Sunday, January 03, 2016
Justice League: The Darkseid War: Superman #1
•Justice League #41 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 1)
•Justice League #42 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 2)
•Justice League #43 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 3)
•Justice League #44 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 4)
•Justice League #45 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 5)
•Justice League: The Darkseid War: Batman #1
The second of the character-specific one-shot tie-ins to the Geoff Johns-written "Darkseid War" story arc in Justice League, JL:TDW:S follows Superman, the newly named "God of Strength," who ascended when Luthor dropped him into an Apokloliptian fire pit in order to recharge his cells and therefore restore his waning power.
Superman flew out at full-power, but badly changed. Not only did he now talk in New New God font, he also had a weird photo-negative look and he was a monstrous douchebag, beating up Luthor, tearing his power-armor off and abandoning him on the alien planet.
This is what happened next, as told by writer Francis Manapul (who is drawing the current "Act II" of "The Darkseid War" arc and providing the nice-looking covers for all of these one-shots), and drawn by artist Bong Dazo.
See what I mean, that is a nice-looking cover. There you see Superman's new look. Honestly, it's not a great one, but Superman has had so many costume changes over the years, what are you going to do? Even if you just looked at all of the "Superman gone bad" costumes, there are probably a few dozen of those, since "Superman gone bad" is one of the, like, three default Supeman stories that everyone seems so interested in writing. This photo-negative thing might be about all that's left (I don't know; maybe Superman-goes-goth?).
I think the idea with the photo-negative thing is to present him as changed by being charged with the "negative" energy of Apokolips rather than the positive energy of Earth's sun, which sort of works, I guess, at least in terms of visuals reflecting a story point (As for Superman being able to be charged by the fire pits, I was taken aback by that, as I didn't think they counted as a form of solar/stellar energ).
The look does strike me as a little derivative though, as a Spider-Man villain of rather recent vintage has the same basic look, and it's kind of weird when characters in this particular comic just see Superman and say "Hey, a new costume" without commenting on the fact that he looks completely bizarre and unnatural, his skin and clothes all blending together in a pure, absence of color. Have you ever looked closely at the negative of a photo of yourself or a loved one and been a little freaked out? Imagine one of those at full-size, walking around and talking. Brrr...!
Anyway, Manapul does a great work with it on this particular cover. The all-white background helps the imagery pop, and this is markedly different than the over-crowded cover imagery of all the "Darkseid War" business that has been published thus far (including the ones with Manapul covers). There's a Kirby-inspired design element, but it's used smartly and sparingly, to highlight an aspect of the image.
This is pretty reflective of the contents as well, as Superman is torn between helping and not helping the people of Metropolis from a deadly alien ooze issue, and he does regard a bird within.
A little black box catches us up on the events of "Darkseid War" ("In the wake of Darkseid's death, several members of the Justice LEague have gained the power of Gods–but at what price to their humanity? Blah blah blah"). Meanwhile, Perry White lets us know that Superman hasn't been seen for days, and no one knows where he is, while talking to Jimmy Olsen. Three-fourths of the people in the background and foreground are staring at the screens of smart phones.
A double-page spread of Negative Superman, punching a big alien robot monster thing in the face high above the surface of the earth, big chunks of metal coming off, and its neck stretching to the breaking point. In narration, Superman complains about how every time he tries to come home to Earth, he's attacked by someone or something trying to make a name for themselves by taking him down, but they shouldn't test him, as he's Superman and all.
In the lower left-hand corner of the spread is th title of the story, "God of Steel," and the credits.
While Perry and Jimmy debate how best to cover Superman's absence in the paper, apparently not realizing that they don't have to write every story in their paper about Superman every day, Superman is flying towards Metropolis like a meteor, the alien monster guy thing beneath he and his fists. They land with a KRRRAAAASSHH! that throws the Daily Planet-eers to the ground and opens up a huge hole in the side of the Planet building.
