Current Reviews


Superman Strength #1

Posted: Saturday, January 8, 2005
By: Ray Tate

Writers: Scott McCloud
Artists: Aluir Amancio(p), Terry Austin(i), Patricia Mulvihill(c)
Publisher: DC

You have to have something good if you're going to call it Strength. If you intend to entitle the project Superman: Strength then what you're saying is that this Superman event is strong. This also implies that all others were weak. You'll get no argument from me.

Scott McCloud offers the best Superman story since Superman Adventures closed its curtains. McCloud wrote several issues of that title. So, it's really no surprise that he provides a Superman who is "faster than a speeding bullet" and "more powerful than the pounding surf."

This is the real deal folks. As other writers whine about how hard it is to write Superman, Scott McCloud gets it. It's about the powers, stupid, and the hero who uses these powers to protect humanity.

McCloud embraces Superman on his own terms. He does not try to fit him into something new. His Superman is not the gullible, "awwww shucks" boy scout of the post-Crisis. His Superman is the canny, squinty-eyed demigod of the Fleischer cartoons, the knowledgeable Kal-El of the pre-Crisis and the Clark Kent of Smallville all wrapped up in a big blue, red and yellow package.

The story is just as good as the portrayal of the character. Small time crooks plan a heist giving them a science fiction weapon created by their leader for Lexcorp. The leader is a cagey individual who believes he has found a way around the obstacle of Superman.

What impresses even more about Scott McCloud's story is how it utterly and without apology ignores so-called continuity. After Doomsday--whom I always felt was over inflated as a villain--killed Superman, villains who shouldn't have even had a chance to sneeze on his cape kept handing Superman his red-clad buttocks. This was unconscionable treatment for a modern myth. McCloud's story depends upon Superman being unvanquished. It makes the leader's belief that he can win that much more arrogant and Superman's defiance through a simple burst of his limitless power that much more satisfying.

Aluir Amancio and Terry Austin accompany Scott McCloud on this romp. Their names also hail from the glorious halls of Superman Adventures, and Amancio has also penciled a few scant issues of the alleged continuity Superman titles. The contrast imbued by Superman: Strength is jarring. Although, he still enjoyed a level of freedom, in Superman Adventures Amancio had to conform to the Timm model. The not-even-close to continuity titles however constrained him through ugliness. Face it. The DCU is not a pretty place. It's dark and dank and nasty. Amancio's artwork is bolder, and seeing him exhale in Strength is a pleasure.

Amancio's Superman actually looks as though he's bulletproof. Cartoony? Sure, but Amancio's artwork expresses a man who can shrug gravity, a man who can juggle cars, a man whose punches register on the Richter Scale. This is Superman. Amancio's Lois Lane isn't some dowdy, drab helpmate. His Lois is audacious, beautiful and sexy. This is the Lois Lane who does not just knock a guy off his feet but across the room. I just can't see Superman falling for the Helen Crump Lois Lane of the higgledy-piggledy DCU. This Lois Lane is Ellie Walker--the savvy cutie-pie pharmacist. Even Pa Kent possesses a spark, and he'd have to if he were to be unique. Jonathan Kent is unique and always was unique, for he ignored religious and political dogma and welcomed Kal-El, "this strange visitor from another planet" into his life. Amancio places these characters in a glittery Metropolis that is a teeming city of the future that is constructed of art and technology. Grime and grittiness have no place here.

Terry Austin adds to Amancio's pencils as well as to the concept of Superman. Patricia Mulvihill keeps to the color codes for Superman's uniform, and Austin knocks off some more of the boy scout image by adding thick black patches that denote depth as well as cast the illusion of light, darken Kal-El's uniform and look darn cool. Mulvihill takes the opportunity to enhance Lois Lane. She blushes her cheeks and touches her eyes with an extraordinary liquid blue. Her outfit compliments her hair and her eyes. Likewise for the other female characters in the book.

Superman: Strength is a bombastic journey of daring-do where Superman does not fail. Innocent lives are saved, and the Man of Steel never gives up. "Thanks, Big Guy!"

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