Review: Superman ’78 #4
[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
Luthor puts his plan to contact Superman in motion and much to everyone’s surprise..it works! But, does it work too well?
The first couple of images Wilfedo Torres gives us in Superman ’78 #4 are that of Colu, Brainiac’s home planet, and the backgrounds look really cool. They are minimalist, but they give just the right suggestion of what has transpired there. It’s also the first time I’ve ever seen Brainiac cry. And, with that we get the ball rolling that by the end feels like we are travelling at breakneck speed. And, that’s a good thing.
As mentioned in the review of last issue, the pacing of this series is much like a movie, and this issue feels like it’s ending the second act heading into the third. That pace picks up and you almost can’t wait to turn the page, because you can tell, you can sense that once Superman gets out of the Bottled City of Kandor there’s going to be some iconic action. The cast can tell it’s about to hit the fan also as Perry peers out the window announcing, “Here we go again!” We can imagine he’s recalling Superman’s showdown with Zod, Ursa and Non from Superman II. Venditti doesn’t give us what we’re anticipating, wisely leaving it for issue #5 where it will have the greatest impact. Instead, we get Lois in typical danger setting up “a job for Superman.”
If you haven’t figured out that this series perfectly channels Christopher Reeve’s Superman, then you haven’t been paying attention. It’s WHY the series works, and in this issue, there’s just something about Lex that reminds us of why Gene Hackman was so good in the role. We know Lex is the villain, but Hackman is so entertaining you just can’t help but LIKE his portrayal. In Superman ’78 #4, there’s just that feeling again that you want to like him despite knowing he’s the villain. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect.
If there’s any negative to the issue, it may be a missed opportunity to explore what Kal-El’s life would’ve been like in Kandor. It’s something we may have gotten more of in a movie, but it could also just feel derivative. That was pretty perfectly depicted in Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything” from Superman Annual #11 (1985). Venditti seems to acknowledge a couple of the ideas Moore addresses, so maybe it’s best left at that. It would be difficult to do justice to the concept in this format- it could be a whole movie in and of itself!
Superman ’78 #4 is once again a fun comic that perfectly captures the feel of Superman: The Movie. Lex shines in particular in this issue, but it’s the pacing that really drives the issue. You can feel what’s coming just around the corner, and it’s going to be one of those iconic moments in a blockbuster comic book film. Just wait… Look! Up in the Sky!