By: Grant Morrison (story), Rags Morales, Cafu, Brad Walker (pencils), Rick Bryant, Bob McLeod, Andrew Hennessy (inks), Brad Anderson & Gabe Eltaeb (colors)

The Story: Superman gets his hands bloody and finds a potential new career path.

The Review: Much of what this title has been about is building up the legend of Superman for a new generation of admirers, if there are any to be had.  While Morrison’s changes to his powers and mythology can’t be overlooked, it’s the re-definition of Superman’s character that’ll prove most crucial.  Quite frankly, the iconic hero of yore had become avuncular and preachy, too far prone to lecture us and remind us of our smallness.  It’s hard to connect to someone like that.

The new Superman is a guy who hasn’t got it all figured out just yet, so he can’t really hold himself above the people he helps out.  At the same time, the very core of his being gears so tightly to goodness that even by instinct alone, he just always does the right thing.  Who else would not only put himself in harm’s way to save the people who just beat him down seconds earlier, but doesn’t even hesitate to do so?  I mean, what a guy—what a hero.

And that applies to his alter-ego—or should I say, true identity—also.  While you can see Johnny Clark’s heroism on display every time a building burns, Clark Kent’s value is more subtle but not less influential, getting praise from no less than Batman himself.  For a cynic like him, it must take a person of some character to earn his respect, and even more so for him to put his arm around their neck and not come off as out-of-character or weird.  Only Superman, right?

You know what else only Superman can do?  Learn how to perform surgery in five minutes.  Outlandish, yes, but it’s precisely the kind of thing you expect from him.  You have to believe this is a man who will do anything, can do anything to save the people and things he treasures.  Just try not to question why he doesn’t do this on a consistent basis for everyone, not just the lady he’s hooked on, or what “help from the experts” he needs if he’s just going to reject all their offers of aid (“I won’t need [a scalpel] either, thanks.  My thumbnail is harder than diamond.”).

At the end of the day, his instant surgery wins for his greatest achievement of the issue.  His battle with Adam Blake—now fully revealed as a reconceived Captain Comet—doesn’t really end up anywhere.  Adam’s claim that he’s here to “save all of you!” contradicts his complete indifference last issue to non-neo-sapiens—meaning pretty much everyone.  He really just comes into the picture out of nowhere then goes out, leaving hardly any impact to the series as a whole.

Oddly, Morrison saves the significant stuff for the tail end of the issue, when things get really weird. Spoiler alert—Clark’s landlady turns out to be ““Nyxlgsptlnz” from a “higher mathematical dimension.”  She details how “Lord Vyndktvx” hurt her “dear sweet Mxyzptlk” and killed the “King-Thing Brpxz” before asserting his presence in our world.  And of course, only Superman can save us all.  I have my trepidations about this plotline; it stands a major chance of sputtering out of control.  Still, you have to give credit to Morrison for aiming at the unexpected.

It still strikes me as odd that DC would permit such a mish-mash of artistry on one of its anchor titles.  It’s just distracting to have the style change up from page to page, or even panel to panel, especially when quite a lot of it is sub-par.  Walker’s lines aren’t nearly as chiseled here as before; the characters’ exaggerated features (like Susie’s pronounced pertness) are rather off-putting.  Morales continues to be as uneven as ever, and even at its best, it doesn’t look very striking.  Cafu always stands out with his cinematic vision and extraordinary detail.  You need only look at the background of “Golden Age” Metropolis to know what I mean.  His only flaw lies in the general sameness of character faces: high cheekbones, big eyes, strong chins.

Conclusion: While the ambitious plot already teeters on the edge of success and failure, the storytelling stays strong, but the inconsistent arm drags it all down.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Well, there goes my dream for an epic ongoing space-opera featuring Captain Comet.  I certainly want nothing to do with the long-haired tool of the new DCU.