Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Superman: Earth One Retro Review – “Ultimate” Superman

***Retro Reviews are pieces of Primary Ignition‘s past (i.e. the old site) dug from the archives and returned to their rightful place. They’ve been minimally altered. The text has been cleaned up just a little, and I’ve updated the artistic credits to go beyond just the penciller. But this is mostly the content in its original form. At the end, I’ll throw in a bit of hindsight.***

TITLE: Superman: Earth One

AUTHOR: J. Michael Straczynski
ARTISTS: Shane Davis, Sandra Hope (Inker), Barbara Ciardo (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer)
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASED: October 27, 2010

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

DC wants their Ultimate line, damn it! And they’re going to rehash these origin stories over and over and over again until SOMEONE gets it right!!!

So I’m guessing because the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely and Frank Miller/Jim Lee teams couldn’t hack it with a monthly schedule on the All-Star books, DC decided to introduce these Earth One graphic novels, which allow creators to tell stories without being bound down by continuity, tradition, etc. This book is the first in the series, with a Batman: Earth One on the way. Ironically, J. Michael Straczynski was actually taken off the monthly Superman title so he could start working on a sequel to this book.

As expected, Superman: Earth One puts Straczynski’s spin on the classic Superman origin story. It follows an early ’20s Clark Kent into Metropolis as he tries to find himself. We get frequent flashbacks to conversations he had with his adopted father, who in this story is deceased. Eventually, an alien being tracks the last surviving Kryptonian to Earth, and threatens to destroy the planet unless he shows himself. Thus, Clark becomes Superman, etc. etc.

If I sound cynical about this book, it’s because I am. I came into it that way. There’s no story in the comic book industry that’s been rehashed more than Superman’s origin. Geoff Johns was in the middle of rehashing it with Superman: Secret Origin when they announced this book. I understand different writers bring different perspectives and textures to the story. But when you get right down to it, it’s still the same story Just because you can put your own spin on something doesn’t mean you should. Heck, in All-Star Superman Morrison and Quitely were able to get the origin out of the way in four or five panels! And it was beautiful!

The Clark Kent of Earth One is very moody and broody. He walks around in a hoody and jeans, initially trying to find other ways to help humanity besides being a superhero. Some reviewers have made Twilight comparisons. While I’d prefer not to slander Superman with such a label, it’s not hard to picture Robert Pattinson under that hood. *shudders*

Still, credit where credit is due. Straczynski doesn’t use Lex Luthor, Braniac, or any of the stock villains in this story. He instead opts to create his own villain, whose native race was responsible for destroying Krypton. In every other Superman origin, the planet was simply destroyed via a natural disaster of some kind. Having it destroyed out of malice is an intriguing concept. Shane Davis’ art is also very good. My favorite image in the entire book comes toward the end, where Clark puts on the classic glasses for the first time. It’s a hipster look. But it’s new.

I don’t oppose the idea of a younger, less experienced Superman at all. But I think I’d be more inclined to like this book if so much of it hadn’t been done already. Clark’s recollections about his father are a perfect example. The whole “Son, you were put here for a reason” and “Clark, you’re going to find your place in this world,” and “You’re going to fulfill your true destiny” stuff has been done so much that I almost found myself rolling my eyes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good storytelling. But there’s not much room for Straczynski to put his own spin on that. Or if there was, he didn’t.

For instance, Straczynski depicts The Daily Planet as a paper on the verge of going under, but Geoff Johns did that in Secret Origin. He portrays the public as mixed in terms of how they feel about Superman. But Mark Waid did that in Superman: Birthright, and the mainstream Superman comics have been playing up the “What if he turns on us?” angle for years now.

Bottom line ? I don’t get it. People have been so quick to drop heaps of praise upon this book. But aside from Clark’s age and the new villain, it just seems like a mishmash of things that have already been done. And believe me, they’ve been done better than this. By most standards, Superman: Earth One is a good book. But that’s not because of Straczynski’s creativity. It’s because Superman’s origin story was already good, whether he’s in a hoodie or not.

Now that Superman: Earth One has told its first chapter, hopefully Straczynski and Davis can work on being more innovative with their storytelling, and giving us things we haven’t seen before. In their defense, they obviously didn’t want to do a complete 180, and change the core essence of Superman. But this book breaks very little ground, if any.

