By: Grant Morrison (story), Rags Morales (pencils), Rick Bryant (inks), Brad Anderson (colors)

The Story: Don’t kid yourself—Superman loves all pets, not just cats.

The Review: One of the great hallmarks of Morrison’s writing style, one for which he is both revered and reviled, is his fragmented sense of narrative.  His habit of switching in and out of storylines, juggling various settings and periods, is loose, bordering on erratic.  Because this is Morrison, no matter how disjointed his story is, it all comes together at some point, but it could be a frustrating reading experience along the way.

In this issue, we have almost six, arguably seven, different plot threads going at the same time.  While there are definitely some connections among them, all too frequently you’ll turn a page and run smack-dab into a scene which has no bearing on what you’d been reading.  Complicating the issue even more is for the most part, all the scenes have some kind of interest going for them, so Morrison does himself a disservice by minimizing each of them to make room for the rest.

Take new character Maxim Zarov, who claims that he’s “killed everything that ever lived.”  The boast is no idle one, as the very next page sports Zarov in stereotypically khaki hunter’s gear, lighting a cigar over the freshly-fallen corpse of a dinosaur.  The question: is all this purely for sport, or is there some kind of bigger purpose to his deeds?  The question turns out rhetorical; Zarov mentions that his codename is “Nimrod” (after the great Biblical hunter, presumably), and one doesn’t usually have a codename without being in some shady business.

And yet, for such an accomplished hunter, and for one who may do it for a living, we don’t really get a good grasp of his competence from this issue.  His “tracking” of Clark  is constantly interrupted by various other scenes, and it’s clear that his target is aware of his presence from the beginning.  When it comes right down to it, his big game success may be more due to the sophistication of his tools than real skill (“Let’s see if you can withstand a rocket shell!”).

There’s no point in making an in-depth analysis of every single plot thread, since that would take far longer than a typical review allows, And make no mistake, it all works to some degree: the appearance of a hooded, glowing-eyed character who calls himself Adam and claims he’s come back to Earth, his birth planet, to “assume control”; Superman’s plea to the newly-formed Justice League to use their powers to make the world a better place, and the team’s uncertain response; the possibility that Clark’s writing drove a man to despair.  All this stuff is rife with intrigue that lacks just enough detail to drive you crazy.

By far, my favorite scene has to be Clark, Jimmy, and Lois just hanging out in Clark’s comically tiny apartment.  DC made a big deal about Clark being younger in this universe, but only in this scene does that youth come through genuinely.  The vibe of the trio’s interaction and familiarity should be recognizable to any of us twenty-somethings just starting our careers, having no idea what’s next, and latching onto the people who share that exciting uncertainty with us.  More scenes like this would be great.

Morales has such a gentle line that it sometimes disappear under the weight of Bryant’s inks and Anderson’s colors.  That said, his old-school style is charming, almost like a Golden Age aesthetic with a modern spin (check the panel of T-shirt Superman deflecting a rocket shell, and Zarov’s reaction: “!”), and he draws the best nerdy Clark I’ve seen yet.  You can see the strong Man of Steel jaw and features, but the Harry Potter hair and glasses, topped with outfits that came straight out of the Sears liquidation sale, make the perfect disguise.

Sholly Fisch has definitely proven himself capable of the sentimental short piece.  While it’s true that you can’t really hate a story with such heartfelt subject matter, Fisch’s writing shouldn’t be overlooked because he always brings the emotions shy of sappy.  And when you have the always stellar Cafu as artistic director (Jay David Ramos coloring), it becomes even more convincing.

Conclusion: A lot of great moments, each of which would be the seed of a great story, but mashed together, they all lack the impact they’re potentially capable of.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – How amazing (and fitting) would it have been had Clark really called a League meeting just to find a home for those two hamsters?

– Zarov proves that deducing Clark Kent is Superman really shouldn’t be that hard for anyone who notices that all his pre-Metropolis appearances are local to Smallville.  Sheesh.