Geez. Look at that cover. That’s not Superman, it’s Twilight. It just isn’t! If you think that feeling invalidates my opinion on this trade, feel free to skip it.
There are moments in this collection where I can almost see the real Superman about to break through. Dan Jurgens provides the story and some of the pencils in this collection, and if anyone should know Superman, it’s him. He did some of my all-time favorite Superman stories over the years, so I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Superman sounds right. His attitude on dealing with criminals, maintaining his secret identity, and his general outlook are all correct. This Superman is a positive guy, looking for the best all around him. He tries to keep everyone happy even as his personal life suffers (but not too much, he’s Superman and he can handle that too). He even tries to talk things out with the ridiculous-looking Helspont.
That’s the problem with this thing. The villains! The first villain is a predator-ish alien lizard man who kills a ton of people. The body count is high right off the bat. Then we get to Helspont, who is one of my favorite types of villains: the big talker. Helspont gets a bit done, but man, he spends a lot of time talking about how great he is and how evil his plans are. I wouldn’t blame Superman if he drifted off for a minute there. I’m a tad unclear on Helspont’s powers, though, unless he’s just “generally godlike.” The next villain is the awkward Anguish, who goes around talking like an angry teenager. Her dialogue is awful, including the gem “You can’t touch Anguish – that’d be me… but Anguish can touch YOU!” Ouch. Plus she just talks about Daddy issues and her rough childhood!
Jurgens’ art used to be a favorite for me, and just like the writing, there are elements here that I can still appreciate. The bright colors, clear layouts, and tendency for direct punches and conflict; all good. But the character design is lacking. Predator and Anguish are 90’s generic to a ridiculous level. Helspont and his daemonite underlings are clearly inspired by Jim Lee’s art, but they don’t work as well without all the cross-hatching. Jurgens’ pencils (and the other artists in this collection) just can’t replicate the look.
Perhaps there is some sort of Superman fan out there really satisfied by this book. But it just makes me want to break out my old Superman comics and remember how much I loved them. That makes this comic EVIL.