Atlas came to Metropolis last issue and challenged Superman to a fight, and here the brawl continues. Hero and antagonist get down and dirty, watched by Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. We learn how Atlas got from ancient times to today, and how his nature changed from noble hero to power-hungry Titan.
It’s a meaty issue so far as developing Atlas goes, adding a layer of complexity to the big buffoon who showed up last month. We can dislike him for the way he is now, while feeling sympathy for the man he once was. Can Superman redeem him? Possibly, but first he has to punch him a bit more . . .
So, writer James Robinson makes a decent fist of Atlas, but it’s at the expense of other characters, most importantly, Superman. Yes, we’ve had decades to get to know Superman, but never as written by James Robinson, acclaimed author of Starman, The Golden Age and so forth. That’s why I’m excited by the prospect of the current run, and while I don’t doubt there will be character development aplenty in the coming months, I’m impatient.
This issue there’s a page showing Lois and Clark having a breakfast table chat about Krypto, and lots of gritty posturing from Superman towards Atlas. There’s also a scene with the mysterious woman running Metropolis Science Police, which is a tad tiresome. Well, I assume she’s meant to be mysterious, it could simply be that artists Renato Guedes and Wilson Magalhaes haven’t decided how she looks yet . . . (She sounds a cocky one, so it could be that cop-cum-slapper from Greg Rucka’s run. I hope not, cos Lt Lupe looks great in comics limbo.)
Guedes and Magalhaes are required to do a Jack Kirby impersonation for the flashbacks, this version of Atlas being a creation of the King, and it’s stunning stuff. Powerful, dynamic, a true tribute to Kirby’s majesty. And Hi-Fi do a bang-up job on the colours, giving us a subdued Silver Age palette that turns back time; and while it’s become something of a cliche, the four-colour dot matrix overlay effect works here.
The colours are less successful in the modern sequences – characters have an ugly pink skin tone. Heck, the nearly naked, muscle-bound Atlas looks like an uncooked sausage. And I don’t like the shade of blue used for Superman’s bodysuit and the grey/black given his hair.
The cover hues are a tad off, too – Alex Ross has composed a simple but memorable image, but both Superman and Atlas have a sickly green tinge.
Overall, this issue was more technically impressive than satisfying. I missed the characterisation and heart you find in a good Superman story – but the creators are talented, and I truly believe they want to do good by Superman, so my optimism remains. Up, up and away? Probably.