Two solid issues of Superman in a row? The new DC, there’s no stopping them now!
The Man of Steel’s refresh era continues in Superman #33, with writer Geoff Johns and long-time Marvel artist John Romita Jr. bringing readers part two of their “Man of Tomorrow” story. While not quite as explosive as their first issue, the story is rich with strong dialogue and delivers a concrete sense of character throughout.
A good portion of the issue is centered on the happenings of the Daily Planet offices and the dynamic cast of characters who work there. Johns’ script continues to bring Clark Kent’s supporting team to full life in a way that’s reminiscent of the best moments of the John Byrne years and Superman: The Animated Series. The message to readers seems to be that this is a return to Clark’s classic newsroom setup. Gone are the one-room apartment renegade blogging days Grant Morrison introduced.
If mining the past makes sense for any title, Superman’s the one. The return to form feels welcome here. There’s a reason Kent’s status quo as mild-mannered reporter worked for decades, and Johns reminds us why with his extended dialogue and investment in the characterization of the Daily Planet staff.
Perry White especially stands out in this issue, as both the strong-minded editor of a big city daily and also an interesting cat all his own, with subtle hints of a complete backstory. White also offers a sort of moral guiding hand to Clark and serves as a nice grounding element for the world’s most powerful superhero. Perry White: Year One anyone?
Ulysses, the mysterious other superbeing introduced last issue, provides some fun moments as he navigates Metropolis for the first time. It’s a typical “alien on the street” sequence but entertaining nonetheless. His pairing with Clark works well and moves the needle away from the young and brash Superman that has dominated the New 52 toward the more steady and mature presence traditionally associated with the character.
Unfortunately, the action is fairly sparse in Superman #33. Although it comes at the gain of well-written dialogue and the weaving of subplots, the detraction is still felt. Johns does manage to mix in a few panels of fisticuffs, but it feels like an afterthought. When the story takes eight pages to get out of the Daily Planet offices, there’s obviously not a ton of space for extended action beats.
John Romita Jr.’s art is primed for superheroic action, but also lends well to the character work and plot advancement of Johns’ script. As much as Johns’ words bring the Daily Planet team to life, Romita’s expressive characterization work elevates the process. It’s odd that JRJR is often criticized for having an overly simplified style, as I’m not sure all artists would be able to capture the nuance of this issue’s lengthy dialogue moments. There are a few pages of Superman #33 that are free of nearly any dialogue where Romita particularly shines. Without words, clearly the brunt of the storytelling burden is on the artist, and Romita nails it.
Superman #33 is a fine issue that’s strong on characterization and plot. Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. continue to do right by the Man of Steel in their mission to reestablish the character after several years of New 52 ambivalence. This isn’t the most exciting effort, unfortunately, and feels a bit too light on the action to qualify as a stellar Superman story. This chapter is just an average issue of Superman, but at this point that’ll do just fine.