Review by Frank Plowright
Superman and horror have always been an uneasy mix. He’s the ultimate superhero, which means throwing him up against supernatural menaces has never resulted in a great Superman story, and Under the Skin continues that streak. It’s not poor, but neither is it compelling.
Greg Pak makes use of the progressions in Superman’s world during the Doomed crossover, to be experienced in the full edition, not the waste of money selection of Pak-written chapters presented in Superdoom. The crisis is Smallville being enveloped in a strange mist closing it off from the outside world, the dead rising from their graves, and some squidgy monsters.
Aaron Kuder’s art keeps improving the more comfortable he’s become with Superman and his world. As of Under the Skin the frequent flashback sequences to Clark Kent’s youth are further differentiated by a form of painted approach. It’s there on the sample page looking as if Norman Rockwell’s been trying to draw manga, perhaps having looked at Akira, and every subsequent flashback is drawn in a different style, which is a pleasing diversion. Unusually for what’s a type of supernatural threat, it’s presented not as a wispy, corner of the eye apparition, but as a stunning, hyper-detailed monster straight from the Art Adams sketchbook. Even though coming anywhere near either of those artists is some achievement, this shouldn’t suggest Kuder is some magpie, filching styles as he brings his own signatures to Superman, and that’s apparent on the amazing pages produced for a Bizarro story.
There’s an interesting solution to the supernatural threat, although getting there takes a while, and the strongest aspect is the continuing interactions between Lana Lang and Superman. Because she’s the person who’s known him longest she can call him out where others wouldn’t, and the dynamic that provides is used well.
Among the zany elements of the Bizarro tale is a skewed look at the events of Doomed, after which Pak closes with a trip to the future and an offbeat revision of a 1970s alternative Superman. Pascal Alixe takes a look at what could happen if random people suddenly acquired portions of Superman’s power. It’s sweet, with a point to make and a quite the switch of tone.
While the horror story is the longest, the other inclusions raise this selection above average, with Kuder’s art more impressive by the volume. Truth is the next from by Pak and Kuder.