Review – Man and Superman #1: From Smallville to Metropolis

Man and Superman #1
Man and Superman #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Man and Superman #1 – Marv Wolfman, Writer; Claudio Castellini, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Fine Origin Story

Ray: DC digs into the vaults for one of their greatest unpublished stories this week, as this Marv Wolfman four-part Superman epic was originally slated to be published in the long-forgotten Superman: Confidential series. For those who remember, that series was not only pre-Rebirth, it was not only pre-Flashpoint – it was pre-One Year Later! But Wolfman never gave up trying to get his collaboration with Italian artist Claudio Castellini published, and it’s not hard to see why. This Superman origin story set around Clark’s first days in Metropolis, while not necessarily breaking much new ground, is one of the best character pieces focusing on a young Clark Kent that I can remember reading. Much like the best Superman stories, it gets to the core of the burden Clark carries and the pressure that having the powers of a God puts on him.

The early scenes involving Clark trying desperately to filter out the countless sounds of Metropolis around him work very well – this is a busy comic, but there isn’t a wasted scene. I was a little dubious about how Metropolis in this timeline feels like a hellhole, more akin to Gotham – but then, this is before Superman arrived here. This is pre-Flashpoint Superman, so it’s great to see the classic versions of the Kents who survived into Clark’s adulthood and gave Superman his moral grounding and his safe space back home. The trope of Clark being a non-costumed secret superhero before putting on the costume is a bit tired by now, but it’s rarely used as well as it is here. At least he’s not calling himself “The Blur”. But there’s a great plot involving a series of terrorist attacks targeting prominent Metropolis landmarks that quickly throws him into the deep end.

The giant-sized issue does a great job with the rest of the supporting cast as well. Perry White may be written a bit too close to J. Jonah Jameson for my tastes, but Wolfman’s Lois Lane is fantastic. This version seems older than Clark, a veteran reporter who is loath to bring in new competition but knows talent when she sees it. Her interplay with Clark as she sizes him up both as a rival and friend and doggedly pursues the truth of the mysterious “Flying Man” is note-perfect. Wolfman’s Luthor is always great, an oily double-dealing corporate mastermind not above a false flag or two. It’s impressive that this was written well over a decade ago because this Luthor very much feels like a villain of the moment. But as good as the supporting cast is, this is a story about Clark Kent becoming Superman, and realizing that he can carry these burdens on this back. And on that note, it’s a definite win. Wolfman’s dogged determination to make sure this sees the light of day has resulted in a great comic.

Man and Superman #1 interior page
Entering Metropolis. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Several things make this a story an excellent origin.

First, there’s the emphasis on Clark Kent, the person, experiencing the kind of self-doubt and worry that so many young people run into after college. Everything is different to him, the world is different, with Clark having made a decision to step into a completely different world, Metropolis and aim high. That he failed on his first few attempts to do the right thing makes him more human than he’s ever been.

Second, there’s Clark the writer. Wolfman imbues Clark with real skill at his chosen profession, writing columns that are clearly good, and not based on his ability to cheat and get the Superman story because he is Superman. He won the job because he can write. This is something so many Superman stories forget, in their rush to show Superman as an alien or lonely: Clark has the gift of eloquence that connects him to humanity.

And, third, yes, this Lois Lane is great, more experienced than Clark, self-knowing, smart enough to realize Clark’s writing skills are excellent and realize that he could be as good (well, almost as good) as she is and, more, that he cares about getting it right the same as she does.

Man and Superman #1 interior page
The chaos of Super-Hearing. Via DC Comics.

Add all that to Castellini’s art, which showcases the humanity of everyone in Metropolis, from the people on the street, to Clark, to Lois, and to Clark’s co-workers. That’s just a terrific art sequence at the baseball game, as excellent in its way as the later, showier, explosions.

I suppose I could complain that the plot is obvious, that Luthor’s scheme is easy to see through, but that hardly matters since the rest of the story is so good.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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