Review by Jamie McNeil
Grant Morrison continues his reinvention of Superman’s origins as part of DC’s New 52, following Superman and the Men of Steel. Unexpectedly, Morrison turns to Earth 23’s Superman (seen in Final Crisis) to start things off with some musings on absolute power, and when the ‘greater good’ stops being the ‘greater good’. That character is much more developed here by Grant Morrison and back-up writer Sholly Fisch, but wasn’t this meant to be a new take on the DC universe? While he is Morrison’s creation, this doesn’t feel all that new, although it proves a good comparison point for the rest of Bulletproof. This Superman is president on his own Earth, and Gene Ha removes his afro and provides a look more suitable for a character based on Barack Obama.
The remainder is more about Kal-El, exploring his Kryptonian identity and wondering if he has actually outgrown Clark Kent. After all, he isn’t human so why pretend to be one? Amid threats from Metaleks (possessed Bob the Builder characters) and a hunter who has something to prove (inspired by Spider-Man foe Kraven), there is some development of the ‘little man’ hell-bent on destroying Superman, and Clark’s mysterious landlady Mrs. Nyxly.
The pace of Bulletproof is less frantic than Superman and the Men of Steel, but the plot is equally convoluted. While an entertaining read, it’s becoming apparent that this might be more of a ‘All-you-need-to-know-about-Superman-now’ collection of stories with a few new bits thrown in rather than something entirely new. There are also continuity issues. Action Comics is meant to be set five years before Superman, but it seems to cut across Justice League and Superman. Whether this is an intentional flash-forward to help enhance some of Morrison’s morality explorations is unclear.
There is more artistic collaboration in this book, a wide variety of differing styles on display that accentuate rather than clash with each other. Rags Morales works solo but also collaborates with Cafu and Rick Bryant, sharing pages with Brad Walker, who adds detail to Superman’s identity crisis. Ben Oliver adds a darker and broodier style to Morrison’s story. Cafu’s and Cully Hamner’s artwork really complements Sholly Fisch’s backing stories in a way that gives the players more depth, and the sensitive stories even more emotional heft. As in Men of Steel, the artwork is consistent, professional and of an extremely high standard.
The important thing to remember about Bulletproof is that it is the middle part of a story spanning three books, the shorter book of the three, and a much more fluid read if you have first read Superman and the Men of Steel. It is also the hinge between books. Morrison’s tactic is to slow release parts of the plot to keep the reader interested, but he’s still far away from a full reveal. It definitely works.
Morrison concludes his story in At the End of Days.