Standalone issues which act as a prelude to a massive comic book event can be very alienating to some readers. Titles like Dark Days: The Casting #1 and Dark Days: The Forge #1, both of which were designed to lead into the event Dark Nights: Metal, come to mind as well-executed scenes in a much larger story, but not much else. These books function well in the larger narrative, but simply don’t stand on their own. Luckily, Superman: Leviathan Rising #1 somehow manages to be both a great addition to the current DC Comics story that has primarily been running in the pages of Action Comics while also telling an entertaining, isolated Superman tale.
More often than not, when there is a huge event happening across a comic publisher’s line, it had a tendency to be a vortex that pumps the brakes on every other happening in the fictional world, sucking up all storytelling resources. How a reader views this is all dependent on how much they’re invested in the trials leading to them to the endgame. Superman: Leviathan Rising #1 is the continuation of a story that was primarily being featured in one flagship book, even if it has its roots firmly planted in the Grant Morrison era of Batman titles. So for those who haven’t been keeping up with Action Comics, this issue may appear to be a little out of left field. Thankfully, the creative team make it enjoyable, even if it’s the reader’s first time at the rodeo.
The talent behind this issue in enough to warrant its price tag. With writers like Brian Michael Bendis (who’s been the architect behind all this new Leviathan business), Mark Andreyko, Matt Fraction and Greg Rucka assuring the multiple plotlines gel together (mostly) and Yanick Paquette, Mike Perkins, Steve Liever, Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira maintaining a loose visual language between them, this over-sized comic is able to keep a lot of plates spinning. But even more impressive is how strong the individual plot threads are on their own.
If this issue was simply a ten-page story in which Superman accidentally gets himself kidnapped instead of the start of an epic comic event, it would have been just fine. This particular plot line is sharp, funny and puts the Man of Steel in a vulnerable position he opted to be in. The other plot lines mostly exist to service Clark Kent’s abduction, but they are equal entertaining. The only story that lacks anything is the one involving Jimmy Olsen’s romantic misadventure. It’s funny, and there’s a last minute reveal that’s equal part horrifying and hilarious, but it feels a touch out of place here.
The art is solid all around, but Yanick Paquette is the stand out, as he usually is. There’s something enchanting about how he uses thick black outlines for the majority of his figures with minimal detail inside. Paquette’s work lives somewhere in the neighborhood of Chris Sprouse’s work on Tom Strong and JLA-era Howard Porter (but a bit more dialed into the minimalist aspect), which is one fine neighborhood to call home. Again, though, there's nothing wrong with the other work on display. Everyone seems to understand they are working on the springboard of the next big DC Comics moment, and it shows.
Superman: Leviathan Rising #1 is a surprisingly functional stand alone story, even if all the pieces don't fit together as snugly as some readers might like. The art is great all around, and despite some very disparate style at play, it all jibes surprisingly well. And with such an all-star group of writers at the helm, the script sings and never truly falters even if one particular story beat doesn't work quite as well as the others. Even if you haven't been following the larger story, Superman: Leviathan Rising #1 gives you just about everything you need to know to hop on board before things start unraveling this summer.