Dan takes a trip back in time to catch up on the first three installments of Adventures of Superman. Read more after the jump!
With the first print edition of Adventures of Superman hitting shelves this week, I gather many of you will be getting your first glimpse of the digital-first comic. Personally, I couldn’t wait for the print version. Seeing talent such as Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire and Chris Samnee work their magic with the king-daddy of superheroes was too much for me to pass up—especially if you’ve been reading Superman in The New 52. Superman has been fraught with instability from its creative teams and ineptitude in its storytelling. Action Comics under Grant Morrison’s pen became too weird as the flagship Superman comic; barely accessible to seasoned veterans, let alone new readers. Where was a reader to go to get a true Superman fix?
Saving the day like the titular hero himself came Adventures of Superman. Free from continuity like the Legends of the Dark Knight digital series, creators were given the liberty to write the Superman story they wanted. Here we were given three short stories, each wholly unique and each wholly Superman. Powerhouse creators and rising stars alike combine for one of the most enjoyable Superman reads in recent memory. The first story by Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee was created in the mold of a classic Superman story. The follow-up, written and drawn by Jeff Lemire, demonstrated the ability of the character to be inspirational to those in our world. Finally, Justin Jordan pens a touching tale as Superman gives the misunderstood Bizarro a purpose in life.
Each artist brings their A-game to this title. From Samnee’s nostalgic yet fresh style to Lemire’s cartoony depictions, the art in each chapter is a perfect fit for the story that the writer is trying to tell. The care and attention to detail that each artist displays is a testament to the esteem held for this pop culture icon. Early in Lemire’s story, for example, a child puts on a makeshift cape in order to “play” Superman. Lemire adds one detail to the cape—a patch. This token detail gives the reader enough information to fill in this character’s entire backstory. This is clearly not the first time, or even the twentieth time, that a cape has been worn by a child wishing he had the ability to fly among the stars like the Man of Steel. This is just one example of the many moments where the art alone can capture the imagination of the reader.
While on the topic of art, Bryan Hitch’s cover to these three digital releases is nothing less than great. We are once again presented with the iconography of Superman breaking free from chains. It is an image that has been recreated countless times over the decades, and one that we’ll be seeing again in the upcoming Superman Unchained, but Hitch’s interpretation is so strong I yearn to see him as the regular artist on a Superman title one day.
The writing by Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire and Justin Jordan is strong and indicative of each writer’s knowledge and affection for the character. Jordan’s tale showcases Superman’s love and compassion for his antagonists. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Bizarro. However, he is most effective when portrayed as a misunderstood being from another world rather than a two dimensional villain. This is the interpretation that Jordan draws upon, which allows Superman to show off his physical and emotional strengths. This is a balance all three writers are able to successfully strike in their respective stories to varying degrees.
There is no such thing as a perfect comic, especially when it comes to the anthology format. Those reading the print editions may find changes in writing and art styles jarring, but that’s more of a nitpick than actual flaw.
My biggest complaint is with the first story written by Jeff Parker. When I first read it, I thought the ending was a cliffhanger. And when I re-read it, I noticed it was titled as “Chapter 1 of 1,” which was upsetting, if only because there wasn’t going to be more of this story. While this perceived cliffhanger is more to reinforce the status quo of the Superman mythos, I would love to see it followed up in the future. As it is written right, the story almost seems incomplete.
Justin Jordan’s story features a veteran Superman that apparently had previous encounters with Bizarro. So why does it take most of the story for Superman to figure out Bizarro’s perception of the world is backwards? Perhaps it’s due to a space limitation within the digital format, but a realization such as that on the part of the characters should have happened earlier in the story.
The first three installments of Adventures of Superman are some of the most satisfying Superman stories in recent memory. Despite its minor flaws, this is a collection that rises to the top of publications featuring the Man of Steel. Do yourself a favor and buy all three immediately either digitally or, as of now, in print form at your local comic store.