Superman #17 review

This is Superman patrolling in the Silver Age.

This is Superman patrolling today.

Isnt that glorious? The image comes courtesy of illustrator Kevin Maguire and colourist Paul Mounts, the idea comes from the mind of Brian Bendis. Different angles on Superman’s powers and personality are becoming his speciality, and we’re certainly getting an example of the latter this time as Superman makes a big decision.

Bendis also likes to tease, so we don’t actually have it verbalised this issue, but the cover illo and copy pretty much give it away.

The issue opens with Superman, Earth’s representative on the newly formed United Planets, stopping a literal trade war.

Returning home, he finds wife Lois rather frazzled.

As Lois advises Clark to leave this one to her rather than rush to find Luthor and, almost certainly, a trap, Clark goes on patrol. Which is where we came in.

After sharing that ‘everything is normal… relatively’, Superman let’s Lois talk; she knows he’s itching to go into action because he has a lot on his mind, to externalise frustrations he isn’t facing.

He tells Lois that he’s wondering if Superman is a luxury they can afford, given what they know is coming. Enigmatic. But the question of what Clark means goes on the backburner as he deals with some unfinished business. S.T.A.R. Labs, of late, have been involved with some shady doings under the auspices of the mysterious Dr Glory. She wants to monetise the newly discovered Multiverse’s multiverse. On finding their most secret base, does Superman send out a booming call to the secret scientists to un-secretly surrender? Does he simply smash his way in and arrest everyone?

Not Superman 2019 – the quiet man with unparalleled power simply hovers above them. Job done, and Clark Kent, reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, has the story.

In his other guise, he has something to discuss with his cousin, Kara. But first, a visit to a distant world, where a simple craftsman oversees the raising of New Krypton.

And finally, Superman begins his conversation with Supergirl.

I suppose he means that as soon as he reveals his identity, people will begin asking Supergirl, more than any other hero, why she’s still hiding in plain sight.

And at the end of this scene, were shown an eavesdropper…

While I’m a tad dubious about Superman revealing that he’s Clark Kent to the world, I trust Bendis to entertain me as this thread develops. And whatever the current creatives intend, it’s not going to prove permanent – there’s always a Fifth Dimensional imp sitting on a cloud, just out of frame. The fact that he has Superman go straight to his cousin shows he’s thinking things through properly.

And good on editors Jessica Chen, Mike Cotton and Brian Cunningham for >ahem< forgetting to put the intrusive, off-putting Year of the Villain banner on the cover, despite Luthor’s ‘gift’ to Lois taking up a few pages. And fascinating pages they are, I’ve never seen the good guys decide not to rush into a villain’s obvious trap, and I like it… just don’t ask how this fits into the timeline of the Justice League series, where Superman is boots-deep in the multiversal nonsense-threat that’s going on at the same time Lex plays Santa Claus.

While I love Superman prompting a mass surrender with his mere presence, I could have done without the new evil scientist getting away – with his super-speed the Man of Steel could easily have plugged the Glory hole.

And once more Bendis gives us a super-fun Supergirl, sassy, sharp and wonderfully, wittily wary around Zod, whose latest look I love. The general’s reference to Ursa having ideas that ‘harken back to the second age of Krypton’s landfalls of silver’ just screams Silver Age Krypton, and having that come back would make me really happy. Now we just need the supposedly dead Kandorians to come back (they jumped into the Survival Zone as their bottle was smashed, they super shrank… it’s easy) and populate New Krypton, which I’d love to see christened Rokyn, to match old Legion and Superman continuity. And I’m really excited at the prospect of the reveal of the finished New Krypton – a poster spread in an annual would do just fine!

Kevin Maguire is the perfect penciller for this issue, his facility for faces and brilliance with body language is just what’s needed in a story as emotionally charged as this; I especially like his extremely animated Lois, and his aliens are delightful. Paul Mounts provides the icing on top of the artistic cake with his colours, lighting up the universe – just look at that opening spread, it’s gobsmacking – and modelling the characters, giving them heft. Handling Bendis’s dialogue, letterer Dave Sharpe has fun with fancy fonts and default design alike.

The cover by penciller Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado and colourist Alex Sinclair is a happy affair, I just wish we had something by Maguire and Mounts to match the mood inside.

All in all, this is a fascinating, fun instalment of the never-ending battle. What did you make to it?

4 thoughts on “Superman #17 review

  1. This is easily as relevant to YOTV as many books that have had that imprimatur, and there was going to be an acetate (2-layer cover) of Lois holding up some Kryptonite at Superman. Obviously the story changed so much from that, and totally changed from the solicitation as well (something about a lost Fortress). I guess there was no chance to redo an acetate, nor insufficient relevant content to do the “hostile villain reveal” that the 2-layer acetates have. Still, it could have had the basic YOTV branding stripe.

    Lots of reviewers hated this, but I thought it was superb. Bendis checked in on so many of the plots he’s been juggling for 1.5 years: Superman’s role in the United Planets; YOTV; Leviathan and the Sam Lane death; the Star Labs mischief; Zod; and a New Krypton. While setting the stage for the identity reveal. I was impressed at how much was moved along.

    I have griped about Maguire but he put more into this one. Had he been doing his own inks in Supergirl? Paul Mounts also had a huge influence here, as there are more than a normal number of panels where a sizeable amount of the art is color with no inks. How does that work? Is it up to the colorist to cover the inks? Does Maguire pencil, or pencil and ink something, and ask Mounts to put color on top to obscure the line art?

    There is just stunning standalone color everywhere you look. A few examples: The buildings shown often outside Lois’s window. The glow from the desk lamp. The moon. Utah skies. Green elements of the multiverse map. New Krypton skies.

    The sequence of friction between Zod and Kara has a fantastic progression. It’s not just Maguire faces – it’s hands. Zod gets angry and forms a fist. He softens a bit and moves his thumb up so the fist is relaxing. He smiles and holds his hand out. Then he bows with hands pressed together. Oh, it’s clearly a forced politeness, but it’s a long road from the outright anger he felt at first.

    Bendis should have a journalist friend edit the news articles Lois and Clark write. They are absolutely terrible. Perhaps they are an homage to the traditionally terrible writing ascribed to them. Maybe that’s a private joke at DC and they compete to see who can make Clark and Lois as non-Pulitzer-worthy as possible.

    Is aquaman trying to poke water out of his right ear? I think so!

    Sorry, I had a lot to say about this one!


  2. No apology necessary, I feel I’ve hit the jackpot with an unexpected Guest Post. Thanks for all the brilliant comments, especially as regards Paul Mounts’ colouring – any time the inkers, letterers and colourists get some praise, I’m happy. It’s great that they can see we appreciate them.

    The bad thing about my Wednesday morning digital habit is that i miss the special covers… it’s a shame my work moved across the city of Edinburgh, away from the excellent Forbidden Planet branch.

    I’ve moaned previously about the presentation of journalism in comics, if Brian Bendis ever needs a professional eye…

    I completely forgot this wasn’t the issue solicitations led us to expect and yes, I like it just as it is!


  3. Oh I’ve been a posting guest here before! I always read your blog – you present thoughtful and concise commentary, and have deep knowledge of comic book history. Well worth my visits.


    1. You’re so kind! I meant ‘guest post’ as in someone else writes a review that I host, as Anj, Colin Smith and one or two others have done. It’s always a treat when you comment!


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