Digital Comic Overlook #1: Adventures of Superman #1-3
All it took for me was one drawing by Chris Samnee.
Not too long ago, Chris Arrant at Robot 6 wrote a piece entitled “DC Digital: Best Kept Secret or Worst Covered Gem?” While all the press has been on the New 52’s same-day-digital initiative, the DC Digital brand has silently be cultivating some interesting titles. It started when they launched Smallville Season 11, the follow up to the popular TV show. (Some fans attest it’s better than the mainline Superman titles. I’ve only read one Smallville issue, but from what I’ve seen of the New 52 Superman, I don’t find it hard to believe.) While New 52 remain controversial, dropping and adding titles on a regular basis, the DC Digital titles have been steadily building up. Batman Beyond Unlimited. Legends of the Dark Knight. Arrow. And, um … Ame-Comi Girls. (Which is… written by Jonah Hex‘s Jimmy Palmiotti. Oh, Jimmy.)
But let’s get back to that Chris Samnee image! That’s all I needed to download the first three issues of Adventures of Superman. Look at that glorious thing. Is there any current artist out there who’s perfect for illustrating Superman than Chris Samnee? Before the New 52, I mean? I mean, he can just draw him and I’m all, “Yes. YES. That is Superman… not some impostor running around wearing red and blue tights.” Here is a man that makes you want to go “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” every time you lay your eyes on him.
Well, it turns out only the first issue is illustrated by Mr. Samnee. (And it’s written by Jeff Parker.) Adventures of Superman is an anthology series… a bunch of short, low impact stories. Superman tries to talk a guy down from causing mayhem, two kids play around in the yard, and Superman deals with Bizarro.
Very few punches are thrown.
If you want to read about Darkseid’s ongoing plan to rule the world, this is probably not the comic for you. But you see… I love those stories. One of the best things about Superman from the Silver Age was how it was more focused on character relationships and wonder at the world than, say, Superman punching out the latest supervillain. It’s something that the previous incarnation of Superman really got wrong. Throughout the 80’s and the 90’s, it was about Superman beating up on villain after another. (Culminating in the best selling issue where he dies after being punched to death by Doomsday.)
Adventures of Superman brings us back to the good old days when all the Man of Steel had to do was rescue a kitty from a tree, and we’d cheer. He’s even wearing the red trunks! The same red trunks that the New 52 Superman and they guys doing the Henry Cavill movie are too embarrassed to include! Sure, the first issue sees Superman trying to subdue an out-of-control guy with superpowers who’s being secretly controlled by Lex Luthor. But the focus is on Superman saving innocent people and generally being a decent dude. This is the Big Blue Boy Scout I like to read about.
I know, I know. It’s a pretty naive way to look at Superman. Probably one that was outdated by the 1970’s, when Clark was a new anchor and Lois Lane was turning herself into a Black woman to show how racism was bad. But throw me a bone here…. I collected comics in the 90’s. And those Superman titles suuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkkeeeedddddddd. (Seriously, if I ever dig up the comics in the basement of my mom’s house, I can guarantee you that every single one of them has Superman in that much hated, much mocked mullet. Also, Lex Luthor looked like a friggin’ gorilla. What was it with 90’s characters wearing 80’s hairstyles?!?!?!)
The next two stories are … less essential. Issue 2 is drawn by comic superstar Jeff Lemire. Now, admittedly, Lemire is a good storyteller. However, his art style is more appropriate toward indie releases like Essex County. His story is about two boys playing around, with one being Superman and the other being an assortment of Superman villains. In the end, we see Superman watching from a distance with an amused smile on his face. I would not fault you if you assumed it was Clayface is disguise. Lemire’s depiction of Superman looks very much like Frankenstein’s monster.
The third issue is done by two names I do not recognize: writer Justin Jordan and artist Riley Rossmo. It’s a fun little story where Superman has to outwit Bizarro using bizarro logic. The art’s an improvement over Lemire’s, and it turns out to be a fun little story. Like I said, there’s a very Silver Age feel to everything in these comics, and this one especially hits the mark. Shoot, if this issue had been drawn by Curt Swan, you would swear it was written 50 years ago.
Now, beyond the fact that bystanders aren’t getting their heads decapitated on every other page, the big difference between Adventures of Superman and the New 52 brand happen to be how self-contained the stories are. I had problem with other other DC Digital titles because of how the stories had been stretched out, covering perhaps only a third of the story. (Probably intentional, since the copies that hit the comic book store shelves usually collect them three digital issues at a time.) Not the case with Adventures of Superman.
In fact, I’d say you’re getting quite the bang for your buck. Each download costs $0.99. That’s a whole story for less than a dollar. Meanwhile, even at a discount, a New 52 title will cost you at the least $1.99 an issue… and for some of the bigger titles, that usually means you’re only getting 1/3th of the total story arc. (Or in the cast of the best selling Justice League title: $2.99 for 1/6th of the story.) Even though I was less than thrilled with the Jeff Lemire issue, I at least didn’t feel like I was ripped off… like when I downloaded Justice League #1. And honesty? I’d have to say that one issue of Adventures of Superman was more satisfying from a storytelling standpoint than whole story arcs of pretty much any New 52 story.
So my best of wishes to the crew behind the Adventures of Superman comics. I can say, without any hint of irony or any doubt, that this is going to be the only Superman title I ever plan on downloading from Comixology. If fun. It’s grand. It’s Superman. While I’d love to see more of Samnee’s take on the big guy, it’s still an enjoyable enough title that I actually look forward to the next issue even if he’s not involved.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5).