Clark Kent visits the Daily Planet, where he and Perry discuss Clark’s social life. Later, when Superman’s fighting an unknown invader, he comes across a new superhuman named Ulysses. An alliance forms, and it appears this new friend has quite the interesting story to tell…
Well that was much better than I was expecting.
I haven’t read all the essential Superman stories yet, and I still need to get to Byrne and Waid and many others. But Geoff Johns is my favorite Superman writer so far, and he reminds me why here. Nevertheless, with his recent less-than-stellar work on many New 52 properties, I was afraid this was going to be more of the same. The advanced preview we received on May 7th didn’t help. (Just so you know, the dialogue in the first preview isn’t completely accurate. Superman never says any nonsense about how “My whole life I’ve felt alone.”)
It’s been so long since I’ve seen Perry White and Jimmy Olsen used properly that I’d forgotten why they needed to be here. (No offense to Scott Lobdell but I skipped most of his run.) Without the Daily Planet, without some sense of everyday life and bustle, all Superman’s epic struggles feel meaningless. Clark’s battles here with Titano and the unnamed spaceship are better because of the quieter, more ordinary scenes. I’ve complained before that the New 52 doesn’t have any real, mundane, civilians in it to feel threatened by the latest epic crossover catastrophe, but here we get to connect with some. After several months of “Doomed” it feels so good to have a small and personal Superman story like this.
The crux of the story hinges on Clark’s loneliness, but to Johns’ credit we never see him say that aloud. Instead we see him trying to call up his fellow superheroes after a talk with Perry about how he seems to pull away from people. (Quick Aside: We see him trying to call Batman while cooking dinner. How often do we see Superman do anything ordinary anymore? Albeit with heat vision.) Superman’s loneliness has been touched on before, but Johns is careful not to push it too far. He’s aware that Superman has friends and an immense affection for humanity, but that doesn’t mean he’s not deeply alone some of the time.
As for the art? Well, some people hate John Romita, Jr. Personally I think he’s a great choice. Why? Because it’s distinctive. Some people think it looks jarring, but after so many (still very talented) artists all drawing the same characters the same way, something different feels good.
Ulysses’s character isn’t annoying yet, but there are a few details that have me worried. Superman parallels can be good, and the idea that this one is from Earth is fun, but the opening dialogue between Ulysses’s parents feels a bit on the nose. I hope Ulysses doesn’t end up following the same storyline as SUPERMAN UNCHAINED’s Wraith. Also, I found myself forgetting Ulysses’s costume even as I was watching it.
SUPERMAN #32 is a great start to the Johns and Romita run. A fantastic jumping on point.