"Battery": Part One
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Matthew Clark(p), Nelson(i), Tanya & Richard Horrie(c)
Given the piss-poor quality of the Superman books for the past ten years, it's fairly easy to leap over a metaphorical bar that has been constantly lowered. Greg Rucka does this with little difficulty.
The opening to Adventures of Superman with a little girl lost in the mall tries too hard to chuck the ridiculous grim and lifeless Superman stories that have plagued the titles, but the scene does characterize Superman very well. He is the stranger that every kid can talk to without fear. I also liked how he put the little girl at ease by turning the situation around. I have however seen this type of setup before and handled more deftly by other authors.
The Little-Girl-Lost scenario contrasts the cynicism and grit within Clark's new environment. Still working for The Daily Planet the mild-mannered reporter now settles in to the new field of the crime beat. Here Rucka's forte comes through the pages, but it fascinates me that he understands the intricacies of what Superman means to the story.
You can imagine this tale without a Superman. You can see it. Bitter, embedded reporters riding along with hard-bitten all-too human police officers who haven't a hope in hell to defeat a powerhouse like Replikon, a pre-Crisis Green Lantern villain. They would have thrown away their lives needlessly and in a last ditch effort at a horrible cost stopped the creature.
Superman changes the entire story. He is a bright ray of sunshine. The very colors of his costume create a schism between the dark reality and a world guarded by the wonder that is he. His humor, which is very reminiscent of David Boreanaz's understated performance as Angel, lightens a tense situation. His powers alter the expected, and that's the point.
From the moment Clark makes his klutzy escape to shed his reporter guise to the moment when Superman beats the leathery hide off of Replikon, Superman exists to save lives and put the cops at ease. He is a source of optimism, and he changes everything.
The story unfortunately is not perfect. Continuity slams into the reader like a baseball bat. Rucka name-checks Zod, who I'm betting most will associate with Terrence Stamp, Brainiac 13 and Superman being missing all at once and for no good reason. At the same time, he de-ages Jimmy Olsen back to cub-reporter. The combating continuity clashes.
Mr. Rucka throws into this mix more post-September Eleventh touches. This time they work better than they do in Wonder Woman. "Embedded reporters" do not require September Eleventh to exist and therefore the axiom of super-heroes negating such a tragedy does not apply. Furthermore, the mention of the twenty-first century slang allows an insight into Lois Lane's belief in her job. She is not merely a reporter because of curiosity but because she believes in the truth. It will be very difficult for older readers not to grin when Lois with a "juicy scoop" bursts into Perry White's office.
Matthew Clark from Wonder Woman and Vampirella joins Rucka in the birth of a new Superman era. Mr. Clark's realistic posing and design for Superman matches the realism and aesthetics of the story. Mr. Clark creates a diversity in body shapes and faces that easily distinguish the characters. His incarnation of Superman imbues a youthful exuberance that's matched only by Lois' enthusiasm. Detailed backdrops give the book a real world feel, and there's none of the alienation that the technoversion of Metropolis caused. The panels invite the reader to linger.
This is a good opening to Rucka's Superman. Mr. Rucka though an author more at home with grim and gritty seems to know that the presence of a Superman upsets the noir genre. Matthew Clark's art conveys the energy of Superman against a Metropolis that looks like a real city rather than a Mattel toy. If you haven't paid your respects on the Man of Steel lately, now just may be the best time to do so.
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