Including his two team-up books, Superman is the lead in four different monthly comics right now. Though Gene Luen Yang, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson have been given the backbone of the “Truth” storyline running through all four books, “Superman” #44 fails to live up to its promise, even while there are flashes of fun here and there.
“Superman” #44 picks up almost immediately after Superman’s identity was outed last issue. The entire world knows and, as such, we’re seeing Superman’s villains reacting accordingly. The best part of the book is a little moment within one of those scenes, as the Royal Flush Gang targets Superman, only for the new Ace and Ten (a pair of siblings) to not work out so well with the rest of the team. Ace and Ten’s bickering, followed up by Ace’s defending Ten by attacking King, is as much a spark of humor as it is something that sets the scene apart from just another fight. We’re getting a brief glimpse of some personality, not only in the characters but in Yang’s script itself, and it’s the best we’ve seen from Yang since the preview story published as a backup in May.
Otherwise, the story continues to feel several steps behind the curve. With other titles like “Superman/Wonder Woman” having already depicted the capture of the Daily Planet staff, seeing some of them in peril (and, in the case of Perry White, rejecting Clark) feels behind the times. I understand that, by dint of being the core “Superman” comic, this book is stuck giving the earliest days of the “Truth” storyline, but here could have been better editorial coordination between the different comics to avoid this sort of repetition.
Romita and Janson’s art in “Superman” #44 is a bit erratic. The two page sequence where Superman films his ultimatum is a prime example; Superman’s face on the first page looks almost like a child’s at times and is little more than a sketch at others. Lex Luthor’s face on that first page looks almost like a scribble. While the second page has a few recognizable faces, there are others where Superman once again appears much younger than he does in the rest of the title, and with some strangely garish colors to boot. It’s a problem that exists throughout the book; Superman’s face is strangely elongated in the “Don’t call me Clarkie!” panel, to the point it’s distinctly not the same Superman from a few pages earlier. With Howard Porter due to step on board for at least a few, hopefully this is just a chance for Romita and Janson to recharge a bit, because I’d hate for this to be their final note on the title.
“Superman” is frustratingly harder to read with each new issue. Considering how eager many readers (myself included) were for the Yang and Romita creative team, this is turning out to be a real disappointment. Maybe things will turn around soon but, right now, none of the elements feel consistently good. For every moment that shows the book’s potential, there are several others where we see a creative stumble. “Superman” sadly deserves a lot better than this.