“And sometimes one is simply one.”
Hej hej, all. This is D.C. back from a long hiatus (read: My day job kept me extremely swamped).
Kay and I had spent the last month reading and collecting comics and films. While our eyes viewed many, few stuck out that garnered an extensive review. That has changed in the last couple of weeks, so the first of many throwdowns will be the two-part storyline in Superman, Super Monster.
Is this YOUR Superman?
For many, yes. This may be DC Comics’ New 52/Rebirth era, but this appears to be the pre-Flashpoint era Kal-El, here to fill the void left by the New 52 Superman’s death. With wife Lois Lane and son Jonathan (Superboy), Superman continues to find his place in this unfamiliar world, complicated by the ominous presence of Mr. Oz.
Superman’s saga continues in Superman #12-13, which covered the Super Monster arc, with the review focused on issue #13.
Writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason (who’ve worked together on Green Lantern Corps) write a fast-paced tale that has just about everything: a seemingly-ordinary day for Lois Lane; a fun and satisfying scuffle between Superman and S.H.A.D.E. agent Frankenstein; and an appropriate resolution to a short arc. Even Lois got a small spotlight taking a shot at the arc’s antagonist. Tomasi and Gleason’s inclusion of both Frankenstein and his Bride and their emotional baggage in this arc worked out very well without overstaying their welcome.
The strongest dialogue by Tomasi and Gleason here was rooted in the poetic exchanges between Frankenstein and the Bride, which oozed animosity, love lost, and even a bittersweet and pained longing that is apparent in both characters. It’s complicated and very relatable. The most impactful line was near the end of issue #13, where the dead Frankenstein confesses his very human feelings to his former Bride. Her response and his reaction cuts hard and deep.
Doug Mahnke’s art, aided by bright and vibrant colors (why so many colorists for one issue?), works well for the most part. The emotive responses related to each character went well with the script, even the nuances etched in the dull, dead faces of Frankenstein and the Bride.
I hadn’t been very pleased with this Superman series–particularly with regards to Jonathan and the depiction of the Eradicator–but Super Monster was a very good arc.
Some issues I had, though…
Tomasi and Gleason seemed to be confused with regard to the fugitive warlord Kroog. There were repeated alternations between identifying Kroog as male or female. Why? There’s no indication that Kroog is a shapeshifter of nebulous gender. I’m not sure if Tomasi and Gleason were trying to imply the fluid gender, or were confused themselves in the depiction of Kroog.
The Bride’s exchange with Lois was a bit off when it came to explaining the death of hers and Frankenstein’s son. The Bride explicitly stated, with regards to her son:
“We tracked him down in Europe, where he was wreaking death and destruction.”
Yet two panels later, the Bride says:
“…And I killed him before he could kill others.”
Perhaps I’m being a bit pedantic, but…how does one stop one from killing, if he was already wreaking DEATH and destruction already? It’s a small thing, but it was, to me, no less inconsistent.
While the dialogue between Frankenstein and the Bride was emotional and potent, I do feel that Tomasi and Gleason missed a golden opportunity to bring that dialogue back into the the thoughts and actions of Superman and his feelings towards both Lois and Jonathan. There was no introspection on Superman’s part, no thoughts on the meaning of his allies’ relationship, and how fragile and easily breakable his own family is. Without that introspection, even in caption form, the last several panels lack any real impact to me, other than hammering the point that this version of Superman and his family is “perfect” for DC’s Rebirth initiative.
Hammering “perfection” isn’t moving, and really did diminish the full effect I desired.
The Super Monster arc in Superman was a quick, isolated team-up tale that was both effective and exciting. While it didn’t serve a specific “goal” towards the overall events of Rebirth, it was a good filler that reacquainted Superman with more characters.
There was some blips in Tomasi and Gleason’s writing, particularly with regard to antagonist Kroog and the full emotional takeaway of the arc, but it was a satisfying read.