Review: Superman #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Colours: Jamal Campbell
Letters: Ariana Maher
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman #1: It’s the Dawn of DC! Superman has returned to Metropolis and his greatest enemy Lex Luthor is finally behind bars. The future of the Superman family has never been brighter! As Clark Kent settles back into his life, iconic and new enemies erupt from the shadows to strike down the Man of Steel! But waiting in the wings to back up Big Blue is…Supercorp?! What secret project has Lex given to Superman?! “A hero is only as good as their villains” will be put to the test in this brand-new oversize #1 featuring comics’ greatest superhero by DC Comics architect Joshua Williamson and award-winning superstar artist Jamal Campbell!
This week, DC continues their Dawn of DC initiative with Superman #1 (and Catwoman #52). Relaunching their Superman series isn’t unprecedented, as this is the sixth volume of the title. However, it is notable because the previous volume was replaced with Superman: Son of Kal-El, starring Clark Kent’s son Jon. So, the Man of Steel’s eponymous title is returning after an absence of a year and a half.
Superman’s other main title, Action Comics, has undergone a change in format that features the entire Superman Family along with Superman. However, it seems that the focus of Superman will focus more on Superman and his classic supporting cast. In this first issue, we see Clark at work as a reporter at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. I was quite pleased to see this, as this side of Clark’s life has not been very prevalent in recent years, especially after the public revelation of his dual identity.
Also, we learn that Lois has stepped in as acting Editor in the wake of Perry White’s recent heart attack. This is sure to affect the dynamics of Lois and Clark’s relationship, especially considering her declaration that she won’t go easy on any of the staff, including her husband.
Given that she knows and supports her husband’s other life, I doubt that she will interfere with his ability to act as Superman. But we also see that Lois is already feeling the stress that comes along with the job. I’m sure that Lois is up to the job, but she may face difficult times as she gets used to it. And Clark may find himself powerless to help Lois with this.
Also, Superman #1 is clearly setting Lex Luthor up to play an important role in Williamson’s story. But will Lex be the primary antagonist – or will he be on Superman’s side? While the issue seems to be pointing towards the former, the final page drops a tease that Lex may not be the big baddy of the series.
And Lex does something this issue that seems on the surface to be a benefit for Superman. He gives Superman ownership of Lexcorp, newly renamed to Supercorp. Luthor’s gift of the company’s resources and technology could be a vast help to Superman and the people of Metropolis. But Superman senses there are strings attached and tries to refuse Lex’s offer. However, he is informed that if Superman doesn’t take ownership of the company, all of Lex’s employees will be out of work, rendering half of Metropolis unemployed.
There are some nice Easter eggs strewn about the issue. Lex communicating with Superman by broadcasting at a frequency no one else can hear is the same method he used to first contact Superman in Superman: The Movie. And Lex’s hologram mimics the hologram of Jor-El from the same movie. And the Superman logo that appears on the cover and in the book’s epilogue is the classic logo. But it is coloured like the crystalline version from the Christopher Reeve movies.
Also, when Superman is visiting Supercorp, the Supermobile is visible in the background. This vehicle has been rarely seen in recent years, except in Peter J. Tomasi’s excellent Super Sons and in McFarlane Toy’s Super Powers action figure line.
Also, when Jimmy mentions his girlfriend, Lois refers to a number of his past girlfriends. All of these refer to actual women that Jimmy has been with in past stories. I love that one of these is “the gorilla princess”, making a reference to the very strange, but absolutely brilliant maxiseries Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen by Matt Fraction. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and do so.
The issue ends with a series of panels that teases some of the upcoming adventures that Superman has ahead of him in future issues of this title. Over these panels, we hear a voice speaking to Superman. This ends with a final panel that reveals who the voice belongs to. And it is a classic and very powerful Superman villain indeed. Williamson is clearly hinting at a major clash with this villain in the months ahead.
The art of Jamal Campbell is well-suited to this title. All the characters look exactly how they should. And I love how he captures the grandeur of Metropolis. We can see that it truly is a metropolis not only in name, but in scale. And his clean lines and bright colours mark it as being the City of Tomorrow that it is often called.
Superman #1 has a main cover, twelve standard variant covers, and five ratio variant covers. That’s eighteen different covers. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, DC has a bad variant cover problem. Sure, it’s great for those readers who just want to pick one or two of the variants, but it really takes advantage of completionists who want them all.
Now Superman #1 isn’t the most egregious example of this, but it’s the most recent in a long line of books with too many variants. The first issue of a new Superman series is worth a couple extra variants, but eighteen is more than a little overkill. However, it’s not as bad as the last two issues of Action Comics. Action #1050 had a whopping 27 covers to mark an anniversary issue. But the anniversary wasn’t even to mark a multiple of a hundred, but of fifty! And then they followed it up the very next month with ten covers for Action #1051 to mark the book’s new direction. For all that’s holy, please lighten up on the constant barrage of multiple covers, DC!
Joshua Williamson won me over with his amazing run on The Flash. And I thoroughly enjoyed his Infinite Frontier and Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths. So, I am coming in with high expectations for this title. And if Superman #1 is any indication, he is going to live up to those expectations. And Jamal Campbell’s artwork is the perfect choice to bring Williamson’s story to life. I look forward to seeing what the upcoming issues have in store for the Man of Steel.