I’m quite kindly disposed towards James Robinson at the moment, having recently picked up volume one of The Starman Omnibus and been reminded of just how perfect in almost every conceivable way that series (er, up until Jack goes into space) really is. I’m not sure whether this made me want to like his burgeoning Superman run a bit more or not, but certainly, the third issue is the most enjoyable so far.
It’s been a difficult run to get a handle on, primarily since the main plot has consisted of little more than Supes having a big punch-up with someone a bit stronger than him. But what this issue makes apparent is that, as with much of Robinson’s comics work, this is really about nuances, and moments. And so scattered around a fight sequence that really has far too many echoes of Doomsday to be accidental (but then, it’s hard to know exactly which ’90s Superman stories are supposed to have even happened now we’re on New Earth) are a number of scenes that suggest that maybe Robinson does have a handle on at least part of what makes a good Superman tale, even if the whole doesn’t quite convince as much as it should just yet.
Of particular note is a two-page flashback sequence with Clark and Lois at home that’s slightly cheesy but just about gets away with it (not least because it features Clark reading a paper called “The Opal City”), and an even better scene that finally deals with the unfortunate problem of having Lana Lang in charge of Lexcorp, at the same time making her far more of a character than she’s been in, ooh, decades, really. More, please. And then there’s the closing page, an utterly brilliant – and unexpected – moment that’s one of those rare “Cheer at the page!” events, and which showcases a unique but entertaining grasp of canine “dialogue”.
As I think I mentioned when reviewing the first issue of this arc, a real attraction of the book right now is the presence of Renato Guedes as artist. I’ve been championing this guy – “the new Butch Guice” as I always call him, and will continue to do so until it catches on – for a while now, and it’s great seeing him really cut loose on a character that it feels like he was born to draw. While issue-long fight sequences tend to bore me a bit (and this one has gone on for two), it’s well-choreographed, and indeed rather brutal at times. It’s also great to see his more unconventional take on Supergirl given some prominence, and we can only hope that this interpretation catches on a bit more with other artists. One slight criticism is a sequence on the penultimate page which is a little unclearly-told – Steel and Bibbo either suddenly appearing from nowhere or instead being a poorly-conveyed piece of metaphor – but generally this is a lovely-looking book. Indeed, with this and Action Comics – and, if you care to count it, All-Star – the Superman books as a line look better than they have done in years, perhaps even better than any other current DC line.
It’s not perfect, and it certainly feels like the last two issues could just as easily have been told in one – but there’s a definite sense that Robinson is working on a return to proper, classic-style Superman storytelling; and this, combined with his use of character strokes, is making it a pretty decent read so far.