Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason (Pencils), Mick Gray (Inks), John Kalisz (Colours)
Release Date: 6th July 2016
If there is a seminal team of story-tellers working at DC today, much as some might’ve held the now-departed Snyder/Capullo/Glapion combination in highest esteem, I’ve personally always had a massive place in my heart for Tomasi/Gleason/Gray. It was issue #18 of New 52 Batman & Robin that did it for me. If you don’t know the one, seek it out immediately. Set in the wake of the death of Damien Wayne’s Robin, it’s an entirely dialogue-free issue that none-the-less will have you on the verge of tears, it’s so beautifully, heart-wrenchingly told. It proved their absolutely stellar calibre of story-telling, and had me buying every issue of that series, desperate for more.
When I heard they were working on Superman post-Rebirth, I was enormously excited – much as he’s DC’s first icon, he’s a hero who’s been in desperate need of a fresh breath of life for a while, some that even Johns/Romita Jr./Janson struggled to get puffed into the venerable franchise. I’m sure you can imagine my delight when John slapped issue #1 with a 5/5. So does issue #2 get the Man of Steel’s long-deserved ‘essential’ streak going? We’ll find out… in the next paragraph!
Let’s get the pretty-close-to-obvious out the way – Gleason, Gray and Kalisz once again knock the art out of the park, and into Jupiter’s orbit. Gleason’s got a gorgeous understanding of the grammar of sequential art’s storytelling language – and that’s not mentioning his particular, gorgeous vein of stylisation, picked out so very perfectly by Gray’s inks. And in keeping with this being, y’know, a Superman book, Kalisz’ colours are bold and bright – ensuring that the familiar Gleason/Gray lines are never mistaken for their work on the Bat and his boy.
And as much as the art is just absolutely stellar – and seriously, I’d argue to my grave that this is the best art team at DC right now, yes, even including Liam Sharps jaw-dropping effort on Wonder Woman #1 – it’s Tomasi’s writing that absolutely steals the show. He’s spoken before about how his relationship with his own son influenced the way that he approached Batman & Robin, and given that this new status quo seems to be ‘Superman & Superboy’ in all but name, he’s pretty much uniquely qualified to breath life into the idea. And by Jove, what life! Tomasi’s knack for absolutely class ‘Dad’ dialogue is so wonderfully pleasing, and to see it combining so effortlessly with more traditional Supes stoicisms is an absolute delight.
The direction of the plot, too, is a real joy. Superficially, it almost seems like it’s far too small to be a Superman story – the epitome of human ideals is, ostensibly at least, most at home when he’s fighting world-shattering threats, not bickering playfully with his wife and trying to guide his son through the awkward teenage years. But what’s more human than that? And that’s ignoring the hints strewn throughout the story that this is going somewhere huge, to sate those chomping at the bit for a more traditional Superman story.
This is seriously the best of both worlds – grand yet intimate, fantastical yet grounded, big and bold, yet absolutely charming. It’s been at least, what? Eight years since the last truly essential Superman story came out… but if this post-rebirth arc continues with the sheer amount of quality crammed into each issue, it could well be the new gold standard. Touching wood, this series just went from ‘great opener’, to ‘essential pull list material’. Get yourself on this – you’ll find yourself loving Superman again.
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The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24