This issue brings us part two of “The Men of Tomorrow” arc begun in last month’s issue by new creative team Geoff Johns, John Romita, Jr., and Klaus Janson. We’re still very much at the beginning of this arc, as the team provides more character development and background than they do action. And given that there’s another Superman book that’s all about, well, Action, this somewhat slower pace serves Superman well. This flagship title was in need of some course correction, and based on the past two issues the new creative team was just what was needed.
Much is this issue is devoted to Clark Kent’s surrogate family, the employees of the Daily Planet, led by their father-figure Perry White. In the New 52 continuity, with Clark’s parents being dead, Perry serve as a guide, mentor, and father for Clark in much the same way that Alfred serves the same role for Bruce Wayne. It’s nice to see Clark in this manner, interacting with friends and “family,” as it’s just one more thing that sets him apart from many heroes in the New 52 who lead solitary lives. Clark, despite his alien nature, is sometimes the most human of all the heroes. It’s a nice juxtaposition handled expertly by the creative team.
Superman himself doesn’t show up until about Page 12, but that’s actually a benefit for this story rather than a detriment. Even when he does show up, he’s still playing his investigative reporter role rather than punching things. This is a more nuanced, in-depth look at Superman that is looking more into what it’s like to be Superman than it is looking at how strong he is or how many powers he has. One is reminded of some of the best classic Superman stories, including the Donner films, where Superman defeats his enemies not by brawn but by his wits. This is most likely a deliberate choice on Johns’s part given his past history with Donner.
The focus of this issue is on discovering more about the history of Ulysses, the mystery character unveiled in last month’s issue. While readers were given a short origin, Ulysses himself is unaware of much of his past, and Clark aims to help him fill in the gaps. This sets up some really nice, heart-warming moments throughout the issue that actually serve to highlight Clark’s relationship with his adoptive human parents, and how important they were toward making him the person he is today.
Another key element of his issue is humor, which is sadly an element that is often lacking in the New 52. Ulysses is once again the instrument used to portray the humorous moments in the story, including one funny scene involving a street vendor. These little touches, rather than detracting from the story, actually serve to celebrate the medium for what it is, and it’s something that Johns handles deftly.
Romita’s pencil work continues to look great in this issue, and he treats us to a variety of different layouts and angles to help mix things up. He’s able to create a sense of energy and vitality in the Daily Planet scenes, even though those scenes are mainly just characters standing around talking to each other. But you really get the sense of how lively a news room is. In contrast, there are some quieter scenes, also just featuring characters talking, but in this case it’s one-on-one with Perry and Clark, and you can sense the change in mood immediately.
One thing that cuts in a bit to Romita’s work this time is the sheer amount of dialogue. There are some panels where the art seems almost squished in order to fit in all the dialogue. If it only happened once, it would be forgivable, but it happens multiple times throughout the Daily Planet scenes. Fortunately, we are treated to some other pages later in the issue with no dialogue or narration at all that showcase Romita’s art.
The new creative team on Superman continues to bring us an engaging, if somewhat slowly paced, Superman story that aims to incorporate more of the character’s history into the New 52. This is a perfect time to jump on board Superman, especially since what’s happening in this title is separated from the “Doomed” arc that is running across all other titles with the character.