Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Renato Guedes
Publisher: DC Comics
I’ve always been a fan of Dwayne McDuffie’s work, particularly his more recent animated television work with the DC Universe. One of the strongest elements of the video game Justice League Heroes is the story written by McDuffie. His work on Static Shock, Justice League Unlimited and even Teen Titans has been entertaining and well-written. While it is unfortunate that readers must wait another few months before we all kneel before our lord and eternal ruler, this first fill-in story has all the makings to be satisfying enough to keep the wait worthwhile. What first caught my eye aside from McDuffie’s name on this issue was the cover art by Renato Guedes. Usually I don’t comment on artwork until later on in the review, but I'm compelled to comment on the cover art for a moment now. With the exception of the somewhat-but-not-completely awkward looking cape, Superman looks majestic. Really, aside from Ivan Reis’ Green Lantern cover, this is perhaps the most eye catching and attractive cover I picked up this week. Superman looks great and the immediately sets the bar high for this issue.
I know, never judge a book by its cover, but I am pleasantly surprised by this issue. While McDuffie has the un-daunting task of penning a fill-in issue between a major story arc, he doesn’t follow the route that the Batman fillers have gone. Rather, McDuffie tries to maintain continuity by having this filler take place during the madness Zod has unleashed in Metropolis. I assume this takes place the day or so after Superman has been exiled to the Phantom Zone and the renegade Kryptonians have taken over Metropolis.
One of the things I have liked about the Superman Mythos since the first Crisis and the John Byrne revamp is that Jonathan Kent is alive and kicking. Granted, every other depiction of Superman with the exception of the animated version follows the original idea that Jonathan Kent has bought the farm. I’ve always liked the idea of Jonathan being around; writers usually find a way to continually make him an integral part of Clark’s life. He’s always had the heart problem, and in the current mythos almost did die after Superman’s battle with Doomsday. The opening of this issue deals with Jonathan’s heart problem. While any heart condition is a serious matter, McDuffie has a bit of fun with Jonathan’s ailment as he and Martha get into Jonathan trying to sneak caffeine and other sweets. This immediately makes me think back to a classic Ma/Pa Kent moment during the Epilogue issue of “Funeral for a Friend.” While flying to the remains of Coast City, Superman stops off in Smallville to interrupt an argument between Ma and Pa over Pa having to drink “Diet Soder.” McDuffie gets points in my book just for playing with the history of Ma and Pa and Pa’s heart condition.
McDuffie takes the best route possible for a filler issue: keep it tied to the current story arc without advancing the story being written by someone else. The way McDuffie does this is by featuring Superman’s parents and giving a heartwarming albeit familiar story about Clark’s willpower and his compassion for all life. Beyond that, there’s something else McDuffie presents in this issue that really should not be overlooked by readers and reviewers alike: He touches on the unique relationship that Clark and Jonathan share. Clark looks up to Jonathan as the ultimate human being, the man to model himself after. In turn, Jonathan looks up to his son, a man of unrequited compassion for all living things. For this reason, I hope Jonathan Kent doesn’t go anywhere anytime soon. With rumors of Lois soon to be with child, Jonathan Kent will play an integral part of his super grandson’s life.
While the story is essentially “Superman beats impossible odds,” it’s the little things that really make this issue worthwhile. First, being the way McDuffie ties it to the Johns/Donner arc, the second, of course, being the way he handles the Jonathan/Clark relationship. It is also unique because it is the first time that Jonathan has seen the impact his son has in the greater universe beyond Earth. It must be quite the experience for a father to see the impact his son has not only on his home planet but in an area light years away from Earth. Of course, this story comes in the form of a flashback as Jonathan tells Martha of the events. It’s an age old father/son trick: tell mom you're going one place and go somewhere else, but make sure there is evidence that you went where you said you would.
Renato Guedes artwork is great from the cover all the way to the end of the book. His Superman looks like Christopher Reeve, and this look stays consistent throughout the issue. His representation of Jonathan Kent does and doesn’t look like John Schneider. While Martha and Jonathan are depicted much younger than they usually are, which I really like, they remain consistent throughout the issue. There wasn’t much to not like about the art, the aesthetics are on point as the scenes inside the Kent house are darker and a bit washed out because it is the middle of the night.
This is a decent fill-in issue that does and doesn’t fall victim to the basics of that classification. I personally liked this issue. I thought the relationship between Jonathan and Clark was well done, and the way it is tied to the Johns/Donner arc really does help this filler along. Unfortunately, it is still a filler, and some of you may not feel it lives up to the standards of the Johns/Donner arc, but the catch is that it’s not supposed to. It’s a great supplement to that arc.
What did you think of this book?
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