RATING: 6.5/10

***IN HINDSIGHT: All of this still pretty much rings true. Amazingly, after all these years I still haven’t forgiven Straczynski for bailing on the “Grounded” storyline. It had so much potential and he just abandoned it.***

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Posted in Weekly Comic 100s

Weekly Comic 100s: Leviathan Dawn, Star Wars, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Raising a glass to Dan DiDio, who’s gone from DC as of last week.

The way some people are talking about this, you’d think he’d died or something. That’s obviously not the case. But it does feel like the end of an era. DiDio had been with DC for 18 years, starting as a vice president in 2002, then moving up to executive editor in 2004, before becoming co-publisher in 2010.

Coincidentally, 2002 was also the year I started buying comics on a weekly basis. So for yours truly, DiDio is particularly synonymous with DC. I remember reading his old “DC Nation” columns as far back as my college years, God help me.

So here’s to you, good sir. Thank you for the memories.

TITLE: Leviathan Dawn #1
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Alex Maleev, Joshua Reed (Letterer)
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

Despite the reveal of Leviathan’s identity being a letdown, Event Leviathan was a fun read. So I’m happy to see Bendis and Maleev back at it.

This issue sees the reformation of a group longtime DC readers will be familiar with. (The cover makes it pretty obvious.) The lineup is an odd assortment. Not characters you’d expect to see working together. But strange teams often make for compelling books.

The only person I might remove from the group is the Question. He’s better as a lone wolf.

TITLE: Star Wars #3
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
ARTISTS: Jesus Saiz, Arif Prianto (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by R.B. Silva and Guru-eFX.
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

This whole “going back to Cloud City” thing is still really stupid. Not quite as stupid as Luke getting a between-movies lightsaber. But close.

But we do get pretty great scene in this issue. One of our villains, Commander Zahra, reveals that the crew of her Star Destroyer consists of those who lost someone close to them on the Death Star. She frames the destruction of the space station as a massive tragedy caused by an act of cruelty from the other side. It’s much like Leia frames the destruction of Alderaan. It’s a really nice switch in perspective.

TITLE: Detective Comics #1020
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
ARTISTS: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Rob Leigh (Letterer). Variant cover by Lee Bermejo.
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

The other night a co-worker of mine, about 22-year-old, sees this cover. She then asks me: “Why does Batman look so fancy?” Oye. Kids…

For yours truly, Brad Walker’s stock is rising. Particularly as a Batman artist. He’s not a favorite of mine, per se. But he’s on his way.

Tomasi is doing a religion-themed story with Two-Face. We don’t get into the meat of it. Just a little scene as the issue ends. But I’m a sucker for that kinda stuff. So I’m anxious to see what the “Church of the Two” is about.

TITLE: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #46
AUTHOR: Ryan Parrott
ARTISTS: Daniele Di Nicuolo. Walter Baiamonte (Colorist). Katia Ranalli (Color Assistant), Ed Dukeshire (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED:
February 26, 2020

In an issue that features the return of the Ranger Slayer (the cover pretty much gave it away) and the Gravezord, a very tense “sparring session” between Tommy and Jason, and a fight in an asteroid field, Zack and Adam steal the show with a single page of heart-to-heart conversation.

Sadly, via his Twitter Daniele Di Nicuolo has announced he’s ending his Power Rangers run soon. That’s a big loss, as he’s arguably the best artists BOOM! has had on this line. Not sure what issue is his last, but #50 seems as opportune a time as any.

TITLE: Action Comics #1020
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (Inker), Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Variant cover by Lucio Parillo.

Ugh. They dragged Young Justice into this?

Yeah, Action Comics is a little bit of a mess right now. Primarily because Romita is on a cold streak with these last several issues. But also, look at all the heavy hitters we’ve got in this story. The Justice League, the Legion of Doom, Leviathan, and now Young Justice. Metropolis is being decimated. Yet the high stakes aren’t coming across. It almost feels like business as usual. We also have Batman in another big dumb robot suit, which doesn’t help.

But next issue, the fight drags on. And I do mean drags.

TITLE: X-Men/Fantastic Four #2
AUTHOR: Chip Zdarsky
ARTISTS: Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson with Karl Story and Ransom Getty (Inkers), Laura Martin (Colorist), Joe Caramagna (Letterer).
RELEASED: February 26, 2020

What’s surprising me is how political this book is. Not in a real-world sense. But we’ve got the X-Men on their little island nation of Krakoa, and the fallout that comes from the Fantastic Four “invading.” Then we’ve got Doctor Doom on Latveria, and the risk of starting a war with Krakoa. The scope seems so much bigger than you’d think it would be.

