Ever since the end of "Convergence," the Superman group of titles has dealt with the reduction of the Man of Steel's power levels. With that storyline seemingly near conclusion, Gene Luen Yang, Howard Porter and Ardian Syaf's "Superman" #48 takes Superman's powerlessness to an extreme, even as the overall theme of Superman's heroism increases accordingly.
The best thing about the less-mighty Superman is the idea that Superman is a hero even without all of his abilities, and that's front-and-center in "Superman" #48. At first, Yang merely gives us a situation where Superman is trying to jumpstart his powers now that they're entirely gone, and it's a clever one, mixing real science with things like kryptonite. It's an inventive but dangerous way for Superman to try and return to normal, and it's nice to see Superman continue to rely on his formidable wits. When an attack on A.R.G.U.S. takes place, however, Superman instantly jumps into hero mode. It's a good understanding of Superman's character and is ultimately the best part of a storyline that has felt like it's dragged on a tiny bit too long.
Porter and Syaf split the pencils this month, and it's a slightly varied result. Porter's art is handsome, giving us a solid-looking Superman and company. Little moments -- like the glimpse of the inside of A.R.G.U.S. headquarters -- are fun and worthy of the two-page spread, with its containers and technology stretching up to the sky. The difference between Superman before and after he's been exposed to Kryptonite is also striking; Porter draws a wicked-looking withered Superman, to the point readers would still understand what was happening even without Hi-Fi's sickly green pallor. Syaf's art isn't as clean as we normally get from him; I'm not sure if it's a mismatch with inkers Don Ho and Jerome K. Moore or perhaps the cause of a short deadline, but -- for whatever the reason -- there's a rougher and less finished polish on the characters here.
Yang's understanding of Superman makes me that much more eager to see this storyline hit its conclusion, so that the title isn't bogged down by plots spanning multiple titles. For now, this installment is overall a bit average, but what's still to come that will get readers excited.