Superman #32 feels like the book we should have received 31 issues ago. Marvel royalty John Romita Jr. lands at DC in a big way this month, joining the company’s Chief Creative Officer and noted character rehab specialist Geoff Johns. Together, the superstar duo tackle the longstanding albatross of mainstream comics: what to do with the flagship Superman title.
Nobody seems to be able to get this character right. Over the last 20 years, the most engaging Superman stories have either involved his death or taken place away from the spotlight of the core monthly book. Since the New 52 reboot, readers have been simultaneously introduced to Grant Morrison’s Woody Guthrie-Superman, George Perez’ confused Man of Tomorrow, and a countless slew of false starts and missteps in between.
Johns and Romita almost instantly bring things back to a better place. Clark – at last – looks and sounds like Clark. His supporting cast is introduced in full force, with The Daily Planet the bustling metropolitan newsroom it should be. Perry White reminds us that this is Metropolis, the Big Time, the Major Leagues. Jimmy Olsen is present, complete with a unique subplot all his own. Lois is mentioned and briefly shown, and Johns deftly weaves in Wonder Woman, Batman and the Kents in a few scant lines of dialogue. It’s a great status report for new readers.
Within mere pages, what’s transpired before is swept aside and the stage is set for the Man of Steel to take flight. Romita’s artwork is sublime. He channels Kirby and a bit of his own family lineage to lay down the double helix of what makes a good Superman story work – Clark Kent’s life as a sensitive farm kid turned big city reporter and the full-on action and adventure of Superman.
While there’s not much of a threat introduced in this fresh start, we’re given enough appetizers to chew on while the groundwork is laid. A two-page splash of Superman slugging it out with cybernetic gorilla Titano showcases what Romita can do on with this character and hints at what’s ahead.
Johns does excellent work here, crafting a “new start” issue that doesn’t bow under its own pressure. Romita’s departure from Marvel is a once in a generation event, and rather than bog the proceedings down with pomp and circumstance, Johns simply gets right to it. The end result is an issue that feels uncluttered and potent. He even manages to introduce a new character, and a compelling one at that.
With megastars like Johns and Romita on the book, it might be easy to overlook the work of inker Klaus Janson and colorist Laura Martin. Janson has collaborated with Romita frequently, and his bold linework accentuates Romita’s action scenes and give weight to the more reflective beats. The two complement each other perfectly. Laura Martin is a real unsung hero here, with her color work contributing greatly to the fresh vibe of the pages. It’s as bright as a Superman story should be, without trending toward four-color corniness.
Every issue of a comic book is somebody’s first, as the saying goes. I wrote that line on this very site a little over two years ago, in a review of Superman #8. I was saddened and dismayed at that time to see DC treat their most famous character with such shoddy indifference. As custodians of the world’s first and perhaps greatest superhero, it seemed like the company could have done far more to refresh Superman for the 21st century. It’s taken a while, but I’m happy to report that Superman #32 presents the characters of Metropolis with the respect they deserve and provides a great reading experience for fans old and new alike. This is the kind of comic that you hope will be somebody’s first, because it will likely mean it won’t be their last.