The cover: It looks as if the last son of Krypton is about to have his mouth ripped apart as he struggles in the grasp of the Machinist on the Main cover. Even though Kal is about to ignite his heat vision, it won’t do him any good if the bad guy is behind him. Nice, powerful cover (as it should be) from interior creators John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, and Laura Martin. I want my Superman books to have a lot of energy and this one has got the ultimate hero in the most dire of situations, yet he’s about to unleash one of his greatest abilities. The art is good and the coloring excellent, with red dominating the entire image. Very well done. The Variant cover is by Mike McKone with a close-up of a cell phone showing a picture of Superman being overrun by the Teen Titans. It’s cute, but has nothing to do with this issue. I do like the partial inclusion in the lower left of a sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who. The colors are by Jeromy Cox and they’re very vivid. Again, nice, but not for me. The Monster cover–Wowie! Superman via Hellraiser! A monsterous black Superman towers over Metropolis, his eight eyes shooting heat vision everywhere, his giant maw screams with sharp teeth, his costume is black and made up of chains and piercings, and his cape is shredded, but moves about him like tentacles. The entire city is in flames. Jason Pearson is channeling Clive Barker on this and it is fantastic! This is the one to hunt down! Overall grades: Main A, Variant C, and Monster A+
The story: Lois Lane is mad with Perry since Clark beat her to the story on new super hero in town Ulysses. Perry says she’s best when there’s competition, and he’s planning on hiring Kent back, which makes Lois smile and say to Jimmy, “The Daily Planet is finally getting interesting again.” Meanwhile, back where the battle ended with the Machinist last issue, Superman tells Ulysses not to worry about killing the villain, as the body was already dead. The villain was using his tech to use the dead man’s body like a puppet. Still, Superman tells the inexperienced hero not to use his power in that way again. The pair find a way to reach the real Machinist and they’re soon on their way, and there is a major confrontation and a reveal. Writer Geoff Johns is more interested in furthering Ulysses’s character than Superman’s, as the iconic hero is more of a teacher in this issue than furthering the plot. In fact, there’s a major change in Ulysses, who, thankfully, doesn’t go the cliché route of becoming a villain, but instead does something else that I had not forseen. The story gets high marks for the Machinist and his weapons, Ulysses’s turning point, and the big action. I’d like to see Superman being front and center to the story, but I’m hopeful that next issue that will finally happen. Overall grade: B+
The art: This is a big action book with a lot of big panels and double-page spreads. Of all the characters in comics, Superman is the one character who would rate this format. Penciller John Romita, Jr., and inker Klaus Janson make the action and drama big. Yes, there’s all the big smashing, explosions, and heroics that you’d expect to find in a Superman title, but because the panels are so massive the reaction shots from characters are just as big as the action scenes. For example, Troupe on Page 1, Perry and Lois on 2, Ulysses on 4, Clark on 21, and Ulysses on 22. The action is major on the book. Before the heroes fly off to find the Machinist, there’s a great introductory sequence with him (it?) at a location that is being absolutely drenched in a rainstorm. The rain looks amazing falling sideways and it makes the villain seem all the more sinister being pummeled by the raindrops. When the good guys arrive it’s a double-page spread “Wow” moment. I swear I heard John Williams’s classic theme as they appeared on that page. The Machinist’s back up crew made a great visual entrance before being ultimately revealed. Every page of this book has got something interesting or fun to look at. It’s the perfect comic look. Overall grade: A+
The colors: Really impressive work on this issue comes from Laura Martin. The opening page has the crisp, solid, realistic colors I would expect to find in Metropolis’s exteriors and interiors. Moving to Page 2 she does a really sweet job on the third panel with an unfortunate employee who’s looking at his computer screen as he gets some bad news. This is cinema quality lighting. She also does a nice job in highlighting Ulysses’s first appearance by having him backlit by some orange smelting smoke. Page 13 has some incredibly bright colors for a dramatic sequence between the Machinist and Ulysses. Energy is absolutely radiating off the page on the final double-splash page. There’s some excellent blue coloring on this that readers could get lost in. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Scene setting, dialogue, yelling, opening titles and credits, and a door knock are all created by Sal Cipriano. I really wanted some more sounds, especially during the battle, but that’s not his call, sadly. Everything he does is fine and allows for a smooth read of the story. Overall grade: A
The final line: A fun read, but I’d like Superman to be front and center. Overall grade: A-
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two 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.