By: Grant Morrison (writer), Andy Kubert (penciller), John Dell (inker), Brad Anderson (colorist), Sholly Fisch (feature writer), Chriscross (feature artist), Jose Villarrubia (feature colorist)

The Story: Now you know where all those little voices in your head are coming from.

The Review: I don’t think I’m the only one, but I sometimes give Morrison a lot of flak for being purposely obscure in his writing.  The combination of his strange ideas, highly stylized choice of words, and loose playing with time and space often leave me bewildered, unsure if I’m reading genius or gobbledygook.

After reading this issue the first time around, I sat back, my mouth slightly agape, and murmured aloud, “Am I high, or is he?”  Maybe I read it too quickly or too carelessly, but I could not make head or tail of it.  On the second reading, I sat back again, this time my mouth pursed in thought.  All the pieces I had found so disjointed, wordy, and confusing the first time around had come together and made a deep impression on me.  Or, to be accurate, I should say it impressed me.

For one thing, Morrison amazes, as he regularly does, with the boundless enthusiasm and scope of his ideas.  Who else would come up with a plot involving tesseracts that allow objects to be bigger inside themselves than out, allowing Superman’s enemies to hide and plot within his very brain?  Who else can give a rocket ship character, actually making you feel invested in its fate?  When it comes to sheer creativity, this issue beats all preceding ones by a mile, and that alone makes it truly memorable for the first time since this series relaunched.

That’s not to say there aren’t flaws.  It’s still baffling why Morrison chooses to tell this particular tale smack-dab in the middle of a story arc where T-shirt Superman already has his hands full against the Collector of Worlds.  The fact that his rocket ship plays a significant part in the issue also throws you off track, since up until #3, the military still had it in their possession.  Also weird is the presence of Drekken, or Erik, or whoever that shapeshifting foe is; he doesn’t do much other than get in Superman’s way, and you never find out where he came from.

Morrison’s not like Pete Tomasi, where you can’t mistake the heart he puts into everything he writes.  Morrison’s a bit too sophisticated to dwell in sap, except ironically, but every now and then he’ll deliver a scene that has a no less affecting poignancy, like Saturn Woman’s reflections on the Legion’s relationship to their idol: “Remember we were so disappointed in him that first time?  …He was just a gawky caveman kid.  But for him…meeting us, that was when he knew the universe was bigger than he ever hoped.”

In contrast, Fisch pours out emotion in his back-up, showing you that big moment when Clark shifts from his Smallville beginnings to a bigger, brighter, bolder future in Metropolis.  Fisch strings a whole series of Clark’s memories together, showing you the values and virtues he gained from such a wholesome upbringing: Ma Kent’s unconditional love, Pa Kent’s emphasis on fight-for-right, Pete Ross’ anticipation for the future, and Lana Lang’s cherishment of the past—and present.  While I still think Chriscross’ oversized, lipo-lips are kind of creepy-looking, I can’t deny he wrings great expressions out of his characters, whether it’s mirth, unhappiness, nostalgia, or pure love.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kubert’s fine job drawing the main feature.  Looking at his thin linework and straightforward sense of story, I can’t help considering him the poor man’s Jim Lee.  He basically conveys the plot as is, with little embellishment or experiment.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it sure doesn’t produce art worth writing home about.

Conclusion: Despite its flaws, the story manages to produce the sense of wonder this much-hyped series promised way back when.  Let’s see if Morrison can keep that going.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – In the future, apparently, we’ve become so secure and adept with our bodies that we can speak without moving our lips—and not just for funsies, either.