Superman tears a diminutive alien out of the suit, for that's what the big metal monster thing was, and talks some trash to it ("You're not worthy to fight Superman"). He tosses the little guy over his shoulder, while bystanders ask Superman if that's him or not, and if he's not going to take the alien to jail or not.
Superman dismisses them, saying the little guy will leave of his own accord "if he knows what's healthy for him," and then tells the bystanders to get out of his way, as he's hungry.
He does as Superman predicts, taking off in a little escape orb.
Superman enters Melvin's Diner, and steals a piece of pie right out of a guy at the counter's hand at super-speed.
"Bring me apple pie," he says, in his new font.
I like how in discussing the new Superman, one of the ladies says that the new costume is "So much sexier!" Are you crazy lady? Look at his face! It's A) Obviously not a costume and B) Freaky as hell.
But maybe I shouldn't judge. Everyone's got their own kinks, right? Maybe she's into photo-negatives. Maybe she looks at photo-negatives of old pornographic films. I don't know who she is.
On the next page, Melvin and a waitress make small talk with Superman, the former offering him some advice and the latter asking for a favor, but Superman doesn't have time for their shit today.
"I said give me my pie!" he screams, pounding his fist on the counter top. Now, he didn't actually say that; he said "Bring me apple pie." But having seen Superman scream and pound his fist on the counter, no one is really about to point that out to him.
Back at the Planet, Jimmy helps Perry to his feet, while the latter wonders why Superman is acting off. And just what the black, oily-looking substance that is slowly covering everything in the city might be. When Jimmy hears one of the smart phone people say something about pie aloud, he realizes where exactly Superman must be, since they are pals and all.
He puts on his dorky bike helmet and bikes as fast as he can to Melvin's, while the black ooze continues to cover buildings and people and cars. He gets hit by a car, but is okay–because he wore a helmet! Let that be a lesson to you, kids!
Jimmy and the new New New God version of Superman have an intense heart-to-heart.
Jimmy bursts into the now abandoned diner, where Superman is eating his pie, and starts talking excitedly to his old pal. Superman throws Jimmy out the window. When a few tendrils of ooze start to grab at Jimmy, Superman notes yet again that "he's not human," and when Jimmy uses the word "help" in a sentence, Superman floats away from his pie to tell Jimmy off.
"Help! Help! That's all I hear," Superman says. "It drives me insane! Why can't you help yourselves?" He insists he's only back on Earth "for the one thing I enjoy on this planet" (pie) and Jimmy gives him a long, tearful speech about what a good person Superman is and why he loves Earth and Metropolis before the goo completely covers him and finally shuts him up.
A two-page spread, in which Superman floats high above the now silenced Olsen, and regards the city, which is full of people, crashed cars and buildings all in the process of being wrapped up by the seemingly sentient, inky whatever-it-is.
Superman stands on a gargoyle (Hey, that's Batman's thing!) and looks at the skyline, noting that nothing is moving in the city, save a pigeon that briefly alights on the shoulder.
He's conflicted by the presences of the pigeon, and then his eyes return to "normal" while the rest of him is all negative-y, in a really rather freaky-looking visual.
Superman traces the source of the smothering black ooze back to the abandoned alien battle-suit; apparently it was a farewell gift from the defeated foe he let flee. He rationalizes his way to saving the day: "<i>I'm stronger than any weapon. That's why I'll do this. That's why I'll save the city.</i>"
And how does Superman knock the the paralyzing black substance off of the entire city of Metropolis...? A blast of arctic breath to freeze the whole thing solid, and then a super-punch that shatters all of the ice ("SMAAASSSSHHHHHH").
What happens to the goo when the ice melts...? It doesn't matter, there's only one page left!
Having realized that Superman is still "in there," Jimmy is quite excited, and returns to the office, where Perry has already printed a new edition of the paper...? (Headline: "A New Hope" ). Superman admits to himself that he needs help, which is, of course, the first step in dealing with a problem, and flies off, thinking that bad things are on the immediate horizon. And they are! "The Darkseid War" is, after all, still in-progress!