Predictability doesn’t have to be a problem. You can have a conclusion signposted a mile away, so long as it’s still entertaining to get there. After all, almost everyone knows the end of classics like “Hamlet” or “Romeo and Juliet,” but they’re still entertaining in their own right. But if you know what’s coming but it feels like a drag to do so, well, that’s when you’re in trouble.
As the “Blackest Night” crossover grew closer, it was hard to ignore the increasing death count in supporting cast members all over books from DC Comics. So the second “Blackest Night: Superman” was announced, recently dead characters like Jonathan Kent and the Superman characters of Earth-2 were certainly high on the suspect list. And from there, well, things have gotten a wee bit predictable.
After decades of rehabilitation, from John Byrne’s revamp of “Superman” to the television shows “Lois and Clark” and “Smallville,” Superman’s home town has been turned from a podunk, middle-of-nowhere yawn fest into a mildly interesting town. All of that seems to be lost on James Robinson, who writes the characters — including one who was the President of the United States for a while — like hicks. Worse, the story feels like it’s plodding from one scene to the next, stretching out the inevitable moments for as long as possible. It’s frustrating, doubly so when a two-page sequence set on New Krypton could have used some of those wasted pages from elsewhere in the comic.
On the bright side, the one thing that I think “Blackest Night: Superman” #1 makes clear in a way that “Blackest Night” #1-2 didn’t was how the Black Lanterns view their prey in terms of the seven other Lantern colors and focuses. It’s a gimmick that is used more here than in both of those issues combined, but I think Robinson actually fits his best writing into those moments. At the conclusion of the issue, the difference between Superboy’s emotional state versus Superman’s is a smart contrast, and a good understanding of the two characters.
Eddy Barrows’ pencils seem a little off here; his characters often look misshapen and slightly twisted. There’s a scene where Superman and Superboy attack a Black Lantern and it’s actually a little painful to look at the anatomy on display. Superman’s neck is as thick as his head, while his torso is a strangely impossible hourglass figure. (I still can’t figure out why Superboy is doing a handstand in the background.) Then again, they’re not the only ones looking a little off; Smallville seems to be heading towards an obesity epidemic with the number of pudgy faces on the men of the town. Still, it’s better than the hideous grimaces that seem to come over Superman’s face. It’s strange, because some pages look like they’re up to the strengths that Barrows showed back on “Teen Titans,” like the side profile of Superman illuminated with the yellow and violet of fear and love. There, everything looks in proportion and attractive.
“Blackest Night: Superman” #1 is a bit of a disappointment; a predictable first issue where the journey itself is padded out with b-grade horror movie tactics and aimless ramblings. Both Robinson and Barrows are normally stronger than this. For now, though, it’s not off to a promising start.