Reinventing Superman is a tricky undertaking for anyone. He's a mainstay in the cultural identity of the western world, but the basic points are underReinventing Superman is a tricky undertaking for anyone. He's a mainstay in the cultural identity of the western world, but the basic points are understood by people the world over. An alien rocketed to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton, raised by a kindly farm couple with no children of their own. Birthright answers a few questions but does leave a few hanging. It's not perfect, but it is as close to perfect as I care to get, and I prefer it over the Geoff Johns Gary Frank collaboration that came later. I'll explain.
We open in the early days of Clark Kent's odyssey across the world, discovering who he is by getting the first word from an African political figure who detests violence and merely advocated peace for his people. Of course, this gets him killed and Clark is unable to stop it. I'm spoiling that for a very simple reason: just because he's Superman, he's still just a man. That down to earth quality works for Clark, at least under Waid's pen.
Believing that he can no longer hide, as that stops him from using his powers to help people, he returns home to the Kent farm to fashion a new identity, a public identity that lets him still be just a farmboy whenever he's not flying everywhere saving the world. The construction of the Superman identity brings up some deep, festering feelings in Clark's father, Jonathan, who despite everything feels he's failed in raising a son that isn't his anymore. The scene where he and Clark finally have it out, 200 feet above the farm, is eye-opening and heartbreaking and an element of the story that rarely works. (Costner's portrayal is too cold and staid, while John Schneider's version is too manly, but still perfectly well done within its context)
By the end of the visit, Clark bids his parents goodbye and moves to the big city of Metropolis to be a reporter. Along the way he meets the love of his life Lois Lane, remeets his apparently amnesiac best friend now sworn enemy Lex Luthor, and decides what he really is as Lex turns the world against him. And finally learns what he was, again, thanks to Lex Luthor.
That the story is well written comes as no surprise. Mark Waid is a massive Superman fan and my adoration of his work continues to annoy my friends. So I'll talk about the art instead. Especially the scene of Clark flying low over the savannah, trying to crack the tablet computer that was in his ship all the way to Jimmy Olsen holding the S shield the "invading Kryptonian army" ripped off Superman's chest, declaring "he's with us!". Yu's art is solid stuff, like granite slabs of the reality of these characters and his panel work and pacing presents a flow that makes the story end far faster than it should. But as long as you're holding it, go in for that second read. I've gotten to the point I can read Kryptonian. Maybe you will too....more
I wrote a review of this back when that was my job, praising it to the point the author himself e-mailed me to express his delight that I enjoyed it.I wrote a review of this back when that was my job, praising it to the point the author himself e-mailed me to express his delight that I enjoyed it. My opinion has not changed on repeated readings, this volume remains in my top three runs of Greatest Fantastic Four comics of all time, above John Byrne and sort of tickling that space underneath the incomparable Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I've been a fan of the FF since before I could even read, and Reed Richards' opening up to his infant daughter early in the run reminded me of why. He admitted his arrogance, his weaknesses that turned his only friends, the most important people in his life, into something Else, something they can never come back from. So he changed speed and instead of trying to make them normal he advanced towards the extranormal. The extraordinary. He devoted his life to giving them a life few people can even think about. Even poor Ben Grimm, cursed to be a horrible Thing, becomes a man stronger than most in his spirit and heart, willing to give up being a normal man if it means saving his family (the movies got that right, at least).
Waid takes these elements and crafts, not a reinvention, but a repurposing of Marvel's First Family and brings them back to what makes them so great in the first place. They're not superheroes. They're adventurers. They eat the unknown for breakfast, return in time for lunch, and deal with the paparazzi. They're celebrities back when that term meant something. Reed's work has changed the world (particularly unstable molecules). Waid writes him like he's lived in his head, in a place where the burden of his guilt still weighs on his mind as he's discovering other worlds and changing the face of science with every move he makes. The large and the small, the immutable understanding of human curiosity finds its echo in Reed Richards.
And that's just the opener.
Addressing the artwork by the late Mike Weiringo. There's nothing like it. Simple, daring, clean but full of detail. So far from the 90's with their pouches and guns and gritted teeth expressions, an animated style that isn't cartoony, but still active and kinetic. Not poses but posture, not grit or glamor, just fluid and alive. There's so few artists in comics these days that understood his style and the loss of him is something I lament every time I return to this book. Not fully sadness, but immense respect and awe at his storytelling and wishing we could have more. There's a lot out there, thankfully, and should you start here, you won't be disappointed....more