Thursday, June 4, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: Superman - The Men Of Tomorrow (2015)

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Superman has always been a bit of a hit or miss read for me. Depending on the writer and the story taking place, I've found some stories to be excellent and thought-provoking, while others have left me either underwhelmed or completely baffled in the end. It's caused me to be more selective with the stories I've chosen these days, as comic book prices continue to rise every year. I'm sure everyone has their own opinions on what makes for a great Superman story by this point. In my case, I tend to prefer the stories that are more reflective, and less action-y, outside of the more crucial moments. The calm and sympathetic Superman, who acts more human than any of us sometimes, despite being from another planet altogether. I had a feeling I would want to read the issues contained in "The Men of Tomorrow" due to some factors that didn't actually have to with its story (as I knew nothing about it prior to picking these up).

For one thing, I knew Geoff Johns would be on writing duties, which was an immediate plus for me. This is the man who single-handedly got me interested in Green Lantern again, from his "Rebirth" storyline, all the way to present. I had also heard that John Romita Jr. was on the pencils this time, which has resulted in more hits than misses for me, especially since his artwork in Amazing Spider-Man was some of my favorite during the JM Straczynski run. I understand his art style is not everyone's cup of tea, and I don't like every last panel he's ever drawn, but overall, the good outweighed the bad in my experience with him. These two factors were enough to get me on board, at least to see if it would be worth our while.

So what's it all about anyway? Well, there are of course multiple plot threads to consider (as this IS a Geoff Johns story after all), but the main story really focuses around a new character, Ulysses. He draws many similarities to Kal-El in that he was allegedly transported from a dying world, and brought to our own, with powers of flight, super strength, and others. Part of the fun of this 8-issue story arc was slowly uncovering the truth about Ulysses origins, as well as seeing how he and Kal-El continued to interact, the more their differences became apparent.

There's a lot of heart in this story too, and that may be the strongest aspect of all here. From the joy of Ulysses seeing his parents again, to the small, subtle moments like Clark looking through a photo book to represent his current state of loneliness, you really felt for every one of these characters throughout. It's only made more painful as the story continues and we start to realize that not everyone is going to come out of these events scot-free.

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As I said above, Geoff Johns has been known to "fix" a lot of problems in the DC universe and bring things back to a state of former glory again (before messing around with it further!). This arc was no exception for him, as he immediately brought Clark back to working for the Daily Planet, came up with a solution about Jimmy Olsen and the large amount of money he inherited, and addressed many other situations that fans were complaining about previously.

But there was plenty of new to go with the old as well. For starters, we have a new villain called The Machinist, who ends up having a deeper connection to Supes than I was initially expecting. It all flows into the grand scheme of things very well. This is a villain that manages to make you feel uneasy almost every time you see him, which is really saying something when it's not just some big brute that can smash a lot.

One thing I definitely have to bring up is that Superman now has a new power as a result of the events in issue #38. For spoilers sake, I won't go into what it is or how he got it, but it's already added another element of story that is sure to shake things up in the future. Let's just say that between this and Dragon Ball Z's Goku getting a new Super Saiyan God form, we've still got whole new bits of life to look forward to from these legendary franchises.

I'd like to mention one other moment that I believe is noteworthy; the final issue of this story, issue #39. This serves as more of an epilogue to the story than anything else, and yet it provided some of my favorite moments of the entire arc. The dynamic between Kal-El and Jimmy in this issue is completely genuine, and we once again see more of those "human" moments that you don't get in too many Superman stories these days (though I'm hearing the latest issue of Action Comics is right on the money with this concept and I for one can't wait to read it).

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This story arc could more or less be made into a movie (or at least an animated film); it's that good. Geoff Johns is at his best here, and I deeply regretted hearing he won't be writing any more stories for this title (at least for now, as far as we know). The artwork became a little less consistent near the end (if the cover of issue #38 is any indication), but this is hardly major or off-putting in the least. If you've been avoiding any New 52 stories like the plague, you may want to give this a try. I've never been a major Superman fan by any means, but I would be if there were more stories like this one out there. Pure gold.

9 Out Of 10