Recent events from the Superman titles come into play in “Superman Annual” #2 by Scott Lobdell, Dan Jurgens, and Norm Rapmund, which could also be titled “Superman’s Not-Girlfriend Friend, Lois Lane.” Superman shows up, of course, but the story actually centers on Lois and her investigation of twenty seemingly disparate citizens of Metropolis that have gone missing since Brainiac’s defeat years earlier.
Lobdell gets readers’ attention at the comic’s start, with a splash page attractively composed by Jurgens and finely detailed by Rapmund. It’s always a pleasure to see Jurgens (who was so strongly associated with the character two decades ago) return to the art duties, and this very first page makes it clear that he’s lost none of his talent during this time, and his work arguably has never looked better. And Rapmund, no stranger to the character either, is one of the best to ink Jurgens’ pencils. The traditional, old-school approach by these veteran artists is a welcome touch to a familiar character.
While the art is strong throughout, Lobdell’s story becomes rather slow and pedestrian once it rewinds and flashes back to the beginning. There’s some low-level suspense as Lois tracks down all of these missing people, but the unusual trait that they turn out to have in common is actually revealed early on in Lois’ search, so there really isn’t much of a payoff. Lobdell doesn’t bother to make much of a mystery out of the villain behind it all, either. There are no real twists or surprises, and there’s little else to keep readers interested other than admiring how great it all looks. With this story, Lobdell cut the deck and put the ace on top, and once that hand is played, it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a reason to stay in the game. Eventually, everything cycles back to where it began on the first page, but the journey isn’t a very exciting one.
The final page also proclaims that the story will be continued in future issues of the Superman titles, but this unremarkable beginning isn’t exactly a strong selling point. As regular readers sometimes skip the pricier annuals that usually don’t tie into the main title, an issue that might be missed is an odd place to kick off a storyline. Odder still is this issue’s backup feature, which is actually the fourth chapter of a five-part story, continues from “Action Comics” and is also scheduled to conclude there. Shunting one installment of a story to a different title, with no indication in the previous chapter that tells readers where to look for the next, is a pretty puzzling decision. DC might not be deliberately trying to confuse readers, but it sure seems like they are.
With an admittedly nice-looking main feature that reads like a filler piece and an equally attractive but poorly placed backup, “Superman Annual” #2 feels like the comic book equivalent of a hastily compiled garage sale stocked with shiny but ultimately useless odds and ends that no one really wants. It has the looks of something that DC didn’t really put a lot of effort into, so readers shouldn’t really be asked to, either.