Simply put, Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Superman #1 is a spectacular, emotional tour de force of an issue. If you’re not normally a fan of Tom King’s writing, I would say it’s still worth a try. Thoughts on some of his other work might be mixed, but he keeps working with top tier artists like Adam Kubert, Bilquis Evely and now Chris Burnham to make some instantly classic Superman and Supergirl stories. At least I think so, anyway.
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Chris Burnham
Colors by: ADRIANO LUCAS
Letters by: Troy Peteri
Aquaman Backup by: Brandon Thomas, Fico Ossio, Sebastian Cheng and Troy Peteri
Jon Kent has had an… interesting journey in comics since his creation seven years ago. The son of Superman was born outside of the normal Earth and continuity we’re used to. His past was retconned into the history of the DCU, along with those particular version of his parents. Before long he met the son of Batman/Bruce Wayne in Damian Wayne, and they formed the Super Sons.
Then Brian Michael Bendis followed Tomasi/Gleason on the Superman title, and decided to age Jon up several years. Now, whether that was a good idea or not is not the focus of this review. That’s a different conversation. What’s important here is what that means for the context of this issue, in terms of it’s emotional impact.
Clark missed out on a lot. Jon went through arguably most of his most formative years away from both his parents, and returned so suddenly. Not nearly as much time had passed back on Earth for them, so it was always going to be a lot to process.
This issue shows how emotionally ripe exploring that idea is, and since then it hasn’t really been touched at all. I think that just makes this issue that bit more powerful.
Without spoiling anything, we are seeing an idealised version of what those years could have been. In an early Instagram post for this book, King said “it’s about the glory and agony raising a (super) teenager, the moments and years of Jon and Clark that were lost-now reclaimed” and that’s incredibly evident here.
I don’t blame you if you feel cynical towards event tie-ins by now.
But honestly, there’s just so many great character beats here that hit me right in the heart. The angst, the drama, the rebellion, the joy, working through those years, all on fantastic display.
In the same Instagram post King describes the art as “astounding” and I can’t disagree there. I wasn’t aware of Chris Burnham before this, but I thought his art style was absolutely perfect for the story. It has that gorgeous, retro, pulpy feel that makes it feel like a classic superhero adventure. Everything from the action to the emotions of the characters is just conveyed so well. One of those styles which has a nice balance of making the story feel both fantastical in it’s nature, at times, but still emotionally grounded in it’s characters in others.
There are pages that I felt like I could just soak in. The dramatic atmosphere, the lengths Jon went to just because he wanted to help and how that ends up. Some pages where you just pause, let it sit with you for a moment while you consider the depth of it. If you love the cover for this issue like me it’s safe to say you’re going to enjoy the interior art as well.
That’s all without mentioning Adriano Lucas on the colors. Anytime I see his name come up it makes me more excited to read the issue. His coloring here plays a big part in the gorgeousness of it I mentioned. It’s so bright, vibrant and just gets across that classic feel that I love so much about this issue. Always just brilliantly awesome work and it was great to see it again here.
I’ve been intrigued by Jon’s costume on the cover since I first saw it solicited.
It still has the Superman “S” but feels remarkably similar to a Robin costume. After reading the issue, it feels like a heart-warming homage to some of young Jon’s moments, and his character overall. As I’ve touched on, he always wants to help. He always looked up to his dad and the standard he set.
At one point he wanted to be part of Damian’s Teen Titans, but wasn’t voted in. A team, originally, full of sidekicks. There’s just something about Jon in a Robin-style costume that feels fascinating to me. Like a distillation of his need to do good, showing up in this dream world dressed similar to possibly pop culture’s most famous sidekick. Especially seeing how that develops over the issue, any tension that comes about and how that’s resolved. Just such an interesting issue in terms of showcasing his character.
If you’re a fan of the Tomasi/Gleason Rebirth era of Superman, you do not want to miss this issue. Just well done all around, from the writing, art, colors and lettering.
Some event tie-ins can be hit or miss, but I think this is well worth the read.
Aquaman Backup QUICK Thoughts
As a coda of sorts to this review, I just wanted to say how entertaining the Aquaman backup was. The general consensus of DC’s backups since Infinite Frontier started have been mixed, but I thought this was definitely one of the better ones.
I love how every so often we’re seeing Andy as she was in Future State again. I know it’s not quite the same but reminds me of how we last saw her in last year’s DC Pride special. Especially showing her dynamic with another new great character I’ve also been loving.
I particularly liked how it thematically tied into the main story. It felt relevant and somewhat connected in that way, which tied together the whole book nicely.
The artwork was spectacular. Closer to the house style we often see these days, it was so kinetic, dynamic and vibrant. I adored the colors and it was just such a joy to look at as I read through the story.
Great backup to close out such a great book. Would definitely recommend grabbing this if you’ve been liking Dark Crisis or have liked any of the books I’ve mentioned.
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