REVIEW: ‘Superman’ #34

(DC Comics, 2014)

Written by Geoff Johns
Pencils by John Romita, Jr.
Inks by Klaus Janson
Color Artwork by Laura Martin

Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr and Superman; three of my favorite names in comic books, but even I am amazed at just how darn good this run has been out of the gate. From the very first issue of this comic book dream team the quality of storytelling has been unsurpassed; Johns’ meticulously paced and comprehensive narratives are amplified and enhanced by Romita’s exquisitely detailed and mind blowingly gorgeous artwork. This creative team has set about crafting a methodical story that is built upon all the elements that have made Superman such an enduring and dynamic character; there are no gimmicky attempts to present a Superman for a new generation or a reinvented version custom made for a pop culture obsessed audience of part-time comic book readers. This is a Superman story for Superman fans as well as comic book purists. Johns’ makes extremely effective use of the character Ulysses as an ally of Superman’s but perhaps even more importantly in the sense of character development, he is seen as a comparative parallel to Superman.

This issue continues with and expands upon Ulysses’ shocking discovery of his parents being alive, in good physical shape and carry on a nondescript, domestic existence. Johns has done a fantastic job of making Ulysses an immensely endearing character in a relatively short span of time. So when the affable outsider with the flowing flaxen locks meets his estranged parents there is an undeniably emotional element at work particularly in light of the fact that Big Blue is present to witness the reunion, the similarities to the Kents that Johns imparts to Ulysses’ parents serves to heighten the touching nature of the scene and allows us to see the event through Clark’s eyes. There is a bitter-sweet poignancy to viewing the scene this way because of the distinct sense that Clark will never experience a similar reunion with either his deceased Kryptonian parents or his likewise departed, Earth bound surrogate family, the Kents. However the promise of a widening circle of potential familial substitutes is something that could greatly enhance Clark’s life and lift his spirits at times and in ways only a family could.

As the narrative progresses Johns furthers the juxtaposition of these two characters shifting the focus slightly from their similarities to the differences that exist between the two powerful beings. There is an intrinsic innocence to both characters however, Ulysses possesses a pure unpretentiousness of a child that Clark may have at one time shared but has lost during his time on Earth replaced with an earned trust and mutual respect. While Ulysses was raised by aliens, Clark is an alien raised by humans, taught to inhabit a human world and live among humans in a society which presents some glaring differences the make Ulysses seem all the more alien. Johns uses Ulysses lack of need for sleep to illustrate just how different their biological make ups are. This is extremely effective because it shows that the differences may be small but they are of the most basic nature, hence as similar as these two may appear outwardly they are very different on a cellular level. These types of subtleties are what make Ulysses such an intriguing and complex character, as is the villain in this story, The Machinist.

Johns introduces a new Superman villain in this issue and I would have to say there hasn’t been anyone quite like him to date. There is a truly sinister and frightening air about this character. In his short introduction, Johns portrays The Machinist as being capable of the most heinous acts of violence, human life means little to this sadistic technician of terror. Superman has his work cut out for him, even with a new ally beside him.

Visually Romita Jr delivers another tour de force. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love JR Jr and it is precisely because of work like this. His unique take on anatomy and immediately recognizable facial rendering have become iconic in the world of sequential art. Romita can bring the nuances of the quieter, serene moments to life with as much flair and magic as he brings to his bombastic splash pages and pulse pounding action scenes. This guy is truly one of THE best creators of all time and when you add a maestro like inker extraordinaire, Klaus Janson to the team what you get is pure inspired brilliance. Janson’s understanding of Romita’s penciling style allows the details to come through without being muddied up or lost under a blob of black ink. The subtleties live and show through vibrantly as the work becomes a collaborative effort. Laura Martin’s vivacious pallet further enlivens Romita’s stunning imagery and adds an electric vibrancy to the entire work.

Long time readers of Superman are going to be ecstatic over the degree of quality this current creative team brings to the book but I would not pause in recommending this fabulous run to newcomers as well. This is what great comic books are all about, amazingly engrossing plots, detailed character work and eye popping artwork. This issue features characters that are sure to be a part of the Superman mythology for a long time to come. (5/5)

Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.


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