Review by Jamie McNeil
Hybrid starts off in promising fashion. It teases with romantic tension between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, gives Lois her ballsy ‘up-and-at-them’ personality, and not only restores Lex Luthor to arch-nemesis, but gives Lex what might be his most disturbing and megalomaniac incarnation yet. Juxtaposed against Grant Morrison’s and Rags Morales’s Luthor in Superman and the Men of Steel the transformation is chilling, well pencilled, and shot through with treacle-black humour. Andy Diggle looked like he was setting it all up for the long term, Tony S. Daniel’s pencil creating some epic scenery, good character art and helping to build tension.
Superman has been infected with a Kryptonian virus that copied his cellular structure, transforming itself into an independent life-form infecting Metropolis. Luthor plans to save the day and expose Superman as a danger to the human race. From this bold beginning, the story steadily lags, never quite returning to its earlier momentum. The problem is that Diggle departed early, so Daniel finished writing the story from Diggle’s plot, pencilling at the same time. Daniel’s capabilities as a writer are average, well below Diggle’s level of competency, although his art matches the high standards set in previous volumes by Rags Morales and others.
Hybrid is thereafter a collection of very different shorter stories by various creative teams. It’s a big change after Grant Morrison’s three book run on Action Comics. All those stories intertwined, even the back-up stories, ultimately constructing one complex tale. This is a different animal altogether, but still entertaining. The stories are fun, the Knights of the Pax Galacticus a rip-roaring addition in ‘Atomic Knights’, a fantasy-in-space and rollicking adventure written by Scott Lobdell, well drawn by Tyler Kirkham and beautifully coloured by Arif Prianto. They form a good creative match and provide an action-focused take on a last-stand knightly quest.
Frank Hannah returns to Morrison’s concept of Superman’s origin by heading to Krypton for a look at Jor-El and Lara (Superman’s birth parents) as young Kryptonians in the midst of an attempted coup. Krypton is quite beautifully rendered by Philip Tan and coloured by Tomeu Morey in the first half. Tom Derenick’s art has an emotional nuance, particularly with the facial features with Hi-Fi providing superb colouring for the second half. The story hits a bump when it attempts to flash forward, but goes too far, leaving gaping plot-holes. It ties in other Superman lore by keeping the face of the colonel leading the coup looking familiar, but shadowed.
There is some expectation from the writers that readers are familiar with other New 52 Superman titles, the assumption confusing plots, while the narrative is bumpy rather than smooth, so while the artwork impresses, the writing disappoints. Hybrid is fun but never hits the high expectations the opening instilled, which is a shame as the abiding feeling is that Andy Diggle could have done amazing things with Superman.
Greg Pak takes over the writing duties for What Lies Beneath.