In Review: Superman #38

Unnecessary milking of story and art creates a mildly disappointing conclusion to this storyline.

The cover: A foursome to find on this finale of The Men of Tomorrow storyline. The Wraparound cover is by John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, with Laura Martin. It’s the image I used for this review. Superman and Ulysses are going at it amid some ruble in space, while behind them the heads of several characters look on: including Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, and–SPOILER–Batman. So, I guess the caped crusader is in this issue. The art and coloring are good, but did this need to be a wraparound cover? It seems as if the art team were baffled with what to place on the back as evidenced by all the empty space. The Variant cover by the same team focuses on a Superman who looks ready to explode. The colors are really selling this piece, and it is a scene that is, famously, shown later in this issue when our hero demonstrates a new power. There’s a Variant cover by Lee Moder with Mike Atiyeh that I cannot find anywhere online. It would certainly be nice if DC were to actually publish all the variants of a book’s cover inside their comics. That would instantly show collectors what to hunt down, rather than rely on the imperfections of the Internet. The Flash 75th Anniversary Variant is by Kevin Nowlan, after Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff. Bizarro wants to marry Lois Lane, now that her head has been enlarged thanks to the evolution ray that’s made her super intelligent. The Flash is rushing to her rescue, also with giant cranium, thinking, “Wow! This makes my head hurt!” It’s a funny Las Vegas moment, but shouldn’t Bizarro’s chest S be backwards? Overall grades: Wraparound B, Variant A-, Variant Moder ?, and Flash 75th Anniversary B+

The story: “Friends and Enemies” by Geoff Johns opens with Superman getting punched in the chest and flying into the debris of what was once Ulysses’s home in the fourth dimension. He’s getting beaten up because the new hero blames Superman for the destruction of his world. The battle returns to our world, where the pair’s fighting results in buildings falling on crowds, unless someone can stop the structures in time. Superman gives some reassuring words to the crowd that are so true to his character, you’ll either cheer or tear up a little. Then it’s back to the punching, and the story stops so the art can take over. I love Romita, Jr., don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t think that six pages were needed to get the idea of what’s going on across to the readers. I felt like the issue was being padded. A (non) surprise guest star fills in Clark with what happened. After this meeting of giants there’s a coda with the hero and the villain, which wasn’t really necessary. The issue ends with a surprise for someone at the Daily Planet, and the continuing tease of someone watching over everything Superman does. This is a page turner, to be sure, doesn’t deserve to be this many pages. Overall grade: B-

The art: There are a lot of big panels that didn’t need to be so big from penciller John Romita, Jr., and inker Klaus Janson. Every panel is justifiable until Page 10. I realize that energy is supposed to be coming off the villain, but, with the exception of the one close-up panel, he’s a suggestion of a character–a sketch. Sadly, the same happens to the hero. By choosing to go with so many large panels, by the time of the reveal of Superman’s new power, it has no strength, having been rendered impotent by all that’s gone before it. After meeting with the guest star of the issue, Page 20 is comprised of panels bigger than necessary, culminating with a computer graphic that is useless. And what happened to Clark in the fifth panel on Page 25–he’s become a little person in his cubicle!  Janson’s inks are really strong in this issue, so much so that I felt I was looking a classic Daredevil issue that he did with Frank Miller, especially on Pages 20 – 24. It’s good, but didn’t seem like Romita Jr.’s style. The final page does not need to be a double page vertical spread. One page would have been plenty. I felt milked by the art for paying for more pages, but not getting the quality I’ve come to expect from these talents. Overall grade: B- 

The colors: Four colorists were required to close out this story: Laura Martin, Ulises Arreola, Dan Brown, and Wil Quintana. It’s impossible to tell where one colorist ends and another begins, as the book uniformly looks good. Metropolis at night, in the rain, is a particularly strong sequence. Coloring is the key component of the new power sequence, as the art needs it to discern some form. My favorite Page was 25, because there’s a lot of reality based coloring, mixed in with two very clever panels at the top that require specific coloring effects. Excellent work by all involved in this category. Overall grade: A

The letters: Sal Cipriano needed no assistance in providing scene settings, opening title and credits, dialogue, yells, and a closing address. I’ve gone on many a rant stating the unnecessary use of yells/screams that extend beyond their dialogue balloons. They look as though a character is falling in or out of a hole. Cipriano is the first letterer I’ve encountered in months that used this technique correctly, and it occurs on Page 12. What he’s done should be the standard for how to execute this effect. I didn’t think anyone could do this right, and Cipriano has shown me how it should be done. This was the highpoint of the issue for me. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Unnecessary milking of story and art creates a mildly disappointing conclusion to this storyline. I expect better from these creators, because they’ve done better. Overall grade: B

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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