|SUPERMAN No. 34, October 2014|
It’s probably never a good sign for a comic that the most imaginative and captivating page within the first half of the book is an advertisement for the forty-one one-shot titles making up “DC Comics” New 52 Futures End initiative. But credit where credit is due as Amanda Conner’s 3D lenticular motion cover art for Issue One of “Harley Quinn: Future’s End” is superb. Certainly it convinced me to immediately order the title.
Distractions aside writer Geoff Johns’ storyline doesn’t really get going in this edition of “Superman” until the reader is a considerable way through the book. Up until this time events unfortunately progress little from where the previous issue’s lack-lustre meanderings finished.
But at least artist John Romita Junior would appear to be back on form drawing some simply lovely emotionally touching scenes with Ulysses and his (new found biological) parents. The quality of the line work with his character’s faces is first-rate, though the colouring of Laura Martin also makes a strong contribution to the artwork’s success.
Once the action does speed up Johns’ writing quickly sets up the confrontation I’ve certainly been highly anticipating since the last son of Earth first showed up – Ulysses verses Superman. Unfortunately it’s a very short-lived affair and one that contains a rather disappointing Jack “King” Kirby-like double-pager that although impressive, doesn’t really captivate the reader for more than a few moments. Certainly, rather than see Ulysses laser Superman’s chest with his eye beams, I would have preferred half a dozen or more panels showing the pair properly ‘duking it out’.
Fortunately things definitely raise a gear with the appearance of the (re-imagined) Machinist and his mechanical merchandise. The super-villain’s design, a long brown leather coat and skull-like head hood, is simple yet disconcertingly eerie and well-drawn by John Romita Junior. Indeed when the Man of Steel is engulfed in the mysterious machinist’s mind-ticks there’s actually a moment when one can imagine the sheer panic felt by the Man of Steel when facing such a swarm of thought-controlling bugs. Such vulnerability is rarely seen in Superman.
Sadly another large two-page panel showing Ulysses dispatching the villain with his eye beams (yet again) appears to bring another potentially exciting confrontation to an all-too sudden conclusion. Although this time Geoff Johns gives the moment a serious sting in the tail as the super-hero has actually killed “an innocent man”, a simple stooge who was being mind-controlled by the Machinist, much as Ulysses had been moments earlier. But where as ‘Big Blue’ had (rather easily) knocked him cold, the traveller from the Fourth Dimension has taken the person's life, and presumably there’ll be repercussions for such an act…