by Gerardo Preciado (Writer), Daniel Bayliss (Artist)
Each character has a certain vision that becomes iconic, a certain angle that seems to define their very being more than any other version. For example, Daredevil is a character that has certainly been marked by Frank Miller, with the mythos around him being more or less influenced by the 80’s run; just as the Fantastic Four will always have a certain touch of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in them… However, like pretty much everything, subjectivity will always go on and some people will always prefer a certain vision of a character more than any others.
I am a huge fan of Superman and I can confess that I hold a special place for Joe Casey’s and Grant Morrison’s version of the character. While not exactly the same version, both had an invincible hope within themselves and a penchant for inventiveness and creativity in saving people’s lives. Their version of Superman was a being of hope that wanted what was best for us and someone that never grew disillusioned, despite everything he saw. To say he was a powerful symbol in such stories would be an understatement.
However, it seems that there is a certain constant going on these days with people enjoying a grimmer or “darker” version of the iconic superhero. Man of Steel, Earth 2, Injustice and other similar stories all go in a specific direction that allows for an opposite view of this beloved character, with some succeeding while others failing. Much like any character, an exploration and a certain penchant for difference can create wonderful or disastrous results, depending on the angle and who is writing.
Then comes Gerardo Preciado and Daniel Bayliss, those behind the decidedly unique Batman: The Deal, a comic that took many liberties in interpreting the Dark Knight himself. It wasn’t for everyone, yet there was a charm to the way the duo interpreted the conflict between Joker and Batman; forever leaving us a haunting tale of the Dark Knight.
This time, the creative duo takes on Superman, offering their vision of the character that is possibly darker than the recent interpretations of the Man of Steel. Their Superman is a being that has lived for a decidedly long period of time and that has developed an altered ethos, giving us a Superman that you don’t want to empathize with and that DC would only publish under an Elseworlds label.
Pushing forth the general greed and utter dissatisfaction that humanity holds against itself, the story pushes for a bleak version of events through the eyes of its titular character, a being that has seen quite enough. The hopes of the character turned sour, as his philosophy and the general limitations around the very concept of the Man of Steel are seen and debated by the character itself.
Borrowing a bit from Alan Moore’s Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow, this Superman is a being who finally sees the futility in trying to be there for everyone. His philosophy adjusts to this new introspection, and he has become a man who thinks he has finally seen the big picture. With much more experience under his belt and a certain disdain for what he tried to be, this is not a happy Superman, but one that is simply disappointed not only by the people of Earth, but by himself as well.
Gone is the happiness and his sense of importance, as the story shows us a Superman that simply has failed to achieve his eternal quest for truth and justice. While this might not be a typical Superman tale, there is a certain introspection and a certain hatred that goes with the story that makes it ugly, yet also beautiful in its dedication to twisting things around. Its message is certainly unforgiveably bleak yet haunting as some might be able to identify with this beloved hero’s realization.
As for the art, it is generally beautiful in its roughness and simplicity. The way the alien landscapes are presented and with the way Superman is incorporated in those scenes is really breathtaking. Furthermore, the use of empty space in many panels, either through the void of space or through looking at the sky is quite apt, with different elements looking stunning. Perhaps one of the very best thing is Superman himself. His design and the tired look on his face convey his general state of mind and the introspective take on the character. This is a Superman that has changed after seeing it so much.
Keeping with the general ugliness of the story and its themes, another strong aspect of this work is how the story depicts some of the worst traits of humanity. Disdain, sickness, war, violence, famine and other such harsh realities are shown without any restraint, which is commendable. However, it is a bit too obvious in some points, although your mileage may vary.
The colors are pretty solid, especially with the depths of space and the alien worlds. The comparisons and contrasts are very well put on the page. The misery in certain panels is shown throughout darker colorization, while the more despicable aspects are shown with brighter colors, which works wonderfully with the script and the themes. The use of unconventional colors for the alien landscapes and planets are also fitting, which compare very well with the rest of the story. The more striking moments are those focused on Superman and Earth. The brighter colors of Superman and Earth are quite out of touch with the tone of the plot in itself, which is somehow fitting as the stark difference in terms of general tones connected to the planet and the character are also represented aptly in those pages.
The Conclusion: This might be a very different kind of Superman and a generally dark and rather disturbing story, yet the way it presents its themes, its tone, and its message is uncompromising; making this Superman story worthwhile regardless of how you feel in the end. Twisted, sad and perhaps a bit too dark, Superman: God’s End leaves an impact, which is what any story should aim to do in the first place.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière