Superman is falling to the ground. Or perhaps he’s flying upwards in the vertiginous opening to this issue’s chapter of the Never Ending Battle.
It’s hard to tell, but this is undeniably an exciting, eye-grabbing moment. Even as a stranger reaches for his throat, Superman reaches out with his mind, ever hopeful that this is simply a friend he’s not yet met.
Good luck with that, Clark. Speaking of whom, once upon a time his ripped shirt showing Superman’s emblem would have been a big concern. Not now – Superman recently outed himself as the Daily Planet’s most mild-mannered newspaperman, bringing a different set of complications.
These we see in flashback, as the opening tussle is replaced by the events of the previous day. Actually, ‘events’ is overstating, given we join Clark and Lois Kent in a much-needed moment of downtime. Clark tells his wife about the day’s consultation with Dr Fate, and the mystic medic’s suggestion that he gave up his secret ID as a reaction to a string of earth-shaking events, both literally and figuratively. All of which got our hero thinking.
The moment of peace is interrupted by Fortress of Solitude major domo Kelex, with news of a ‘deep space anomaly’ heading for Earth. Given there’s nothing he can do without knowing anything about it, Clark gets on with his day, beginning by waking up his guest.
Superman returns with his pal to Metropolis, where Daily Planet colleagues are still trying to get their head around what Clark, in the annoying Millennial manner, refers to as ‘my truth’ (twice this month!). Sports reporter Steve Lombard raises a very obvious matter – how long is he going to live now Superman’s enemies know where he works?
Ah, that make sense. Clark might have mentioned it earlier, I’m sure there have been a lot of sleepless nights among the Planeteers..
Let’s hope those defences really are that good, because before Clark can continue the impromptu Q&A – really, he should have taken everyone to dinner – Kelex pops up again with bad news.
And that’s pretty much where we came in, with the next few pages showing Superman flying to meet the ship carrying the extraterrestrial, who you’ll know all about if you read last issue, or my ramblings on same.
By the end of the book Superman has moved the field of battle elsewhere, to a place that promises big thrills next time. Probably there’ll be less in the way of what we used to describe as soap, but never mind, because this issue excels when it comes to lathery drama.
That scene with Jimmy, obviously delighted to be supporting his mate. Forward movement in the long comics relationship between Steve and ‘Clarkie’. And best of all, the loving moment between Lois and Clark, which is up there with this week’s Harley and Ivy scenes in Injustice Year Zero #8 in the Grand Romance stakes.
With writer Brian Michael Bendis choosing enigmatic over intimacy, Whatsisface from Planet Thingie can’t compare with the mere mortals when it comes to holding my interest. Perhaps next time the aggressor will prove compelling, you never know.
I’ve no complaints about Bendis’s Clark, who gets more delightful by the month. There’s an unknown something headed for Earth, and his reaction? ‘A new species. How exciting.’ Dr Fate has reminded him of all the nuttiness he’s faced of late but he tells Jimmy he’s feeling ridiculously lucky. And he gets to try out the languages he’s learned on the alien. This is a good day!
Lois wakes up with Checkmate on her mind while, pages later, Jimmy has been dreaming of Olsen gorilla; it’s the same mad world, but these two people Clark loves come at it from very different angles.
Speaking of which, while penciller Ivan Reis gives readers that spectacular costume change above, professional snapper Jimmy shoots from the back. Honestly!
The art is gorgeous throughout, with Reis’s compositions benefiting from having a single inker, something that’s rare for this series; and in Danny Miki he has one of the best in comics. Reis’s people are always very human, but Miki gives them extra character, with Jimmy and Steve looking especially good. And Clark has rarely looked such a >sigh< dreamboat, having dropped the shapeless identity-preserving shirts for a more muscle-defining look. The artistic package is further strengthened by colourist Alex Sinclair, whose facial modelling is exemplary. He’s good at explosions, too. And Dave Sharpe’s letters are, as ever, clear as a bell.
Joe Prado, another regular on this series, inks Reis on the cover and the result is tremendous, not many teams could pull off that Superman angle so well. And Sinclair colours to his usual standard. The closest we have to ‘wrong’ on the cover is the copy – it’s hardly a ‘grudge match’ when neither side have met.
‘Mythological Part 2’ is 22 pages long but feels a lot longer, with Bendis, Reis and friends packing every page with goodness. Don’t miss it.