“Superman” #40 is the dreaded transition issue, bridging a gap between a departing creator and the one poised to step on board. In this case, it’s writer Geoff Johns who left the title with “Superman” #39, while Gene Luen Yang begins writing the comic with “Superman” #41. In the meantime, series artist John Romita Jr. performs double duty, writing as well as penciling “Superman” #40, and he does his job exactly as he should.
The bulk of the story is, in many ways, a retread of “Superman” #39; Superman continues to explore his new power (as well as its limitations), while also enjoying the side effect of being temporarily powerless after each usage. Instead of sticking with Jimmy Olsen, though, this issue pairs him up with the members of the Justice League. It’s a logical next step — the minds and technological knowhow of the League would certainly help Superman learn more about what’s going on — and it also emphasizes the overall friendship that Superman has with them in just the same way “Superman” #39 put the friendship between Clark and Jimmy in the spotlight.
There’s also a minor cliffhanger/last page sting, as Romita sets up Yang’s storyline that kicks off with this weekend’s Free Comic Book Day offering from DC Comics, which — in turn — begins in earnest in June’s “Superman” #41. With this being Yang’s first major outing on a big superhero comic, it makes sense for DC to make sure that there’s enough of a lead in to bring readers back once “Convergence” ends and Yang and Romita’s first issue hits stores. While it’s not necessarily the most dramatic of teasers, it accomplishes its purpose, bridging the gap between the two writers.
The downside to Romita’s writing assignment, though, is that it’s not terribly exciting. As mentioned earlier, this is very similar to “Superman” #39; there’s not enough new to stand out from the pack. The closest we get is the camaraderie between Superman and his fellow Leaguers, but a two-page scene of them out drinking isn’t enough to rest an entire comic upon. I don’t blame Romita — it’s an awkward place to get your big writing debut at DC Comics — but he pitched in well enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing him get another chance to tell his own stories and with a little more wiggle room.
Romita’s pencils and Klaus Janson’s inks look solid here. The knowing looks from the other members of the League are fairly entertaining, with those almost-smirks the high point of the issue. The small sequence with the League hammering on Superman also works well; you can follow the art easily, and moments like Wonder Woman punching Superman have a good level of energy. For an issue that Romita wrote himself, he doesn’t give himself a lot of huge flashy visual moments to draw, but what we do get is attractive and gets the job done.
“Superman” #40 positions the comic well for its return this summer; I’m looking forward to seeing what Yang does, and Romita has set him up well. It might not be the most riveting of comics but it gets in and out and accomplishes exactly what it’s supposed to.