Valera Richards refers to Doctor Doom as Uncle Doom? Well, it’s not like she was ever going to have a normal childhood…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Superman: American Alien #6 Review – A Little Slice of Home

Superman: American Alien #6 (2016)TITLE: Superman: American Alien #6
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLERS: Jonathan Case. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: April 20, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Long story short? This issue gives us more of the same. Great art, good writing, and more out-of-place Batman stuff. Max Landis could be such a great Superman writer if he’d just let go of Batman…

Pete Ross and Kenny Bravermen, two of Clark’s buddies from Smallville, have come to visit him in Metropolis. Understandably, the city has one thing on its mind: Superman. It has at least that much in common with Pete and Kenny. But Clark’s friends have a different perspective on the Man of Steel than anyone in the city. So what do those who know Clark Kent think about his newfound fame?

My single biggest complaint about American Alien has been Landis’ use of Batman. In issue #4 he gratuitously used The Dark Knight, and in issue #5 he established Clark Kent wore Batman’s cape as part of a pre-Superman costume. In this issue, we get a page and a half of Clark and his buddies talking about Batman. Then on the next page, when talking about Clark flying around in a costume, Pete says: “Batman got in your head.”

Superman: American Alien #6, 2016, Jonathan CaseI understand not everyone feels the way I do. But as a fan of both Superman and Batman, I find this offensive. I won’t re-tread ground here. Read the reviews linked above if you’d like my arguments as to why this is so offensive. But sadly, what started as an annoyance has became a major flaw.

What makes it all the more frustrating is that this Batman stuff is stuck in the middle of an otherwise great issue. It gives us what you might expect from a story with two of Clark’s old friends. They look at what he’s become and have reservations, largely because they care about him. And he cares for them too. Landis shines a nice spotlight on both the human and alien qualities that make Superman who he is. What’s more, the dialogue between Clark and his friends feels very natural. That’s something Landis has excelled at from the start.

Penciller Jonathan Case shines in this issue. His style has a retro feel to it that made him a good fit for Batman ’66. But I’d love to see him take a crack at an ongoing Superman title. His art might not be what we’re used to seeing on Superman or Action Comics, but isn’t that the point?

Ryan Sook has been on the covers for this series, and this one is his best yet. What’s so hilarious is that it took me a couple of looks to see Clark Kent in the image. Therein lies the brilliance. This cover is a visual metaphor for Clark Kent’s existence, and how he’s able to stay hidden. No one is looking for Clark Kent. They’re all looking for Superman. And of course, the image is beautifully drawn as well.

Superman: American Alien #6, 2016, Jonathan CaseWe’ve got one issue left of Superman: American Alien. Based on these last three issues, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. We’ll get some good dialogue, along with some excellent artwork (Jock is on the pencil next month). We’ll also have a sense that our writer truly cares about the Man of Steel, and understands him in a way previous few writers do.

But there’ll also be an infuriating idea in there that drags the whole thing down.

What a shame. What a crying shame.

Images from flickeringmyth.com.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

A Superman #44 Review – Talking Truth

Superman #44 cover, John Romita Jr. TITLE: Superman #33
AUTHOR: Gene Luen Yang
PENCILLER: John Romita Jr.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: September 30, 2015

***Missed last issue? BOOM. We’ve got you covered.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman #44 is an okay issue which would have been much more compelling had it been released three or four months ago.

Before we get into the issue, let’s talk about this the Truth storyline as a whole. Readers of the Superman books know it’s run through not only this title, but Action Comics, Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Superman. It’s been touched on in other books, but those are the main four. Beginning in June, DC opted to use Superman to tell us how and why a de-powered Clark Kent’s identity was revealed to the world. All the while, stories of the de-powered, t-shirt wearing, “Tough Guy Superman” were already being told in the other three titles. As such, we saw this new Superman heavily effected by events we hadn’t seen yet. We could sympathize with what Clark was going through, and the stories were entertaining and compelling in their own right. But they lacked a certain depth because we couldn’t see the whole picture yet (We still can’t.).

Superman #44, alternate coverAt this point, it’s pretty safe to say this release strategy was a mistake, and it watered down something that could have been much more interesting otherwise. This is actually one of the few times I would have preferred a mass crossover. This issue marks the end of the Before Truth story, which has lasted four issues. As such it would have been simple to use all four Superman books to tell this story during the month of June. That way, the story has four straight weeks to build to a crescendo. In addition, not only do you have Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr. lending their talents to this pivotal story, but you have Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Ardian Syaf, and everyone else currently under the Man of Steel’s creative umbrella.

