When Superman Goes Bad
By Andy Frisk
February 28, 2012 - 19:39
It’s been a while since I complained about the state of Superman, mostly because both Action Comics and Superman haven’t been a complete waste of time and money. Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics started very shakily, but has since stabilized and gotten better. George Perez and Nicola Scott’s Superman has been one of the best looking books on the market, but the opening story, which was incredibly, and surprisingly, interesting and intelligent at first, floundered badly and, by the time it wrapped up in Superman #6, Supergirl (whose book has been surprisingly solid after its own shaky start) had to swoop in and save the day both literary and figuratively. As much as I like George Perez as an artist and a writer, I am very glad to see his run on The New 52’s Superman come to an end. Yes, it got that bad. In fact, Superman got so bad that none other than Dan Jurgens, one of the architects of Superman’s last reign atop the comics’ sales charts, has been called in to save the day. While I am incredibly stoked about Jurgens getting back on the monthly Man of Steel writing and penciling horse, I am praying that his return isn’t too little too late.
Taking a few steps back, Perez and Scott’s run on Superman, as mentioned, opened spectacularly, and in an incredibly intelligent and relevant way. Putting aside the “Lois is a casual sex slut” aspect of the first issue, it really was one of the best issues of a Superman comic book I’d ever read. Starting with issue #2 though, things started going downhill. A convoluted plot that separated Lois and Clark as reporting partners, the presence of some kind of strange alien threat to Metropolis that somehow involved Superman, an almost issue by issue vacillation in the presentation and reception of Superman by the people of Metropolis as either a menace or a savior, an incredibly hurried tying up of all the loose ends, and an incredibly silly nanotech-alien-copycat Superman who turns out to be the real menace characterized the first arc of what was supposed to be the introduction of a Superman for the 21st Century. The story tried too hard and delivered too little. Of course, there is something to be said for the metaphorical allusion of Superman beating up a corrupt version of himself as a way of distancing the character from his past incarnation or whatever…but honestly, everything we’ve seen of the Superman in Superman has been a pale comparison to the Generation X Superman (as I have dubbed him).
Now, one of the creators of the Generation X Superman is coming back to try to revitalize the Millennial Superman. Jurgens was smart enough, and intuitive enough, to tap into the then current cultural goings on in society during his first stint on Superman and make smart use of them, so I’m willing to bet that he has what it takes to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist (I know, I hate that word too…but it unfortunately works so well), and make the Millennial Superman relevant. What I really don’t want to see is a rehash of my Generation X Superman. His story has been prematurely ended, and it needs to be left alone.
Something that we might see happen, and happen rather quickly, is that the new Superman status quo might get upended and reconfigured. Jurgens could almost end up affecting a true “soft reboot” of Kal/Clark/Superman in the pages of Superman. IF this is the case, it’s a frightening one. IF this is the case, are the powers that be at DC Comics’ recognizing their mistake? Or are they simply responding to the shareholders that are demanding dividends next quarter, and relying on Superman to help provide them? Who knows? It looks like changes might be afoot…again…and already.
As seen in the next few months’ previews of upcoming Superman issues, Superman faces two super villains that he’ll have to get physical with (action was something that Jurgens was always good at working into the pages of Superman), a strangely 90s looking punk rock villain chick, and the announcement that “LOIS LANE faces a turning point in her career as a journalist.” Are they smartly taking her out of the high rise office and putting her back on the street with Clark? We can only hope. Already, Superman looks to be a totally different book from its first 6 issues, while looking strangely, and comfortingly, familiar.
Again though, as much as I love Dubblex, Cadmus, Prof. Hamilton, and Bibbo, I hope that Jurgens leaves them alone or uses them in funny throwback cameos, or as Easter Eggs for the long termed (way long termed) readers like me. I have faith in Jurgens to come up with a compelling and relevant Superman that doesn’t rely on what he’s done in the past. He did it before, and he can do it again. So, don’t stop buying Superman all you true fans out there. Let’s see what Jurgens has up his sleeve this time around first. Superman definitely got bad, but a bad Superman is still better than no Superman.
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