The re-launch of "Superman" six months ago was the sort of comic that sounded great in theory, but the execution proved to be a bit lackluster. That's no doubt why we've had a creative team shuffle starting with issue #7 with Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens and Jesus Merino taking over the present-day stories of the Man of Steel. So far, we're off to a much more promising start than "Superman" #1 gave us.
Giffen and Jurgens' story quickly re-establishes the status quo; Superman's more recent (and slightly less trusted as a result) debut, Clark's position at the Daily Planet, his relationship with supporting cast members Lois, Jimmy and Perry. It's a bit of a cliche when Clark is beset by all three of them at the same time and ends up agreeing to things he hadn't planned on, but I had to admit that there was a liveliness to their banter and overlapping conversations that had been missing up until now.
As for the rest of the story, it's entertaining. Giffen and Jurgens bring the original "WildC.A.T.S" villain Helspont firmly into the DC Universe here and his presence is a curious one. In many ways he's not just a Wildstorm character being added into the DC world, but almost a character from the previous DC Universe moving into this one. That's not literally the case, but rather Helspont is a character that knows much more about the general composition of the DC Universe than most of the characters do. Giffen and Jurgens are able to drop clues about situations we haven't seen re-introduced yet; fans of Jack Kirby's Fourth World group in particular might squeal at the discussion of the God Veil and the twin worlds of Dark and Light in perpetual conflict. (Don't say you weren't warned.) However, as a foe against Superman, Helspont is more bark than bite. The end of the issue promises some of the latter and Giffen and Jurgens give us just enough hint of a threat that I'm interested in seeing what they do next.
Jurgens and Merino's art is an interesting combination. Jurgens is an artist whose breakdowns/pencils vary greatly based on who is going to finish them and the Jurgens/Merino pairing feels different from what we've seen up until now from Jurgens. There's a curious delicate nature to Superman himself; the end result is much more slender and slight than Jurgens's past depictions of the character and not just because of the slightly different costume. It's good, though; I like Superman's hair in particular, which manages to feel simultaneously old-fashioned and modern, bringing just the right elements of both to the character. They draw a wonderfully mean Helspont. Jim Lee's character design with the flaming blue and black demon head still works wonderfully and that cloak-as-shadow adds a level of nastiness to him.
There are a couple of strange hiccups in the art where it feels like it doesn't quite match the story. (Considering Jurgens co-plotted the story, it's a little odd.) The most notable moment is where Superman uses his x-ray vision to look at his attacker and notes that half of its inner workings are held together by etched runes, but that intriguing notion is barely evident in the drawing that we get. It's very frustrating because the idea sounds great.
Overall, there are several little touches throughout "Superman" #7 that made me feel like this creative team was moving in the right direction. The Daily Planet scene, for example, was great, but it goes beyond that. Even something as simple as there being a monorail station in Metropolis made me smile; it's just the right sort of moment where you'd nod and say to yourself that yes, Metropolis would have a monorail. My biggest regret with "Superman" #7 was that this wasn't "Superman" #1. Finally, one of DC's most important flagship titles feels back on track.