Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Eddy Barrows, Rod Reis (colors) and J.P. Mayer (ink)
Cover: John Cassaday and David Baron
Letters: John J. Hill
There’s nothing new about the similarities between Superman and a certain carpenter from Nazareth, but in some stories, the parallels are neon-sign obvious. Shortly after watching Superman Returns — in which Kal-El even rises from his hospital deathbed after a few days (three?) — my brother asked, “Are we sure this isn’t a movie about Jesus?”
Writer J. Michael Straczynski is an atheist, but he has spoken of Superman in biblical (or, depending on your point of view, mythological) terms. In JMS’ highly anticipated Superman debut, the Man of Steel comes across the way I’ve often imagined Jesus might: captivating, earnest, the tiniest bit smug. He doesn’t carry much in the way of cash or material possessions, and he walks a lot. Wherever he goes, people pepper him with questions, try his patience and practically dare him to use his powers. Sound familiar?
Literally down to Earth, Superman is on a sort of fact-finding stroll through America, telling one journalist, “I’m not flying because I’m walking.” (As a former newspaper reporter, I thought the pack of hero-chasing journalists seemed gratuitously dim, especially considering Clark Kent’s line of work. But maybe they were TMZ types.)
The best moments in this issue are the smallest, like when Superman checks the funds in his cape pocket before ordering a cheese steak sandwich, or when star-struck residents react as if a caped Zac Efron were in their presence. It’s not every day that you see a metahuman celebrity in Philly, and I was charmed by Eddy Barrows’ scenes of grinning, gobsmacked citizens.
Unfortunately, the effort to make Superman “relevant” is all too obvious at times, and the book begins to strain under the weight of its own message. There’s a deeply goofy segment involving some drug dealers who appear to have stepped right out of New Jack City, and Supes has one too many Preachy McPreachypants moments. By the end, I found myself wishing Original Batman were around to bust the guy’s chops. However, despite these stumbles and my lack of any deep investment in Superman (the character or the comic), JMS has laid out an interesting premise — one that makes me want to stick around for at least one more stop on Kal-El’s tour.