T. Kyle King’s published work ranges from newspaper columns to film reviews and from short stories to law review articles. Most notably, he served as a site manager and staff writer at DawgSports.com, a daily weblog devoted to University of Georgia athletics, from 2006 to 2013, and he is the author of a book about the history of the college football rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers published by Clemson University Digital Press in 2013. Kyle is a lifelong comic book fan whose thoughts on comic books previously have appeared at ComicsVerse, Progressive Boink, and the Superman Homepage. Kyle is a Superman guy.
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Superman survived Truth, but with his powers reduced and his secret identity exposed. In Justice, Clark Kent tied together the strands of the conspiracy against him, which all led back to Vandal Savage. The plotlines converged in this week’s Superman Annual #3, which ComiConverse’s Man of Steel correspondent, T. Kyle King, is here with your review.
Action Comics, Batman/Superman, Superman, and Superman/Wonder Woman all wrapped up their parts of the Justice arc in preparation for Superman Annual #3. In an oversized undertaking co-authored by Aaron Kuder, Greg Pak, Peter J. Tomasi, and Gene Yang, the Man of Tomorrow reached an important crossroads in the eagerly anticipated Savage Dawn.
Thousands of years ago, Im-El used a missile to deflect a comet that threatened Krypton, diverting its course instead toward Earth. A piece of the passing comet landed in what would one day be France, in the form of the meteorite that transformed an ambitious caveman into the immortal Vandal Savage. On the comet’s periodic returns to Earth, Savage repeatedly attempted to obtain additional power from the celestial phenomenon, only to have his efforts fail during China’s Han Dynasty, Copernicus’s Renaissance Rome, and Nazi Germany during World War II.
In present-day Metropolis, Clark Kent struggles to adapt to his new reality as an exposed and weakened Superman. John Henry Irons has been searching for a way to restore the Kryptonian’s powers, but his best idea is only in its preliminary stages, prompting Lana Lang to advise her childhood friend from Smallville, “Maybe it’s time to stop being Superman.” Alienated both from his human colleagues at the Daily Planet and from his metahuman teammates in the Justice League, Superman makes do with performing small-scale superheroics — until Vandal Savage and his co-conspirators arrive in the Stormwatch Carrier and the Man of Steel is left alone as his adoptive homeworld’s last line of defense.
Truth and Justice have taken up a brief amount of story time for the characters, but they have unfolded over a lengthy period for the readers, and the connections between the separate storylines unfurling in the four main Superman titles have not always been apparent. Moreover, the timelines often have been confusing, and the sequence of events still is not entirely clear.
Consequently, Savage Dawn had a heavy burden to bear, and it carried the real risk of having too many cooks spoil the broth. In addition to being scripted jointly by four principal Superman writers, Superman Annual #3 showcases artwork pencilled by Dan Jurgens, Ben Oliver, and Rafa Sandoval, augmented by the handiwork of a pair of inkers and a quartet of colorists. In addition, an entirely different trio comprised of Ulises Arreola, Vicente Cifuentes, and Ardian Syaf produced a dynamic cover pitting Superman against Savage in an epic confrontation.
The gamble of combining multiple creative visions and artistic styles in a single super-sized comic book paid off handsomely. What easily could have degenerated into a mismatched hodgepodge comes together convincingly in a parallel story that tracks Vandal Savage’s and Clark Kent’s similar pursuits of power for radically divergent purposes. The different looks exhibited in the book’s pictorial depictions complement one another through their contrasts.
DC’s four main Superman books all have managed to get the Man of Steel past the unpleasant and unappealing anger, aloofness, and brooding moodiness that have marred the character for far too long, so we finally are able to see Clark confronting his circumstances more maturely. Apart from a brief outraged outburst aboard the Justice League Watchtower in response to Lex Luthor’s latest bit of petty prodding, the Man of Tomorrow keeps his eyes on the prize.
Straight from the start, Superman sounds the right note, thinking: “May not have my powers, but… I’ve still got a job to do.” His private conversation with John and Lana demonstrates determination leavened by compassion rather than fueled by fury. Left behind when the Justice League sets out to investigate a mystery in the Kuiper Belt, the Man of Steel steps in to help save endangered children from a Lexoil tanker poised to plummet off a bridge.
That heroic act helps Clark achieve an epiphany, as he realizes he “can’t save the whole world” all at once, but he can save a few people at a time and inspire others in the process, “and maybe that’s enough.” No sooner has he had this breakthrough, though, than Savage’s and Superman’s stories intersect, and the Man of Steel recognizes that helping in his “own small way” is not enough. Acknowledging that he has lost his powers — that he “can’t even fly!” — Superman swears: “But I will. Whatever it takes. I will.”
Savage Dawn represents not the culmination of Justice, but instead its convergence, setting the stage for the next phase of the Action Ace’s post-Truth renascence. Superman Annual #3 does not feature every character from the four series that led up to it, and it is not altogether apparent why each individual figure is absent or present, but there are no glaring continuity errors to mar this adventure.
Although Lana’s encouragement to Clark to “find a new you” feels forced and incongruous, the brief contributions of the Metropolis Marvel’s other friends are welcome. Wonder Woman’s words of encouragement to Superman, Perry White’s pep talk to his reporters, and Lois Lane’s long overdue reclamation of a speaking part all added depth disproportionate to the length of the scenes.
Savage Dawn declines to lift the lid on its most important secret: Clark sees John’s blueprint for restoring Superman’s powers, but the audience does not. Nevertheless, the revelation of a hitherto-unknown connection between Krypton and the meteor that made Vandal Savage immortal adds an intriguing element to the story and hints that the solution to the Man of Steel’s predicament might lie in the comet coming from the world of his birth to the planet he calls home.
Superman Annual #3 accomplished its objective, serving as an effective bridge from what has gone before to what will come next. Fans of the Man of Steel should move forward from here excited and encouraged. Let us know your thoughts on Savage Dawn, and on where the story will go from this point, as you ComiConverse with us in the comments below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Multiple contributors combine to deliver a parallel story that works for all concerned.