What a wasted opportunity…

With all that in mind, let’s get into Superman #44. Clark’s identity is public, and he’s not the only one in jeopardy. When The Daily Planet is targeted by supervillains, the Man of Steel must use what power he has left to defend his friends and colleagues. It’s a great premise, but the execution is surprisingly stupid.

Surprisingly, our hero starts this issue looking pretty stupid. Lois Lane has revealed to the world that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Yet when we open the issue, we see him strolling down the street as Clark, as if this were just an ordinary day. The Royal Flush Gang is able to identify and ambush him on sight! It’s not like Clark is incapable of being stealthy. He can fly and run at super-speed! At the very least, you’d think he’d pick a new disguise! But nope. Our main character, ladies and gentlemen. He’s sticking with an alter-ego that’s been discredited in front of the world.

Superman #44, Killer Croc, John Romita Jr.The villains who attack The Daily Planet are an odd assortment: Livewire, Atomic Skull, Killer Frost, Shockwave, and for no particular reason, Killer Croc. The choice to put Croc in there is a puzzling one. The question of why a Batman villain is put into such an important Superman story seemingly at random actually distracts from the scene. Furthermore, he’s rather redundant. He’s just another slab of muscle and mass for Superman to kick around.

About halfway through the issue, something interesting and mildly sensible finally happens: Clark finds out that a former Planet acquaintance of has taken Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and some of his other colleagues hostage. Due to the destruction caused by one of Superman’s enemies, this impromptu villain lost his wife and his livelihood. Now that Clark’s identity is exposed, he’s taking the fight to him. Now this is an interesting idea, and really should have taken up the first half of the issue. The stuff with the Royal Flush Gang, Killer Croc and the others feels like it’s there because they felt the need to fill a supervillain quota. But in the end, simply putting there so Clark can punch them comes off clumsy and forced.

During the fight, Perry White takes a bullet, and we subsequently get to hear his side of things. Understandable, he’s rather perturbed. This scene only lasts a page, making it yet another lost opportunity in the Truth saga. This scene actually reminded me of something Marvel released in the wake of Spider-Man revealing his identity in Civil War. It was an editorial by J. Jonah Jameson, who’s called Spider-Man a menace for years, only to discover that he’s been on the Daily Bugle staff the whole time. Jameson apologizes to his readers, and vows to win back their trust. Perry obviously never had that kind of contempt for Clark. But this revelation makes Perry, and everyone at the Planet look like oblivious fools. There’s a real argument to be made that the paper’s credibility has been compromised. It’d be fascinating to see that angle explored. So naturally, I assume it’ll be left untouched…

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #6Toward the end of the issue, there’s an incredibly stupid moment where Clark cuts his hair with a diamond. You know, because he’s Superman and he’s got really strong tissue. This isn’t a new idea (as you’ll see on the left), but I’ve always rejected it, and others along the same line.

There’s still some potential left in the Superman: Truth story as a whole. But it’s been so mismanaged that at this point that it’s inescapably tarnished. At this point, those of us who are sticking around can only hope for better things ahead now that the backstory of Superman’s “outing” has been revealed.

Image 2 from weirdsciencedccomicsblog.blogspot.com. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com.

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Posted in Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Superman Against Police Brutality – An Action Comics #42 Review

Action Comics #42 coverTITLE: Action Comics #42
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
PENCILLER: Aaron Kuder
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 1, 2015

Miss last issue? Check out Action Comics #41.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman vs. The Cops. Yeesh. Well, it’s timely. You can’t fault them for not being relevant…

Indeed, in the year that the town of Ferguson became synonymous with racial prejudice and police brutality, and headlines continue to pop up about cops going too far, Superman finds himself standing between the police and innocent people. While I’m still not a big fan of the de-powered “Tough Guy Superman” approach, this is very much in line with what a Superman comic should be. The Man of Steel taking on issues that effect real people.

As Superman, whose identity has been exposed to the world, battles a monster made of “solidified shadow,” the Metropolis police descend on the citizens assembled in “Kentville.” Now the question is, can Superman protect these people? And what will he have to do to accomplish that?

