The Details Drag Down a Strong Premise in Superman 30

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There’s a particular brand of story that eschews hard logic or consistent rules for pure emotional storytelling: think Doctor Who at its best, where rules are often bent or changed to support the emotional thrust a given episode, or even the old Teen Titans animated series, where Trigon was defeated by the metaphor of Raven growing up, even if there was never explanation given as to how she gained so much raw power. This kind of storytelling can be tricky: if the emotions and metaphors work well enough readers will forgive (or perhaps not even notice) any gaps in logic, but there’s always the risk that they won’t. For my money, Superman 30 falls a little too close to the latter category; there’s a strong emotional core here, but also a lot of details that don’t fully add-up or make sense.

Superman 30 works best when Keith Champagne and the art team of Ed Benes, Tyler Kirkham, and Philip Tan dig both into Superman’s fears and how he’s learned to overcome them. The creative team spends three pages digging into what terrifies Clark, and the results — he’s scared of failing his city, or hurting his friends, of letting down his friends and family — are very true to Superman, yet general enough for almost anyone to relate to. Likewise, the moral — that fear is everywhere, yet can be overcome with love, joy, and hope — is one that’s incredibly true to Superman’s character, especially when he uses it to inspire the Weaponers of Qward, yet can also be absorbed and applied by every reader.

Yet the specifics of this issue feel muddy. How is Superman able to use Sinestro’s ring, and why can Parallax be contained within it — and for that matter, why doesn’t Sinestro’s suit vanish when Superman takes his ring? Parallax possesses people by taking advantage of their fear, so why do Sinestro’s attempts at driving Parallax out of Superman involve commanding him to give into his fears? How is Superman so easily able to overcome Parallax’s possession in the first place?

This issue also feels like a strange continuation of last month’s story, as the idea of Parallax possessing the young of Metropolis is dropped entirely outside of one line of exposition from Lois resolving the situation. Then there’s Sinestro’s particularly cruel betrayal of Lyssa Drak.

Cruel Sinestro

I’m not mad that Sinestro betrays her — I buy it, even if it feels like it comes too easily and with too little resistance from either party — but because it’s a moment that has no bearing on the rest of the story. Literally one panel later Parallax reveals himself (inside the body of a Weaponer), and the moment is never mentioned again. Lyssa Drak is even fawning over Sinestro again as soon as she’s freed from the bubble. Why include this beat at all if it’s going to have absolutely no effect on the story or characters?

That’s why this issue fails more than it succeeds in my eyes. There’s the foundation of a good story buried in here somewhere, but not quite good enough to overcome its weaknesses.

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