It’s not dead (Superman #30 comic review)
Writer: Philip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Scott Godlewski
Colorist: Gabe Eltreb
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
A new arc starts in this issue. The simple 2 part crossover/intro is now finished between Action Comics and Superman, and now each title can centre themselves around a different adventure. The introductory elements from the previous arc are not in play here as this issue deals with an offworld threat. The only theme that carries over is the father and son dynamic between Superman and Superboy.
Since this is a new arc, the set up here is fairly simple. Superman is on Earth playing mini-putt with his family, but receives a distress call from another planet. Superman and Superboy leave to find out what is wrong, and are shocked to learn that the distress call came from someone that was already dead. There is some backstory on the planet and the inhabitants, as well as some thematic ties to the father/son relationship being explored both in Supeman/Superboy and the family structure on the planet. It seems that a former intergalactic threat might have returned which could cause issues not just for this foreign planet but the universe as a whole.
I was a little surprised to see another arc starting so soon (I don’t typically look at previews). Seeing that this title just got off a mini introductory arc, it was strange seeing them shift gears so soon. Yet somehow, this all worked out fine. The previous issues simply set up the idea of Superman and Superboy’s relationship and the theme continues here. Being a father myself I am a sucker for a story centring around fatherhood, as the theme speaks directly to me. It is also nice to see Superboy become a central figure in Superman’s life again. Bendis had him aged up and then shipped to the future, and there was no room to really care. While Philip Kennedy Johnson is chained to some of these concepts he seems to be using them effectively. Superboy is not some teen angst ridden character, and he is able to blend the maturity of his age with the idea that this is still a young kid with a lot to learn from his father. The fact that Johnson didn’t dwell on the previous arc is also a strength. He was able to set up enough lingering threats (Amanda Waller and his impending death) that can play in the background even when not being mentioned. And the meat of this story itself is very intriguing. This distant alien race with a new intergalactic threat really works. Within a few pages and minimal exposition he is able to bring an entire planet, the alien species, and the threat to life. The writing here juggles so much without exhausting the reader. I have not enjoyed a Superman comic this much in a long long time. Hats off to DC for taking the chance on Philip Kennedy Johnson.
Scott Godlewski has a lot of fun on this issue. He gets to work with a new alien species and hints at the Shadowbreed (the new big bad). Most of this issue is not action but focused on snappy exposition and relationships, but he still makes it all engaging. Seeing the design of the funeral rights on a different planet gave a sense of culture and world building. His layouts also break the mold and he is not afraid to create pages that help build mood between the panels. Overall the art here is top notch and I am excited to see where he goes once the action picks up.
Summary Philip Kennedy Johnson is already making a name for himself as the new lead writer on Superman. So far his books are focusing on building the relationship between Superman and Superboy, while adding in new threats. These are the fun Superman comics we have been waiting for.