With issue 40 of DC Comics The New 52 “Superman”, I’ve been reading the adventures of The Man of Steel for a little over three years now. The New 52 was an initiative on DC Comics part to reinvigorate and reintroduce their brand of heroes and villains for an audience that became overwhelmed with years of history. I’ve previously voiced my support of The New 52 as it was the jumping on point for me and I haven’t stopped reading comics on a weekly basis since Justice League issue 1 released August 2011. With issue 40 of Superman, readers and fans alike find themselves at a very interesting crossroads this Wednesday (4/29). The past three weeks have seen shelves filled with earth shattering multi-verse changing stories in the pages of “Convergence”, this week is the final installment in both Superman and Batman issues 40. After a short delay which seemed longer for some of us dedicated of fans, we finally have both titles. Interestingly, Superman and Batman stand alone, taking place before the events of the weekly series “Convergence”, and showcase the last steps of our two iconic The New 52 interpretations of the Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. For myself, reading Superman since September 2011 and being the chief New 52 Superman fan, issue 40 is an important, fun, and roaring last ride for Kal-El! Oh, it’s also written by John Romita Jr who provides the pencils as well. No big deal, right? “WRONG!”
Superman 40 feels like a big, powerful locomotive and that should be attributed to Romita Jr.’s classic approach to storytelling and both his and Klaus Janson’s muscular style of artwork. On a sidenote, I was listening to Hans Zimmer’s score for the 2013 film “Man of Steel” while reading this story and it felt positively cinematic. Romita’s story begins in the lush landscape of the Khentii Mountains in Outer Mongolia. It’s bright as a Superman book should be and colored wonderfully by Dean White, a fantastic addition to the series since JRJR’s arrival in issue 32. Soon a violent eruption shakes the mountains to its very core and we see a bright explosion which soon reveals a naked man reeling at ground zero. It’s Kal-El and he’s still experimenting with his new power – the ability to create a solar flare. Batman picks him up (second time he’s drawn by JRJR and Janson) and brought to the Justice League’s Watchtower (first time JRJR and Janson have drawn the League!). We are reminded that Kal-El remains powerless for 24 hours after he exerts himself to the point of triggering a solar flare and learn that he’s come to enjoy everything about “being human.” While Romita Jr limits the grandfather of all superheroes to jumps for an indefinite amount of time, we get the opportunity to watch the two legendary talents play with the classic Superman array of powers and strength which makes for a timeless story. It’s obvious that Romita Jr knows his Superman (remember Superman was originally only able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound”) and puts him through the wringer in his story “Powerless.” To test his returning power levels, Batman and Cyborg make use of the Watchtower’s recreational facility, Wonder Woman gets in a good sparring session, and eventually the team decides they need to monitor “one of [his]‘flare-outs’.” Romita Jr clearly has fun making use of the Justice League and all of them are rendered in their own, unique, Romita-esque way. Outside of the art, his dialogue and story-telling has its own voice and feels like the kind of story you’d get from John Romita Jr. He gives us one of the better New 52 Superman stories and a true classic send-off for this time in Kal-El’s life.
There are so many great moments in Superman 40, one of which I’ll *SPOIL* (highlight to read the spoiler)Superman gets drunk and forgets he can’t fly! to another development which plays right into the DC Comics “Free Comic Book Day” special. If you are looking for a fun and powerful story of strength and superheroics, run out and get Superman 40. If you’re looking for an unexpected laugh “And those things called, what… Canools?” (Gotta love good Italian humor!) to well-drawn and burly action scenes that bring the Man of Steel to life, then… GET Superman 40. For a series that I’ve flip-flopped back and forth on since it’s debut (too many creative changes) the Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr run has been the best. I’m looking forward to Gene Luen Yang’s writing debut in June (I’ve read his short FCBD special and it’s great), but I do hope we see John Romita Jr return to writing sometime in the near future. I suppose I’ll have to tell him at this year’s Eternal Con on June 13-14th at The Cradle of Aviation, Garden City, NY.
Superman 40 gets five out of five stars!