In Review: Superman #1

The emotional punch of this book is amazing.

The covers: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz, the interior artist, inker, and colorist, are responsible for the Regular cover. Against a silhouette of Kryptonian structures that contains a swirling explosion, Superman rips his shirt open to reveal his iconic top. Below him are his wife Lois and son Jon. To their right is an enormous flaming green skull above their home. To their left are several cloaked flaming red characters, with the bottom one looking like a redesigned Parasite. Images of things to come? Solid, superhero cover. The Variant cover by Kenneth Rocafort is a really cool piece. Standing against a radiant yellow, Superman stands with his hands on his hips. This isn’t an unusual stance for the hero, but Rocafort has included from the Kryptonian’s chest down the skyline of Metropolis and several faces of its citizens. This is a great way to show who Superman stands for symbolically. Very clever, very cool. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A

The story: Staring at the recent grave of Clark Kent, the living Clark Kent considers death and how the dead are remembered. Touching the ground, Clark shockingly leaves an imprint of his hand. Considering the fallen hero again, Clark thinks, ‘I think you’d be happy to know I put the black suit aside — We’ve been at half-mast long enough. The world needs to see again that there’s a Superman looking out for them. You may not be here in body, but I know you are in spirit…The colors will fly.’ With these final four words, Clark stands and opens his jacket revealing the iconic Superman S. “Son of Superman” by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, co-credited “storytellers”, then moves to the Smith farm, where a lightning strike has woken Jon Smith. The barn has caught fire and the animals are screaming. However, “they don’t have to worry.” Clark pulls each out to safety. The Kent family is hiding in plain sight as the Smith family, working a farm they own three hundred miles north of Metropolis. What follows this action sequence is the establishment of the family dynamics, with Jon promising not to use his abilities when his father isn’t around; this tells the reader that the boy, about aged ten, has the same powers as his pa. This becomes evident in a shocking scene on Page 13, with an even more surprising revelation on 14. I gasped aloud at both of these pages and what their impact would be. I was on pins and needles for all of 16 and unbelievably anxious for 18 and 19; I did not expect either of those character to appear, let alone their topic of focus. The last page is a terrific cliffhanger that will have young and old wondering one character’s fate. This was a surprising and terrific read. Overall grade: A

The art: The first page of this issue is full page splash of Clark’s profile, with the majority of it in black. It’s absolutely appropriate to be in the dark because he’s considering death. It’s a strong opening that matches the text and transitions into a great moody partial double-paged spread of Clark in the foggy graveyard. Pages 4 and 5 don’t really need to be a true double-paged spread, but it made the moment incredibly powerful. It was impossible for me not to hear John Williams’s theme. This was followed up another double-paged spread, showing moments from Superman’s past as he’s flying over the Earth: hello, John Williams once again! Patrick Gleason on pencils and Mick Gray on inks are an impressive team. Pages 6 and 7 are a super (no pun intended) overview of the Man of Steel without text. The intensity on the hero’s face is great and his pose perfection. As spectacular as the fire on the farm is, the final panel on 9 is truly wonderful, only to be outdone on 10 by another full page splash introducing the reader to Jon, showing how much he loves his father. After all the warm fuzzies that the visuals have created, the action on Page 13 is horrific, with my reaction matching the character’s at the top of 14. The big eyes of the character in the sixth panel on that same page were almost inhuman, but given what’s just been seen completely understandable. For the remainder of the book, the character that instigated the action on 13 is a magnet to the reader, who is able to see non-spoken clues about the individual’s thoughts and feelings. Those big eyes from 14 return on 16 and they put me on the edge of my seat. The parallel structure with the bottom two panels on 17 is great and the two characters that appear on 18 and 19 have them look terrifying. This tone is echoed on the final page. Yeah, Gleason and Gray are crushing the visuals. Overall grade: A 

The colors: I expect bold, dynamic colors in the adventures of the world’s first super hero. They don’t appear anywhere on the first three pages. In a graveyard, pondering life, John Kalisz employs grays and blacks to create a somber mood. This makes the bright colors that are revealed on 4 and 5 dramatic, which in turn lead to a fantastic explosion of colors as the hero flies off accompanied by his memories. Looking at 6 and 7, a reader knows this will be a gloriously colored book, and it is. The first sequence is exciting in red, yellow, and orange; the shock of colors on 13 are damning; the blue eyes on 14 and 16 innocence to the extreme; and the dark colors on 18 – 20 spooky. Kalisz is the perfect match for Gleason and Gray’s work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Rob Leigh provides narration, dialogue, story title, story credits, scene settings, a different form of narration for a character on 8, sounds, yells, whispers, and the tease for next issue. Having the narration be a different font from that of dialogue is the sign of a professional on the job, and Leigh certainly is. The sounds are great, especially those on 13, but the whispers enhance the spookiness of 18, having the reader strain to “hear” much like the character must. Excellent work. Overall grade: A

The final line: The emotional punch of this book is amazing. You’ve got me following another title, DC. Keep it up! Overall grade: A

To find out more about this book and other titles with Superman go to

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.
    No Comment