Starman writer James Robinson joins the Superman books with this issue and reminds me why I like his work too much. He gives us a sympathetic hero, standout supporting characters and intriguing antagonists.
The hero is, of course, the guy with his name on the cover. As we join him, he’s showing off Krypto to Hal Jordan, as the Dog of Steel plays fetch with a hubcap. It’s great to see Krypto and know this is the Silver Age pooch reimagined – not a Smallville substitute, not a transformed alien lizard, but a genuine Kryptonian canine. With thoughts.
Yup, for the first time since pre-Crisis, Krypto is presented as a thinking being. Sure, the thoughts are simplistic, limited to expressions of pleasure at the game he’s playing with ‘Man’, and they’re in narrative boxes rather than proper thought balloons – well, doggy thought balloons are cheesey, obviously – but Krypto is thinking again. He’ll be building a Doghouse of Solitude and cavorting with the Space Canine Patrol Agency any day now.
Krypto’s happy, and Superman’s happy. He’s blindly optimistic, it seems, telling his Green Lantern chum: ‘I have Lois in my life – and a dog. A good dog. And that gives me a life. Complete. Bottom line, what could go wrong?’ Hal, like me on first reading, assumes Superman is being naive to a bonkers degree. Then he realises that Superman simply has faith that things will work out. Perhaps Superman is trying to will everything to work out – surely that’s something with which a Green Lantern could identify?
Hal Jordan and Krypto, they’re not the only supporting characters here – there’s a new acting head of Metropolis’ science police, the 21st century precursors to the Legion of Super-Heroes’ longtime allies. Travis DuBarry is a new character, descended from the comic book cops of Robinson’s Starman run. He seems a good guy, but not without failings – he fears he’s overpromoted, and recognises that Superman annoys him at times. But I like him, I’m intrigued by the other new cops his narration touches upon (including one connected to underrated 2003 mini-series the Human Defense Corps), and I hope he becomes one of Superman’s pals.
As for the opponents, there are two here – the big, unnamed, rather daft-looking monster, giving the Science Police such a tough time; and Atlas, big Greek Titan type and traditional Superman rival (as seen during the Silver Age and, more recently, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman). The speedy, strong Atlas is at first mistaken by DuBarry for Superman, and the cop isn’t impressed when ‘Superman’s’ reckless shot at the monster sees the Daily Planet globe knocked off, but the truth soon outs. And Atlas’s carelessness allows for a nice recreation of the traditional Atlas pose as he hefts the globe on his massive shoulders, nicely portrayed with Superman ‘in role’ on this issue’s Alex Ross cover. The Titan then beats up on DuBarry for awhile, until Superman finally shows up – confident, majestic – having heard the ruckus from space.
And the issue ends. A very nice issue ends. James Robinson immediately clicks with sitting penciller Renato Guedes, here inked by one Wilson Magalhaes, making for a smooth, good-looking comic book. The dialogue is convincing, the events BFM (Believable For Metropolis) and it looks like we’re in for a fun story. Robinson shows us Superman through the eyes of Hal and DuBarry – and to a lesser extent, Krypto – and it looks like we’ll get Atlas’ interpretation as the issues pass. I do hope, though, that the writer’s interest lands on Superman, letting him take a turn at narration – I want to be with Superman as much as looking at him.
And I can’t wait to see how this book begins crossing over with Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Action Comics. Between the two teams I think we’ll get a rounded Superman – a regular guy who’s never fazed by cosmic grandeur, rather than the super-hick he’s been presented as too often in the last few years.
Atlas may shrug, but when I see books like this, I cheer.