Saturday, 11 June 2016

Superman, Volume 1: Before Truth Review (Gene Luen Yang, John Romita Jr)


Superman’s going through some ch-ch-chaaanges: he’s generally depowered and can no longer fly - like when he first appeared, he can now just jump really high - but he’s also got this incredibly strong new solar flare power. Then a new tech company called Hordr threatens to reveal Superman’s secret identity to the world - unless he plays ball with them. Will the Man of Steel become a corporation’s puppet in order to keep his loved ones safe?

I was really pleased to see prize-winning indie creator Gene Luen Yang given the chance to write the world’s most iconic superhero. I’d love to see more indie creators have a go at the big name characters - Seth writing/drawing Batman, Adrian Tomine on Justice League, Kate Beaton writing Wonder Woman (she’s actually done a few WW strips in Hark! A Vagrant but I wants MORE)? It’ll never happen but I like seeing the indie side of comics occasionally mix in with the commercial. And while Superman, Volume 1: Before Truth is far better than anything Scott Lobdell crapped out in his overly long unreadable run, it’s unfortunately not up there with the best Superman books either - it’s not bad though! 

I’ll say SPOILSIES here just in case the next part bothers some of you even though the cover kinda gives it away anyway with Lois tearing off Clark’s shirt to reveal the Superman outfit beneath. 

Superman’s secret identity being revealed to the world is the big to-do in this book and I think it was the right move for the Clark Kent persona to be tossed aside - it’s time to stop with this secret identity bollocks, it’s played out at this point. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers both “outed” themselves as Iron Man and Captain America and their loved ones weren’t automatically killed, nor are they in constant danger - maybe now is the time for DC to permanently do away with Superman’s secret identity and move forward. At the very least you’d stop people’s bad jokes about Superman’s glasses! 

I don’t think it was Lois’ place though to be the one to out Clark like that. Maybe he never would have done it himself without her pushing him but it still felt like a dick move for Lois, even out of character - she’s always had integrity and compassion; sucker-punching Clark like that was just plain shitty of her. It was really stupid of Clark though to just go back to pretending not to be Superman after the announcement - what was he thinking, that everyone would just forget that bombshell?! 

Hordr was an ok villain but especially good for Superman as the tech angle gives him an array of giant robots to beat the hell out of without worrying about taking lives or pulling his punches. The whole solar flare new power thing that Yang is carrying over from Geoff Johns’ last Superman book is weird though - I’m not sure where they’re going with this at all, it just seems strange to keep pursuing this not very interesting storyline. I guess there’s an almighty threat coming and only Superman’s apocalyptic-esque solar flare can defeat it? 

John Romita Jr’s art is fine. I’m not much of a fan and can definitely see people’s criticisms that the style is too blocky, but I don’t mind it. Black Science colourist Dean White does some fantastic work here though, really livening up the pages with his eye-catching colours. 

DC continue to experiment with Superman to try and make him as appealing as Batman, trying out new scenarios for their character as well as picking unusual writers for him. As this book shows, they’re not there yet, but I feel that by attempting new things they’re getting closer. Before Truth is an ok Superman book that’s flawed but is still better than a lot of other Superman titles that’ve come before it.

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