Superman Annual 1

superman-annual-1

Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Superman Annual 1, originally released November 30th, 2016As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

slim-banner

Michael: I harp on Annuals a lot because in short, they’re weird. Typically they exist outside of the main ongoing story and sometimes are not even written or drawn by the title’s current creative team. Rebirth is not immune to the pitfalls of Annuals, as Drew and I pointed out in our discussion of Batman Annual 1. The consistently strong Superman title, however, follows through with Superman Annual 1. Pete Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Jorge Jimenez provide us with a story that compliments the main narrative and encapsulates the same joy that has made Superman one of the stand-out Rebirth titles.

From the announcement of Rebirth’s new Superman title, premise, and creative team it was clear that this book was for fans like me. Classic Superman is back? The coolest, most sincere superhero “dad” is back and this time he’s actually a dad? Sign me up! Since the return of the classic Man of Steel, DC has been establishing his place in the modern DCU while simultaneously dredging up Superman continuity. Both of the opening arcs of Superman and Action Comics featured characters closely linked to pre-Flashpoint continuity – specifically ‘90s continuity – in The Eradicator and Doomsday.  I don’t know if this is “one step forward, two steps backward” or “two steps forward, one step backward” storytelling. What I’m saying is that it’s possible that there are steps that are being stepped on in the wrong step direction.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of Superman thus far. I’d go so far as saying that I’d be ok with them giving him a ‘90s mullet again, so long as the series maintains the same heart. I only bring this up because the theme of Superman Annual 1 is letting go of the past and embracing the future. Clark realizes that’s something’s wrong with his crops – good farmer that he is – and ends up meeting with Swamp Thing to discuss an imbalance that is causing a disturbance in the Green — the imbalance in question being Superman himself.

Tomasi and Gleason don’t go into painstaking detail explaining why Superman is throwing the Green out of whack other than that he’s a “vibrational aberration,” but I don’t think they need to. Sometimes I think comic book creators get so caught up in the pseudo-science that the greater meaning gets lost in it all. Bottom line: Superman is not of this Earth and his being here is causing a disturbance in the natural order of things. Superman and Swampy proceed to do a version of the typical “classic misunderstanding fight,” except they’re both trying to help one another in their own way.

Jorge Jimenez is tapping into some classic Swamp Thing lore in Superman Annual 1. Jimenez adopts a style that is very reminiscent of Yannick Paquette’s from the Swamp Thing series written by Scott Snyder. As soon as Swamp Thing enters the story the layouts switch from the initial, rectangular panels and pages to the more “organic”, amorphous panels that sprawl and grow across the page. This style is very Swampy in nature, but it also illustrates the point that Swamp Thing is trying to make: Superman’s aberrational presence is connected to the rest of the world.

swamo

Another fun bit of Swamp Thing lore is how Superman’s touch turns Swamp Thing blue – a nod to the latter part of Alan Moore’s work on the character. Swampy starts speaking Kryptonian and it’s become clear to Superman that there might be some validity to Swamp Thing’s claims. They trade blows and get a little annoyed with each other’s “help” until they bond and Superman enters the Green. This is where we get to the heady crux of the issue. Swamp Thing and Superman become one in the same and they finally find a way to communicate and understand one another, resulting in my favorite image of the book:

curl

Would ya look at that? Jimenez even gave Swamp the damn spit curl! Swamp Thing provides Superman with a lesson that I know I have had personal trouble with: leaving the past behind. I don’t have any idea how Superman’s nostalgia for the good ‘ol days has an effect on the Earth’s plant life but I do not care one bit because the message is so relevant and relatable. Even though I may categorize Superman as the ultimate dad, he can still (re)learn a thing or two every once in a while.

I thought that this was a very worthy addition to the Superman series that we’ve seen thus far. It took the time to address Superman’s oddball status and perhaps allowed the character, the creators, and the audience to be at peace with the stories of yesterday and make way for what’s to come.

tomorrow

What do you think Mark? Was this a worthy Annual in your eyes? Did you buy into the feel-good premise and forego any “logical” explanation like I did? Do you think that this character/title will ever truly be able to leave the past behind, or is that an inherent part of his character?

slim-banner

Mark: Removed from all context and as a standalone Superman story, I think Superman Annual 1 works well. The story told here is a classic exploration of Superman’s struggle to find where he fits on his adopted world, and I think you did a great job of highlighting the issue’s strong points, Michael. Still, viewed in the broader context of DC’s current Superman line, I’m conflicted.

