Superman #20 review

Superman 20

You have no idea how hard I had to fight myself to not open the review with “look, up in the sky…”

But really, this is Superman.  It feels like Superman, and all of the unabashed optimism and hope that he brings.  It’s impossible to look at that spread above and not think of this, or hear John Williams’ soaring score in your head.

Brian and I have joked (somewhat) that we wished we wrote for Superman-News.com, because Superman comics are just so good right now.  Superman here is, for my money, the best title DC has to offer (though the equally excellent Super Sons may give it a run for its money), and the great work Dan Jurgens has been doing over in Action Comics isn’t anything to sneeze at either.  If any titles reflect the Rebirth mission statement of returning to hope and optimism, they’re Superman’s.  And that’s as it should be.

Just look at that double-page spread.  That is pure Superman right there, inspiring others while showing off that amazing new costume from Patrick Gleason.  Seriously, I’ve wanted the red trunks back as much as the next guy, but this new look is just about perfect: nice big S, a good color break with the belt, and no silly wrist cuffs or footie-jammies.  It’s been years since Clark has felt this much like Superman, and now he looks more like Superman than ever before too.

If you haven’t been reading this title, then this may be an iffy jumping-on point.  It’s not entirely inaccessible, but it does follow directly out of the recent “Superman Reborn” arc.  As a brief recap: somebody had escaped from Mr. Oz’s extradimenstional prison.  It was Mr. Mxyzptlk, and to hide himself from Oz’s watchful eye Mxy fooled even himself into believing he was Clark Kent.  This answered the question of just who and what the fake Clark Kent was, but his memory started seeping back in and he became insanely bitter that Superman had forgotten about him.  So, he kidnapped Jon and forced Lois and Clark to endure a battery of tests and trials to earn him back.  Eventually, pre-Flashpoint Lois and Clark merge with New-52 Lois and Clark, thereby merging the timelines together, establishing that everyone knows that Jon is their son, and getting Superman a fantastic new suit in the process.

It was kind of weird.

So, now we have the new-old Kent family.  And really, it’s just nice.  Jon plays football with Kathy.  Clark works on a tractor while commenting on Lois’ beauty.  Lois even calls Clark “Smallville.”  Is it corny?  Maybe, but I don’t care.  It’s a wholesome goodness that may turn some off, but I think it’s just what’s needed.

But I digress.

Why are we covering Superman, then, if this isn’t Superman-News.com?  Why, Batman and Robin appear, of course.

I will never not laugh at the site of Batman awkwardly sitting at a kitchen table, refusing to eat some delicious apple pie while Lois pours him some more coffee.

As it turns out, the tests that Batman ran on Jon before were inconclusive.  By his estimation, Jon should have been comparable to Clark in his powers at this point, and possibly even exceeded him by developing new abilities.  But Jon’s development has seemingly been stunted, as he can’t fly and only has a select few other abilities.  Something, then, must be suppressing them, and Batman wants to find out what and why.

Tomasi and Gleason hit all the Superman notes right, and get most of the Batman ones too.  It’s strange, considering the duo wrote Batman & Robin for so long (a book that I view as the best Bat-book of the New-52), but Batman is maybe a little too much of a jerk here.  Sure, he’s a loner, doesn’t play well with others, et cetera et cetera, but his gruffness feels like a bit of a step back for him.  With the work being done in Detective Comics and Trinity it’s felt like Bruce is becoming more personable and trusting of his friends and allies, so seeing him be take jabs at Clark is a bit regressive.

It does open Clark up to deliver the most Superman line of all, though, so it’s a wash.

Love it.

Rude demeanor notwithstanding, Bruce actually investigates a mystery, which isn’t something we’ve seen in ages.  There’s not much to his detective work, but hey, baby steps.

Batman’s investigation leads him to Farmer Cobb’s barn, where he uncovers a strange substance that may be suppressing Jon’s powers.  Given that Cobb held his own against Frankenstein a few issues back and didn’t take any guff from the monster, it’s a tad disappointing that he may end up being a villain.  Then again, this is Superman after all, so it could just as easily be a body-snatchers scenario.  Weirder things have happened.  (See: literally any Silver Age comic book cover.  Just pick one.)

Everything about this creative team just clicks.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Tomasi and Gleason will go down as one of the great comics duos.  Their ideas work wonderfully together, and the writing and art have so much personality.  It’s one thing to have Jon have a guileless, “awe, shucks” demeanor, but his can-do attitude and literal wide-eyed nature make him even more likable.  He’s a sweet kid who happens to have superpowers, just like his dad is a humble farmboy who just happens to be Superman.

BONUS: A nice variant cover from Tomasi’s Super Sons collaborator Jorge Jimenez.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

Recommended if:

  • You love Superman.
  • You want to see Batman do some detective work, however briefly.
  • It’s the best DC book out there, guys.  Read it.

Overall: Far and away the best DC comic on the stands, the fact that it features Batman is a bonus, not the selling point.  This is everything Superman should be: hopeful, optimistic, joyful, and bright.  Under the pens of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, this isn’t just a snazzy cosmetic change; this is a Superman who loves his humble life, does the right thing because it’s right, and who wants to be a bright light in a dark world.  He isn’t burdened by his role; he embraces it, and that’s the Superman we need.

SCORE: 9/10

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