Review: SUPERMAN #32
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Sean Lewis
Artists: Scott Godlewski, Sami Basri
Colours: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman #32: The end of “The One Who Fell”! Superman and Superboy were duped by the old divide-and-conquer routine, which is especially dangerous on a faraway planet where you can’t tell who your enemy is. As the Shadowbreed makes their big move, Superman discovers what happened to the friends who originally sent the distress beacon that lured him and his son across the galaxy. Let’s just hope t’s not an answer that came too late!
Elsewhere, back home on Earth, Jimmy Olsen leads his misfit team on the hunt for the sinister Projectress.
With Superman #32, we reach the end of this incarnation of one of DC’s cornerstone titles. Overall, the level of quality was all over the place under Brian Michael Bendis. Bendis can be a good writer, but couldn’t consistently deliver a good story in the Superman books. Plus he introduced some highly controversial changes to the Superman mythos.
However, this review is not the place to get into where Bendis went wrong. Instead, we should be looking at how Phillip Kennedy Johnson has done since taking the baton from Bendis. Johnson’s tenure has been a marked improvement from Bendis. He hasn’t brought the title quite back to the high bar set by Peter J. Tomasi in the title’s previous incarnation, but I feel this is only because he was hampered by having to follow with the continuity Bendis left him with. If he had been permitted to reset the mythos back to its pre-Bendis status quo, he could have made this series something truly special.
The other problem that Johnson has had to contend with is his short tenure on the title. He took over the title with issue #29 which is ending with this issue, Superman #29. Four issues gives him precious little space to do much with the title. However, Johnson has made good use of those four issues. It’s apparent that he knew from the start that this title was soon to be replaced with Tom Taylor’s Superman: Son of Kal-El, starring Jon Kent taking on the mantle of Superman. You can tell he’s been laying the groundwork for Taylor’s series.
While the two storylines in this short run have been rather generic Superman vs. aliens stories, there has been an ongoing subtext about the relationship between Clark and Jonathan. The narration has focused on subjects such as Jon having to come to terms with the idea of his father’s fallibility and mortality, as well as the fear of living up to his father’s legacy. Also, it’s brought up Clark’s fears and hopes for his son. Johnson has primed readers for Taylor to take Jon out of his father’s shadow and fly on his own.
And fortunately, Johnson still has plenty of opportunity to make his mark on the Superman mythos in the pages of Action Comics, which he will continue to write. And while I wouldn’t mind seeing more of his work in this title, I am also quite eager to see what Tom Taylor has planned for Jon in the new series.
Scott Godlewski’s art has also played a role in making these four issues memorable. A lot of these issues have taken place in outer space, and Godlewski has quite striking and imaginative alien characters, vehicles, and landscapes.
Parallel to Johnson’s main story, Sean Lewis has been writing a rather offbeat story starring Jimmy Olsen leading a rather unique team. This team is composed of Superman supporting cast members that have been largely neglected for a number of years. I have to say that any story that brings Ambush Bug out of comic book limbo automatically catches my interest. On that note, I must once again state that DC needs to greenlight a new Ambush Bug miniseries or special.
In Superman #32, Lewis wraps up the story of this team’s encounter with the villain Projectress. Surprisingly, most of the credit for capturing the villain goes to Bibbo Bibbowski. Bibbo is not known to be the brightest member of the supporting cast. But he manages to come up with the plan that allows the heroes to catch the villain.
And Sami Basri’s illustration is quite pleasing to the eye. His rendition of the characters is spot on. And I particularly was particularly impressed by the visual representation of Acrata’s shadow powers.
With Sean Lewis’ “Tales of Metropolis” story finished in this final issue, it seems unclear where or if it will return. I hope that Lewis and Basri will be allowed to create a new story with these characters somewhere – especially Ambush Bug.
Superman #32 may be the final issue, but I am certain that the title will resurface at some point in the future. I wish the creators luck in their future projects. And I thank them for their short, but memorable tenure on this title. It’s been a treat to read and review their stories.