It’s really exciting that Brian Michael Bendis is coming to DC to take over Superman.
He’s one of the industry’s most highly regarded writers and stealing him away from Marvel was probably the biggest coup since John Byrne came to the Distinguished Competition in the 1980s. (More about that here.)
But here’s the thing: Superman has been in excellent hands since the launch of DC’s Rebirth initiative at the end of May 2016. Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Dan Jurgens and a band of fellow creators have restored Superman’s legacy as humanity’s greatest champion — a hero who chooses to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. (Oh, and he’s a fine husband, father and friend, to boot.)
I didn’t care much for the New 52 Superman. I know I’m not alone in that and I’m not knocking the work of the many fine writers and artists associated with it. The assignment’s the assignment. It’s just not a concept — Superman as angry, angsty young man — that works for me, even if you argue that it’s a version that in some ways hews closer to what Siegel and Shuster came up with during the Depression.
Bottom line, when I read a Superman comic, I have a litmus test: Can I see Christopher Reeve’s Superman doing this? If the answer’s yes, I’m in.
And that’s what Tomasi and Gleason (on Superman) and Jurgens (on Action Comics) have given us over about 20 months: A Superman who’s easy to like and root for, who may be the world’s most powerful hero but is, despite his extraterrestrial lineage, a human being just the same.
The writing has been smart, the art strong and the sentiment often warm. Here are just a few highlights:
— Men of Steel (Action Comics #967-#970), written by Jurgens with line art by Tyler Kirkham and Patrick Zircher, is a classic sci-fi philosophy exercise: Should Superman protect Lex Luthor even though he may become one of the universe’s worst villains?
— Superman: Reborn, (Superman #18-19; Action #975-76), written by Tomasi, Gleason and Jurgens, with an art team that included Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and Mick Gray, is a surrealistic mystery interwoven with Superman’s history that ties up the loose ends from the New 52. Its immediate aftermath helped set the current status quo upon which Bendis will build (and which he will tweak).
— Multiplicity (Superman #14-16), by Tomasi and Gleason and a big art team that included Ivan Reis, Ryan Sook, Clay Mann, Ed Benes and Jorge Jimenez, is an old-school multiversal epic starring the Superfolk from many dimensions.
But perhaps my favorite stories have been the quietest ones, the issues that centered on the Kents themselves — Clark, Lois and Jonathan — like Superman #7 (by Tomasi, Gleason and Jimenez), in which they just go to the county fair.
Of course, the breakout character in all this has indeed been young Jonathan Kent. Tomasi and Gleason have a real knack for portraying kids: first Damian Wayne’s Robin and now Superboy. Both are fantastical superheroes but they’re written with a real-world grounding that makes them charming and likeable.
Nevertheless, Superman’s the star of the show and from top to bottom, from Hamilton County to Metropolis, this has been a first-rate run on both titles.
I saw on Twitter a comment by Supermaven and podcaster Michael Bailey that succinctly summed up how I feel right now about the looming changeover:
It’s kind of weird loving what Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi (with Patrick Gleason) did for Superman since Rebirth and also looking forward to Brian Michael Bendis writing the character. But that’s where I am.
— Podcasting’s Michael Bailey (@BaileysPodcasts) February 6, 2018
It’s true. I can’t help but be excited to see what Bendis has up his sleeve for the Man of Steel.
But I really appreciate what Tomasi, Gleason (who will be sticking around on art for Action Comics), Jurgens and all the artists have done every two weeks for almost two years — given us the most consistently entertaining and authentic Superman stories in a long, long time.