Action Comics #42, chainsGreg Pak and Aaron Kuder return Superman to his roots here as a champion for the oppressed and defenseless. As we see police in riot gear attempt to tear gas civilians, our hero is set up in a somewhat contrived, yet visually arresting scenario. He wraps himself in a giant chain and creates a barrier between the police and the citizens. He then takes repeated shots to the face from gimmicked up S.W.A.T. team guys. It’s hokey, but it creates the sense of drama and sacrifice they’re going for. And of course, the chain harkens back to the tried-and-true image of Superman snapping the chains off his body.

To be fair, the police aren’t completely demonized here. We see reluctance among the cops, and some of them acknowledge how Superman has saved them in the past. But the bad apples spoil the bunch. We also see the civilians debating whether they should fight back, so the hostility isn’t entirely one-sided. But it’s fairly obvious what this issue is meant to be. The police are the bad guys. One can definitely argue whether this is in good taste, but I think much depends on how the in-story conflict is resolved. We end on a rather dramatic image, so we’ll obviously be seeing more of this next month.

Action Comics #42, splashAs far as Clark Kent himself is concerned, the man we see here is more likeable than the one we saw last issue. While issue #41 saw him using mild profanity, and at one point talking like he was in a gritty noir comic, he feels more like Clark here. He still has more of a cynical edge to him. But he doesn’t feel as darkened here. At one point they actually have him hogtie the big monster he’s fighting, i.e. “farm boy.” That’s a little on the nose, but I prefer that to what we saw last issue. Action Comics #41 felt like we were reading the exploits of a different character. This issue feels like a Superman comic. That’s a very welcome change. If it’s not Superman, this whole Truth thing doesn’t even matter, does it?

Pak and Kuder will have me back for next month. For my money, culturally relevant Superman beats sci-fi monster battling Superman any day. Tough Guy Superman? That’s another story. But the intrigue of how they’ll follow this issue is too much to resist.

Image 1 from nothingbutcomics.net. Image 2 from kotaku.com.

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Posted in Movies

A Man of Steel Review – Superman Begins

Man of Steel posterTITLE: Man of Steel
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, DC Entertainment
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 143 min
RELEASED: June 12, 2013

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Man of Steel is one of the most polarizing fanboy flicks I’ve seen in recent memory. People either seem to have really enjoyed it, or really disliked it. Either way, things probably aren’t as good or as bad as they seem. But that passion is understandable, given all the struggles the Superman film franchise has gone through, even since Christopher Reeve was still in the suit. Superman fans have been dying for a film adaptation worthy of their hero. Is Man of Steel it? Eh…maybe. It depends on what you’re looking for.

We all know the story: On the distant planet of Krypton, Jor El (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara send their infant son to Earth to save him from the planet’s immediate destruction. Once there, he’s adopted by a kindly couple in Smallville, Kansas. Earth’s yellow sun grants young Clark Kent with powers and abilities far beyond those of normal men. He becomes Superman (Henry Cavill), the ultimate champion of truth, justice, and the American way. In this film, our hero takes on General Zod (Michael Shannon), a survivor of Krypton who will stop at nothing to ravage Earth, and effectively make it a new Krypton.

Man of Steel, Superman, Henry Cavill, image 1When Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns came out in 2006, one of the major recurring complaints was that it was too low on action. There was nobody for Superman to punch or fight with. When Brandon Routh was in the costume, he spent most of the his time either putting out fires or trying to impress with special effects stunts. So when it came time to dump the game board over and start again, they made sure to fill the super-powered action quotient by giving the director’s chair to Zack Snyder, the man behind 300Watchmen and Sucker Punch. But wouldn’t ya know it, Man of Steel wound up having the exact opposite issue Superman Returns had: It overdoes the action to the point where it almost jumps the shark. And for some moviegoers, it did.

Most of the last 45 minutes of Man of Steel consists of an all out super-powered war between our hero and General Zod’s forces. With seemingly unlimited power and strength, they send each other flipping and flying through the air, crashing through countless structures and effectively reducing them to scrap. A large portion of Metropolis, one of the biggest and highest-populated cities in the DC Universe, is ripped apart. Skyscrapers literally crumble and topple over as civilians run for cover. To an extent, it’s actually really cool to see Superman unload on somebody, and actually unleash all his power. Some of us have been waiting to see this kind of thing for years. But unfortunately, Snyder stays at the party 10-15 minutes longer than he needs to. As such, the novelty and the shock value of all the crashing and smashing begins to wear off, and they’re basically fighting in a city made of building blocks. Considering this movie is 143 minutes, they could have afforded a bit more brevity.

