It’s a well-established narrative trope – heck, you could call it a cliché if you want – that as soon as someone goes on about how happy they are with everything, something’s about to happen to make it rather less so. So when we open James Robinson’s first Superman issue with a charming scene featuring Clark playing fetch in space with Krypto (while a bemused Hal Jordan looks on) and remarking on how great things are, I can’t help but get worried. Not for Lois – not even the events of Final Crisis #2 are enough to make me think anything bad’s ever going to happen to her – but for Krypto. Seriously, if something happens to that dog, I’m dropping the book like a stone.
Following that opening sequence – which in its few pages is enough to give us a sense of the way Robinson is approaching the character – we spend the remainder of the issue in a Superman-less Metropolis, and in one of many inevitable Starman comparisons, it’s clear straight away that he intends to use the city itself as a character rather than simply a backdrop for the artist – as a big monster rages through the streets to be taken on by the power-suited “Science Police”, it’s very much an “only in Metropolis” kind of story. For the main narrative, meanwhile, he falls back on another of his preferred devices – looking at the action through the eyes, and thoughts, of supporting characters. In this instance, it’s a member of the Science Police, and it’s good to see a certain amount of ambiguity as regards someone’s reaction to Superman – sometimes he hates him for making their job look trivial, sometimes he’s in awe of what the guy can do. It’s not black-and-white – it’s believable. It’s exactly the sort of vignette we used to see dotted throughout Starman (indeed, unlike with a lot of writers, I wouldn’t necessarily expect the character to show up again after this), and it demonstrates that one of the keystones of Robinson’s run will (hopefully) be character work – undeniably his biggest strength as a writer. And unlike his One Year Later Batman story, a longer run here will hopefully mean that that sort of thing gets time to breathe.
Renato Guedes has already made waves as an occasional Superman artist in the last couple of years, and it’s good to see him locked in to a proper run on the main title – as he’s one of the best out there at drawing the character at the moment. As I’ve said before, he reminds me of Jackson (Butch) Guice’s early/mid ’90s work, and his Superman has the requisite mixture of power and grace. He’s also no slouch when it comes to the action sequences, and there’s a pleasing amount of precision to his linework and Wilson Magalhaes’ inks – although some of the rippling muscle shots of Atlas leave a bit to be desired.
It’s a promising start, anyway. It doesn’t do anything mindblowing, doesn’t promise much in the way of great shakeups – but it shows a measured pace in building things up, and the tone is absolutely spot on. Robinson is clearly, just for the moment, setting himself up to bed in for the long haul – and as long as he doesn’t do anything to that dog, I’m happy to join him.