In the latest of our comprehensive series of reviews of DC Comics' 52 relaunched titles, we take a look at Superman #1.
Who's it by?
Superman #1 is written by George Perez and illustrated by Jesus Merino.
What's the history?
Superman became the first superhero to receive a self-titled comic book series in 1939 following his phenomenally popular debut in Action Comics #1 the previous year. DC has published the comic ever since, although it was rebranded as The Adventure of Superman between 1986 and 2006, before returning to its original title.
Superman is one of the most iconic comics in the history of the industry, and has long served as a flagship for its publisher. The title ran for more than 700 issues before DC hit the reset button, as well as annuals and standalone specials.
Creators who have worked on the title over the years include John Byrne, Greg Rucka, Dan Jurgens, J. Michael Straczynski, and co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, whose estates are currently locked in a legal battle with DC and Warner Bros over the rights to the character.
Superman sports a new look, though the changes to his appearance aren't as radical as those Grant Morrison introduced in Action Comics #1, which appears to take place much earlier in the 'New 52' continuity.
The Kryptonian's costume design is in line with the images we've seen from Zack Snyder's Man of Steel movie. The red underwear has been ditched in favour of a belt, and the outfit itself look reinforced, almost like body armour.
Major continuity changes have also been implemented. The original Daily Planet is demolished in the opening pages, and the newspaper is bought out by a multi-national corporation. Lois Lane makes the move away from print journalism following a promotion to network executive, and has a new love interest by the name of Jonathan.
The Daily Planet building is demolished following the newspaper's purchase by multinational corporation Galaxy Communications. Lois Lane is made network executive by the company, which sparks a tirade about journalistic integrity from Clark Kent.
A pair of terrorists hijack a truck full of hazardous chemicals in downtown Metropolis, forcing Superman into action. His arrival on the scene sparks a media field day, with Lois pulling the strings for Galaxy, and Perry White barking orders at Daily Planet staff.
The press get more of a scoop than they bargained for when the truck explodes and a creature of pure fire emerges from the inferno. Superman battles this hot-headed across the city and even in outer space as the media report on the event.
The issues ends with the introduction of Lois's new love interest Jonathan, much to the displeasure of a sombre Clark Kent.
What's the verdict?
Superman #1 is a tremendously well-written comic. It's a dialogue heavy-affair told from multiple perspectives, and that works in its favour. Narratives from Clark Kent and Lois Lane add context throughout, and the exchanges between the two deal with some heavy subject matter.
The death of print media at the hands of digital is addressed with insight, and there is what appears to be a nod to the News of the World phone hacking scandal in relation to Galaxy Communications journalistic practises. Such topical references elevate the book above the majority of its 'New 52' counterparts.
Jesus Merino's Superman is what every modern redesign should be - instantly recognisable with added edge. The artist's work is superlative throughout. Facial expressions say a thousand words in every panel, and the action scenes and illustrations of Metropolis by night look spectacular.
As solid as George Perez's script is, he could be accused of telling, rather than showing when using excerpts from Clark Kent's newspaper report to accompany the fight scene. The writing is strong, but Merino's artwork speaks for itself.
The sudden appearance of the fire creature may also baffle readers who didn't read Stormwatch #1. As the purpose of the 'New 52' initiative is to drawn in new readers the comic does them no favours by requiring them to have read one of the more obscure titles of the relaunch in advance.
Some fans may also take issue with the way Superman is characterised. Whether in Clark Kent or Man of Steel mode, he always finds something to whine about - from the demolition of the original Daily Planet building to the demise of print journalism. There are hints of raw power and altruism, though not quite as prominently as before.
Overall, Superman #1 is expertly scripted and well drawn, though it's difficult to gauge where Perez plans to take the comic from here. It's darker than before, Superman is more conflicted, but it works to the book's advantage for the most part. The love triangle between Lois, Clark and Jonathan should prove interesting, and things are certain to heat up once the series's principal antagonist steps into the playing field.
> Buy the digital version of Superman #1
> Read our review of Action Comics #1 #1
Watch The New 52 introduction video from DC Comics below: