I REALLY didn’t want to like this series.
When news of it first crossed my desk, I was dismissive and slightly perturbed: “Oh goody! Another Superman origin story! *Yawn*” But over the course of seven issues (the first three I outright ignored until the draw was too great) Max Landis has directed an All Star stable of artists to telling a Superman story that presents him in a more relatable way than quite possibly anything written about him in God knows how many years.
The draw of this series, and of this very issue, is that Clark Kent’s journey through adolescence and into adulthood is just as messy as any of ours. He feels the same connection to his best friends, the same pangs of unrequited love, the same search for a place of belonging. It’s just that he is quite literally an American alien trying to deal with burgeoning powers and trying to find a place and purpose for those powers to shine. However, this issue might be my favorite of the series because of Landis’ love of comic book history, and Jock’s ability to convey both everyday reactions to extraordinary circumstances.
Clark is on the subway, lovelorn and mopey, when he catches wind of explosive activity downtown. He rushes to the scene in the newest incarnation of his costume, only to encounter none other than the 90’s-version of Lobo, who claims he’s on a hired terrorist run on Thanagar’s behalf. Superman, naturally, can’t believe all of the senseless destruction and loss of innocent life.
What follows next is absolutely fascinating: Landis’ Lobo is the perfect encapsulation of that incalculably popular version, and the conversation he has with Landis’ wet-behind-the-ears modern Superman is almost a generational conversation, where the cynical 90’s match up with the idealistic ‘10’s.
Of course, things resort to violence once Clark reaches a boiling point, highlighted by him resorting to crass language in front of the Daily Planet’s all-consuming live feed.
The ensuing fight is an absolute joy, as Jock captures the no-holds-barred fighting styles of each combatant; there’s nothing graceful here, with eye gouges, knee kicks, and grabbing anything in arm’s reach to dole out punishment. The pencils are perfect here, as Jock makes each blow resonate in the panel.
The fight reaches its climax in one of the most satisfying (and clever) moments of the series, and is reflected off of Clark’s supporting cast. Metropolis embraces Superman after the event, but all he wants is to connect with Lois on a deep emotional level. The scene with Lois and Clark in the hospital is so touching, and again, Jock does such a good job conveying subtle emotional moments.
At one point I was a little perturbed that Jock's Superman wasn't the handsome Adonis I'd grown so accustomed to, but then it hit me: why couldn't he be a regular looking guy? Not ugly, but no definingly gorgeous characteristics? Having a plain face enables Clark to drastically switch between his two identities, and frankly makes more sense than just slouching or throwing on a pair of glasses.
This series was just fantastic ; It hit a series of emotional notes – and incredible interpersonal dynamics – that makes the reader furious that there were only small glimpses of this Superman in the entirety of the New 52 run. Along with Birthright and Earth One volume One, this story is a fresh bit of interpretation that cultivates a strong emotional connection to the character that’s been sorely lacking in recent years. I give this issue: