Comics has an accessibility problem. After decades of existence some books can be really hard to ease into. That’s why the infamous “jumping on point” was created — single issues designed to garner new readers and lure back old fans. Each week brave surveyors Luke Miller and Jamil Scalese will venture into the comics abyss and let you, the consumer, know just which series are worth JUMPING ON, and which are better left to be revisited at a later date.
Superman Rebirth #1
(Peter J. Tomasi; Doug Mahnke; Jaime Mendoza; Wil Quintana)
Luke: There’s nothing more badass than a bearded Superman. Personally I’m partial to the version that appeared in the Justice League episode where he was the sole survivor of an apocalyptic catastrophe, lost his powers, grew a beard, started carrying around a sword and hunted Vandal Savage. The old, gray-bearded version in Kingdom Come isn’t bad either, but the ponytail throws me. You can send as many anti-heroes, Punishers, Spawns, Lobos, Venoms (or anyone else wearing black or spikes or lots of belts with lots of guns from the 90’s) my way as you want, but bearded Superman tops them all. This fact might be clouding my judgment of this issue, but I thought this was a pretty solid issue.
I’m not very familiar with New 52 Supes. I read a few issues here and there, but I lost the plot early on and never caught up. And apparently I won’t now. Because he’s dead. But now pre-New 52 Superman is back and picking up the pieces. We need a better name than pre-New 52, by the way. Is it out there and I just don’t know about it? Somebody fill me in please.
This Superman has a family. He wears black and silver. He has the aforementioned beard. I can get behind this new status quo pretty quickly.
Jamil: It’s fairly appropriate that we are analyzing Superman Rebirth #1 after last week’s column tackled the 80-page game-changer. That was a comic boasting piles of continuity and status quo changes and this, while not as massive in terms of scale, is probably just as wild in concept. How the hell would you explain the Kal-El’s new deal to the common man? “Well you see, Superman died… No, no, not in 1993, actually that one is the ‘new’ Superman now, the one from 2011 is dead. Oh, yeah that was called the New 52 and it was caused by Dr. Ma– Well I guess for you to properly understand all of this we have to go back to 1986 and something called Crisis on Infinite Earths…”
I’ve bought very few Superman comics right off the rack. Maybe two or three if I’m being honest. Most of what I’ve read of Big Blue have been library pulls, loaners, or bargain bins deals. Despite my lack of affinity or affection for the character I felt pretty compelled to pick this up if only because I don’t want to be completely clueless as to what the hell DC’s flagship character will be doing in the near future. Of all of the books in first wave of DC’s new initiative this one shot is probably most needed because of the shear zaniness of the idea — The New 52 Superman is dead and buried and the Superman from right before Flashpoint is now the new cape-bearer. It’s complex in its simplicity.
Writer Peter J. Tomasi and an art team consisting of Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and Wil Quintana craft a transitional comic that does it’s job but in a somewhat clunky fashion. There are certain scene changes and expositional bits that, while helping ease the reader into the new standard, don’t do much in terms of telling a cohesive story.
It’s not a masterwork but certain elements killed. Mahnke’s flashback fight between Old/New Supes and Doomsday is fiercely gorgeous and I thought Tomasi’s depiction of the main character, and the dialogue as a whole, worked to ease everyone into this sudden and creative twist. Clark’s blind optimism regarding the resurrection of his New 52 counterpart was extremely true to an element the character that has sometimes been lacking over the last five years. The beard doesn’t hurt either.
Luke: My biggest complaint, Jamil, was that this book did next to nothing to explain who the Superman in black was. If I hadn’t had a friend to tell me that, I would’ve been a little lost. He could’ve been any alternate reality Superman for all I knew. (Well, not Red Son Superman, that was pretty clear by the lack of hammers and/or sickles.) The reader had to rely solely on context clues to figure that out on their own, and if they weren’t familiar with the Superman mythos, there would’ve been no way to pick that up.
I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing. Jumping on with a new unknown character can be fun, but I feel like this Superman’s backstory is going to come into play at some point. Unless there’s a lot of exposition or really well done reveals, I have my doubts that this series will be new reader friendly. I’m going to have to reserve judgment, as far as recommending jumping on goes, until I’ve read a few more issues.
Jamil: This comic is in the style of the DC Universe Rebirth #1 as it is not concerned with attracting and appeasing the brand new reader. It very much assumes you are at least partway familiar with the Superman mythos and major tenants of the character. Also, this version of Clark had his recent backstory detailed in Superman: Lois and Clark, a miniseries that followed up on Convergence, which was ultimately how this iteration was put back into play. It’s pretty convoluted, but in a good way that only comic books can achieve.
The transition is not exactly smooth but it is interesting. I’m not sure I can give this issue high marks. For one, it does very little to set up the apparent new standard of Tomasi’s Superman ongoing, which seems to be centered around this Clark’s wife and child. That might be the most outrageous quirk of this new era of Supes — the New 52 worked to break off all encumbering aspects of the character, especially his relationship to Lois Lane, while this version looks to saddle him with a full-formed family. That’s an unbelievable reversal.
Despite the flaws, including some weird (or rushed) faces on the last few pages, I think I will try out Superman #1 when it releases later in the month. I’m kinda surprised by this but the Man of Steel’s new deal genuinely intrigues me.