Growing up, I was never much of a comic book reader. I didn’t grow up with Superman, didn’t grow up loving the Man of Steel, and so when I finally did start reading comics late in high school, and get really interested in comics in college, I never understood the adulation he got, his place in the pantheon of All-Time Pop Culture Greats. I thought he was boring. Who cares about an hero who can’t get hurt? Who can do everything?
Then came Grant Morrison’s game-changing All-Star Superman, a book that showed the Man of Steel at his most powerful… and, at the same time, at his most vulnerable. Afterward, my view of the character was fundamentally changed: I no longer saw him as an inherently juvenile character, but as a much more adult one. Unlike many of the character’s equally famous contemporaries, Superman’s story – dealing with pining for a woman you can’t have, marriage, holding down a job, etc… – seemed much more grown up than I had given it credit for.
And while Morrison’s excellent Action Comics #1 returns the character to his activist roots, positioning him as a twenty-something rebel trying to fix the world, George Perez and Jesus Merino have a much more traditionalist view of the hero. Superman #1, taking place a few years after Action Comics, deals with a character firmly in the throes of adulthood. The Daily Planet, now a struggling newspaper, has been bought by a powerful businessman looking to control a media empire, causing a major rift in the relationship of reporter Clark Kent and new Vice President of New Media, Lois Lane. Clark wants to fight the system, reject their ownership by a media conglomerate with a less than stellar reputation for human rights, while Lois wants to use this new platform to try and change the company from the inside.
Superman #1 is a throw-back to an earlier age of comics storytelling. Text-heavy captions filled with purple prose describe events while Superman deals with a done-in-one alien menace trying to burn Metropolis. There’s no excessive gore or sexuality, and the art (done by Jesus Merino on Perez’s breakdowns), paneling, dialogue and storytelling are all fairly simplistic, ideal for newer readers. But I don’t say that as a negative. In an era when everyone is trying to push the envelope by throwing in all the sex and death they can dream up, Perez’s take on Superman is charmingly lightweight. And while the issue is far from flawless – the dialogue in particular is an issue – it’s still a decent, mostly enjoyable all-ages title, not aiming too high and meeting its mark with ease.