That’s more like it. After last week’s enjoyment blip in the Final Days of Superman storyline, this issue sees things back on an even keel. Sure, Superman and Wonder Woman are still soppier than I’d like as the book opens, but with Batman playing gooseberry, they concentrate on business
And the business is tracking the pseudo-Superman who killed Daily Planet staffers to the Far East, where they encounter China’s answer to the Justice League of America, the Great Ten.
As Wonder Woman points out, they don’t seem at full strength in terms of numbers, but it’s still seven against three and our heroes look to be in trouble until an unexpected moment mid-battle sees trust established.
The ‘super-functionaries’ help Superman and co track down the secret base linked to Psuedo-Superman, where the lab is run by the distinctly dodgy Dr Omen.
As for what happens next, I won’t spoil as fans seem to be enjoying this storyline more than any other Superman tale in ages; I will say, though, that it’s setting up one of the DC Rebirth books. The book closes back in the US, where Lois has a strange visitor, teasing an encounter in next week’s Action Comics.
Writer Peter J Tomasi’s story barrels along in fine form, with a nicely choreographed fight with the Great Ten leading to developments in the Pseudo-Superman mystery. I especially enjoy seeing Batman get a taste of his own medicine when someone orders him to get off their territory. What’s missing is a proper introduction to the Great, er, Seven for those of us who’ve either never come across them previously, or not managed to memorise Grant Morrison’s entertainingly unwieldy names.
Superman’s upcoming demise is only sideways referenced, but I’m OK with that – we’re in a weekly serial here and I can remember the set-up. Mind, I do wonder what happened to the idea of Superman forming a new ‘Super-League’ to carry on after his death. Was it really a matter of ‘When Solicitations Go Wrong’? Whatever the case, Superman is bonkers cheery this issue, and I’d like it even if it hadn’t brought us the most delightful Batman/Superman exchange since, well, a couple of weeks back.
Those lines come on a beautiful credits splash spread from penciller Doug Mahnke, colourist Wil Quintana and inker Jaime Mendoza (or perhaps Livesay, Christian Alamy or Tom Nguyen, all of whom pitch in here in a non-demarcated way). And that’s even allowing for the horribly cheesecake angle in Diana’s décolletage.
In an issue full of nicely composed, well-executed moments, this is my favourite:
Why Mahnke isn’t more lauded, I have no idea, because he’s one of the best illustrators around, stylish and consistent.
And as for the cover from artist Yanick Paquette and colourist Nathan Fairbairn, it has me grinning broadly. I don’t like Diana having Accomplished Perfect Physician by the neck, but that apart, it’s so goofily good-natured… it reminds me of the occasional crowd scene covers during the Nineties Triangle era, such as Superman #65’s Panic in the Sky gathering.
So, three more issues of the storyline to go. If the quality stays at this level, and Tomasi nails the landing, we could be remembering this one for some time to come.