step away and wait for his run to end, which eventually it did. Morrison’s run on Action ended with issue 18 and a month later I gladly walked into my local comic book retailer and picked up a copy of Action Comics #19, well written by Andy Diggle and beautifully drawn by Tony S. Daniel. It was good to be reading Action Comics again after so many months away but strangely Diggle and Daniel did not stay with the title longer than three issues.
No explanation was given for Diggle’s sudden departure from Action after such a brief stint and his replacement was Scott Lobdell who had also replaced Dan Jurgens as writer of Superman after issue12, making it the first time in years that the same person was writing both titles at the same time. At first I hoped this would lead to great ongoing stories every month but it didn’t quite work out that way. Scott Lobdell is a good and highly imaginative writer, but he doesn’t seem to know how to stay on track with his storylines and leaves far too many interesting plot points unresolved or unexplored in his mad dash to chase after what he himself has called “gonzo Superman” adventures. In Superman #13, Lobdell’s first issue as writer of the series, he gave me hope when he wrote a terrific scene that had Clark Kent telling off Morgan Edge in epic fashion as he quit his job at the Daily Planet.
Clark Kent quitting the Daily Planet? That’s interesting, right? Imagine all the story possibilities of Clark Kent as an independent news blogger. Sadly, many months later, little has developed on that front (other than Clark being drafted by Cat Grant to work for her ill-conceived website Cat-Clark-opolis.com) as Superman has been rushed through time and space to battle a slew of crazy alien threats such as the unimpressive new villain H’El who is hell bent on restoring Krypton to life at any cost. In an interview I read months ago, Scott Lobdell promised he was going to deliver us the greatest Superman story ever (even asserting in the same interview that his promise was not hyperbole) but so far he has just given us two tedious and underwhelming storylines with “H’El on Earth” and the “Psi War”, neither of which has come anywhere close to paying off of Lobdell’s lofty promise. Oh well.
Also from DC this year, we witnessed weeks of controversy after the company announced plans to have Ender’s Game author and outspoken anti-gay activist / rightwing conspiracy nutcase, Orson Scott Card, write a new Adventures of Superman series. Understandably, many socially conscience folks—JC, Jeff and I included—did not take kindly to this news. Now let me say, in the service of full disclosure that I’ve read Ender’s Game three times and credit the novel as being an early inspiration in my deciding to pursue a writing career of my own, but the more I learn about Mr. Card’s political views the less I respect him as a person and I certainly don’t feel such a hateful and frankly off-balanced individual should be scripting the adventures of my favorite DC super-hero; especially when that hero has long been a figure of progressive hope and inclusion, not of xenophobic hate and exclusion.
Fortunately, DC Comics gave in to public pressure (and no doubt corporate pressure from parent company Warner Brothers who most certainly did not want protestors standing outside movie theatres world-wide during Man of Steel showings) and released Card from the project, deciding to go instead with an anthology format using various writers and artists to tell several stories in each issue. I proudly purchased issue #1 of Adventures of Superman and enjoyed it. It was nice to see the old costume back again. Due to financial restraints (such as already having twenty-plus monthly titles in my hold) I have not been able to keep up with the series but I’m glad it exists.
Other Superman titles released this year include the best-selling and highly engaging Superman Unchained (silly title for sure but great series so far), written by fan-favorite Batman scribe Scott Snyder and drawn by comic book legend Jim Lee. Coming out the same month as Unchained was Batman/Superman which in its first four-part arch was wonderfully written by Hulk World writer Greg Pak and drawn by surreal artist Jae Lee. Issue five introduced talented artist Brett Booth to the series and was still written by Greg Pak, but was presented in a strange format that our Canadian correspondent, Thom, compared to as “reading a calendar” and to me, the story was not as engaging as what had come before it.
I’m debating if I should keep Batman/Superman in my hold or not. We’ll see. On a related note, Greg Pak is taking over as writer on Action Comics (for how long? No idea) and so far so good.
The most recent new Superman title being offered by DC is another team-up book, this one featuring Superman’s current love interest, Wonder Woman (they met at work, obviously). So far, after just two issues, Superman/Wonder Woman—written by Charles Soule and drawn by Tony S. Daniel—has become my favorite new comic book series of 2013 and can only, I hope, get better from here. It’s going to be interesting to see how Earth’s two most powerful super heroes maintain a romantic relationship while sharing the heavy responsibility of saving the world day in and day out. Perhaps sometime soon I’ll write an entire blog just about the Superman/Wonder Woman series and its groundbreaking premise, but for now let’s just get to the end of this already epically long blog. We’re close to done, I promise.
My favorite Superman book currently being published is outside of the regular DC continuity, that being the Bryan Q. Miller written series, Smallville Season Eleven, which picks up where the CW television series left off. Almost every time the book is in my hold it manages to be my favorite read of that week. It’s just good stories mixed with great artwork that both serve to show Superman and his 75 year old mythology at their very best. If you were a fan of the TV series you should be reading this comic. I promise you’ll like it or your money back!
[NOTE: money back promise is not legally binding and has not been agreed to by DC Comics or its parent company, and since reading this blog is free it’s obviously impossible for Bob to give you back anything. Sorry.]
So in closing (FINALLY), I would like to give DC and Warner Brothers a letter grade on their handling of their most iconic character in his milestone 75th year. I’d almost like to give them an A- but I think that would be a bit generous since there is still much work to be done in winning over Superman’s still numerous detractors and getting his popularity more on par with his caped-crusading counterpart from Gotham, so final grade: B+
Until my next bloviation, follow me on twitter @Robert_A_Easton, listen to Hold 322 and read lots of comics! Alons-y!