If you had to find a single reason to buy this month’s issue of “Superman” I think almost everyone would agree that it’s for Renato Guedes’ and Jose Wilson Magalhaes’ gorgeous art. His opening page uses no less than 17 panels, but every single one of them is crisp and clear, providing a tight focus as to what’s going on in James Robinson’s script. With each panel, you get an idea of what’s going on in the fight between Metropolis’ Science Police and Shrapnel, thanks not only to the words but the single visual that Guedes draws.
And then, you turn the page and get a beautiful three-quarter panel stretching across two pages, as the fight between the Science Police and Shrapnel expands and it’s suddenly, impossibly, larger than life. Guedes and Magalhaes make a D-list “Doom Patrol” villain into a genuine threat in just three pages, which is no small feat. Mind you, the rest of the art is just as beautiful. Mon-El swooping in for the attack makes our hero look strong, masculine, and handsome. At the same time, he never looks overly or impossibly muscled, and I really appreciate that Guedes draws Mon-El’s outfit as actual clothes with folds of material that move with him, not a skin-tight suit. It looks realistic, and form-fitting without being painted onto him. With each panel, the art just looks better and better. Who’d have thought that a two-page splash of Metropolis’s sewer system could look so expansive and beautiful, or an empty performance stage feel so grand. I think this is easily the best issue from Guedes and Magalhaes to date.
Mind you, Robinson’s script is good as well, although it feels a little overshadowed by the art that illustrates it. While I think Robinson’s current story is stronger than his introductory issues, the pacing still feels a little too slow. It’s still introducing characters and the status quo, and while a lot of different plots make an appearance, almost none of them actually move forward. It feels at times like Robinson is plotting his issues in part to give Guedes great visuals to draw. So while an entire page devoted to Tellus looks beautiful (and colorist David Curiel helps Guedes and Magalhaes nail those panels thanks to the eerie yellow-green glow that permeates the page), it shouldn’t necessarily take up so much space to have nothing happen at all. As a collected edition, I suspect this will read much better, but as a monthly book the issue feels like things are just getting started when the conclusion rolls around.
Still, “Superman” is doing well considering that its title character is off in his own mini-series for a year, and at the end of the day I want to keep reading more. While it’s hard to not suspect that Mon-El will be back in the Phantom Zone by the end of the year (so to be set for his eventual restoration in the 30th century), “Superman” #687 makes me hope that somehow we get a new Mon-El series out of this entire experience once Superman comes back for his own comic. I’d be happy with that.