Superman #698 review

There’s some kind of comic book law that says that as soon as a writer divests themselves of teething problems on a book, they’re off it. At the moment it’s happening with Gail Simone on Wonder Woman, and here it is again with James Robinson. In my review of last issue I mentioned that I was truly appreciating the way he’d made Mon-El a compelling character. This time out, we finally have Superman back to star billing in his own book, and it seems that Robinson hasn’t half missed him – he’s having a whale of a time with Kal as superhero, not the soldier he’s been of late. For most of the issue Superman is in the clutches of Brainiac’s machines, but does that stop him being every inch the hero? Not as he’s scripted here.

And the sequence just gets better. The story is the continuation of a crossover between the Superman Family titles but I’d recommend this as a taster to anyone wanting to know what Superman is made of.

Mon-El, continuing to co-star, comes off well too, showing the relentlessness of a true man of valour as he fights off first a horde of space mandrills, then four separate alien races to reach, and hopefully rescue, Superman. There’s also some fine character work with Brainiac and semi-ally Lex Luthor, showing that while both are bald geniuses, to assume the only difference between them is skin tone would be folly. Plus, in five panels Robinson actually makes General Zod a sympathetic character.

He’s helped here by the illustratins of Javier Pina, who imbues Zod with strength, grace and determination. Handling the Superman sequences – Bernard Chang looks after Mon-El’s pages – Pina captures the eeriness of Brainiac’s spaceship, with its miniaturised cities and a robot around every corner. What’s more, Pina’s depictions of Brainiac and Luthor could prove era-defining: Brainiac the powerful, robotic thinker dealing with an unexpected and unwelcome influx of feelings; Luthor, the always human, mocking egotist.

As for Chang, his sharp strokes reflect the energy of the constant conflict faced by Mon-El, who looks every bit the legend he becomes by the time of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The two clearly different artists are united, so far as is possible, by the terrific colourwork of Blond, while penciller John J Hill’s letters are top notch.

Though I like the interior artwork a lot, the standout illustration for me this month is Julian Lopez’s dynamite cover, which evokes the genius of JL Garcia-Lopez, whose matchless compositions and rendering graced this title most regularly between #301-323. I could go on and on about it, but just take a look, and imagine 1,000 gushing words.

It’s the perfect summation of an issue that shows just how much James Robinson reveres the Superman legend. I hope he’s back writing Earth’s greatest hero regularly again before long.

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