Cards on the table, I bought the first issue of this anthology because I love Superman. The promise of timeless material, stories unconstrained by current continuity, was irresistible.
And I still haven’t read the darn thing. There’s something about the USP – stories in which the title colours are to the fore – that puts me off. Batman Black and White makes some sense, because comic stories begin in black and white, and as a UK reader, I grew up with that as the default. But red and blue as Superman’s signature colours? That yellow is pretty important. (The upcoming Wonder Woman Black and Gold makes even less sense – if Superman is red and blue, then so is Wonder Woman, black is nowhere near being a signature colour for Diana.)
I looked at the comic, and the literal coolness of the pages put me off. I was going to read it at some point, but oops, here’s another Tuesday with lots of new comics demanding an immediate read… the timelessness of the SRaB tales worked against the book getting read.
Yet here I am, having skipped the other issues, reading the sixth and final number. The reason? I heard it featured Streaky the Supercat, in their very own story (the pronoun choice is due to Supergirl’s pet having been inconsistent of gender down the years). And here’s the gist of Hissy Fit.
The Super Cousins are moving Fortresses of Solitude and someone isn’t keen on their kitty carrier. It’s a scene that will chime with every cat owner. Sophie Campbell’s story is cute and I like the art – bar Kara’s ‘council house facelift’ hairdo – but the predominantly blue pencil effect makes the pages look like a first draft. The sudden reds are effective in showing us where the intensity lies, but full-colour would be lots better. And I dislike silent stories, unless there’s a great reason, and here there isn’t – the best Super Pet stories have them thinking charming thoughts.
Still, it’s a Streaky story, I liked it, and more DC work from the talented Campbell would be much appreciated.
The Scoop, written and drawn by Matt Wagner, and coloured by his son Brennan, uses the restricted palette to better effect, with tones and tints varied for mood. We’re in the realm of Max Fleischer, with Clark Kent and Lois Lane in full newshound and newshen mode, and giant robots-a-go-go. The dilemma? How can Clark grab the Daily Planet front page when a) he’s too modest to big up his alter ego and b) he prefers writing decidedly unsexy ‘explainers’.
It’s a lovely, smart piece, and very true to Superman.
The same can be said for The Special by Tom King and Paolo Rivera, which shows the interactions of three generations of the Kent family with Smallville diner waitress Annie. Kindness and humanity are the core of the story, with a cracker of a Pa Kent Inspirational Speech and one of the cutest Jon Kent moments ever. Rivera’s storytelling and finishes are gorgeous, while writer and artist together use the colour conceit to great advantage to give us a thoroughly touching ending.
Rivera’s floating kiss has to be one of the most romantic, gorgeous Superman and Lois moments ever.
But – and there doesn’t have to be a but, but there is one – would someone at DC please stand up to King and rein in his love of swear words? I accept that modern comics will have people #%@%#!ing in moments of high drama, but people in Smallville, and especially members of the Superman Family, do not curse as a matter of course. The first panel has sweet Annie swearing as she drops a plate, for crying out loud.
Ma and Pa Kent pop up again in Son of Farmers, a gentle tale showing how the lessons of the land taught by Martha and Jonathan made Clark the man he is today. It’s a nuanced take on a Superman trope, and even had the story not been a winner, Steve Pugh’s art would, like Superman swooping in, have saved the day. His visuals are always great, but this is the first time I’ve seen colour work from him, and it is stunning. More please.
Upsetting my expectations as to what this series is, but not upsetting me in the least, is Ally, which does indeed tie into current Superman continuity. Specifically, Superman’s recent revelation to the world that he’s also Clark Kent prompts a young man to risk a step into the unknown, and a better future. Rex Ogle’s story isn’t terribly surprising, but it’s exactly what I wanted it to be, while Mike Norton uses colour to show how our unnamed protagonist – a wonderful design – feels apart from his fellows. And the final two pages are the perfect note on which to end the whole series.
Topping off a consistently fine issue is Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner’s cover image of a beckoning Superman, his family members, alternate versions and heroes he’s inspired. It is just edible.
Lest we forget, the letterers are Steve Wands, Dave Lanphear and Pat Brosseau, the production design is by Darran Robinson, production is thanks to Sunny Paradyse and the editors are Brittany Holzherr, Diego Lopez, Jamie S Rich and Bixie Mathieu.
Superman Red and Blue #6 is a wonderful comic. I think it’s time I went back and read the other five issues.