Superman #33-34 (Comics Review)

As I mentioned in my review of Superman #32 back in June, DC’s premier superhero has had a tough time in the New 52, owing much to random editorial interference and the lack of a consistent creative team among other things. The low quality of the stories being told was secondary to all that, in a way, though there was indeed some kind of a feedback loop in the works. And then came Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr.’s Superman #32 in June, the first in their run on the title, and suddenly things looked promising. The two started from scratch, with a fresh direction for the title, and the result was spectacular.

Superman #33 and #34 continue the story of Ulysses and Superman. The former has a history much like that of the Man of Tomorrow, except that he is the son of Earth physicists who lost him during an experiment gone wrong years before. Now he is back, or rather, he has returned to his homeworld and has allied himself with Superman. As a fresh character, Ulysses bears much promise and it is really fun to see Superman interacting with someone like him, someone he can really bond with over a (somewhat) shared history. And in the midst of it all, John Romita Jr. works in some incredible artwork.

Superman 3344Back in Superman #31 we saw how Ulysses became separated from his parent and through Superman as a focal character, we saw how he returned to Earth’s dimension after many, many years. Of course, the two of them cooperated together and became friends even. Now, Superman #33 and #34 are all about how Geoff Johns develops that relationship and how he draws in the pieces of a much larger story than the tale of two superhumans bonding together.

The incident at the Ulysses Research Lab that got so much page-time in Superman #32 is expanded on much more in Superman #33 as Clark goes to Perry White at the Daily Bugle to hunt down some leads and his former boss tells him everything that is to know about the Lab and its supervisor, Dr. Margaret Night. From there the story continues on as more and more robotic constructs invade Metropolis, one after the other, and working as a team, Ulysses and Superman come up with both a way to stop them and track down the source, though it all ends in disaster at the end of Superman #34 and the two heroes are forced to make and live with a tough choice.

Characterisation, that’s what’s so important here. It has always been one of Geoff’s strengths, whether you look at his run on Green Lantern or Aquaman. That’s what he brings so well to Superman as well. Ulysses and Superman are quite similar to each other, but they also have nuances. Sure, the story is a bit derivative in that Ulysses is sort of a surrogate for Supergirl or Superboy or other such similar character, but there are important differences, and they are what matter in the end. The story that Geoff is telling is secondary here because his focus is primarily on the characters, what he lavishes most of his attention on.

And I love that. For once in the New 52, characters are important for Superman rather than the story. There are no funny gimmicks about long-lost Krypton or goofy villains or magic or anything. Geoff’s tale about Ulysses and Superman is something rooted in science and a modern understanding of what it means to be a superhero, to be a defender of people.

That is what Superman has always been about to me, and that is what I can see in Ulysses as well. Pretty damn good work, I say!

The art teams for these two issues are largely similar, with John Romita Jr. as the penciller, Klaus Janson as the inker and Laura Martin as the colourist. The only difference comes in that Sal Cipriano does the letters in the first issue and Travis Lanham in the second. As before in my review of Superman #32, the artwork is flat-out excellent in both issues. JRJ has a unique take on the characters and the setting, and with Ulysses he and his fellow artists have room for a lot more freedom of design, which they make good use of. The two protagonists contrast and complement each other well in terms of design, and the action sequences really make it all crystal clear. Whether it is the pencilwork or the inks or the colours or the letters, there really isn’t any criticism I can offer here.

After a good start in Superman #32, Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. look set to continue on with a near-perfect streak, and I can’t wait for the next issue as the mysteries about both Superman and Ulysses deepen and we find out the designs of the villain working in the background at the end of Superman #34.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Superman: #32.

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Posted on August 29, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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