Fabian Nicieza takes a rotation in the writer’s chair for “Adventures of Superman” #42 with Phil Hester joining him on the art side of the story. The comics all-star machine that is “Adventures of Superman” continues to churn out digital-first celebrations of DC Comics’ most classic hero in classic settings by all-star creators. Together the two creators deliver a story that would be worthy of “DC Comics Presents” and teams Superman with Sugar and Spike. Yes, Sugar and Spike.
That’s not an easy task for anyone to handle nowadays. Sugar and Spike are hallmark characters from a simpler time in comics, but then again, “Adventures of Superman” is a timeless vehicle for all kinds of adventures and team-ups. In theory, it should work, and, in the name of simply being a fun comic story devoid of continuity and all the trappings that come with that troublesome trap, it does work. Nicieza makes the story memorable in its “Looney Tunes” simplicity. It’s not hard to imagine this story as storyboards for a DC Nation cartoon short, word for word and panel for panel.
My biggest gripe with “Adventures of Superman” #42 is this issue showcases a missed opportunity with the lettering and the platform. Sugar and Spike’s baby talk is translated into squiggly outlined word balloons conjoined to the balloons with the baby talk. They could have been swapped one for the other with a swipe. It seems simple enough to accomplish, especially when the competition is accomplishing similar feats in their Infinite Comics with regularity. From there, the conjoined balloons could be reinstated for print.
As for the art itself, the introduction of Sugar and Spike is dramatically framed, giving the kids a “Ta-daaaa!!” moment in the digital presentation. Unfortunately, Hester’s kids look older than they play out in that first scene, but the story quickly adapts to their age and the mismatch is easily dismissed in place of enjoying the adventure at hand. Hester draws a wonderfully stylized collection of characters fit for “Adventures of Superman” and makes a strong case for a future return to the adventures of Kal-El and Clark Kent. His style is deceptively simplistic, but the characters are certainly present in the world around them. The spatial fissure applicator, its effects and the Atomic Skull all look brilliant in the collaboration between Hester, Inker Eric Gapstur and colorist Nick Filardi. Hester’s style, on the surface, seems darker and heavier than a team-up between the Man of Steel and Sugar and Spike would dictate, but it works quite nicely and is every bit as fun as the story itself.
Even though the conclusion to Superman’s fight with the Atomic Skull is telegraphed, it’s still fun to see for the sake of being fun. This might be one of the silliest installments of “Adventures of Superman” to date, but it certainly delivered on two fronts: it gave DC a chance to publish Sugar and Spike again; and it put Phil Hester in the artist’s chair for a Superman adventure. I’m not necessarily feeling the need for another Sugar and Spike appearance any time too quickly, but if Hester wants to return for more “Adventures of Superman,” I certainly won’t object.