Superman #20 review

Intergalactic despot Mongul has turned up to wreck the United Planets’ party. Leaders of the newly formed peace-seeking organisation have gathered to anoint a world their collective home, an admin centre for diplomats, but the cosmic conqueror isn’t having it. Cue a planet-quaking fight with Superman, there as Earth’s UP representative, one that reminds us that his new partners don’t all have faith in him.

Back on Earth, the staff of Daily Planet rival the Daily Star are coming to terms with the news that Clark Kent is Superman. How is this not a massive journalistic conflict of interest? But reporter Bethany Snow tells the newsroom what happened after a recent potential air disaster was averted by the Man of Steel.

‘Out there’, Superman has a moment of pessimism.

It seems Mongul hasn’t killed the idea of the UP stone dead, his actions are cementing the bonds between beings of very different backgrounds.

But on Earth, an unexpected piece of online video changes the tone of the Star meeting. Somehow, the gathering of extraterrestrials and time travellers that led to the establishment of the UP has been released to the people of Earth.

As it happens, the Star has one staff member perfectly placed to get the scoop.

It’s Lana, missing in action from the Superman books since the cancellation of her Superwoman series, and with a sharp new ‘do. I suspect her time as a superheroine was wiped out by the Rebirth reset but it looks like she still has her job from that period, as Daily Star science correspondent. I’m delighted writer Brian Michael Bendis is bringing her back into the books, they never feel quite right without Lana.

And I flat out loved the whole Daily Star scene, we’ve seen far too little of this place over the years, historically important because it was the first place Clark Kent ever worked – and apparently, it wasn’t just him.

Bendis perfectly captures the vibe of a newsroom meeting, with banter and snark and the sheer excitement of a big news story. I forget the name of the chap with the beard, the big Lex fan, but he’s great fun, and I like George Taylor as the biggest cynic in the pack. He does make good points, and I agree that the question should be asked – what gives Superman the right to speak for Earth? Yes, he regularly makes decisions about the security of the planet mid-battle, he has to, but Earth’s place in the universe? He really should have arranged a meeting with world leaders by now. And yes, it’ll be a mess, but he has to try.

The Mongul melee is interesting for Superman’s internal narration rather than the baddie in question. Mongul hasn’t been interesting since his first few pre-Crisis showings, with writers treating him as just another brawler; good on Bendis for giving us the beginnings of a personality and perspective for him.

The art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Oclair Albert – there’s no job breakdown this time, though it’s generally the former doing breakdowns and the latter two, finishes – is pretty darn good. Mongul looks formidable, and the fight generally reads well, though there’s one point at which we don’t get necessary information… we’re not shown Superman being buried by Mongul-created rubble, so for two pages it’s as if he’s been erased from the story.

The Daily Star conflab is great all round, very well staged and full of people acting busy – just look at all those smartphones!

I do wish, though, that there weren’t so many scenes presented across two pages – actual splash spreads are great, if used sparingly, but regular business doesn’t need to go across and across and then down – it means Reis gives us too many tiny panels and long panels. The basic storytelling unit of the single page has worked brilliantly for generations and doesn’t need reinventing… and surely loads of info is lost in the gutters of trade paperback collections? I suspect this is Bendis rather than his artists as it’s a thing I’ve noticed across all his DC books.

And if we must have titchy panels, the artists should remember to give every figure at least the impression of facial features, as lots of us are going in close digitally…

… or has Renee Montoya snuck into the office and activated her Question gas?

The thing that actively irritated me this time was the amount of repeated artwork; sure, some panels had minor differences from their parent picture – George Taylor touching his glasses, for example – but it’s very noticeable across pages 10-14. All artists take shortcuts, but Reis should find better ones.

The wonderfully named Jeremiah Skipper joins regular colourist Alex Sinclair – my guess is that Skipper is handing Earth while Sinclair rules space. The whole book looks terrific, anyway.

Dave Sharpe is the man behind the fonts and he seems to be enjoying himself – just look at that great ‘DOMINATOR DOMINATION!’ word balloon.

I’ve noticed that, lately, when I’m writing these Superman reviews I generally have to go back and look at the cover because I’ve forgotten what’s there. Looking at this one, it’s decent, well executed by Reis, Prado and Sinclair, but I wish DC had, like in the old days, a red-hot concept guy giving artists a wee push – a Carmine Infantino or Ed Hannigan, say.

All told, this is a very enjoyable issue, but it’s worth mentioning quibbles because these comics ain’t cheap. Maybe I should have a word with Superman, he runs things, doesn’t he?

7 thoughts on “Superman #20 review

  1. Did Titans finish off the Church of Blood for good? I guess Bethany Snow could work for the Invisible Mafia instead since CoB doesn’t fit the aesthetic Bendis has going. And as to Luthor’s gift, a great lawyer could just use the fact that the info comes from Luthor to taint it. Their new boss will see no time…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Another version manned the desk for those Channel 52 atrocity-in house ads at the start of the New 52…


  2. I’m enjoying your reviews more than the story so far. 😉 I do believe that there is something off with Superman, though. I went back and did some re-reading of the early issues of Bendis’ run and think he may have laid some seeds there. Regardless, we will find out slowly, oh, so slowly.

    Liked by 1 person

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