Review: Superman Annual #1

It’s not perfect, but it’s A LOT better than what we’ve been getting.

Written by Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza
Illustrated by Pascal Alixie, Marco Rudy, Tom Raney, Elizabeth Torque, and Mico Suayan

• Abducted by a group of mysterious aliens, Superman is dragged to a remote alien galaxy to take part in THE GAMES, a world hopping game of cat-and-mouse where players are hunted for sport.
• Can even the help of a mysterious new GREEN LANTERN overcome the might of an alien empire?

See that solicitation up there? Forget I even posted that. None of that happens. See, somewhere between the time of solicitation and the book’s actual release this issue had a complete creative shift. So while you may have been hoping to see that new Green Lantern in a cosmic romp by the great Keith Giffen, you actually get the further Wildstorming of the DC universe. The thing is it’s not half bad.

This is Scott Lobdell’s big debut on Superman and a lot is hinging on his performance. Since the launch of the New 52, the Superman title has had two different creative teams, neither of which made the character modern or relevant. In fact, I would say that this book has done more harm to the perception of Superman in comic book community that the bloated New Krypton saga or JMS’s much derided “Grounded” storyline. With Grant Morrison leaving Action Comics soon, all eyes are on Lobdell.

This issue begins with a flashback on the Daemonite home world, where a young prince confronts his mother about the death of his wife and the genetic decline of the Daemonites. Later on in this issue we discover that this prince goes on to become the villain Helspont, who dominates this issue. I admit to not being very well versed in the Wildstorm mythos (I’ve only read Planetary and early Authority) so I don’t know how the character’s portrayal in this issue reflects his earlier appearances. That said, the character works very well as a Darkseid level villain for Superman. Helspont actually gives Superman a concussion by throwing him into the moon, and it’s awesome.

While the majority of the issue deals with the fight between Superman and Helspont, there are three interludes where Helspont’s minions visit with important alien characters in the DC universe. Martian Manhunter, Starfire, and Hawkman are all offered a place in something called “The Thirteen Scions of Salvation,” which sounds like something straight out of Battlestar Galactica. These interactions are left unresolved and it’s unclear where the story threads will pick back up, though I’m sure it’s all set to build up to a major crossover event. Grifter and Deathblow also make appearances in this issue. You can expect Red Hood and the Outlaws (also written by Lobdell), Grifter, Hawkman, and Stormwatch to all play a role in this sure to be upcoming event.

Pascal Alixie, the main artist for this issue, shares page space with four other pencillers which, even for an oversized annual, is a bit excessive. Unfortunately the artists were not credited with what pages they actually worked on, so I’m a bit unsure who to congratulate and who to critique. The art, for the most part, was very good. The opening sequence on Daem, the scenes featuring Martian Manhunter and Hawkman, and the various double page spreads with Superman and Helspont were are really well done. However, there were a few pages where Superman’s anatomy is a little off, such as the last page where he has gorilla arms. Also, holy cow Starfire, put those away! The kids are watching!

This isn’t the book that’s going to put Superman back in the good graces of the seething masses of comic book-dom, and the $4.99 price tag is pretty off-putting even with the larger page count. Oh, and Scott Lobdell spams thought bubbles like a fiends. If you’re a fan of the character (like I am) or a longtime Wildstorm reader there’s definitely a lot to enjoy here. There are a lot of cool revelations, but also a lot of unresolved plot threads with no clear indication on where to follow next. If you’re craving as much Superman as you can get, pick this up, otherwise I would wait until September’s Superman #0 to get in on the Lobdell train.

Verdict: 7.0-This issue might be important later on, but right now it’s for Superman and Wildstorm fans only.


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