I must admit that I was a little fooled by “DC Retroactive: Superman – The ’80s.” When I first heard of the book, my thought was that it would be set in the post-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” era of Superman, when John Byrne had just rebooted the title with his “Man of Steel” mini-series. Instead, though, “DC Retroactive: Superman – The ’80s” is set at the end of 1984, with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” just around the corner. Gotcha!
Marv Wolfman’s script seems a little low key early on, with Superman fighting a big monster and shouting, “How could you!” at its path of destruction. The story doesn’t really get moving until Wolfman brings in the pre-“Sandman” character of Destiny, who begins to offer Superman glimpses of both his future and that of his friends in the Justice League.
These glimpses, of course, are big event stories like “Knightfall,” “Emerald Twilight,” “Identity Crisis,” and even “The Death of Superman.” With “DC Retroactive: Superman – The ’80s” being written over a quarter century after it’s set, it is of course rather easy to get away with that sort of prediction. But beyond that, it’s up to you if the idea of the pre-Crisis Superman reacting to “No Man’s Land” in the Bat-titles is interesting or not. Personally, I found it to be a slightly amusing idea but one that grew tiring long before it came to a conclusion. It’s a one-page gimmick that just keeps going well past its sell date.
Sergio Cariello is an interesting artist choice for the book, since his art actually reminds me more of artists like Norm Breyfogle, who was best known for his work on “Batman” instead of “Superman.” There’s a classic Curt Swan story included in the back (Superman’s first encounter with Destiny) that reminds us about the slightly cleaner, crisper art style that “DC Retroactive: Superman – The ’80s” probably should have evoked. That’s not to say that Cariello is bad, but just that I don’t think this was the right book for him. Still, the storytelling is solid, and aside from some overly dramatic expressions there’s nothing wrong with it.
I suspect some long-time fans will like the final page of “DC Retroactive: Superman – The ’80s” and its call-out to another storyline, but it’s a lot to read to get to that moment. It’s ultimately an inoffensive book, but one that needed a little more meat on its bones. There’s not enough story here to support 26 pages of art. With a shorter page count and then paired with another story to fill the pages, I think this could have worked much better.