Man of Steel, Amy Adams, Lois LaneStill, the movie manages to do one thing better than arguably any Superman film before it: Capture the essence of Superman’s moralistic mission and peaceful soul. I can’t stress enough that Superman is an idealist. He’s here to inspire us, instill us with hope, and teach us about the human spirit. Man of Steel illustrates this very well, and frankly I didn’t know Snyder had it in him. Because his abilities do to an extent make him a hazard to those around him, our hero is forced to learn the value of restraint and a cool head growing up, which the story uses to contribute to his career as Superman. It’s very well done.

From a performance standpoint, Henry Cavill isn’t going to win any Oscars for the role of Superman. But he does an adequate job. Oddly enough, in terms of getting us to care about Clark Kent, the heavy lifting is actually done by Cavill’s younger counterparts: Cooper Timberline (9-year-old Clark) and Dylan Sprayberry (13-year-old Clark). Their scenes with Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent) really sell the torment and anguish the character has endured for the sake of doing the right thing. In that sense, Cavill just has to take the baton and not drop it.

But to his credit, he IS believable in the cape and boots. He’s quieter and more subtle, which is what this movie calls for. But he nevertheless has a strong presence about him, which is what Superman should have. Unlike Brandon Routh, whose job in Superman Returns was to essentially impersonate Christopher Reeve, Cavill is his own Man of Steel. That being said, his scenes with General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) and Colonel Hardy (Christopher Meloni) do call back to some of what Reeve did. But to this day, Reeve is so closely identified with this character, and that’s to be expected on some level. So kudos to Cavill and his counterparts for making us believe again.

Man of Steel, Superman, Henry Cavill, image 2Surprisingly, Amy Adams runs into some trouble as Lois Lane. She’s not bad for the role, per se. But the character is missing some of her trademark confidence, ferocity and snark. The material is there in the writing, but Adams doesn’t fully capitalize on it. Her Lois feels more like a traditional damsel in distress, with some extra passion added in. The way I’ve always interpreted the Lois Lane/Superman romance is that the source of their mutual attraction is their shared ferocity and dedication toward truth and justice. We don’t necessarily see that here. Adams is more like the girl next door, who happens upon this extraordinary person and falls for him. She’ll need to work on that for Man of Steel 2, if we get that far (which I’m guessing we will).

Marlon Brando is a pretty tough act to follow, but Russell Crowe does very well as Jor El. The way he’s incorporated into the entire story, as opposed to just the first half hour or so, is similar to the way it was done with Brando and Reeve in Superman: The Movie, but different enough that it feels like a fresh spin. I found myself caring about the Jor El character, and the Krypton side of things more than I ever have. Michael Shannon also surpassed my expectations as General Zod. He’s menacing, creepy and crazy, but he’s not reminiscent of Terrence Stamp’s take on the character at all. I’d love to see more…

latestLongtime Superman fans will no doubt notice certain trademark Superman elements, which you’d expect to see in a reboot film, are missing from this movie. Lex Luthor is conspicuous by his absence, though we do see a few quick shots of the Lexcorp logo. Jimmy Olsen isn’t there, the big Daily Planet globe is missing. The classic Clark Kent glasses disguise is, for the most part, also absent. The cartoony Superman spit curl, which both Reeve and Routh sported, is thankfully gone as well. For most of this stuff, I assume it’s just a matter of waiting for the sequel, much like we had to wait for The Dark Knight to come out to get a lot of the stuff we were clamoring for in Batman Begins.

While I’ll stay spoiler-free here, Superman does something at the climax of the film that’s very un-Superman-like. It’s something we’ve seen in superhero movies before (Tim Burton’s Batman movie comes to mind), but it’s generally considered a no-no. It was a surprise to say the least. But it’s passable, especially given what had been established up to that point. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays into the next movie, if at all.

So is Man of Steel the movie Superman deserves? I think, much like Batman Begins, it’s a nice first chapter. The movie has its flaws. But show me a movie that doesn’t have flaws. It’s not necessarily what I expected, but that’s not a bad thing. Unlike what we saw in Superman Returns, our hero’s super-powered exploits were awe-inspiring at times, and the action was suspenseful. More importantly, Man of Steel seems to understand what separates Superman from every other hero in theaters today. At the end of the day, much of Man of Steel‘s legacy will depend on what comes next in the Superman film franchise.

So for now, I suppose the answer to that question is: To be continued.

RATING: 7.5/10