Review by Frank Plowright
What Lies Beneath begins with a brief, charming run through of Superman’s infancy on Krypton and youth on Earth neatly drawn by Lee Weeks, and it prefaces the humanity Greg Pak brings to Superman. Although labelled Volume 5 on the cover, this is a jumping on point requiring little reference to the previous volume Hybrid, so continuing the 2011 reboot of Superman and his world with a Superman still relatively new to the job.
Pak highlights the uncertainty and natural reactions of a young man with incredible powers, an early sequence having him deal with a group of terrorists calling themselves the Supremacists, one of whom is left in tears after Superman wrecks their headquarters and technology. Superman laughs. It’s an entirely natural reaction given who the Supremacists are and what they want, but also a fine touch displaying a Superman who hasn’t yet entirely contained himself. It’s a theme continued throughout the fine ‘Stormbreaker’ in which Superman pits himself against a storm.
Until starting on this series artist Aaron Kuder had been restricted to the occasional one-off assignment for DC, and improves through having a regular gig. As seen by the sample art, the spectacular layout is nailed from the beginning, but it takes him a little longer to convey movement effectively and to iron out faces in stiff, unnatural expressions. The progress is rapid, though, and even if it takes the help of other artists spotting him a few pages at a time, Kuder delivers dynamic Superman with Art Adams an influence.
The title story begins with a monster emerging from deep below the Earth’s surface where Lana Lang is conducting an archaeological dig. Pak counters that throughout by dipping back into the past she shared with Clark Kent in Smallville, Lana’s narration neatly giving the view of someone who grew up with Superman. A further complication is a nuisance in an armoured suit seemingly controlled by military figures and able to injure Superman. The four chapters are never predictable, and despite the wealth of new characters and concepts the best aspect is the human relationship between Lana and who she still sees as Clark Kent, just with super powers.
It’s a really solid new start that still reads well years later. The minor plots shift to major in Superdoom.