Review by Ian Keogh
A key sequence in the preceding Men of Tomorrow saw this relatively novice Superman discovering what had throughout his publishing history been referred to as heat vision, but now rebranded as a solar flare. It’s an immense eruption of power, tying into Superman’s abilities being conferred by the rays from a yellow sun, but can leave him temporarily bereft of super powers. The opening chapter investigates this in the company of the Justice League, which is an extremely rare writing job from John Romita Jr. Very competent it is, setting up the later arrival of Gene Luen Yang as writer.
Yang may not seem the obvious choice given his previous track record with very good, but more personal graphic novels. His interpretation of Superman is kick started by Clark Kent receiving anonymous phone messages making it very clear that someone’s aware of his dual identity, and from there Yang moves forward with the proposition that information is the new powerball. That idea is explored via a company named HORDR. The name is terrible, but their methods and application of technology are refreshing in a Superman graphic novel. Some ethnic diversity’s no bad thing either, although that’s rather hammered home with a comment about attitude.
Yet Yang’s approach isn’t without problems. Lois Lane discovering Clark Kent’s dual identity offers new plot possibilities, but in terms of her journalistic instincts instituting a big reveal where and when she does just isn’t credible. Yang knows where the plot is going, but this is an oversight. In other places the plot is just too convenient, but Yang takes it into new territory that’s further investigated in Return to Glory, inordinately complicating Superman’s life.
After such a long and distinguished career it might be considered that Romita Jr no longer has the capacity to surprise, that we’re all familiar with his repertoire, and that’s absolutely not the case. The visual effects he designs to represent the advanced technology look really cool, and his Superman is superbly depicted as a lithe and graceful individual. Beyond the halfway point the story takes a relatively mundane sweep through Superman’s minor villains, and Romita Jr elevates this standard material.
Overall, Yang’s transition from writing his own projects to major league superheroes isn’t entirely smooth. The ideas behind the plot are interesting, but much of the content is ordinary.