It’s fascinating how much time has been spent trying to justify the “changes” various heroes have experienced since Rebirth. One of the main marketing points of Rebirth was that it wasn’t a reboot or massive realignment of DC’s universe, and I assumed that after the one-shots that kicked off each new title we’d pretty much be done with the justifications and move right along. Instead, heroes trying to come to terms with their pasts has become a recurring storyline in a remarkable number of Rebirth titles. This exploration feels redundant, given the very premise of Rebirth, but it is interesting to watch as each title’s new creative team seemingly tries to come to terms with their character’s recent past.

img_0036

Superman has been the point man for the growing pains of Rebirth, as he is now a fish-out-of-water twice over. Not only is he a Kryptonian living among men, he is also an interloper from another dimension taking over the role/life of his doppelgänger. And even though I’m not the biggest fan of New 52 Superman, it feels a little bit cruel to completely write him out of existence so the fan preferred flavor can take his place, especially when no other New 52 iteration was dispatched so unceremoniously.

I’ve also discussed in the past my concerns with both Batman and Superman’s stories being continually reduced to trauma surrounding their origins. As much as I’ve enjoyed Gleason and Tomasi’s run on Superman, one of their earliest stories revolved around Superman feeling a sense of guilt about the people of Krypton. And while I won’t rehash the entire argument here, suffice it to say that I feel that the destruction of Krypton can be a part of who Superman is without it being the whole of his motivation.

For these reasons, I find Superman Annual 1 to be satisfying on a micro level, while remaining skeptical that the lesson of the issue is reverberating at an editorial level.

img_0035

My hope is that this annual will act like a sort of Batgirl 40, an issue that acknowledges the past but is truly a dividing point between what the character was and what they are. My worry is that Superman will remain in the same narrative loops forever because it’s safe and familiar, and Rebirth is built around the safe and familiar.

slim-bannerFor a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

Advertisements

One comment on “Superman Annual 1

  1. How much of this is a case of DC trying to have its cake and eat it to?

    I’ve spent some time thinking about what I would do to make DC Rebirth (the comic, not the publishing initiative) ‘work’. That is kind of a difficult question, considering the fact that a statement about how optimism needs to return is very stupid after DC just finished a publishing initiative built around taking inspiration from Batgirl of Burnside. Or the fact that many of the flaws in the comic cannot be disconnected from what the comic wants to be. The backwards storytelling, the racism/sexism/homophobia, the placement of iconography over story* are all exactly what Rebirth was selling.

    SO when I workshopped my ‘DC Rebirth but good’, my strategy was something that kept the optimism stuff, and the indictment of Watchmen’s effect on the industry, just with an emphasis on moving forward. Make ‘letting go of the past and move into the future’ be intricately connected to the Watchmen elements. And a big part of my idea sounds similar to this book.

    My fix treated Wally West like this issue apparently treats Superman. In mine, Wally West is the disturbance still causing the problem. He is the one thread connecting the DC Universe to Doctor Manhattan, and he has to face the same choice presented here. Wally wants things to go back to the way things were, to return to reality, to his wife etc. But to save the universe from Manhattan’s manipulations, he must let go of that past. To surrender it for the sake of the future (and here is where the fact that Watchmen is so explicit about its time period could prove very interesting). Exact same idea as what is happening in this issue, where Superman faces the same conundrum.

    Except in mine, Wally West dies in a glorious heroic sacrifice. Because how else you let go of the past? There has to be some real cost. I mean, this issue may say it lets go of the past, but it still has the Superman you remember, married to the Lois you remember. Michael even discusses all the nostalgia and reference throughout the issue! What truly has been let go in this issue? Was the past really left behind? Or did they just say it was?

    Because this issue really doesn’t sound that different to the rest of Rebirth, choking to death on the past

    *When Barry saved Wally at the end, I initially thought that worked. But the more I think about it, the more I ask why. It is surely a great example of iconography, but is there any story reason why it is Barry and not Linda? Isn’t the whole story of Wally’s relationship with Linda is that their love is so strong that Wally will always find his way back to her? Barry is important to Wally, but I can’t imagine any explanation for why Barry could do what Linda couldn’t that doesn’t come down to ‘Superhero is more iconic than Girlfriend’

What you got?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s