“Superman” #13 opens like countless other Superman comics before it, with the titular titan testing the limits of his strength and endurance. Sure, that’s a wonderful plot device for new readers and even a decent starting point for new writers. Essentially, it serves as a greeting: “Welcome to ‘Superman,’ here’s what you need to know.” Except new writer Scott Lobdell dumps all of the traditional pieces off the table, truly giving his chapter of the world’s most recognizable hero new ground to start from.
In casting aside familiar pieces of the Superman mythos, however, Lobdell runs the risk of making the Man of Steel more of an outcast and even more of a cipher in the post-relaunch DC Universe. After all, while it is important to have strong characters, it is just as critical to have recognizable characters and settings. Quite simply, one of Lobdell’s choices is the equivalent to taking the Batcave away from Batman. It comes across as simply being sensationalist. Sure, there might be some great drama to be farmed from that idea, but to totally unplug in such a sweeping, irrational fashion is uncomfortable, but not in a good way, more like a fart in church way. Lobdell couches that dramatic development in forced high school drama, but even that forced drama takes the “super” out of Superman and renders him as a super-powered, super-creepy stalker. Early in the book, the writer has the Last Son of Krypton declare, “I’m Superman… everything I do is open to misinterpretation.” There is no misinterpreting the abusive way Superman uses his powers to spy on his friends, though.
Joining Lobdell on this title is his artistic collaborator from “Red Hood and the Outlaws,” Kenneth Rocafort. If you find the New 52 redesigns of the characters to be overly fussy, then Rocafort’s art is simply going to make your head explode. He packs a lot into the panels and makes some bold choices in framing the panels and filling the pages, carefully walking the line between detail and overload. I like Rocafort’s sharp, uncommon style, despite the busy-ness of it, but I would like to see it in a more Superman-type of story. This story has a bunch of moping, some stock Superman moments (flying, punching) — but not enough — and a space dragon.
The space dragon shows up, but somehow isn’t destroying anything, so what does Superman do? He hits it. That gives the new creative team a chance to flex a little and show what they’re going to bring to this book, but quite simply, this is not my Superman. There is nothing inspirational or super about a character who abuses his power, mopes about losing a girl he never had and leaps into action without thinking it through. His choices in battle are less than super as well, and all of this just points towards Lobdell’s Super-book crossover. If that crossover is anything like what I got in “Superman” #13, I’ll be taking a few months off despite some nice artwork, thank you very much.