Review: Superman #3

The Emo of Steel goes up against an elemental being. Hmmm... where have I read this issue before?

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

In the first issue of the New 52 Superman series, our hero went up against a fire elemental that threatened Metropolis. Issue two had what I assume was an air elemental. And now, issue three brings us the ice/water elemental alien being who is also threatening Metropolis and its hero.

Clearly this can only mean one thing: the mastermind behind these attacks is Captain Planet!

Sure, you may scoff now. But when Superman is eating dirt and heart in the next two issues, then we'll see whose powers combine.

In all seriousness, Superman #3 is one of the densest comic books I've read in a while. Not because its a particularly deep read. Instead, it has so much text and extended flashbacks that it seems like it's trying to hide how little actually happens within the 20 pages allotted to it. 

The first six pages alone are built around an extended flashback to Superman's blue jeans days from Grant Morrison's Action Comics and the first two issues of this series in a strange attempt to tie them together thematically through a reporter's proposed Superman story. The problem is that the Superman in Action Comics and the Superman in this book seem like two completely different people. Action Comics' Superman is nobody's doormat.

This Superman? He's not exactly made of emotional steel.

One of the weirdest parts of the New 52 has been the change of the mindset of the people within the DC Universe. Since the reboot, almost everyone hates and fears the superheroes and they go out of their way to question their motives. We've spoken about this on The Book Report, and my colleague Andy Hunsaker is correct. Making the DCU more like the Marvel Universe feels like these comics are losing the identity that made them unique.

To hammer the point home with even less subtlety, the reporter names his story "Superman In Metropolis: Messiah or Menace?"

Can I just point out to DC that stealing Spider-Man's tropes is not going to work on Superman? It doesn't matter how young Clark Kent/Superman is drawn now. If the creators insist upon treating him like he's an emotional wet bag then he deserves to be called the Emo Superman. Also, making both of Superman's parents dead in this timeless reeks of trying to invoke yet another element of Spider-Man into the mix.

Yes, Superman had the dead parents first. But ever since the '80s, the Kents have actually played major roles in Superman's life. Cutting them out just to add some tragedy to Superman's life misses the point about their existence and Superman's. After all, Superman is supposed to be one of the few heroes who doesn't need tragedy as his defining motivation. His parents raised him well they're responsible for the great man he ultimately became. In this issuet, Superman zones out while standing over the Kent's graves and forgetting about his work assignments in the process.

The writer, George Perez delivers a very text heavy script, with a lot of dialogue and unwieldy caption boxes. By the time the issue takes place from Superman's point of view, we're treated to his priceless thought captions like this: "Unhh… the winds are stronger than ever." and "No! The creature… it's female!"

Another weakness of this issue is that we're meant to care for and sympathize with Heather Kelley, Clark Kent's fellow reporter and Lois Lane stand-in when she's directly threatened by the ice alien life form. Except Heather barely has enough characteristics to be called one dimensional. If this Superman comic can spend so much time having Lois and Perry arguing with other people about what a true hero Superman is, then the book should at least make the effort to really develop the supporting cast . Even Lois Lane is largely marginalized in this incarnation, as she's almost completely out of jeopardy for most of the issue.

The upside to this issue is that the artwork by Nicola Scott (on top of Perez's breakdowns) is really good. This is easily the best drawn issue of the rebooted Superman series and for once the new costume actually seems to work on the page. But that's probably because Scott downplays a lot of the unnecessary lines on the costume that made the new Superman look like a cross between an action figure and a marionette,

Scott and Perez are also able to make 8 and 9 panel pages brisk and visually interesting. They suit each other so well that Scott probably should have been on this book from the start. Scott is an A-List comic artist on her talent alone and she deserves a more permanent gig than just a guest stint here.

In all honesty, it's the art that saves the issue from a much lower score. If all of these changes were meant to turn Superman into a relevant and exciting hero, then it didn't work. I'd love to read a good Superman story, but this just isn't it.

Crave Online Rating: 4.5 /10