|SUPERMAN No. 33, September 2014|
After the action experienced in the first chapter of "The Men of Tomorrow", I suppose Geoff Johns inevitably would have to slow things down in his second issue writing for the Man of Steel. But there is slow, where pieces of the puzzle are placed together across a series of pages in order to draw the reader towards an earth-shattering climax or conclusion and then there is tediously slow, where little plot progression is actually made before a seemingly random piece of action takes place. Unfortunately Issue Thirty Three of “DC Comics” “Superman” most definitely falls into the second category.
Indeed there is even an attempt by Johns, with artist John Romita Junior, to emulate the now legendary first three pages of Issue One of “Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” by Jim Steranko. But whilst the ‘Moment of Silence’ by “Marvel Comics Group” is seen as an iconic breakthrough in the storytelling medium, full of atmosphere, tension and excitement, the four pages in this edition of “Superman”, are boring, containing uninteresting panels, some of which are simply based upon Ulysses deciding which of Clark Kent’s street clothes to wear. The creative team can’t even quite pull off the ‘silence’ aspect anyway as the series of pages still requires six words of dialogue to make total sense. Only Superman’s excursion underground into the remains of the Ulysses Research Laboratory provides any lasting hold on the reader’s eye, and that’s not because there’s any particular suspense, simply that Romita Junior produces some wonderfully detailed panels; one of which is an almost identical replica of the book’s cover.
Even when the action finally does pick up, with a bizarre attack on a Metropolis street full of civilians by robot American soldiers, the flow of the fight is spoiled by some serious hit and miss artwork by John Romita Junior. For starters Ulysses really does look suspiciously similar in appearance to the artist’s incarnation of the Sentry from the Marvel Comics Universe. But it’s the New Yorker’s inconsistent pencil work that is the biggest disappointment. In some frames the long-haired super-hero is well defined and clearly drawn, yet in others his features are indistinct and ruined with simply too much line work. Now I appreciate Romita Junior is famous for this stylised line shadowing technique, but for me its presence increasingly muddies the action taking place within a panel. Unfortunately the artist seems to rely upon this technique more and more as the comic progresses, to the point where at the end of the battle, Ulysses eye-beams an android in half and the entire frame is literally filled with hundreds of these distinctive yet distracting straight lines. Doubtless such panels also give inker Klaus Janson a ton of extra work to do to boot.
Geoff Johns ending to the issue is also bitterly disappointing, as Superman easily reunites the supposed last son of Earth with his (now middle-aged) parents, having discovered that they weren’t actually killed in the research laboratory at all.