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: The Coming of the Supermen #2 burst forth from the imaginative mind of writer and artist Neal Adams this week, and the second installment of the six-issue series provided another King-sized slice of Bronze Age brilliance. ComiConverse’s Man of Steel reporter, T. Kyle King, brings you his review.
The iconic Neal Adams produced some of the most memorable comic book covers of the 1970s and some of the most mind-bendingly bizarre comic book stories of the 2010s. Superman: The Coming of the Supermen has wedded his graphic artistry from an earlier era to his storytelling insanity from modern times. Does the second chapter offer any answers or merely pose more daunting questions?
After calling in a nanny service to look after Rafi and his dog, Clark Kent switches into costume and flies off to Lex Corp. Kalibak has renewed his attack with electric gloves and Demon Dogs, but a quartet of Supermen succeeds in defeating the Scourge of Apokolips and sending the assailants back home through their Boom Tube. The raid, however, has served its purpose of providing a distraction that allowed Darkseid to acquire what he came to obtain.
Kal-El learns that the newly arrived Supermen are Maj-Ar, Tan-Em, and Vor-Em, who came to Earth from New Krypton to help their hero. The three former Kandorians suffered minor injuries in the battle and are given medical treatment in a Lex Corp laboratory, but the real Superman realizes that Lex Luthor has taken blood samples from them for experimentation. Before the Man of Tomorrow can get adequate answers from his arch-enemy, Kalibak comes back, kidnaps Rafi, and retreats into the Boom Tube, daring Superman to pursue them.
Predictably, Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #2 merely muddied the waters and upped the ante on the craziness. Rather than picking up where the first issue left off, the second installment skips ahead to a more benign starting point. Clark Kent is getting dressed for work — glasses, white shirt, blue suit, red tie, conventional as can be — while his journalistic partner, Lois Lane, hurries him along and Rafi joshes with the sweet-looking old lady who introduces herself as Nanny Goody. This ominous moniker offers an obvious allusion to one of Darkseid’s most infamous operatives, Granny Goodness, and, from there, the pell-mell madness takes off.
Clark gives Lois the slip, ditching her at the elevator by darting into the stairwell. Superman detours into the 21st century only long enough to greet Jimmy Olsen with an improbable and dated “Wassup?” before taking flight back to the Me Decade. From the moment the Man of Steel tells his redheaded photographer pal, “All I know is bad is going on!”, all semblance of serious subtlety goes by the wayside, replaced by exaggerated examples of frenetic imagery, kinetic energy, and exclamation points galore.
Kalibak is all simian savagery and overwrought utterances as he announces that he has “dressed my delicate hands with worthy gloves of electric power for picking their dainty bones!” The shock troops of Apokolips echo their commander’s tone, answering “Death waits there!” with “It waits everywhere! Embrace it!” The Kryptonians, by comparison, are practically Shakespearean in their scenery-chewing declarations: Vor-Em pummels Kalibak while crying, “To those sounds I bring you silence. Bone-crunching silence. Damn your stupid gloves!”
Kal-El is equally orotund when verbally berating Luthor, “As before. You want the blood. This you shall not have! . . . I deny it all to you!” The drama of the cliffhanger ending is so overpowering that Superman exclaims, “Good Lord! Rafi!” on one full-page face-off before blurting out, “Good God, Rafi!” on the ensuing double-page spread. (These religious invocations are made by a Rao-worshipper in response to a Muslim being abducted by a New God, so this is a fairly ecumenical scene, when you think about it.) Erica Schultz’s lettering enhances the action by peppering it with sound effects including crump, fump, oomph, pow (twice), runchh, shak, shang, skrack, skrrakkle, thip, thoom (thrice), thud, and whug (twice).
Adams’s signature artwork is as uninhibited as his script, filled with motion lines, starbursts exploding upon impact, and aghast expressions. However, he is not afraid to leaven his photorealistic depictions with cartoonish touches such as Superman collapsing like a compressed accordion against the street and Kalibak unleashing an archetypical “NOOOOOO!” into the ether as the Action Ace claps his electric-gloved hands together. Colorist Alex Sinclair’s sizzling yellows and streaking reds embolden the already audacious imagery.
Nuanced storytelling this is not. The Metropolis Marvel’s revelation that he knew Kalibak’s renewed assault was just a ruse is met with Lex’s incredulous “W… how do you know?” Superman shoots back, “X-ray vision. Knock knock.” Nevertheless, Superman missed Luthor surreptitiously swallowing a capsule in plain view of the Kandorians after earlier overlooking the fact that Granny Goodness was his nanny. (Of course, the Man of Steel also only noticed that “someone” sneaked into Lex’s hidden lab without recognizing him as Darkseid.)
The cryptic herald who was so central to the previous issue appears nowhere in Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #2, while the fight sequences largely repeat those from the earlier chapter, right down to the inclusion identical combatants. The lone additional detail offered by this story to advance the plot — the explanation of what Darkseid took from the lab — is provided in passing by Luthor in a brief lull between superpowered shreddings of heavy metals.
What Adams offers in Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #2, though, is more exhilarating exuberance, complete with thought bubbles and Kirby dots. We will find out at the end whether it all makes sense, but, for now, it’s best just to enjoy the nostalgia and hang on for the ride.
Tell us what you thought of Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #2 by ComiConversing with us in the comments below!
T. Kyle King is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @TKyleKing.
Neal Adams’s latest Superman story is a perpetual-motion nostalgia machine that churns out over-the-top fun.