Review: Superman ’78 #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Wilfredo Torres
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Dave Lanphear of A Larger World
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Superman has surrendered to Brainiac to save Metropolis! What happens when he becomes collected and added to the Bottled City of Kandor?
First and foremost, this series works because Robert Venditti, Wilfredo Torres and Jordie Bellaire are able to evoke the look, feel and tone of Superman: The Movie and Superman II. And, while last issue helped us forget the Brainiac that wasn’t in Superman III, Superman ’78 #3 makes it abundantly clear this isn’t simply an homage to the films, but rather something that can easily be taken as an alternate third Christopher Reeve Superman “movie.”
Superman: The Movie and Superman II were originally conceived of as a single story by Mario Puzo. It had to broken into two films, not unlike Puzo’s The Godfather. The through line of course comes not only through the Phantom Zone Villains, Zod, Ursa and Non, but also the themes of belonging and interference in history of which Jor-El warns the young Clark. Superman ’78 #3 addresses this theme of belonging in a way that makes it feel part of the larger story the reader knows from the first two films. Instead of redundancy, it is connective tissue.
Wilfedo Torres and Jordie Bellaire combine to make sure it is clearly the movie universe as well. Torres again makes it clear these art the actors we know in these roles and Bellaire chooses colors that mimic the colors in the film, with Superman’s costume standing out as the only comic book looking aspect of the costuming and Earth-bound set design.
What Superman finds in the Bottled City of Kandor is not only interesting, it also ties this story to the films as well. However, it is the surprise ending that has the biggest impact on the story. Venditti has been finding ways to “up” himself issue after issue for years. His work on Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and Hawkman are proof of that and Superman ’78 #3 is no exception.
There are also a few Easter Eggs in the issue as well. Venditti works in Thanagarian Hawks which are obviously a call back to his own recent AMAZING Hawkman series. Though it appears Torres may be channeling a little Joe Kubert as an homage. Additionally, we get a Batman reference as well. It even appears that the image of Bruce Wayne on the cover of Gotham Gazette may even resemble Michael Keaton! What DC fan in the late ’80’s wasn’t imagining a Christopher Reeve/ Michael Keaton Superman/Batman film!
It’s hard to imagine any fan of Superman, die hard or casual, not enjoying this series. Even if your only significant exposure to the character is the Reeve films. And, even then it’s ok to have fun! Do we need a reminder that sometimes comics can just be fun?
With Superman ’78 #3 it’s clear that this series can be “seen” as an alternate third Christopher Reeve Superman “movie.” It’s heavy on the nostalgia, but that’s what really sells it. It completely embraces the world of the films and lives there with them. The story moves along with all the proper beats including the surprise at the end which, of course fits perfectly with the characters involved.