Superman #34 review

The Ulysses story continues with the new hero being introduced to his birth parents, the Quinns, who sent him off to another dimension because the world was ending, then, two minutes later, found it wasn’t. Oops. Bit of a parenting fail there.

But Ulysses is an understanding fella, and he had a nice upbringing on the Great World with alien adoptive parents. There he gained the enmity of bad guy Klerik (Kenit?), who followed him back to Earth, and was defeated with Superman’s help. So everything’s good now, and Ulysses – Neil to his parents – can get to know the folks.

His mother, Mrs Quinn, asks Superman to help him adjust to Earth (translation: persuade him to cut that ridiculous lank hair).

Later, a sleeping, half-naked Superman wakes to find Ulysses at the end of his bed, watching him. Rather than toss the super-stalker out on his ear, Superman listens to Ulysses’ explanation that he doesn’t sleep, likely because he has so much energy in his body that resting isn’t necessary. Which, of course, means he doesn’t dream – that’s never good, in comics it tends to drive people maaaaad, but Superman doesn’t raise the point.

Rather than let Clark have his kip, Ulysses takes him off to trace the source of the robots that attacked Metropolis earlier. The trail takes them to the Scrap Yard – where off-cuts of war machines are left out in the open for would-be conquerors to steal and use in their upcycling projects.

A  ‘mind-tick’ attaches itself to Ulysses, sparking a brief battle with Superman. Soon Ulysses is down, the bug removed and sanity restored. That’s when the man behind the creation, and Metropolis’ recent troubles, makes his entrance, 

The Machinist is a metal-masked figure, but he’s less Dr Doom than Dr Bong, his hoodie making him look singularly unthreatening. His confidence and demeanour, though, make him imposing – change the look and we may have something here. He tosses his robo-wolves at the good guys and they’re dispatched as quickly as you’d expect. Then he unleashes a cloud of mind-ticks on Superman, but a recovered – and mind-ticked-off – Ulysses isn’t having it, and he blasts the Machinist … unleashing a killing blow.

Oh dear, Ulysses is one of those guys. A hero willing to too easily cross the line. That’s him dead before the year is out.

After last issue’s thoroughly decent issue, this was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the scene between Superman and Mrs Quinn, and the Machinist quickly grew on me, but really missed the Daily Planet staff. Having given us some good scenes with Lois, Perry and co in his first two issues, writer Geoff Johns doesn’t use them at all here. Instead, Superman gets to interact mainly with Ulysses, who here adds ‘creepy’ to his existing character portfolio of  ‘naive’ and ‘dumb’. And I recoil at his every appearance, he looks so stupid. It’s 2014 DC, do you know where your stylist is?

Good on Johns for having Mrs Quinn tell Superman that most people trust him, in contrast to what we’ve seen in the last couple of years, and I like the emphasis on the power of hope. And Neil’s bed at the Quinn’s home is just perfect.

There is one bit of subplottery, as the mystery person watching Superman from afar continues to watch him. We now see that he’s not been talking to himself, but to a second mystery person behind a Ruddy Big Door. I wonder if that’s the prison Darkseid’s Daughter was being held in, in the pages of the much-missed Vibe title.

John Romita Jr’s art is a tad pedestrian for most of the issue, and my eyes were continually drawn to the odd noses. Things improve massively once we reach the Scrap Yard, and Romita, inker Klaus Janson and colourist Laura Martin start firing on all cylinders. Suddenly there’s mood, pace and power to spare.

The cover doesn’t work: the Machinist’s head is too big – I took it for a wall on the first several looks – while the Superman figure just looks weird. The horrible New 52 costume remains the biggest problem, but Romita needs to give Superman less leg, more bum. Plus, Ulysses. Just … Ulysses.

There’s no obvious conclusion date for the Ulysses storyline, though I expect the close will see him sacrificed to some extradimensional incursion, a panel or two of sad Superman, then regular visits to the Quinns until they’re forgotten about. It’s funny, growing up I loved the many Superboy stories in which he gained a super-friend, then they died, but Ulysses just isn’t hitting my sweet spot. Annoying in personality and looks, he can’t go soon enough. Is it a coincidence my spellcheck wants to replace ‘Ulysses’ with ‘useless’?

Let’s keep the Machinist, though. And if that means the hoodie stays, fine.

14 thoughts on “Superman #34 review

  1. I agree, Maya. This is a great review.

    I appreciate what Johns is trying to do here but it feels….forced. Johns keeps talking about how he created this character to because Superman is “lonely” and has “no one to talk to.”

    I'm just confused bc this is all the making of the new 52 Superman. They separated Clark from everyone—created the problem—and now they are creating new characters to fix a problem that they created. LOL.

    I would so much rather read stories where Clark opens up to his friends at the Daily Planet. I am so much more interested in Clark spending actual, quality time with Lois and Jimmy as opposed to shoving those characters to one page a month to showcase this guy. It's just….bizarre. I generally like Johns take on Superman but this isn't really working for me. They keep trying to “fix” something that was never broken to start with. Nice review!



  2. While this wasn't a fave issue, Shades, I'm heartened that they seem to realise they got it wrong with the New 52 Superman and are striving to fix him – we may get back the Superman we like yet.

    And cheers for the kind words.


  3. i'll take pak superman but i think this is interesting also i believe the machinist does a doombot on our heroes and uylsses 4-d senses knows that


  4. with lex now a leaguer does this mean the machinist will be superman's archenemy also am i the only one who thinks he is pete ross


  5. well cause it can either be pete ross kenny braverman or god forbid jonathan kent and for some reason pete seems right to me


  6. but his dialogue about him teaching clark some lessons about getting back up would hint at a relationship as a mentor so it could be someone new or someone established also are you angry waht with the exclamation point


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