THIS WEEK: There were a lot of contenders during an excellent week for DC Comics, but Superman – Space Age #2 emerges as our reviewers favorite. Also, writer James Tynion IV pens a couple of excellent books despite exiting DC a year ago.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Superman – Space Age #2
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
I don’t know how often we’ve featured the second part of a three-part series as our lead review for the ol’ DC Round-Up, but I’d wager it’s not too frequent. We tend to focus this column on new series or finales, or major events. That’s definitely what I originally planned to do this week, which I thought might end up primarily focused on Tim Drake: Robin #1 or Sgt. Rock Vs. The Army of the Dead #1, the new DC Horror Presents series, both of which were really good and definitely worth your time.
The thing is, after I’d finished reading the entire DC output this week, it was Superman – Space Age #2 that really stuck with me, that gave me the sense that I read something memorable and significant. As with the first issue of this series, this one clocks in at a weighty 86 total pages. That’s a long monthly comic by any metric, but the lead creators on this book — writer Mark Russell and artist Michael Allred — both work separately in ways that make their comics feel denser than usual, without slowing down what’s happening. That’s certainly the feeling this book gives you, like you’ve just read a whole stack of really good comics, and because of the series concept — we are following a version of the DC Universe from the 1950s up through Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 — it feels like a stack of comics that span different eras.
So, the overall feeling of this book is substantial and unique. Within that, both Allred and Russell are also creators who thrive at incorporating small, rewarding details into their work, and this comic is absolutely loaded with them. Big and small, really, from Lois Lane being the journalist who broke the Watergate story to Clark frequenting a specific bar because it’s the only place in Metropolis to get “a decent milk.” That bar, by the way, is The Seagull, and it’s right next to the Shoe Store, a nice and very subtle tribute to Superman creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
Another thing I’m really enjoying about this title is how nice it’s all playing with the wider DC Comics publishing line. For better or worse, superhero comics tend to be influenced in one way or another by whatever giant event is headlining the shared superhero universe. Right now, that event is Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, a fun and sincere sequel to the original that focuses on Pariah. Well, guess who is factoring heavily into this comic too? Pariah. What that means is that with this book we’re getting an interesting experiment with superheroes aging in real time amid current events, mostly focused on Superman but with a splash of Batman, too. On top of that, readers who are engaged with the rest of the comics will find ties to what’s going on there, too.
More than anything, though, I think this is just a book that’s well-done in all aspects. I don’t want to retread that too much, since we already wrote a full review of the first issue, but it’s true again in this second chapter, too. This is just great comics, and comics that pay tribute to the history and standing of the DCU. If it sticks the landing, this book may end up being the best DC publishes in 2023.
- There are almost too many good comics this week to round them all up, but, damn it, I’m going to try anyway. There were three great Black Label comics out this week. Sandman Universe Nightmare Country #6 by writer James Tynion IV, artist Maria Llovet, and letterer Simon Bowland, is the best issue of that series yet, both tying into the original Sandman comic and also looking ahead to seed another series set to begin in December. On top of that, though, this is just a really great standalone comic, a contained story that is interesting, surprising and satisfying. More of that, please.
- Also by Tynion this week, we have Nice House on the Lake #10, which is a collaboration with artist Álvaro Martínez Bueno, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer AndWorld Design. This was my favorite book of last year, debuting as it did with just an airtight first arc. Now deep into the second arc, we’re getting answers and glimpses at what’s coming, and the book remains excellent.
- The third Black Label book this week was the proper return of Human Target by writer Tom King, artist Greg Smallwood, and letterer Clayton Cowles. Smallwood continues to career-best work (which is saying a lot) in this one. It’s just stunning, from the composition, to the colors, to the Hollywood noir feel. And while your mileage my vary, I think King spinning a Justice League story as what if Golden Age of Hollywood noir is paying interesting dividends, leading to a superhero series that truly feels like one-of-one.
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