Review – Superman #20 (DC Comics)

Publisher: DC Comics
Story: Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
Artwork: Patrick Gleason (pencils), Mick Gray (inks), John Kalisz (colours)
Release Date: 5th April 2017

Superman has been through a lot recently.  We dramatically lost the New 52 Kal-El only for him to be replaced by the old DCU version of him.  Then, just as the whole world was questioning who this new Superman was, a new Clark Kent who claims to have never been Superman arrives on the scene.  We finally discovered the true identity of the duplicate Clark, had a variation of the Superman Red/Blue story play out briefly, and after all that, things should finally be returning to normal, right?  Well… not entirely.

In this latest issue, Bruce and Damian pay the Kents a visit, worried for the health of Jon as his powers do not appear to be growing at all.  It also finally shines a spotlight onto the Kents’ chosen hometown of Hamilton and some of the inhabitants that live there.

I often worry when two writers have been assigned to a book, especially one that has had as troubled a history as Superman (New 52 was not a good time for Supes), but I was heartened to discover Gleason and Tomasi working on the story.  Both writers have worked either directly on Superman or some of the other heavy hitters in the DCU so it was no surprise to me reading this issue that the narrative flowed smoothly.  Having each worked on slightly darker stories in the DCU, it’s nice to see them balance the wholesome and joy-filled life of the Kents with the darker and more sinister story telling we usually associate with Batman.  Though we have only just hit the tip of the iceberg in this issue, I am definitely excited to see what will follow.  Clark, Lois and Jon all feel exactly as they have previously, and Tomasi, no stranger to the Dark Knight or his Bat Family, provides a great, authentic voice for both Bruce and Damien.

Gleason’s artwork this issue is detailed, and he has clearly worked hard to ensure that the Superman we see here is the one we remember from before the New 52, wiping out any memory of that younger, brasher version of him.  The scene with both Super-families sitting around the table eating apple pie in full superhero regalia is as absurd as it is adorable, and is absolutely necessary for those of us who wonder what dinner time in the Watch Tower might look like.  There is also a wonderfully crafted scene involving Lois interrupting Batman with a bright light in her barn.  It’s impossible not to smile when the deadpan seriousness of the Dark Knight and Superman are interrupted by the mundane.  It is something that could only happen in a Superman book and something that can only happen with a creative team that really get who these characters are at their core.

John Kalisz handles colouring duties this issue, and his use of a super vibrant palette combined with the heavy black lines of Inker Mick Gray really causes each panel to pop.  Even the darkness of night struggles to drown out the overwhelming colour, and I mean that in a positive way.  In a way the colour captures the more optimistic tone of the entire book in a way that isn’t present in the rest of the DCU, providing a welcome contrast and one that definitely sets this series apart from the rest.

It is very hard to fault this book in any way as it strives for and achieves a very specific tone and appearance that may have been present since Rebirth but was certainly absent during the New 52 run.  In a world made up primarily of dark, brooding heroes the DCU needs a book that is willing to be the shining beacon of optimism and hope that the others can’t be and I feel they have certainly achieved this here.  I also feel that this is a new start of sorts for Superman.  Now that all of the mystery surrounding the duplicate Clark has been seemingly resolved, it means we can actually move on and start having adventures again.  The previous 19 or so issues suffered every so slightly from having to give this new incarnation of Superman an origin, and now that it’s over with there is nothing to hold the series back.

The issue is fairly new reader friendly, though I would definitely recommend new readers read the Superman Reborn story that came before this (Superman 18, 19 and Action comics 975 and 976).  They are by no means required reading but I feel they give enough background on this new Superman and everything that has happened up to this point that it sets the reader in good stead for the beginning of this issue.  As I said, anyone can just pick this up and read it without prior knowledge of what came before, but it’s a nice supplement to this issue.

It is easy to recommend this book for the straightforward storytelling and flat-out gorgeous art.  The creative team clearly understand the characters they are working on and have managed to humanise Superman in a way that we haven’t seen in quite some time.  If you are looking for an entry point or are a lapsed reader who is thinking of returning to the DCU via Superman, then this is an excellent jumping-on point.

Rating: 5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Dave MacPhail
Dave Tweets from @ShinKagato

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