A new day has dawned across the DC Universe in the wake of the Dark Crisis, which marks a time for new monthly titles. Action Comics‘ other half, plain ol’ Superman, returns to shelves this month, bringing with it a fresh starting point for new readers. Finally returned to Earth from the Warworld saga, Superman #1 finds Clark back in the rhythm of his colorful cast and feels like a return to simpler times.
The opening splash panel tells us everything we need to know going in. The visuals superbly condense Superman’s origins without slowing the story down with exposition we’ve all read before. The only words spoken are a simple “I got you,” as Superman places himself between a hapless couple and a threatening lightning strike from a supercharged Livewire. Such a simple opening image conveyed so strikingly through the artwork encapsulates everything we know and love about the Man of Steel. He’s here to save the day. This splash exhibits the excellent collaboration between writer and artist that extends through the rest of the issue.
The ensuing issue hits all the highs one could want from a classic Superman story. Superman saves the day (in more ways than one), Clark Kent returns to the Daily Planet to report on Superman’s latest adventure, and all the while Lex Luthor’s latest plots begin to simmer. It’s a breath of fresh air to have all these familiar elements on display in a fresh way without falling into simple nostalgia for its own sake.
Williamson also nails the characters’ voices. Superman exudes confidence in action, yet falls introspective when given a moment to breathe. The Lois and Clark dynamic makes a welcome return as well. Superman’s relationship with those closest to him has been in constant flux to say the least, and Williamson carefully reckons with that to bring back it back in line with what we’re used to reading. There are nods to the recent additions and changes in the Super-family without needing to go in-depth, and most of all, he re-establishes Clark Kent in the world of Metropolis. There’s respect paid where it’s due to other creators’ recent changes, but thankfully this issue can largely be enjoyed by itself without needing the broader context.
Campbell’s artwork is a major highlight here. His characters have an animated quality and the art style conveys emotions through the characters’ faces and body language. The quiet moments have solid comedic timing with clever paneling, and the superheroics possess a sense of momentum and energy. There’s a real sense of excitement and fun that fills you as you read that builds with each page turn, until the ending tease.
While the main issue ends with a cliffhanger at a looming threat in Metropolis, it’s not until the final two pages that the final shoe drops and we’re supposed to be primed for “the next big event”. The final page reveal confirms the Dawn of DC era’s looming threat, which is my one real gripe with the issue. Everything until this point feels so independent and free of any baggage that comes with picking up a modern comic, but the issue couldn’t end without teasing the “next big thing.” The never-ending motion from one big universe-threatening event to another has become so tiresome, and the preceding issue stands in direct contrast to this approach. I hope as Superman goes on it leans more into the self-contained strengths on display here and less on advertising new events.
It feels cliche to say an issue is a return to form, but in Superman #1’s case it earns that expression. Both casual readers and Super-fans will feel right at home here with an issue that provides what readers want while also adding fresh twists. The quality artwork and clear collaboration between writer and artist on display makes this issue well worth checking out. The final tease did undercut part of my experience with this issue, but that aside, I remain cautiously optimistic this series will retain its current approach rather than turning into just an extended lead-in to yet another event.
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