I am a little surprised to see him come on to the massively troubled Superman title (although DC probably wanted him and Johns there to stabilize it), as I would have expected Detective Comics would have been a more appealing place to start (Batman being the most visually interesting of DC's stable, and having such a big, weird cast and setting for an artist to play with; that almost-as-troubled book just got a new creative team a few issues ago), or perhaps a Justice League comic, as that would allow Romita to start drawing as many DC icons as possible right out of the gate. (When previous long-time Marvel-artist-drawing-for-DC Mark Bagley came aboard, DC gave him first a weekly series that spanned much of the DC Universe in Trinity, and then gave him Justice League of America. Before that, the Kuberts were pretty big Marvel guy "gets," and DC gave Andy Batman and Adam Action, but their inability to keep a schedule render the presence of both artists at the publisher all but meaningless...I guess Andy's become a semi-regular cover artist).
When I say troubled, I'm referring to the behind-the-scenes and on-the-page creative chaos. Superman was rebooted with a new number one and new, retconned continuity in September of 2011, and is one of the inaugural group of New 52 titles that has yet to be canceled. At it's launch, its creative team consisted of George Perez (writing, providing breakdowns and drawing the covers) and Jesus Merino (finishing the interior art). They were in a pretty rough spot, actually, as Superman was the secondary Superman title, and was set in the present, while Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and company were establishing Superman's new origin and history in the pages of Action Comics at the very same time Perez and company were supposed to be telling stories set five years after the Action Comics stuff they hadn't seen yet (And, complicating matters further, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee were also telling a pivotal Superman story set in the characters new past in the pages of Justice League).
Perez wasn't happy, but let's not rehash all that. Suffice it to say that in it's just-shy-of-three-year-existence, Superman has had five different writers or writing teams (Perez for six issues, Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens for four issues, just Jurgens for two issues, Scott Lobdell for 17 issues and Mike Johnson for 2 issues...plus three different writers on the decimal-pointed issues from Villains Month, but let's ignore those) and about a dozen or so artists in various configurations, not counting fill-in inkers and Villains Month artists (Perez and Merino; just Merino; Perez and Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott; Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott; Giffen, Scott, Jurgens and Merino; Jurgens and Merino; Kenneth Rocafort; Rocafort, Tyler Kirkham and Robson Rocha; Aaron Kuder; Eddy Barrows; Ken Lashley; Ed Benes; Brett Booth).
Of them all, Lobdell writing and Rocafort drawing has been the longest collaboration, but this is one of those book's that never really settled down into anything resembling consistency, and even once DC got Lobdell and Rocafort together, their storylines were being interrupted by Superman line crossovers and stunts like the zero issue and those decimal point issues.
One might think that a creative team comprised of such talented, high-profile creators as Geoff Johns and JRJR (who, both, perhaps most importantly for a book like this, have reputations for meeting deadlines and staying on books for a while) is the sort of creative team you would launch a book like Superman with, not have come in on issue #32. If nothing else, one might expect DC to relaunch Superman with a new #1, but no dice.
This first issue reminded me rather a lot of the beginning of Superman Unchained, the last Superman book to feature a super-high-profile creative team (Scott Snyder and Jim Lee, if you forgot), which was sold and launched as an ongoing monthly but became a miniseries because, you know, Jim Lee. Like Superman Unchained, this issue introduces a Superman mirror character, in the form of Ulysses.
It opens 25 years ago at the Ulysses Research Center, three miles below Omaha, Nebraska. There is a terrible accident, in which the "strange matter from dimension two" the scientists there were apparently studying begins eating/destroying the locked-down lab. Two scientists, who look so similar they could be brother and sister, fear for their baby son, who is in the lab with them, it apparently being Bring Your Baby To Work Day, and while they can't save themselves, they can save him (sound familiar?) by launching him through a portal to "Dimension Four."
Chris Sims' positive review of the book at Comics Alliance (which I haven't read yet as I type this, but will have by the time you read it). It is indeed an awesome image, and one that earns the space it occupies in the book. It's a genuinely good use of a two-page splash, something Johns actually rather rarely does, as enamored of splashes as he is.
This giant robot gorilla is, by the way, revealed to (a?) New 52 Titano, now apparently a robot gorilla rather than a mutated giant chimpanzee with Kryptonite laser eyes.
|The original Titano, as drawn by Curt Swan|
The scene includes an image of Superman's "death," which bugs the hell out of me.
There's also a panel or two that really drives home how similar the post-Forever Evil status quo of (some parts of) the DC Universe is to the post-Secret Invasion, "Dark Reign" status quo of the Marvel Universe from a few years ago.
"'Lex Luthor Saves The World!'," Perry reads one of his own headlines aloud, "Bad guys are good. Good guys are bad. Thins have been turned upside down."
After the Daily Planet scene, something happens that I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened yet, as it so perfectly visually represents the entire middle-aged white guys awkwardly pandering to an imaginary young, hip, new demographic they imagine exists, that it just a few quick drawings conveys the spirit of Jim Lee grafting the WildStorm Universe to the DC Universe, redesigning all of the most iconic superhero costumes and hiring Bob Harrass, Scott Lobdell and Rob Liefeld.
I am, of course, talking about Superman's backwards baseball cap:
So there's a weird-looking alien in a weird-looking ship, destroying things. There's a fight. There's a mysterious stranger with an apparent connection to Superman's past. Just when it looks like the alien has Superman on the ropes, a character strongly resembling the scientist in the first scene appears out of a glowing blue portal, beats on the guy beating on Superman, and, together, the two supermen punch the attacker so hard his face and torso cave in and he emits a giant dome of blue light, before collapsing.
The new guy introduces himself as Ulysses, and says he thought he was from Earth, and that Earth was destroyed, but apparently not. And so Superman, who was just being all lonely, finds himself confronted with another superpowered young man whose birth parents rocketed him away to save him from destruction! Will they be friends now?
I'm going to guess that yes, yes they are. For a few issues. And then they will fight, when Superman realizes all is not what it seems with Ulysses, who may not necessarily be evil, but will be revealed to have been manipulated and somewhat emotionally unstable because of it. And then Superman will return to the Daily Planet, taking Perry's advice to spend more time with people and re-befriend Lois and Jimmy, who seemed awfully tight with in Superman Unchained and Action Comics, but he seems rather distant from them in this comic.
Just guessing, of course.
For a shorter, more on-point and more-knowledgeable review, might I suggest Tom Bondurant's at Robot 6...? (That Sims review is well-written, as well, if you didn't click on the link to it already.)