Friday, March 4, 2016

Superman (vol.3) #32 (2014)

Superman (vol.3) #32 (August, 2014)
"The Men of Tomorrow, Chapter One: Ulysses"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Penciller - John Romita Jr.
Inker - Klaus Janson
Colorist - Laura Martin
Letterer - Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor - Anthony Marques
Group Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue is quite a bit newer than most of the books I figured I would be discussing here at the blog.  This week being my makeshift "Superman week" in honor of the Big Guy's birthday, I figured I should discuss the issue that brought me back to the Superman books most recently... Superman (volume 3) #32, featuring the creative team of Geoff Johns and Marvel stalwart, John Romita Jr..

Superman was one of the titles I shrugged off during my post-Flashpoint DC Comics temper tantrum.  I tried to keep up with the second volume of Action Comics under Grant Morrison just to have a "Super" title on my pull-list, however, a half-dozen or so issues in, I found myself losing interest.

During the New 52's sophomore year, it was becoming more and more apparent that the wheels were coming off.  Creative teams were bailing on books, editorial appeared to be scrambling to scoot creators from one book to the next, and there was no semblance of cohesion or order.  The Superman titles seemed especially prone to this.  Action Comics had a creator (Andy Diggle) bail off the book before his first issue even hit the stands.  Superman (vol.3) seemed to have a new writer every few issues until settling on Scott Lobdell for a (relatively) extended run.  These books did not do anything to draw my interest, it wasn't until I saw an ominous ad in my DC published titles in early 2014...

These ads were rather reminiscent of other bits that ran in DC Comics of old...
It felt as though we were about to witness history.  Being a life-long "Marvel guy", there was no way I was going to miss John Romita Jr. on Superman.  The fact that Geoff Johns was in the writer's chair was an added bonus.  I would finally be coming back to Superman... and thus far, I've held on ever since.


We open 20 years back at the Ulysses Research Center three miles below Omaha, Nebraska.  It appears as though this facility is researching interdimensionality.  With a hazardous leak incoming from Dimension Two threatening to consume the Earth, young researchers Peter and Bridget look for a way in which to protect their infant son from the fallout.  In a scene reminiscent of Superman's own origin, the child is placed in a containment unit and blasted into the unknown (Dimension Four, in this case).  We watch the child sail through the stars, and catch a glimpse of energy flowing in his eyes.

In the present, Superman is in the midst of battle with Titano.  Jimmy Olsen is nearby attempting to take photos for the Planet.  Unfortunately for Jimmy, his pictures only depict a blue and red blur.  In exchange for the photos, and likely only due to pity, Perry White offers Jimmy a lunch voucher.

Clark Kent arrives on the scene to speak with Perry about returning to the Daily Planet.  They walk down the hallway bedecked in Planet covers showing important happenings in the DC Universe.  The covers include Superman's first appearance in Metropolis, the Death of Superman, the Return of Superman, and perhaps the most topical... Lex Luthor Saves the World (from the fallout of Forever Evil).  I am still not clear on how the New 52 handled the death and return of Superman... I'm fairly certain there was not a Reign of the Supermen here... anyways...

We observe a scene at Clark's apartment.  Clark makes dinner (which he admits is not as good as his mother's), he is shown on the phone with Wonder Woman, and attempting to phone Batman.  He is looking through a family photo album when he hears a far off cry for help.

Superman finds himself in battle with a large alien foe.  The two fight, and when it seems that all may be lost, a super powered man with long blonde hair spears the alien creature away.  This young man and the alien appear to be speaking the same language.  In a beautiful splash page we are treated to the alien being attacked from both sides from the blonde and Superman... the power of which causes an explosion of energy.

As the two supermen collect themselves, Superman thanks the blonde man for his help.  They speak for a moment, and the man comes to understand that he is on Earth.  He introduces himself as Ulysses, and expresses great surprise that the Earth was not destroyed.  He had, until now considered himself the "Last Son of Earth".  He smiles, knowing he is no longer alone.


While I'm still not completely on board with this younger and edgier Superman (and it's doubtful that I will be) this was a fantastic issue.  It felt as though it was laying the groundwork for something much larger to come.  Hindsight unfortunately informs me that this is not entirely true, depending on your mileage for the current (2015-2016) DCYou "Truth" story line.  For a jumping on point, you can do far worse than Superman #32.

I may be biased, but I'll always read Geoff Johns' books.  In my opinion, he is wonderfully talented and is a true mechanic and architect in the industry.  I am rarely disappointed in anything the man writes, and this issue is no exception.  Bringing Clark back to the Daily Planet and his regular cast of characters did a great service.  This just feels right.  Scenes such as Clark flipping through an old photo album and looking at pictures of Ma and Pa make this character feel more real than he has in ages.  In time, I could have seen this Superman maybe sorta-kinda become my Superman.  These feelings are unfortunately short-lived... but that's not a discussion for today.

I've seen people bash John Romita Jr.'s artwork for years now.  I can't help but dig it.  I will agree that the pencils are looser and he might not be at his Uncanny X-Men, Peter Parker or Amazing Spider-Man level here, but JRJR brings with him something of a comfort (for me, anyway).  I could see his move to DC be one that facilitates toe-dipping in the DCU from purely Marvel Comics readers.  I can honestly say, though I will concede it may be nostalgia or comfort speaking, I loved the art in this issue.

One gripe I do have, and this is not Superman #32 specific, mind... but this issue is clearly of the "written for the trade" variety.  This is an opening chapter, and while there is a lot to absorb here... there is also a feeling that it may be padded a touch.  Still a great read for what it is, though more likely to be thoroughly enjoyed in the collected edition.  I was also not happy in the increase in cover price from $2.99 to $3.99 for this title from this point on.  Recommended.


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