Measure of a Superman
script - George Pérez
pencils - Nicola Scott
inks - Trevor Scott
colors - Brett Smith (1-22) Tanya & Richard Horie (23)
dialogue/ story/ layouts - Keith Giffen & Dan Jurgens
finishes - Jesus Merino
letterer - Rob Leigh
associate editor - Wil Moss, editor - Matt Idleson
There's a lot to parse about this issue, and very little of it has to do with the story presented in the pages.
Our rogue Superman-clone, as revealed at the conclusion of the last issue, is now freaking out Metropolis and Supergirl has shown up not to see what's going on with Superman in Metropolis, but to discuss events that occurred in a pair of books I dropped a couple of months back.
The two launch into a fight, and we see more of the "behind the scenes action" as Lois coordinates camera selection and the action moves forward. The actual Superman, however, seems to have formed an unlikely psychic link with the faux-Superman, which...
Anyway. Superman returns to Earth from where he'd been abandoned in orbit and pummels the fake Superman mercilessly while explaining its backstory.
In many ways, this issue reminded me of an extended conclusion to Bronze-age Superman stories in which the conclusion or explanation was a bit of a throw-away in comparison to the action that Superman was dealing with. I recently read some back issues in which Superman was dealing with amnesia and had no idea what his secret identity had been. That was interesting enough, but the way in which he discovered he'd been Clark Kent and recovered his identity was so convoluted and untied to what we'd seen before, it was clearly just meant to bring a hard stop to the amnesia storyline which had gone on over a few issues.
This plays much the same, with Superman making incredible leaps of logic in a way that I am not sure (a) makes any sense and (b) doesn't fit terribly well with how comics stories are now told with clues left along the way, not just a wholesale explanation and the answer also can't boil down to "technology magic" by way of a deus ex machina magic mystery solving plot item placed in the final scene.
When collected, I'll be curious to see how the story reads. It may flow a bit better, especially as the issues of Action Comics the story refers to will have been released by then. But the cracks in the plan to rush the New 52 are showing up all over the place, not the least in this issue.
I've suspected that the oddball insertion of the Legion story in Action was a back-up plan in case Rags Morales ran behind on art chores or other problems came to light, and the reveal of how Superman obtained his costume was most certainly supposed to have already been revealed by the time issue 6 of Superman had seen the light of day. That isn't what happened, and its knee-caps what Pérez was trying to do.
From looking at covers the past two months, its also pretty clear that we've hit some mandated "there will be a cross-over in month 5 or 6" storytelling, and, frankly, it feels terribly awkward not just in this issue, but across the DC line. Nobody was done telling their stories, and adding in Supergirl at this point just feels like the hand of Bob Harras reaching in and trying to boost sales rather than a story decision anyone paying attention would have made, especially as the Superman/ Supergirl dynamic was nowhere to be found at this time in the DCU. Bottom line- this issue does more harm than good in establishing those relationships. I never thought I'd miss the 90's, but at least Carlin seemed to know how to handle a Superman meet & greet with crossovers and multiple characters.
Also a tell-tale sign that something went awry? Pérez is listed as "script", but DC's current "we'll do anything for a buck" creators Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen, taking on Superman in the next issue, are listed as "we actually re-wrote this whole thing", which would account for the sloppy execution, the muddled cross-over, and even the vague implication that the villain of the past few issues could easily return as the Eradicator of the New 52 (Jurgens, right?).
This book narrowly misses the "mind-controlled Superman" problem DC ran into about 8 years ago, where almost every run on Superman seemed to be about "what if Superman went bad because of MIND-CONTROL". Yes, that's an evil clone and not mind-control, but it still shows us Superman beating the tar out of Supergirl on the cover with the promise of a bad Superman. I dunno. I also don't see how Superman fighting his evil self over Metropolis would change the opinions of any of the pundits that Pérez set up early on in the run.
While I'm enjoying the work over in Action, and initially enjoyed this title for its 80's taught narrative sensibilities, this issue failed to stick the landing. I don't want to be able to feel editorial presence in my comics, but these days, that's all I'm feeling when I read DC's titles. I don't want to be distracted by a shift in voice in the final issue or two, of mandated changes which suggest I'm paying more attention to the comic than the people seeing it go to print, or have to feel that for the reintroduction of Superman to the largest audience possible in 2011-12, this story didn't go anywhere or do anything because editorial simply could not get the hell out of the way.
The shining light of the book is Nicola Scott's brilliant artwork. I absolutely love her Lois Lane, a mature, professional look (even if sticking Lois in command central now seems incredibly short sighted), and she really seems to handle the awkward look of the new supersuit very well. Not to mention her transition from Superman to Clark. I'll take her depictions of action over most of what's on the DC line these days, all of which makes sense and doesn't fall into the trap of mistaking chaos and posed characters for sequential storytelling.
Next month we get a story even Giffen and Jurgens don't seem happy about according to an interview or two I've read, where we get the Wildstorm Universe shoved into a Superman comic for some reason.