The Truth Has Potential – a “Superman #41” Review
Written by: Gene Luen Yang
Art by: John Romita Jr.
Colors by: Dean White
I’ve been told that you have to be a John Romita, Jr fan in order to be a John Romita, Jr. fan. I would say that that sounds about right. I am just not able to get into his art, and that is sad because the New 52 run of Superman has been the only Superman run that I have found interesting. The only other exception was the superb Charles Soule run on “Superman Wonder Woman”.
Superman #41 kicks off with Clark being tipped off to a major arms deal going down somewhere in Metropolis by an unknown texter. Loathe to look a gift horse in the mouth, Clark mounts up with Jimmy to go check the place out. But his secret informant is not done with him after that. Not by a long shot.
So you know my one rule about comic book art. It is ok for it to not be great; heck it can even slide a bit into the “negative” zone. As long as it is not so distracting that it takes me out of the story. Romita. Jr’s art unfortunately breaks my one rule about Art Club. It is really weird to me how he does a very nice job of non-super heroes, but not such a great job with the metas themselves. I really like his rendition of Clark when he is out of the costume. While his Lois Lane does not look familiar to me at all, it is a good version. Romita Jr makes her features a little sharper and angular than usual, and Dean White really maxes out the darkness of her hair, giving her an extra raven-like appearance.
The big problem with the work this artistic crew does is a stark lack of consistency. As good as Lois looks when she shows up in her first scene, the Lois in the bottom third of the book is an almost entirely different person. Features are softer, lips are fuller, and hair is less dark. I do prefer what Romita Jr is doing with his Superman model now; it is not quite there for me but it is better than the puffy-shirt Superman he was drawing when he first came on. He has the suit looking good now. The colors and inks, though, in the first fight scene are darkened so much that I was not sure if they were trying to make the suit black. At first I thought it was trying to reflect the position of a light source in a nighttime battle, but it is really just overdarkened.
I like what new writer Gene Luen Yang is weaving here. It appears that this arc is going to lead up to Clark’s identity being publicly revealed. That’s not a spoiler because DC has been running ads to that effect and the cover of this issue kind of puts it in your face as well. I like the scripting in Clark and Jimmy’s dialogue. This is really a great buddy cop tv show; what Constantine could have been if Keanu and Shia had actually had some chemistry. Lois’ interjections into their relationship are some great foil work and a little Seinfeld-like. Clark and Lois have their thing, but Clark has his thing with Jimmy, too, and the two are not supposed to interfere. I am getting a bit tired of Clark using his new Solar Flare power so frequently. It was supposed to be this rare and precious thing, but he has used it in pretty much every comic I have seen Superman in since that power debuted. I do love covert-ops Clark pursues in the last scene of this issue, as seeing Superman have to take on a mission in this manner brings a breath of fresh air to the character.
Romita Jr’s presence on this title continues to bug me. I feel like he is an artist suited to Spiderman, but not so well suited to Superman. But there have been incremental improvements over the year or so that he has been on the book. Maybe there is hope. The inconsistencies are distracting, though, and take away from my enjoyment of the story. Lang’s scripting is pretty tight and it looks like he is setting up some good stuff. I think he has a handle on this version of Superman, which has been cast very differently than past versions of Supes. I was not crazy about this issue overall, but it looks like the series could be on an upswing. If they can just tighten up the art! As promised by the “DC You” publishing imitative, it is a great jumping on point. Let’s just hope things get a bit better over the course of the arc.
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